Lives Journal 14

Milan Shtruc

 

ST. JEROME AND THE FIRST SLOVENIAN BIBLE

(On the 1600th Anniversary of the death of one of the greatest Church Fathers

and the greatest translator of all time)

 

1. The first printed text of the Bible

Most of what we know today about the first Slovenian Bible is related to its translation from the time of the Reformation and its first printed form. In 1555, Primozh Trubar began translating the New Testament, which was then printed in 1557.1 This was basis for the entire translation of the Bible, completed by Jurij Dalmatin in 1578. A printing agreement was made with the Ljubljana printer Janez Mandelec, but the Archduke Charles II, ruler of Inner Austria and a hard Catholic, intervened and prevented it from being printed. Mandelc had to close his printing house and was later even expelled from Ljubljana (1582).

Later, an agreement with Samuel Selfisch, a printer from Wittenberg, was made, as he was out of reach of the Austrian Catholic Archduke. Selfisch began working in 1583 and finished in 1584. A total of 1,500 copies of the Bible were printed and transported in barrels and chests to Styria, Carinthia and Carniola. Among other donors they helped to finance the printing.2 Despite the efforts of fanatics, who were permanently burning down Protestant books, at least a few copies of the Slovenian Bible have been preserved to this day due to the relatively large number of copies printed.

Slovenian Freising Manuscripts (Monumenta Frisingensia) were also discovered only by accident, since they were hidden for almost a millennium, bound inside Latin texts. This finding indicates that long before the discovered monuments many similar texts in Slovenian may have existed, but were successfully destroyed by the persistent destroyers of all non-Latin, especially Slovenian texts.

So we know a lot about the first printed Slovenian Bible. However, to determine if there was an earlier translation into Slovenian, we need to get acquainted with the work of St. Jerome,3 one of the most educated men of the old world and the most important translator of holy scripture. He is also one of the most famous historical personalities, born in Slovenia. At the same time, we will come to even more interesting discoveries relevant to Slovenian history, which we know little about.

 

2. The life of St. Jerome

Evzebij Sofronij Hieronim, lat. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (c. 347 - 419/420), better known as St. Jerome, wrote about his birthplace himself, stating that he was born in Stridon, at the junction between Pannonia and Dalmatia.

He spent his youth on the homestead outside the fortified city walls. This is known from the letters, in which he later ordered how the inheritance for his estate should be arranged. Jerome also allegedly had a home teacher, and was allowed to study, which indicates that he spent his youth in a wealthy family.

He was born in a Christian family, but according to custom of that time he was baptized only when he reached adulthood in 366, when the patriarch of Aquileia (Slovenian: Oglej) baptized him. Later he decided on an ascetic and monastic life. During his stay in Antioch (Syria) and Constantinople, he acquired good knowledge of Aramaic and Hebrew.4 However, throughout his time abroad, he maintained close contact with his native Emona (old Slovenian name for Ljubljana). From his many letters to Emona we can conclude that at that time, there was already a strong Christian community there. We can also learn of his dispute with the »Emonian virgins«, allegedly induced by one of the native monks. It was probably the monk Antony, to whom Jerome wrote in one of the letters that he had already sent him ten letters, to which he received no answer.5

Jerome studied and worked in Aquileia, Milan, Rome, Egypt, Constantinople, Antioch and Palestine. He had an extraordinary gift for languages, and he soon mastered Latin well too.6 In addition to the »vulgo« language of his environment, he also spoke Greek due to the fact that Constantinople had at that time long been the capital of the Roman Empire, and Greek had already become an important language in the Christian community.7 His extensive linguistic knowledge enabled him to study theological documents directly in the original. Thus he was soon considered one of the most educated men of the world, able to translate directly from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek.

 

3. Dilemmas about the birthplace

Jerome's remarkable importance for the world’s history constantly raises the question of his birthplace, which all neighboring nations want to place in their present-day territory. Different interpretations are possible only because many authors, who write widely about him, do not show even so much respect for the truth to consistently follow Jerome’s own writing. This may be poor mastering of logic or, in a more serious case, misrepresentation of facts for a variety of purposes. Jerome explicitly stated that his birthplace Stridon lies on the border between Pannonia and Dalmatia. With this he eliminated all the places that were deeper in either area (Figure 1). It is therefore inappropriate to place his birthplace in Dalmatia or Pannonia, since this is in direct contradiction with his statement that it is a place »on the border between« them.8 If he were born in one area or the other, he would no doubt write so.

His statement about the intersection or intermediate area between Pannonia and Dalmatia corresponds in particular to the territory of present-day Slovenia, where the specific location remains to be determined.

However, it will be difficult to find a credible solution if we search for his birthplace in Slovenia at a »yew tree, under which St. Jerome professed the holy faith.« The information about his life path does not make it possible for Jerome to preach under any tree at any time in this region, since he never returned to his homeland after his departure. With regard to the so-called »Jerome yew« near the hill Nanos, expert studies indicate that it is about 600 years old, when Jerome was no longer alive for 1000 years. Also, at that place there are no barriers in the form of Roman Alpine defense walls, at least not the Ajdovski zid, which was one of the most monumental Roman structures of that time, and was proudly mentioned by Jerome in connection with his birthplace.9

In search for the former Stridon, it should be borne in mind that in the area in question the sequence of letters ST was always pronounced as ShT, which was already proven in detail by Dragan Shanda.10 Similarly, in the German language today, the sequence ST is always pronounced as ShT at the beginning of a word. Therefore, we have to look for the name that was in the 4th century written as Stridon and pronounced Shtridon. That’s why Shtrigova near the border between Styria and Croatia was long considered Jerome's birthplace. A large Roman settlement was located there, and it was connected by one of the important Roman roads. Later Shtrigova was part of the Slovenian Principality of Cilli (Slovenian: Celjska knezhevina), where Prince Frederick II of Cilli in 1447, on 1100th anniversary of Jerome's birth, established a monastery in his honor and built the Church of Mary. Even today the churches of St. Jerome and St. Mary Magdalene still stand there. The area is known as a great site for Roman weapons, vessels and jewelry, as well as for the great criminal act against Slovenians, who demanded annexation to Slovenia, which occurred in 1947 at the very 1600th anniversary of Jerome’s birth.11

