Connecting Faiths and Nationalities

A Social History of the Clerical Profession in Transylvania (1848-1918)

by Marius Eppel (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 300 Pages


This book examines the socio-professional background of the clergy in Transylvania, between 1848 and 1918, with a view to offering a comprehensive perspective on the clerical profession across various religious denominations. During the modern period, Transylvania was integrated in the Habsburg Empire and, as of 1867, in Dualist Hungary. As such, it represented a meeting ground for different ethnic groups and denominations. The prerogatives of the clergy could surpass their primary calling as spiritual leaders. They gradually assumed the role of intercessors between communities, higher ecclesiastical institutions, the government, and local authorities. Sometimes, they also took on the role of de facto leaders of the national and political emancipation movements.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction: Aspects and Developments of the Clerical Profession in Transylvania (1848–1918)
  • The Local Greek-Catholic Clergy in the Archdiocese of Blaj in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century: Educational Paths and Ecclesiastical Career Coordinates
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Appendix C
  • Appendix D
  • The Prospect of Becoming an Orthodox Priest in the Romanian Communities in Transylvania (Late Nineteenth-Early Twentieth Centuries)
  • Deaneries and Archpriests in the Orthodox Church of Nineteenth-Century Transylvania
  • Education and Ecclesiastical Career Among the Protestant Clergy of Transylvania at the Time of Austro-Hungarian Dualism
  • The Dynamics of Clerical Education in the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church. A Case Study: The Năsăud Clergy in the Nineteenth Century
  • Imposing Discipline and Shepherding the Flock: The Vicar of Rodna’s “Commands”, the Middle Clergy, and the Village Community (1851–1858)
  • Intergenerational Heritage, Kinship, and Social Prestige Among the Greek-Catholic Archpriests of Transylvania (1856–1948)
  • Rabbis in Transylvania During the Nineteenth and the Early Twentieth Centuries
  • The Archpriests from the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Alba Iulia Seen Through the Lens of Synodal Decrees (1848–1913)
  • Ethnic Cohesion in Terms of Religion, Politics, Economics, Culture, and Historiography. The Middle Clergy of the Church of the Augsburg Confession in Transylvania (1850–1918)
  • Appendix
  • About the Contributors
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures and Illustrations

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Marius Eppel

Introduction: Aspects and Developments of the Clerical Profession in Transylvania (1848–1918)

In 2017, we launched a research project that focused on aspects and developments of the lower and middle clergy (priests and archpriests) within the two Romanian Churches in Transylvania: Orthodox and Greek-Catholic. The project entitled Social and professional trajectories in a concurrent confessional space: Transylvania (1850–1918) aimed to capture all the features of this group, analysing, for example, their social areas of recruitment, their geographical and social mobility, and their educational paths.

This collection of studies examines the socio- professional background of the clergy in Transylvania, between 1848 and 1918, with a view to offering a comprehensive perspective on the clerical profession across the various religious denominations.

During the modern period, Transylvania was integrated in the Habsburg Empire and, as of 1867, in Dualist Hungary. As such, it represented a meeting ground for different ethnic groups (Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, etc.) and denominations (Orthodox, Greek- Catholic, Roman- Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical, Unitarian, Jewish, etc.). Given the often inextricable correlations between faith and nationality, the prerogatives of the clergy could sometimes surpass their primary calling as spiritual leaders.

Thus, throughout modernity, the clergy gradually assumed the role of intercessors between the communities, the higher ecclesiastical institutions, the central government, and the local authorities. Sometimes, they also took on the role of de facto leaders of the national and political emancipation movements. With regard to the case of Transylvania during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, despite the Orthodox and the Greek- Catholic denominations having the largest number of believers, most of them Romanians, they were nonetheless marginalised politically, so the clergy found themselves wedged between the interests of their own churches, the needs of their communities, and the coercive demands of state power. In general, the choices the clergy made and the courses of action they pursued should be seen as the result of their education and professional training, the influence exerted by their families, the socio- economic environment in which they worked, and the various individual or group strategies they resorted to.

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Considering the complex circumstances of the Transylvanian clergy, who ministered to the needs of their parishioners in a society where the process of modernisation was fully underway, but also the relatively early stage of social- historical research, an in- depth perspective on this socio- professional category could revolutionise the historical- ecclesiastical narratives that have proliferated so far. This is what the collection of studies in the present volume aims to do. It also suggests a novel approach to ecclesiastical history, since no book- length study has so far tackled the problem of the clergy from a multitude of perspectives, across the broadest spectrum of religious denominations in modern- age Transylvania.

