Monday, October 28, 2019

The Forced Slavicization of Clergy and Liturgy in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia by the Habsburgs (1866-1914)

The 6th century Basilica Eufrasiana in Parenzo, Istria

The forced Slavicization of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, designed and carried out by the Habsburg Empire, notoriously developed in a variety of forms and ways, including judicial and police activities, deportations, mass immigration of Slavs from the interior, political propaganda, educational measures, etc. One of the instruments used by the Imperial Royal authorities to Slavicize these regions was the Slovenian and Croatian nationalist clergy, through whom they sought to achieve a massive Slavicization of the local Catholic Church in all its aspects, in contrast to the national and religious identity of the Italian Catholics who lived there.

I. Austro-Slavism

So-called “Austro-Slavism” was a widespread political current among Slovenes and Croats that was intended to achieve their national and nationalistic goals within the Habsburg regime and with its collaboration. Austro-Slavism was also popular among other Slavic peoples of the Empire, such as the Czechs. But what we will focus on is its presence among the South Slavs. The purpose of this movement was to promote Slovene and Croatian “trialism”, ultimately leading to the establishment of a third “kingdom”, alongside Austria and Hungary, which, in order to satisfy their aspirations, was to include Slovenes and Croats.

Many Slovene politicians advocated the creation of a new administrative unit, located within the Habsburg Empire, which was to include not only Carniola, southern Styria and southern Carinthia, but even lands in which Italians were the majority, such as the so-called Littoral (Julian Venetia), and therefore Trieste, Istria and the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, as well as Dalmatia. They even claimed Italian territories beyond the Isonzo, claiming that it was part of the Natisone Valley. The boundaries of this new administrative unit would have largely followed the idea fabricated in the middle of the nineteenth century by Peter Kozler, a Slovenian geographer of German origin who was favorable to the Habsburg Empire. In 1848 Kozler created the first map of “Slovenia”, in which he included many territories that did not even have a Slovene majority.

The hypothetical “third kingdom” would also have to include Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The fate of the Italians and Serbs in this new national construction would have been, according to the intentions of many Slovene and Croat nationalists, one of forced assimilation, and therefore Slovenization and Croatization. Thus they would have to find a modus vivendi with the central power and the Austrian ethnic group, and denationalize the Italian and Serb minorities within the new administrative structure.

These nationalists hoped to achieve their national reform projects by forging an alliance with certain sectors of the Imperial establishment, particularly the army. In fact, the Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf, a well-known Italophobe (he proposed attacking Italy twice: once after the Messina earthquake in 1908, and again during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-12), sympathized with the position of the Austro-Slavists. This was also the case with the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand who, not coincidentally, was on good terms with von Hötzendorf.

Austro-Slavism had the sympathy and support of significant sectors of the Austrian ruling class and was supported by the leading figures of Slavic nationalism, who were, symptomatically, all clergymen: J.J. Strossmayer, bishop of Dakovo; J. Dobrila, bishop of Parenzo and Pola; Janez Evangelist Krek, priest, professor of theology at the seminary of Ljubljana, leader and prominent ideologue of the Slovenska Ljudska Stranka (“Slovenian People's Party”), who supported the union of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs “under the scepter of the Habsburgs” and hoped to find allies within military circles in order to implement his national reform plans; Anton Mahnic, bishop of Veglia. [1]

In fact, the Slovenian and Croatian clergy represented the political leadership of the nationalist movement of these two peoples, because these two peoples had a very weak cultural awareness and lacked an aristocratic, bourgeois or intellectual ruling class which could represent them aside from the clergy. The alliance between the Habsburg Imperial power and Slovenian and Croatian nationalism served an anti-Italian purpose: the Habsburgs saw in Austro-Slavism a way to eliminate Italian influence and found their political representatives in the Slavic clergy.