Rafko Valenchich12 comprehensively wrote about St. Jerome and justifiably rejected all »evidences« that his birthplace could be outside the territory of present-day Slovenia.13 He placed it between the former Emona (old name for the ​​present-day Ljubljana) and Aquileia, or in the area of ​​the Slovenian Karst. Miroslav Premrou locates the birthplace in the vicinity of Emona (see Valenchich). English Wikipedia also confirms that the location of St. Jerome’s birthplace was near Emona stating »He was the son of Eusebius, born in Stridon, a village near Emona, on the border between Dalmatia and Pannonia ...«14

Rafko Valenchich notes: »In all likelihood, Stridon was a settlement (pagus) with several estates.«15 We can therefore conclude that they were connected by roadways, probably named after their owners, which is still common nowadays in this area. An important clue to find Jerome's birthplace is also Rajko Bratozh's finding that the name of the birthplace Stridon was in fact written in »the plural form Stridonae, since the suffix –na(e) is a form of declinations of oppido Stridonis ...«16

Similarly also Slobodan Prosperov Novak in his book states17 that Jerome had used the plural form »On the Stridons« (Croatian: »Na Stridonama«, Slovenian: »Na Stridonih«).

The name Stridon in the form Stradon still appears today in the name of many roadways in the southern marshy part of Ljubljana. They are pronounced Shtradon, and are named after the previous owners, such as Mihov, Urshichev, Ilovski, Knezov, Veliki, Jesihov, Brglezov, Rebekov and Volarjev Stradon, and still more of them could be found. What is important is that in Slovenian, Stradon means a hardened road in a marshy area, flanked by drainage ditches and planted with trees on both sides, to further consolidate the roadway.18 Once the place of these roadways had its common name Na Shtradonih or Na Shtradonu (On Shtradon), which it is still in use today.

Jerome's own statement that there are large Roman fortified barriers near his birthplace is completely in line with the findings of the magnificent Alpine defense wall 19 in the southern part of present-day Ljubljana which we can still admire today. By citing this remarkable construction of his time, Jerome has made it possible to locate his birthplace with such precision and indisputability that any further pretending ignorance is completely futile.

Today, the entire course of the former Alpine defense system can be determined with great precision. According to the findings of the latest Claustra Alpium Iuliarum study,20 the Ajdovski zid (»the wall of prehistoric giants«, Aydian Wall)21 was its central and most important part. It is the longest documented part of the wall with at least 35 fortified towers, and today almost 8 kilometers of the wall are still preserved. The Alpine defense system »was most likely the most extensive ancient Roman architectural undertaking in the territory of modern Slovenia, and as such, ranks among the greatest cultural monuments of antiquity in Europe.«22 Jerome was certainly proud of this imposing construction near his home, and it is no wonder that he explicitly referred to it. It is especially important that from the Ajdovski zid to the east the entire Ljubljansko barje (Ljubljana Marshes) could be seen, which at the same time means that the mighty construction could be visible also from Jerome's homestead.23 Therefore, it is not true that the vicinity of the Alpine Defense Wall near Stridon »does not have archaeological evidence«.24 On the contrary, it was probably possible to see it even from the Jerome’s homestead. But first of all the location of Stridon must be put in the right place. Now it is understandable why Jerome referred to such a monumental Roman undertaking because the Aydian Wall was a special feature of his birthplace.

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI clarified the dilemma about Jerome's birthplace, when in his general auditions on 7 and 14 November 2007, based on preserved original Vatican documents unequivocally stated for St. Jerome: »He was born in 347 in Stridon, in present-day Ljubljana, Slovenia, to a Christian family.«25

 

4. Emperor Charles IV

Important place in preserving the memory of St. Jerome belongs to Wenceslaus of Luxembourg,26 better known as the Czech king and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles IV. He was born on 14 May 1316 in Prague, but had to leave home and go to France for a while. During this time, he received his confirmation, when his godfather, French King Charles the Fair, changed the name Wenceslaus to his own name.27

Charles IV died in 1378 and is buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Vitus within the Prague castle complex on Hradchani, where also the Czech Queen and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire Barbara of Cilli (Slovenian: Barbara Celjska) is buried.28

To better understand the connection of Emperor Charles IV with Slovenian country and thus his relation to St. Jerome, we need to become more aware of the events in Charles's life. When Charles travelled to Tyrol, he wanted to avoid the path over the land of Austrian dukes, because he did not trust them.29 Therefore, he traveled from Prague to Lombardy over the land of the Hungarian king. Through his kingdom and Dalmatia he reached the Adriatic See and boarded a ship there. Near the town of Grad, (now Italian: Grado), his ship was surrounded by the Venetians that captured part of its crew. With a small escort, Charles managed to escape on foot to Aquileia, where he became the guest of honor of the Aquileia’s Patriarch. The friendship with the patriarch was further deepened when, through the patriarch's intervention, the Venetians had to release the crew of Charles's ship, which allowed him to continue his journey to Tyrol. The Patriarch granted him a heavily armed escort for the trip, and so a lasting friendship with Charles was formed at that time. During his stay in Aquileia, Charles became well acquainted with the remarkable work of St. Jerome, his homeland, and his provincial language. Charles's admiration of St. Jerome was also one of the important reasons for his later decision to establish a monastery in his honor in Prague, in which Pope Clement VI prescribed mandatory use of the Slovenian language.

 

5. Translation of scriptures into Slovenian and merging them into Vulgate

The vernacular tongue of Jerome's youthful life on the homestead near the fortified Emona was undoubtedly Slovenian, since it is known that he acquired good knowledge of Latin only later. It is therefore likely that Jerome first translated many and extensive scriptures into his native Slovenian language, which for the Romans was a vulgo language, as they were used to call non-Latin languages ​​at that time. As the scriptures, which he brought together into his first version of the Bible were in Slovenian, i.e. non-Latin language, they were called Vulgate. It is unlikely that he would translate into Latin first and only then into some vulgo language. We can learn more about this from the extensive correspondence between the Emperor Charles IV and the Pope Clement VI when they were establishing the Slovenian Monastery in Prague in Jerome's honor, as well as from the monastery’s founding charter.

Jerome came to Rome because of a dispute with the bishops in Antioch concerning the Gospels, which should be included in the Bible, or excluded as inappropriate.30 Jerome suggested that the dispute should be decided by the Roman pope.

I use the term pope for Roman bishops also during the time of Jerome, though the exclusive use of it came to be reserved only for them a few centuries later. The use of this term in the 4th century’s Christopheros charter of Donatio Constantini, by which the Emperor Constantine supposedly transferred authority over the entire western part of his empire and over all the churches of the world to the pope, was also one of the proofs that the charter was forged.31

Modern research confirms that the charter was not written until the year 752 during the time of Pope Stephen II.32 Nevertheless, the Holy Roman Empire lasted almost a thousand years until Napoleon Bonaparte33 in 1806 abolished it and took the last imperial crown from the then Emperor Franz II of Habsburg.

Jerome first met with Pope Damasus I in 382 in Rome. He came there, along with the Patriarch of Antioch, loaded with scrolls of collected and translated scriptures.34 After long conversations, especially about the Bible, the Pope appointed him secretary and counselor, and tasked him with translating the Bible into Latin.35 After the death of Pope Damasus I, Jerome was said to be even among the serious candidates for his successor, but preferred to continue his work. He moved to Palestine, where he remained until his death (in Bethlehem). Besides his translations from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek into Slovenian and merging of scriptures into Vulgate, Jerome became most celebrated for his monumental translation of the Bible into Latin, which was accepted by the church as an authentic standard, and is with minor amendments still valid today.

Jerome's Slovenian translation of the Bible has been widely known for a long time. The controversy over this oldest translation was particularly aggravated at the time, when Primozh Trubar was preparing his own Slovenian and Croatian translation. When Croats received the copies of the Bible, they refused to pay, because Trubar »should already have a copy of the translated Bible into a ‘Slavic’ language«.

There is also the story of a certain Michael Moses from Cres, who claimed to have handed over such a Bible to Trubar, but who had allegedly lost it. »If this were true, Trubar would never publicly call on anyone who knows anything about the Cres monk and the Bible, which, according to him, was owned by Count Bernardin Frankopan of Grobnik near Reka, and which he remembered from his early years, since he had seen it with his own eyes.«36

 

6. Establishment of the Slovenian Monastery in Prague

Jerome's monumental work encouraged Emperor Charles IV to use the 1000th anniversary of the Jerome’s birth to found the monastery and congregation of St. Benedict in Prague. After the Emperor received the permission of Pope Clement VI,37 he established it on 21 November 1347. Besides the founding charter of this monastery,38 the prior correspondence between Emperor, the pope, the archbishop of Prague, as well as their subsequent correspondence with the abbot of the monastery, is also of particular importance for the history.39

Emperor Charles IV in his founding charter (Figure 2) first refers to the permission of Pope Clemens VI to establish a monastery and congregation of Benedictines in Prague, »because Blessed Jerome of Stridon, a famous doctor and an excellent translator, translated the scriptures from Hebrew into Latin and Slovenian, that is, the language from which our Czech kingdom took its dialect.«40 He declared that in both institutions the servants of God should use the Slovenian language in honor and memory of Blessed Jerome.

From his argumentation we can conclude that Emperor Charles IV knew well the country of St. Jerome’s origin, as he wrote that »the latter, with his work, celebrated for all eternity his ancestry and his homeland.«41 Because of all these facts, the monastery was named »Slovenian Monastery« and the wider area was named »in Slovenia«. At the same time, Charles also built the Church of Mary, since churches consecrated to St. Mary are often associated with St. Jerome.

Problems regarding the compulsory use of the Slovenian language in the monastery are also evidenced from the correspondence between Pope Clemens VI and the Archbishops of Prague. The latter informs the Pope about the difficulties in obtaining a large enough number of Slovenian-speaking monks and others who are fluent in Slovenian so that all matters in the monastery could actually take place in that language. Dioceses in Slovenia and Aquileia42 (also called »Slovenian Rome«), the most important ecclesiastical center of the area from the 2nd century onwards, were involved in solving the problem. They played an important role in establishing the Slovenian monastery in Prague.

Pope Clement VI was also convinced that Slovenian was Jerome's mother tongue; otherwise it would be incomprehensible for him to declare the Slovenian language for performing the divine service in his honor. At the same time, all the above facts confirm that Jerome was the first to translate the various scriptures into Slovenian, that is, into non-Latin or vulgo language, and merged them into the Bible called Vulgate.

Some historians also change the term »Slovenian« to »Slavic«. This is totally inadequate since such a language did not exist at that time and still does not exist today, as only a Slavic group of languages exists. The name of the large area adjacent to the monastery was later also changed from Slovenian to Slavic (Czech: »Na Slovaneh«), though the monastery was founded several centuries before Czech Dobrovsky and other linguists gave such extraordinary recognition to Slovenian language that they named the whole large language group for Slavic.43 Today, the connection with Slovenian is being blurred by the renaming »Slavic« into a kind of fictional »Balto-Slavic« linguistic group.