The Concordat of 1855 between Vienna and Rome had granted to the Catholic Church a number of public functions which had been suppressed during the reign of Joseph II. The Church was assigned the registry office, the power of repression of crimes provided for by canon law, jurisdiction in matrimonial matters, authority over censorship and influence on the entire education sector. In exchange, however, the Church had to agree to reduce its own members to conditions of partial submission to the political power, because the clergy were considered de facto civil servants of the state, and the Emperor could exert extensive influence over ecclesiastical administration, particularly over the appointment of bishops. This made it possible to Slavicize the population at the hands of Slavic nationalist clergy.

II. The Slavicization of the Clergy

The Viennese government made sure to appoint only Slavic bishops in Julian Venetia, a region which was predominantly Italian, and brought in Slavic priests from the Balkans who encouraged immigration in hopes that the Slavs would eventually outnumber the native Italians.

Despite the fact that Italians were the majority of the population in Julian Venetia, even according to the Austrian censuses, and even though some areas were entirely Italian, all the bishops were chosen from among the Slavs by the express will of the government, with the sole exception of the bishop of Parenzo, but he only received the position because he submitted to the will of Vienna. The two leaders of Slavic nationalism in Julian Venetia were not laymen, but bishops: Bishop Dobrila, who was appointed bishop of Trieste (a city with an overwhelming Italian majority) and Bishop Vitovic in Veglia (an island which also had an overwhelming Italian majority). The Slavicization of the episcopal offices was followed by the Slavicization of the priests.

Attilio Tamaro wrote in ‘The Conditions of the Italians Under Austrian Rule in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia’ (Rome, G. Bertero, 1915):
“The priests are cooperating in this distorted system of ethnic and historical destruction of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia. The bishops of the provinces, except Parenzo, have blind devotion to the Austrian government, and all are Slavs, by the express will of Vienna. As such, through the episcopal seminaries and through their relations with the provincial interiors, they increased with great intensity the production of Slavic priests and, taking advantage of the small number of Italian priests that the provinces could produce, filled all the parishes with Slavs, even the Italian parishes.”
The cathedral chapter of Trieste was Slavicized too, because each time a seat was left vacant a Slav was appointed, usually one who was not even a native of Trieste. It so happens that in 1891, out of the 14 canons that constituted the chapter of the cathedral of St. Justus, just one, a simple honorary canon, was Italian, while the other thirteen were all Slavs, including eight who came from Carniola: this despite the fact that the city of Trieste had an overwhelming Italian majority, as shown by the same Austrian censuses. At the same date, there were 92 priests in the Diocese of Trieste originating from Carniola, 16 from Bohemia, 14 from Carsia, 6 from Styria, 5 from Dalmatia, 5 from Croatia, 2 from Moravia, 1 from Poland. In 1900 in the Diocese of Trieste-Capodistria there were 100 Italian priests and 189 Slavs. Most of these Slav priests were not even natives, but were brought in from the interior regions of Slovenia and Croatia in order to religiously Slavicize the region. In 1892 in the Diocese of Parenzo-Pola (which had a net Italian majority) there were 81 priests, among which 56 were Slavs, all from other regions, some even from very far away, since 11 of them were from Bohemia.

The situation was so serious that it even aroused protest in the municipalities. On December 29, 1886 the City Council of Trieste, after explaining in detail the situation regarding the local clergy, declared:
“The City Council recognizes in these actions a clear attempt to propagate Slavism, which is incompatible with the office of the Episcopal Curia, harmful to our schools, likewise to religion and to the public government, unfair to young Italians who wish to devote themselves to to the priestly profession, dangerous to the peace and well-being of the city, and a most serious offense to the national character of the country, to the feeling of its people and to its centuries-old civilization. The City Council very strongly protests against these actions, and in the meantime reserves the right, within the limited means of its powers, to instruct the most illustrious Signor Mayor to give a summary of this resolution to the Imperial Royal Government.”
The Istrian cities of Capodistria, Pirano, Isola, Muggia, Buie, Cittanova and Portole also joined in the protest of the Council of Trieste.