When Emperor Charles IV in his Latin-written document claimed that »lingua Slauonica« should be used in the monastery, he did not refer to a Slavic language group, since in his writings he explicitly differentiated between two Slavic languages, namely, the Slovenian language (»lingua Slauonica«) and the vernacular of his Czech Kingdom (»nostri regni Boemie idioma«). When he said that Jerome had clarified the vernacular of the Czech kingdom with Slovenian as its source, he thus assigned a special role to Slovenian in relation to the Czech language. According to the Golden Bull, which was a kind of imperial constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, the Slovenian language was among the four official languages ​​of this empire.44

 

However, Emperor Charles also must have known other scriptures that were written in ancient Slovenian, which some today call »Old Church Slavonic«.

All the above findings can be summarized into the following facts about the Slovenian history and St. Jerome:

 

1. That he was born and spent his youth in the area of ​​present-day Ljubljana, which means that his native vulgo language must have been Slovenian, as he only acquired a better knowledge of Latin language later;

2. That he first translated the scriptures into his native Slovenian or vulgo language, the way non-Latin languages ​​were called by the Romans at that time, and therefore this first translation of the Bible was called Vulgate,

3. That on the basis of his great inspiration, he was the first in history to combine the various scriptures into the Bible as we know today; translations of many sacred texts into Latin had been made before, so he would never receive such a world glory by only translating scriptures into Latin,

4. That all the above findings are consistent with the fact of Slovenians living in their present-day territory in the 4th century already,

5. That the latest archaeological excavations in Ljubljana prove the existence of Christianity at least in the 4th century, i.e. at the time when Jerome spent his youth there,

6. That in the 8th century there was no »Christianization of the Slovenians« which was reasonably rejected by Jurij Venelin already, citing other causes for the events of that time.45

 

Therefore, the question arises how it is possible that all these findings could have been completely vanished into oblivion.46

 

7. St. Jerome and the »immigration« theory

Of course, the above facts are not in line with the so-called »immigration theory«, which claims that the Slovenians immigrated in the present-day territory at the end of the 6th century, that is almost two and half centuries after Jerome's birth. Insisting on the »late arrival of Slovenians« underestimates the knowledge of Pope Clement VI, Emperor Charles IV, the abbots in the Slovenian monastery and many others, who would immediately notice such obvious discrepancy, if it were true.

Among other, the thesis of immigration in the late 6th century was entirely rejected already by the world-renowned historian and linguist Prof. Dr. Mario Alinei, a fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a member of many other recognized world institutions. Based on the spatial distribution of genetic markers, on their connection with the distribution of languages ​​and on the findings of recent archeological research, he concluded: »The totally absurd thesis of the so called ‘late arrival' of the Slavs in Europe must be replaced by the scenario of Slavic (and Slovenian) continuity from Paleolithic onwards.«47

Strong presence of Christianity among Slovenians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries is well known, so it is amazing how some have succeeded in turning the 8th century struggle for the Slovenian language in worship into a fictional »Christianization of Slovenians«. The Russian historian Jurij Venelin clarified the bloody struggle in the 8th century for defending the old Slovenian »pagan religion« by the following possibilities: »Taking into account the situation of that time, we must pay attention to four possibilities: a.) The struggle of the Slovenian alphabet with Gaelic; b.) The fight of dogma with dogma; c.) The struggle of the ancient rite with a new one; d.) The struggle for the Slovenian language to be used in worship instead of Latin.«48

Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Slovenian as early as the 4th century also contributed to the fact that many later scriptures were also written in Slovenian. According to the principle of German linguists, who call their language in the old texts »High German«, similar Slovenian writings should also be called »High Slovenian«, but in no way »Old Church Slavonic«.

Latin terms like »in Slauoniam« and »lingua Slauonica« that were used by Emperor Charles IV and Pope Clemens VI, have been in use for many centuries for the Slovenian language and Slovenian territory, and they are still used in Latin today. Thus, the old agreement, concluded about that time in Latin language between the Zhiche, Bistra, Jurkloshter and Pleterje monasteries, states that they are »in Slauonia«, that is in today’s Slovenia. The inscription on the picture of the Zhiche Carthusian Monastery from around 1510 says that it is »in Slauonia«,49 i.e. in today’s Slovenia. One of the monks from these monasteries wrote in German that Slovenian bread feeds him, using the term »windisch«, which can be translated only as Slovenian. Many historical maps are preserved that use the name »Sclauonia oder Windisch Marck«, i.e. »Slovenia or the Slovenian Mark«.50 Therefore, the meaning of these words must be understood in their true meaning, otherwise it is an inadmissible misinterpretation of history.

 

8. The later fate of the Slovene Monastery

With the arrival of the Slovenian-speaking population to Prague, a large Slovenian community developed in the wider area of ​​the monastery, making the area known as »Slovenian« or »Na Slovenskem«. Several branch monasteries were also established.51 All these monasteries received strong support from the emperors of the Luxembourg-Cilli dynasty.

After the death of Emperor Charles IV, his successor Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg, and the last Empress of the Holy Roman Empire Barbara of Cilli in 1451, the situation of the community changed drastically. Frederick III of Habsburg, who in 1452 succeeded Empress Barbara, did not favor the actions of his predecessors, and the Slovenian Monastery in Prague began to deteriorate. In the late 16th century, the Slovenian Monastery was renamed to Emmaus Monastery and the Slovenian community began to disappear.52

The basic purpose of the Slovenian monastery, determined by the founding charter of Emperor Charles IV and Pope Clement VI, was in 1636 inadmissibly changed by Ferdinand III of Habsburg, who replaced the existing Slovenian monks by the Spanish Benedictines from Montserrat.53 However, this change saved the monastery from the later pogroms of Joseph II of Habsburg against the Slovenian monasteries. The next danger came with the school law in 1871, when the monastery gymnasium in Klatov and the monastery itself should be closed, but the monks managed to avoid it by joining the German Benedictine Order of Beuron, to which they belong still today.54

The name of the Slovenian area is today »On Slovanech« (Czech meaning for Slavic), and the monastery became the Emmaus Monastery. It retained a copy of the first Slovenian Bible,55 but today it would be in vain to look for it, as many catastrophes had hit the monastery over the course of time. Today, there are no traces of the numerous manuscripts that were produced in its scriptorium, and little is known about the once large monastery library of manuscripts and other books. The book, probably the Bible, was kept there, that was used for a long time during coronations of the French kings to swear on. It is interesting that Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II, also instructed his friend to buy him a Bible in the Czech Kingdom.

Out of the 1,500 printed copies of the Slovenian Bible (printed in 1583) after many incinerations, only a few of them have been preserved. So it is even less possible to preserve books from the time, when they existed only as manuscripts. Among the important books still in the monastery, the most famous is the Gospel, but it is only a gift from recent times. Most of the library was already destroyed at the attack of the troops from Passau on Prague in 1611.56 Finally, the monastery was badly damaged in three successive attacks by the 8th Allied Aviation Brigade on 14 February 1945. What has annoyed the Allies so much, that they destroyed such a remarkable historical heritage, was it their own decision or at the request of others, is not clear.

 

9. Plechnik's secret symbols of St. Jerome

Some facts show that the history of St. Jerome, as well as the Slovenian monastery in Prague, was well known to Slovenian great architect Jozhe Plechnik (1872-1957). Most likely he became acquainted with it during his long stay in Prague. Some facts also confirm that he knew well the history of the Slovenian Monastery, its renaming to Emmaus, and later annexation to the German Benedictine order in Beuron, to where it still belongs today.

On the way along the Izhanska Road, on the Ljubljana Marshes, we can see a solitarily situated extraordinary Plechnik's Church of St. Michael, one of the »most original sacral buildings of the 20th century.«57 It is important that some of its architectural features are fully in line with data from the life of St. Jerome.

In 1937, Plechnik chose a location for this church, which corresponds to the now known area of Jerome's birthplace. The church is dedicated to St. Michael; his day is 29 September, the day of St. Jerome is 30 September, which means that the saints' days follow each other directly.

Because the church is in an unstable marshy area, Plechnik used 347 wooden pilots to fortify it, which is symbolically the exact year of Jerome's birth.58 If anyone ever wanted to destroy this link, the church would have to be fully demolished before.

Plechnik chose the artistic design of the Benedictine order from Beuron,59 to which Slovenian Monastery in Prague, erected in honor of St. Jerome, still belongs today.

Plechnik used symbols of Etruscan art and the city of Ravenna, which in Jerome's time was the main administrative center of the western part of the Roman Empire. Additionally, the city’s name Ravena (Italian Ravenna) originates from Slovene word ravena (flat land, flat valley), which according to Pletershnik60 means the same as ravan and ravnina.

Perhaps more accurate researchers will be able to find still other links to St. Jerome in this interesting Plechnik's object. However, from these findings alone we can conclude that Plechnik knew the site of Jerome's birthplace and other details from his life, since he situated the church of St. Michael on Ljubljansko Barje (Ljubljana Marches), using in it a number of symbols, which he secretly associated with St. Jerome.

 

10. Honoring the 1600th anniversary of Jerome's death

St. Jerome died on 30 September 419 (or 420)61 in Bethlehem, so the years 2019 and 2020 mark the 1600th anniversary of his death. He was one of the most important church fathers, teachers and most educated men in the world, whose work and scriptures are of extreme importance not only for the Christianity, but for the entire world cultural heritage.

Like in other countries, special stamps and coins are issued every year also in Slovenia to honor anniversaries of events and personalities that are most important for our history. Based on the above facts, it was expected that the life and work of St. Jerome will be also remembered in such a way, but unfortunately, the proposal was rejected.

So, it is commendable that the International Symposium Hieronimus noster (Our Jerome) on the 1600th Anniversary of Jerome’s death was held in Ljubljana from October 23rd to 26th, 2019. It was organized by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Universities of Ljubljana, Graz and Warsaw, the Central European University in Vienna and many other institutions around the world.62 At the same time in Zagreb (Croatia) a symposium on St. Jerome was organized, the book Sveti Jeronim, Dalmatinac (Saint Jerome the Dalmatian)63 was issued and Croatia intends to especially honor this anniversary in the first half of 2020, when it will be co-chairing the EU Council.

 

Translated by author

 

 

 

Notes:

 

1 Slovenski prevodi Svetega pisma (Slovenian translations of the Holy Scripture),

https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovenski_prevodi_Svetega_pisma; last edited on 17 March 2016, at 13:03.

2 Dalmatinova biblija: http://www.dedi.si/dediscina/123-dalmatinova-biblija.

3 St. Jerome is not ranked among Slovenian saints: List of Slovenian saints, Wikipedia, last edited on 7 April 2018, at 10:41. Neither Jozhko Shavli included him among Slovenian saints, Slovenian Saints, Humar Publishing House, 1999. Therefore, he is listed among Christian saints from Croatia, Dodatak: Popis hrvatskih svetaca i blazhenika: en.wikipedia.org, last edited on 24 February 2020, at 12:01.