III. Instigating Hostility Against the Italians

The Imperial authorities also took care to stir up Slavic nationalism in order to propagate italophobia. An example of this is the work of the Imperial Royal Commissioner in Istria, Ritter von Födransperg. In September 1848 he sent to several Istrian parish priests an article of political propaganda in favour of Slavicizing Istria. Paradoxically, it was written in Italian: indeed, Italian was the language of culture in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia for centuries, next to Latin, so that even the Slavs themselves habitually used it (suffice to say that the newspaper of the Croatian nationalists in Dalmatia was written in Italian and was called “Il Nazionale”!).

The letter from the Commissioner stated:
“Very Reverend Signors,
I thought it well to send you an attached Italian translation of a fundamental article written on the Slavic nationality of Istria, a refutation of the many unfounded, insipid and other passionate articles, with which certain Italians attempt to suppress the Slavic nationality for the benefit of the Italian people.
I don't believe I would be troubling you if I asked you to disseminate this translation and to explain it in Slavic to the parishioners, in order that they may be instructed in their right to nationality so that they may assert themselves against the Italic people who, as guests on Istrian soil, arrogates to itself rights which the Slavs do not have. Hopefully in the near future Slavic Istria will justly obtain the true benefits of its nationality under the glorious banner of our most beloved constitutional Emperor, and be fraternally united to the other German and Slavic provinces, so there will be a loyal and strong support for His ancestral throne.
After taking a copy of said translation, gently push it forward with solicitude, and circulate it in the manner indicated below.
Pinguente, September 24, 1848
Födransperg, Imperial Royal Commissioner.”

This letter, an unambiguous form of propaganda in favor of pan-slavist nationalism, was written and signed by a senior imperial official and transmitted to a series of parish priests in Istria.
“To the very Reverend Signor Parish Priest of Sovignacco.
Received on the 19th and passed along on September 21, 1848 (Zimmermann, Parish Priest of Sovignacco).
Received and passed along on September 24, 1848 (Novak, Parish Priest of Verch).
Received on the 4th and passed along on October 5, 1848 (Podobnik, Parish Priest of Terviso).
Received on the 7th and forwarded on October 8, 1848 (Kodermann, Parish Priest of Valmovrasa).
Received on October 13, 1848 (Sacher, Parish Priest of Socerga).”

Many Slavic priests preached hatred and hostility towards the Italians, or otherwise discriminated against them in various ways, and political campaigns were waged against them. Slovene nationalism in Julian Venetia was built with the decisive support of the Slavic clergy. This was already happening in the crucial period of 1867/1870, during the phase that Slovene nationalists call “the Tabor era”. The tabors were large Slovenian rallies, in which the people were indoctrinated by nationalist orators, who often times were priests.

These rallies promoted many nationalistic and extremist demands: the establishment of a Habsburg Land of Slovenia, which however was to include the entire Julian March, including areas which had a vast Italian majority, such as Gorizia, Trieste, Venetian Istria and eastern Friuli; the Slovenian orators, including the priests, urged Slovenian women not to “defile” themselves by contracting marriages with Italians, thus clearly demonstrating a racist ideology; they went so far as to ask the Empire to arm the Slovenes against the Italians, as happened in a meeting in Collio Goriziano.

The idea of exterminating Italians from the region therefore was part of the Slovenian nationalist movement since the beginning and was expressed with great clarity, accompanied by racist theories based on the “myth of blood” and a belief in the existence of biological diversity between the two nations.

The Tabor Movement first developed in Julian Venetia in October 1868 and had the decisive support of the Slovenian clergy, the only ruling class of the Slovenes at the time, since they were the only Slovenes who had any kind of minimal intellectual education. The Empire in every way favored the presence of Slavic clergy in Julian Venetia, to serve as anti-Italian agents, to the point of habitually appointing Slavic bishops in cities and lands inhabited by an Italian majority. Even if there were differences in degree (greater caution was taken in Gorizia, but they were very aggressive in Trieste and Capodistria), it can be said that the Slovene clergy were the protagonists of the Tabor Movement's italophobia, both due to nationalism and due to loyalty to the Empire: in other words, the hostility towards Italians sprang both from aggressive nationalism and from compliance with imperial directives.

An example of what happened in the Slovenian tabors is offered by the first Istrian Tabor, organized on August 8, 1870 in Covedo (Capodistria): among the participants there were 24 religious. One of them, Lavrič, began by frantically telling the women not to marry Italians, but only to marry Slovenes. Another Slovenian priest, Raunik, delivered a rant in which he claimed, quite falsely, that the earliest inhabitants of Istria were Slavs, when in reality the Slavs only arrived there in the seventh century AD and did not make any settlement until the turn of the ninth century AD. Relying on such a totally erroneous historical claim, Raunik demanded that the Slavs should possess Istria. Then two other Slovenian priests took the floor, both parish priests. While various orators spoke, other Slavic priests in the crowd were trying to inflame the minds of the crowd by launching battle cries such as “Živijo, hocemo, nocemo”. Among the Slovene nationalists present was also Fr. Urban Golmajer, the priest who had destroyed all the Roman tombstones found in the local town of Rozzo during excavations (hostility towards ancient Rome was, naturally, part of the italophobia of Slovene and Croat nationalism), which aroused the indignation of the great German historian Theodor Mommsen: Golmajer was later a candidate for the local Diet on behalf of Slovene nationalists. The initiative of the tabor was an idea of Fr. Raunik and all expenses were covered by the Slavic clergy.

In Dalmatia the work of the Croatian clergy was, if possible, even worse. Its members went so far as openly inciting violence against Italians and taking part in physical assaults. For example, in Zara during the religious festival of Holy Easter Thursday, a Croatian nationalist, incited by anti-Italian speeches made by the Croatian friars and priests, fired multiple gunshots into a crowd of Italian faithful, causing numerous injuries. He was arrested by the Imperial police, but instead of being tried and convicted for this criminal aggression, he was immediately released. It is important to recall a similar case at the beginning of 1909: a group of peaceful Italian citizens from Zara were traveling on boat to Bibigne in order to go on a hike, but they could not even disembark because they were attacked by a crowd of Slavic peasants, incited by their priest, who attempted to stone them to death.

IV. The Slavicization of Italian Surnames

Parish priests from Istria and Dalmatia, who were mostly of Slavic ethnicity as a result of Austrian Imperial Royal policy, from 1866 onwards began a falsification of state records which would last for decades. Because in the Habsburg Empire, which is wrongly considered an example of good administration, the tasks of the registry office were still delegated to the parish priests (an old practice that had long since disappeared in other European countries), the Slavic priests were able to falsify baptism and wedding records, using Slavicized versions of the original Latin and Italian names and surnames.

Attilio Tamaro wrote about it in ‘The Conditions of the Italians Under Austrian Rule in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia’ (Rome, G. Bertero, 1915):
“The parish priests in Austria controlled the registry of state records. The Slavs, ignoring the protests of the inhabitants, were under the strong protection of the Government, with whom they were organically linked in this work: they Slavicized the surnames in birth records, marriage records and deaths records. The goal was to create statistical data and official documents that would seemingly substantiate the non-existence or gradual extinction of Italianity in the region, in order to effect Government policy.”
The work of forced Slavicization of Italian names and surnames by Slavic clergy, with the connivance of the Austrian authorities, is meticulously documented in a study by Alois Lasciac entitled Erinnerungen aus meiner Beamtencarrière in Österreich in den Jahren 1881-1918 (Trieste 1939). Doctor Alois Lasciac, of Austrian origin, was Vice President of the Imperial Royal Lieutenancy of Trieste and President of the Administrative Commission of the Margraviate (March) of Istria: therefore he was a high-ranking Austrian official in the Habsburg administration.