4 Pope Benedict XVI on St. Jerome in his speech on 7 November 2007, Benedikt XVI, Generalaudienz,

 http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071107.html

5 Hieronimova pisma, Pismo menihu Antoniu v Emono, translated by Franz Xavier Lukman, edited by Martin Kraljich, student of the Faculty of Theology 2000/01: »We can learn about the diversity of Christian life in Emona in the second half of the 4th century from two letters of St. Jerome. He wrote them around 377 during his stay in the Chalkite desert. The first letter was addressed to the congregation of God- dedicated Virgins in Emona, the second he sent to monk Antony there. From these letters we can conclude that in his time there was a well-developed Christian community, probably led by the bishop Maxim. In Jerome’s letter to the monk Antony in Emona he says: »Ten letters, if I am not mistaken, full of courtesy and requests, I have sent to you ... when you do not even want to make a move.« http://www2.arnes.si/~supmspel/patres/hieronim/index.html. His frequent writing to Emona confirms that throughout his absence he maintained a close relationship with his hometown and his country. On the contrary, he never wrote to Strane, Starod, Tarsatika, and many other places, where so many researchers and historians still claim to have found his birthplace.

6 Hieronim, Exodus tv, Saint of the Day, 30/9. http://www.exodus.si/oddaje/sv.hieronim.

7 Marjan Zhiberna: Archaeologists puzzle over mystery woman in early Christian Cemetery, National Geographic, 1/28/2018. Given the facts that were discovered by these excavations, it is still unbelievable that archaeologists and historians are still surprised to find on today's Gosposvetska Street in Ljubljana a large Christian burial ground from the 4th-century, and inscriptions in Greek, not Latin.

8 According to Jerome’s own statements also Shtrigova can't be his birthplace.

9 Valenchich decided to situate Jerome’s birthplace into the area between Uchka, Snezhnik and Nanos (Valenchich, 2007, p. 160) or Strane, because according to oral tradition, the »Jerome's yew tree« should grow there (p. 148). However, the facts that we know today, do not allow Strane to be Jerome’s birthplace, as experts evaluate the tree to be at most 600 years old. That would correspond to the millennium of Jerome's birth, when many churches and monasteries were built in his honor all over the Holy Roman Empire. They were not related to his birthplace, which also, for example, Prague, was not. At the yew tree in Strane there is a church with an older Gothic design and a property, owned by the monastery (Stishki samostan). Perhaps they built a monastery and planted a yew tree there on this important anniversary, which could in the oral tradition remain as the »Jerome yew tree«.

10 Shanda, Dragan: Slovencem, Lipa, Maribor, 2016.

11 Klasinc, Peter Pavel: Strigova, Institute of June 25, Ljubljana, 2008/213; Nekoch Stridona..., Delo 3 March 2007; Boris Cipot, Slovenski politichni veljaki v Shtrigovi izdali ..., V Fokusu, Novice, 18 March 2018, at 17:06; Miroslav Slana – Miros, Z ognjem in mechem nad nashe vasi, Dnevnik, 18 March 2018, at 17:06.

12 Valenchich, Rafko: Sveti Hieronim - mozh s Krasa (Saint Jerome - A Man from the Karst), Druzhina, Ljubljana, 2007.

13 Suic decided to place Jerome's hometown to Liburnia or to the northwestern part of Dalmatia. This was strongly rejected by R. Bratozh already, because there are no documented Alpine defense walls, Claustra Alpium Iuliarum, (Valenchich, 2007, p. 15).

14 Since Jerome grew up on a property outside the walls of Emona, the reference to the »village near Emona« in English Wikipedia fully matches with the findings of Pope Benedict XVI that Jerome was born »in the area of present-day Ljubljana.« This area is larger than the former Roman Emona, and includes also the nearby villages outside the fortified city walls of that time. »He was born at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia.« Jerome, Wikipedia,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome, last modified on 4 September 2018, at 08:26, (Highlights by M. Sh.)

15 Valenchich, 2007, p. 113.

16 Stridon, Wikipedia, last edited on 15 September 2018, at 19:02.

17 Slobodan Prosperov Novak: Sv. Jeronim Dalmatinac, Splitsko-dalmatinska zhupanija, Split, 2019.

18 The term »Stradon«, (pronounced: Shtradon); SSKJ, Fran Ramovsh Institute of Slovene Language ZRC SAZU;

http://bos.zrc-sazu.si/cgi/a03.exe?name=sskj_testa&expression=ge%3D%C5%A1tradon&hs=1.

19 The fortified barriers Claustra Alpium Iuliarum, mentioned by Jerome in connection with his birthplace, are referred by many authors, (Suich et al., Valenchich, 2007, pp. 157-158).

20 Claustra Alpium Iuliarum - med raziskovanjem in upravljanjem (Claustra Alpium Iuliarum - Between Research and Management), Ivan Michler Institute, Ljubljana, 2014.

21 »The Ajdovski zid barrier runs along the farthermost western rim of the Ljubljansko barje (Ljubljana Marches), ... On the main Roman road (via publica) between Emona and Aquileia, on the central section of the Alpine defense system, the Ajdovski zid fortifications are the first in a whole series of barriers. A total of 7744 m of these fortifications are preserved, making it the longest documented wall within the whole Alpine defense system. This section contained at least 35 towers«, Claustra Alpium Iuliarum, Chapter III by Jure Kusetic: A topographical and archeological overview, p. 72. »We conclude that the fortifications controlled 4 roads that passed through them in Antiquity,« (ibid, p. 73.)

22 Kusetich, 2014, p. 11. »The claustra Alpium Iuliarum system is on a par with similar monuments in Europe and in some aspects even surpasses them«, (Kusetich, 2014, p. 13). The results of the latest research show all its magnificence, especially when comparing it with similar monuments in Europe.

23 »Owing to their shape, the fortifications provided excellent visual supervision, as all the strategic points along the wall were within sight of each other ... Towards the east, the Ljubljana barje (Ljubljana Marshes) and all its surrounding peaks were visible throughout the length of the fortifications,« (Kusetich, 2014, p. 75).