During his activity on the island of Lussinpiccolo he was able to testify that the local clergy, all of whom were Croats despite the population being majority Italian, falsified the names and surnames of the inhabitants. He devotes an entire chapter of his work precisely to that topic: Verstümmelung der Familiennamen in den Pfarrmatriken (Deformation of Surnames in the Records). Lasciac noted that the ancient use of Latin and Venetian forms to designate the names and surnames of the locals had been deliberately subverted by Croatian priests in the registry of births, marriages and deaths, Slavicizing the onomastics of the Italians in Lussinpiccolo. Lasciac, who was Imperial Royal Commissioner, required them to restore the original spellings, to which the Croatian nationalists responded by having recourse to the central government in Vienna. Lasciac concludes his narration of this story by saying that the intervention of the parliament in Vienna granted tolerance to this arbitrary alteration of names and surnames: the parish archives and state registries of the Empire were to be transformed into the Slavic form, in contrast to their centuries-old existence in Italian form.

There were numerous public denunciations against the actions of the Slavic clergy, who were carrying out their work with the open support of the Habsburg authorities. In 1877 Francesco Sbisà, an Istrian deputy of the Parliament in Vienna, presented a query denouncing the Slavicization of Italian names and surnames. In 1897 the Istrian linguist Matteo Bartoli mentioned that 20,000 names were changed, especially on the islands of Cherso, Lussino and Veglia, which were almost entirely inhabited by Italians. In 1905, during a meeting of the Istrian Diet, the Istrian deputy and attorney Pietro Ghersa, using extensive documentation derived from extensive research, denounced the government's conniving work of Slavicizing approximately 20,000 Italian names in the Istrian Province. It should be noted that the research of Bartoli and Ghersa took place independently of each other: the former dealt primarily with the islands of the Quarnaro, while the latter instead dealt with the Istrian peninsula. Moreover, these findings took place in two different periods. The figure of 20,000 Slavicized Italian surnames, reported by both men, must therefore be referring to two different areas and therefore represents only a fraction of the total amount of names that were Slavicized in the regions of Istria and the Quarnaro.

It should be noted that the data indicated above, regarding Italian surnames forcibly Slavicized in Istria, are largely incomplete for this region itself, since many others in Istria were modified without being restored to their original form. Additionally, these practices also occurred in other parts of Julian Venetia, in Dalmatia, and in the Trentino and South Tyrol (where they engaged in Germanization).

V. The Glagolitic Liturgy

The most visible work felt by a large part of the Italian population during this operation of Slavicization was the forced introduction of the Slavic liturgical rite in dioceses with an Italian majority.

A brief historical outline is necessary here. At the time of the evangelization of the Slavs, only three languages were approved by the Church of Rome for the liturgy: Hebrew (which was never used), Greek (used only in Catholic areas of Greek language) and Latin (practically universal).

In the Slavic areas of Dalmatia and Croatia the Latin Catholic missionaries not only had to compete with Byzantine missionaries, but also with the Slavic rite after the Croats converted to Catholicism and adhered to the Church of Rome. [2]

The Council of Spalato (925) reinforced the process of latinization of the area, trying to limit the use of Slavic in the liturgy as much as possible, because it seemed to be increasingly connected to the Byzantine tradition. There thus began to delineate a boundary, marked primarily by the circulation of liturgical books in the Latin alphabet and in the Cyrillic alphabet, which progressively marginalized the Glagolitic alphabet, which was designed as an alphabet for all Slavs.

The Patriarchate of Aquileia and all the dioceses of Julian Venetian have always belonged to the Latin rite. The so-called “Slavic rite” (an incorrect term: remember that a Slavic rite has never existed in the Catholic world, it is only found in Orthodoxy: ritus in the liturgical sense and language of use do not necessarily coincide, and are nevertheless distinct concepts) in Catholic areas saw secondary diversities in the various “officia” and “sacramenta”. These were, and are, local variations of the same liturgy, which used Latin as the official liturgical language, and remained in force until the Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI. [3]

This of course did not prevent, in some areas, the use of rituals in a language other than Latin with a special dispensation, or rather tacit acceptance. The Slavic population of the Balkans was of very low culture, barely literate, so that even the clergy (the lower clergy, rural priests) sometimes did not know Latin: it was, to be blunt, a phenomenon induced by the ignorance of the clergy (I apologize, but that is the truth), which was tolerated by the episcopal authorities, who followed the Latin rite. In the case of the Croatian area this phenomenon is called glagolism, however it only existed in a very small part of the territories of Julian Venetia.

To assess the attitude of the Church of Rome towards this, it is sufficient to recall what happened in the nineteenth century, when Croatian nationalists demanded the reintroduction of glagolism (which had virtually disappeared) in the area of Julian Venetia. This was opposed, albeit for different reasons, by the Roman Curia, by the scholars of ecclesiastical history, and by the people themselves. The Papal Curia of Leo XIII and Pius X called upon the supporters of Glagolitic to return to the Latin rite; the popes mistrusted them and opposed their desire to “reintroduce” such rites into a land where it had never been practiced.

Historians—and it is enough to recall the priest Giovanni Pesante, the Istrian historian Bernardo Benussi, the illustrious scholar Francesco Salata and the Quarnerine professor Melchiade Budinich—demonstrated the scarcity of the Glagolitic phenomenon and its exceptionality, which in fact was merely tolerated alongside—and subordinated to—the use of Latin. In any case, the Glagolitic alphabet, at least before the twentieth century, was limited only to a few areas with a Croatian population, and only in certain periods. Suffice to say that the oldest “Old Slavic” document in Istria, the “Razvod Istarski”, was compiled by two Glagolitic priests in the sixteenth century, while the arrival of Slavic peoples beyond Mount Nevoso occurred between the sixth and eighth century AD.

All other writings of similar nature are of modest value, annotations (and little else) on the margins of missals, some inscriptions and graffiti in a few churches in the countryside, besides a few illegitimate wills and parish registers, only for very brief periods and in isolated villages of an extremely bounded range. To give an idea of how scarce the presence of the Glagolitic liturgy was, suffice to say that in 1650 the then very vast Diocese of Trieste saw in its entire diocese just two tiny parishes that practiced it, only in a small area around Pinguente (the two small villages of Draguch and Sovignaco). [4]

Despite the opposition of the Italian population of Julian Venetia and the distrust of the Vatican itself, the Roman liturgy in the Slavic language (instead of Latin) ended up being introduced under the converging pressure of the Habsburgs and the Slavic clergy. The Empire was interested in defending the Catholic liturgy in the Slavic language as a means of Slavicization even on the religious level. And thanks to its close and traditional friendship with the Vatican, exacerbated by the “Roman Question”, they were able to exert pressure on the pontiffs into allowing the reintroduction of a liturgical form that had been extinct since the beginning of the eighteenth century and which had existed only in a very few places.

The diffusion of the Slavic liturgy, which was accompanied also by sermons, songs, etc. in the Slovenian and Croatian languages, was used by these nationalists and enemies of Italy to forcibly Slavicize the Italian population. The Glagolitic cult was not only reintroduced, but was also imposed in areas where it had never been used and where the inhabitants were overwhelmingly majority Italian. The situation was particularly regrettable in Istria, a land in which this experiment was widely extended and where Italians were often both patriotic and Catholic.

The discontent was naturally very strong among the population, who often preferred to stay home rather than attend religious services in the Glagolitic rite. Many examples can be given. In 1888 a Slovenian priest from Carniola forcibly introduced the Slavonic rite into a church in Pola, where it had never been celebrated before, arousing the indignation of the Italians and even a good number of Slavs among the faithful. When the Latin rite was restored, Slavic nationalist newspapers unleashed a rampage against the bishop of Parenzo.

The island of Neresine was the scene of repeated attempts at religious Slavicization, in contrast to Catholic orthodoxy, in contrast to the existing customs, and contrary to the expressed will of the inhabitants. A Croatian friar named Smolje demanded to celebrate mass in Glagolitic in the parish church of Neresine on September 22, 1895, resulting in all the parishioners abandoning the ceremony and forming a serious insurrection. This same priest demanded to impart baptism in Croatian, so he could Slavicize the names, and refused to do so in Latin even when directly requested by the child's father. The Superior of the Franciscan convent of Neresine, Luciano Lettich, demanded to impose the Croatian language at the burial ceremony of the spouses Antonio and Nicolina Sigovich, causing several of the relatives and other faithful to voluntary abandon the ceremony. Another episode of the many we could cite, happened on the second Sunday of April in 1906, a Croatian friar insisted on celebrating the Glagolitic rite in the church of San Francesco in Cherso, an island of purely Italian history and culture. The faithful, in the face of this celebration, which seemed to them like nationalistic propaganda, left the religious building en masse, leaving only the Croatian friar.