24 Valenchich, 2007, p. 21.

25 Shtrukelj, Dr. Anton: Papezh Benedikt XVI. »Sveti Hieronim rojen v Ljubljani« / Pope Benedict XVI, »St. Jerome born in Ljubljana«; Pope Benedict XVI in his audience in German: »Er wurde 347 in Stridon, dem heutigen Leibach in Slovenien, in einer christlichen Familie geboren.« http://katoliska-cerkev.si/papez-benedikt-xvi-sveti-hieronim-rojen-v-ljubljani; Pope Benedict's Audition:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/de/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071107.html, (highlights by M. Sh.).

26 Franz Martin Pelzel associates the name Venceslav with the Slovene word zmagovalni venec, meaning conqueror’s crown, and was a symbol, similar to today’s royal or imperial crown. F. M. Pelzel, Kaiser Charles der Vierte, König and Böhmen, Prague, 1780.

27 Many historians of Emperor Charles IV still call him Charles Venceslav, or in Czech Charles Vencl.

28 According to the preserved documents, Empress Barbara of Cilli wore in addition to the Czech crown at least ten other European crowns.

29 Charles's distrust was justified, as the most famous kidnapper in history was Leopold V (1177-1194), Duke of Austria, a member of the Babenberg Dynasty, who kidnapped King Richard of England on his return from the Crusade. Leopold demanded the ransom of five times full year's income of the English Kingdom, the highest in history. Kaiser, Kriger, Kathedralen, MünzenRevue no. 9, 2017, p. 152.

30 The question at issue was about the gospels that should be included in the Bible, and which to exclude as inappropriate or Gnostic, prohibit their reading and possession. Lovci na Sveto pismo; Iskanje resnice o Svetem pismu, (Searching for the truth of the Bible), Documentary television show, Viasat History, 2019.

31 Donation of Constantine, Wikipedia, last edited on 13 August 2018

32 Konstantinova darovnica, Wikipedia, last edited on 24 December 2019, at 03:42.

33 The French writer Voltaire said about this empire, that the group that »calls itself the Holy Roman Empire is neither holy nor Roman, nor is it an empire.« In 1512, the name of the empire was supposedly changed to the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation, lat.: Imperium Romanum Sacrum Nationis Germanicæ). Holy Roman Empire, Wikipedia, last edited on 7 February 2018, at 14:59. It is interesting to note that the term »nation« in 1512 in this particular case does not bother those who claim that there were no nations at that time.

34 »In 382, he accompanied Bishop of Antioch to Rome. He was all laden with his manuscripts that aroused the interest of Pope Damasus, who appointed him his secretary. They talked a lot about the Bible and the Pope initiated a new translation of the Bible into Latin.«(S. Hieronim, Exodus tv, Saints day 30.9).

35 Many different theories have circulated about the existence of the »Slavic« translation of the Bible. One of them is supposed to be a Jerome’s translation into Slovene and written in Latin (maybe even in Greek alphabet), while other claim that it was written in Glagolitic alphabet and it would therefore be the »Dalmatian Bible«. Former Bishop of Koper Peter Paul Vergerio knew very well that Glagolitic script originated from the time of Cyril and Methodius (9th century). In that case, it might just be only a Glagolitic transcript, not Jerome’s original translation.

36 »This mysterious story about Michael Moses still haunts many spirits today ...« Jozhe Javorshek: Primozh Trubar, Partizanska knjiga, Ljubljana, 1986, p. 105. However, if such translation was indeed available, and the new translators were to deny it, then according to Jerovshek, this could only be Vergerio, who was »known a liar, a fantasy and even a fraudster,« same, p. 104. Despite such an inappropriate view of Vergerio, Javorshek does not deny him an extraordinary role in Trubar's decisions, as it was he who convinced Trubar even to begin translating the Bible. He also convinced him to switch from his first used hard-to-read Gothic to Latin, because according to Vergerio, »there is no point to write Slovene in Gothic, but in Latin, which is much more appropriate for Slovene writing,« same, p. 105. Trubar himself wrote that Vergerio was even reviewing his translations, and compared them with the original, »written in the Greek script,« same, p. 106.

37 Clement VI was Pope from 1342 to 1352. He was of the French Benedictine Order and ruled from Avignon, France.

38 Charter of Emperor Charles IV on the Establishment of the Slovenian Monastery in Prague, the 1000th birth anniversary of St. Jerome; Archiv prazského arcibiskupství (1221-1525) 10 Regesta diplomatica nec noc epistolaria Bohemiae et Moraviae V. Nr. 257-258.

39 The letter from Pope Clement VI to Archbishop of Prague, Avignon, 9 May 1346, to Abbot of the Convent of the Slovenian Monastery, Avignon, 3 February 1349, and to Abbot of the Slovenian Monastery of the Order of St. Benedict, 1 April 1349. However, also Emperor Charles IV wrote many letters to the abbot and brothers of the monastery of St. Benedict in Prague.

40 »Pater Dominus noster Pope Clement VI ad nostri instantiam et requestam committere voluit, ut ipse in nostra ciuitate Pragensi monasterium conuentuale et claustrale ordinis sancti Benedicti instituere et autoritate posset apostolica ordinare, institutis ibidem Abbate et fratribus, qui Ieronymi Strydoniensis Doctoris egregii, et translatoris, interpretisque eximii sacre scripture de Ebraica in Latin et Slauonicam linguas, de qua siquidem Slauonica nostri regni Boemie idioma sumpsit exordium primordialiter et processit, debeant futuris temporibus. Regesta diplomatica nec noc epistolaria Bohemiae et Moraviae V. Nr. 257-258,« (highlights by M. Sh.).