After these and other similar events, the inhabitants of Neresine — and other areas threatened with forced Slavicization (Ossero, Cherso, Lussinpiccolo) — appealed unsuccessfully to the bishop of Veglia, Anton Mahnich. After their appeals were rejected by the Slavic prelate, they decided to appeal directly to Rome. The severity of these reported events caused Pius X to intervene, removing Mahnic from his office as bishop. Even after this, the Vatican had to again directly intervene to denounce and condemn both the liturgical abuse of the use of the Glagolitic rite, as well as the support the Slavic priests were giving to Slovenian and Croatian nationalism, as happened for example on June 17, 1905, when the Cardinal Secretary of State, by order of Pope Pius X, sent a stern letter to the Minister General of the Franciscan Friars Minor with strict orders to energetically intervene and put an end to the behavior of Croatian Franciscans in Dalmatia who were seeking to introduce Croatian into the liturgy.

The Catholic Church itself did not at all welcome the pretenses of the Slovenian and Croatian nationalists and their attempts to restore the Glagolitic rite, both for strict liturgical reasons, and because often times such a request came from pan-slavists with an overt sympathy for Eastern Orthodoxy. The Slavic nationalist movements in Slovenia and Croatia were able to count on funding coming from very distant regions all over the Habsburg Empire and even from Russia itself, and also from supposedly Catholic clergymen who cared more about their nationality than about the faith they professed. An example, certainly extreme but still significant, was a small local schism, which involved the village of Ricmanje (San Giuseppe della Chiusa) in the Diocese of Trieste and Capodistria. The local priest, Monsignor Požar, asked permission to introduce the Glagolitic missal. His request having been rejected, the situation ended up turning into a real schism, with the defection of Ricmanje to Eastern Orthodoxy.

In conclusion and in summary, glagolism resurfaced after 1848 and was even admitted into Italian dioceses where the liturgical innovation was imposed by Slavic nationalists who held ecclesiastical offices, which deeply hurt both the national and religious feelings of Italian Catholics, who were forced to embrace foreign rites of dubious conformity with Catholicism.

VI. Habsburg Caesaropapism: Oppression of the Church and Hostility Towards Italy

The ecclesiastical policy of the Habsburg Empire was well summarized by Ugo Mioni, a priest, historian and journalist born in Trieste in 1870:
“The Habsburgs are always equal. Caesaropapism is inherent to them; instead of occupying themselves with the vital interests of their states, they always have to bother the Church. They appear as Catholics externally, but try to insert themselves into the Church's affairs; they pose as guardians, but want to keep the Church chained and yoked to the wagon of the State. It doesn't matter if the chains are made of gold; they are still chains, and always weigh much more than those of iron. It is better to have an open persecution than to have caesaropapism and a state protection which seeks to exercise power over the Church.” [5]
This same judgment had already been articulated by, among others, Geremia Bonomelli, Bishop of Cremona, who had this to say about the Habsburgs' ecclesiastical policy: “They were guards who imposed gold chains; gold chains, it is true, but they were chains nonetheless.”