41 »... speciem et decorem in lingua Slauonica duntaxat futuris et perpetuis temporibus ob memoriam et reuerentiam prefati beatissimi Ieronymi, ut ipse in dicto regno velut inter gentem suam et patriam reddatur perpetuo gloriosus ...« (Regesta diplomatica ...), (highlights by M. Sh.)

42 »Aquileia was the religious center for the whole North Adriatic, East Alpine and partly West Pannonian region.« (R. Bratozh, The Influence of the Church of Aquileia on the Eastern and Pre-Alpine Space from the 4th to the 8th Century, Ljubljana 1990, Collection of the Historical Journal - 8).

43 The decision to name »Slavic« the entire Slavic language group shows the importance of the Slovene language at that time and represents a remarkable recognition to the Slovene language and Slovene history, which we are not really aware of.

44 Shtruc, M., Sveto rimsko cesarstvo in slovenski jezik, Revija SRP, oktober 2017, shtevilka 135/136, str. 135–141.

45 Jurij Venelin explained in detail why the events from the 8th century did not mean Christianization of Slovenes; Ancient and Modern Slovenians, Translated from Russian by Ana Brvar, Just Rugel, translated from Latin by Barbara Shega; Amallietti & Amalietti, Ljubljana, 2009.

46 It is important that the Popes ruled from Avignon at that time. After the transfer of the papal headquarters to Rome, many documents were »lost«, the papal palaces were completely plundered and the military was settled there.

47 Mario Alinei: The Paleolithic Continuity Paradigm for the Origins of Indo-European Languages, November 2014, http://www.continuitas.org/intro.html, (highlights and remark in brackets by M. Sh.).

48 Venelin also claims that in the 5th century the Franks were Slavs and already Christians, and quotes St. Jerome, Venelin (2009), pp. 227 and 100.

49 Domus valis Scti Johannis bapte in Slauonia.

50 Some historians still do not understand the term »Slovene« and »Slavoniam« in Latin of that time and today.

51 »Daughter monasteries were founded in Olesnica in Silesia (1380) and Kleparz near Krakow (1390). The last pre-Hussite Abbot Cross (Crux) assumed to take office in 1412«. Kubinova, Katerina (ed): Slovanski klashter Karla IV., / The Slavic Monastery of Charles IV, Prague, 2016, p. 14.

52 »The name Emmaus first appeared in the late 16th century, when the Slovene community disappeared«, (Kubinova, 2016, p. 14); »The name ‘Emauzy’ was derived from the gospel, according to which Jesus met with his disciples near the village of Emmaus ... Another version of the story says that ‘Emauzy’ was derived from ... the castle, owned by the Czech queen Emma«. (Emauzy, Praque Quide, https://www.prague-guide.co.uk/emauzy/, 27 November 2015).

53 Emauzy Abbey, History and Guide to the Monastery, Benedictine Abbey, Prospectus, Prague, p. 9.

54 Emauzy Abbey, p. 15.

55 »A number of illuminated literary jewels were created here, including the so-called Reims Gospel Book and the first complete translation of Jerome's Vulgate«, (Emauzy, 2015).

56 Emauzy Abbey, p. 7.

57 Cerkev sv. Mihaela na Ljubljanskem barju / Church of St. Michael on the Ljubljana Marshes; Damjan Prelovshek, ZRC-SAZU, Umetnostnozgodovinski institut Franceta Steleta, https://uifs.zrc-sazu.si/en/publications/church-sv-mihaela-on-ljubljanskim-barju#v

58 Plecnik placed the Church of St. Michael at the Ljubljana Marshes on 347 wooden pilots, Jozhe Kushar: Plechnikova cerkev sv. Mihaela na Barju / Plechnik's Church of St. Michael at Barje, Parish Office of Barje, 1991, http://www.zupnijabarje.si/plecnikova-cerkev-sv-mihaela.html.

59 In designing the church, Plechnik used the design of the Benedictine monastery in Beuron; ZRC-SAZU, UZI Franceta Steleta: Cerkev sv. Mihaela na Ljubljanskem barju, http://photo-https://uifs.zrc-sazu.si/en/publikacije/cerkev-sv-mihaela-na-ljubljanskem-barju#v.

60 The word ravena means flat land or flat valley and is also a part of the East Styrian dialect: Maks Pletershnik, Slovene-German Dictionary, edited by Metka Furlan, ZRC Publishing House, ZRC SAZU, 2006, transliterated edition of the dictionary from 1894; second part, p. 373. The same meaning of the word is in the following dictionaries: A. J. Murko 1832-1833, M. Cigale, 1880, Vestnik, scientific supplement »Zore«, 1873-5.

61 Among the documents, stating the year of death, the year 319 appears more often than 420, which could mean that the latter represents only rounding of somewhat unreliable information.

62 The symposium was organized by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts; the Universities of Ljubljana, Zagreb, Graz, and Warsaw; Central European University (CEU); International Network of Excellence “Europa Renascens”; DANUBIUS Project (Université de Lille); and the Institut des Sources chrétiennes. https://www.teof.uni-lj.si/hieronymus-noster-eng.

63 Slobodan Prosperov Novak: Sv. Jerome Dalmatinac, Splitsko-dalmatinska zhupanija, Split, 2019.

 

 

 

Figure 1. Historical Atlas of General and Folk History (Istoriski atlas za opshtu i narodnu istoriju), assembled by St. Stanojevich,

Second revised edition, Gece Kona Publishing Library, 1 Knez Mihailova Street 1, Belgrade, 1931.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2. From the diploma of Emperor Charles IV, founding the Slovene Monastery in Prague,

by F. M. Pelzel, Kaiser Karl der Vierte, Prague, 1780

 

 

Slovenian (gajica)

Slovenian (bohorichica)