In essence, the Habsburg Empire claimed to be the “protector” of the Church. In this way, however, they were able to subordinate certain ecclesiastical institutions to the will and impositions of their political power. Emperor Joseph II, who went so far as to dictate how many candles were to be lit in churches, and who gave his name to the heretical caesaropapistic religious policy known as Josephism, is the most well-known representative of the habitual policy of Habsburg Vienna. During the Risorgimento, the Habsburg authorities did not hesitate at all to persecute and murder Italian clergy because they were patriots. According to the same imperial officials, the clergy of Lombardy-Venetia had patriotic ideas. For example, Baron von Aichelberg wrote:
“Day by day, almost hour by hour, the revolution was gaining ground in all provinces... The priests behaved worse than the others, demonstrating with incredible insolence that they were at the head of the revolutionary movement: they are most responsible for the incitement and influence on the lower classes, especially the peasantry. … The rich are like beggars, the bishop just as well is like the most horrible monkey, all carry the Italian cockade.” [6]
For this reason, many priests were murdered and imprisoned during the repression of Radetzky. The most famous case (not the only one!) was that of Don Enrico Tazzoli, who was tortured by the imperial police, ritually deconsecrated (on special order of Pius IX, in response to pressure from the Habsburg imperial government, which was done by scraping away the skin on his fingers), hanged in Belfiore and finally buried in unconsecrated ground. During the First World War, the Empire did not hesitate to deport many priests from Trentino to concentration camps (lager), while Monsignor Celestino Endrici, the Archbishop of Trento, was imprisoned in the fortress of Heiligenkreuz.

In addition to these acts of persecution, Habsburg ecclesiastical policy was usually hostile to Italians since 1848. The Emperor saw to it that in the episcopal sees in Julian Venetia, a region with an Italian majority, Slavic bishops were appointed, all of them ardent nationalists who invited a large number of Slovenian and Croatian priests from the hinterland in order to Slavicize the local churches. These bishops imposed radical changes in the local liturgy, adopting “Glagolitic”, which involved the use of Church Slavonic, and sometimes even advocating such decisively pro-Orthodox ideas such as schism from Rome: this, however, did nothing to alter Imperial policy. In Trentino-Alto Adige, the supposedly “Catholic” Empire permitted the activity of pan-Germanist associations which had anti-Catholic and Protestant tendencies (such as the Tiroler Volksbund), causing the reaction and the indignation of the Bishop of Trento, Celestine Endrici, and also the Catholic politicians of Trentino, including Alcide De Gasperi, who condemned the appearance of such anti-Italian and anti-Catholic policies (for example, an editorial in the Voce cattolica on February 1, 1906 said: “we must defend ourselves against those who undermine the Italian character of our land”).

In fact, many Slavs and many South Tyroleans believed there was a strong connection between Italianity and Catholicism in light of historical ties (Catholicism is inconceivable without Roman heritage), therefore hostility towards Italy as a nation also took on the aspect of hostility towards the Church of Rome.

The anti-Italian alliance between the Habsburg Imperial power and the Yugoslav nationalists manifested itself most clearly in the forced Slavicization of institutions, rites, and activities of the Catholic Church in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, resulting in a very serious situation in which Catholic ecclesiastical institutions were manipulated and used by the Habsburg state for its own ends.


1. cf. Moritsch A., “Der Austroslawismus. Ein verfrühtes Konzeptzur politischen Neugestaltung Mitteleuropas”, Vienna 1996.

2. M. Lacko, “I Concili di Spalato e la liturgia slava”, in A. Matanić (editor), Vita religiosa, morale e sociale ed i concili di Split (Spalato) dei sec. X-XI. Atti del Symposium internazionale di storia ecclesiastica, Split, 26-30 settembre 1978, Padua 1982, pp. 443-482.

3. Jedin (editor), Storia della Chiesa, volume IV, 1978; M. Uhlirz, Jahrbücher des deutschen reiches unter Otto II und Otto III, Berlin 1954; H. Ludat, Slaven und Deutsche im Mittelalter, Cologne-Vienna 1982; M. Gallina, Potere e società a Bisanzio, Turin 1995, pp. 167-1740.

4. cf. Vittorio Fragiacomo, “La liturgia glagolitica in Istria”, Pagine Istriane, gennaio-giugno 1986, Rivista trimestrale di cultura fondata a Capodistria nel 1903 (Genova, 1986), p. 49-51; J. Martinic, “Glagolitische Gesànge Mitteldalmatiens”, Regensburg 1981.

5. Ugo Mioni, Pio VI: il pellegrino apostolico e il suo tempo, Alba, Pia Societa San Paolo, 1933, p. 60.

6. Sked, Le armate, cit., pp. 116-117.