Each of the authors of the ten studies included in this volume is specialised in the ecclesiastical history of a particular denomination. The documentary material they have analysed is largely unpublished, a substantial amount of information having been extracted from the historical archives of the various religious denominations in Transylvania. Several published collections of documents and studies dating back to that period or to more recent times have also been consulted.

Last but not least, not only can the methodological design of these studies contribute to a better understanding of the social role and interactions of the clergy of the different denominations in Transylvania, but it can also shape a structural and functional model that can prove useful in any kind of comparative investigation that may, in the future, be conducted on different social or economic groups (the middle class), or in other regions.

There are few works that have explored the issue of the clergy in the modern era. Most studies focus on the medieval period (for instance, Negotiating Clerical Identities: Priests, Monks and Masculinity in the Middle Ages, edited by Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) or the early modern period. The book entitled The Protestant Clergy of Early Modern Europe, edited by C. Scott Dixon and Luise Schorn- Schütte, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, which is similar to our volume from a structural point of view, provides an overview of the causes that led to the emergence and development of Protestantism in Europe in the sixteenth- eighteenth centuries, and of the manner in which this denomination adapted to each region of the continent. We must, of course, mention W. M. Jacob’s book The Clerical Profession in the Long Eighteenth Century, 1680–1840, Oxford University Press, 2007, which examines the clerical profession, that is, the intellectual formation, family life, and organisation of the clergy, with particular reference to the Anglican clergy.

It should be noted that most of the works related to our subject analyse the clerical institution from the perspective of a single church or a single ←8 | 9→nationality: so are the studies mentioned above, or John McManners’ Church and Society in Eighteenth Century France, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1998, which gives a detailed account of the evolution of Roman- Catholic ecclesiastical institutions in France. We should also mention Robert Lee’s study, entitled Rural Society and the Anglican Clergy, 1815–1914. Encountering and Managing the Poor, The Boydell Press, 2006, which deals with the relationship between the Anglican clergy and their rural parishioners.

To conclude, the major importance of this book is that it is unique in the historiographical landscape, thus far marked by the absence of a clear, comprehensive analysis of the clergy of different faiths in Transylvania between 1848 and 1918. We hope that this collection of studies will be placed on the short list of bibliographical references about the clerical institutions in Central and Eastern Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Publication of this collection of studies was made possible thanks to the funding of the project PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0661 (2017–2019) by the Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development, and Innovation in Romania/UEFISCDI, to which we would like to express our gratitude.

Our thanks go to every author who has contributed to this volume, for the scientific quality of their studies, and for their outstanding cooperation. We are grateful to Professor Carmen- Veronica Borbely for her invaluable help in translating the text into English.

Last but not least, we would like to thank the publisher and Ms Ute Winkelkoetter for the kindness with which she stood by us throughout this editorial process conducted by the Peter Lang Publishing Group.

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Ion Cârja, Cecilia Cârja

The Local Greek- Catholic Clergy in the Archdiocese of Blaj in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century: Educational Paths and Ecclesiastical Career Coordinates

Abstract: This study focuses on the “local clergy” (priests and archpriests) in the Greek-Catholic Archdiocese of Blaj, also known as the metropolitan diocese. In the second half of the nineteenth century, this was the largest of the eparchies of the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church in Transylvania. Using a prosopographic method, the authors approach a series of defining elements for the intellectual formation and social status of the Greek- Catholic clergy in this area: social background, educational institutions, ways of installing the clergy in various offices, as well as the coordinates and paths of clerical careers. Thus, it was confirmed that in the Metropolitan Diocese of Blaj there were priestly dynasties, a reality encountered in those times in the clergy of both Transylvanian Romanian churches. Another issue concerns the intellectual background of the parish clergy: some of them were fully qualified, having attended theological seminaries or academies; while others, the so-called moralist priests, had minimal vocational training. The study also examines the extent to which, in addition to officiating the rite and carrying out their strictly pastoral obligations, the Greek- Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Blaj read the press, had libraries in their homes, were active in cultural associations, etc. In other words, the study presents the levels of “cultural practice” available to parish priests at that time.

Keywords: Greek- Catholic clergy, intellectual training, ecclesiastical career, the Greek-Catholic Church, confessional identity


The second half of the nineteenth century was a decisive period for the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church. The religious life of the Romanians living in the Habsburg Empire and, later on, under the Dual Monarchy was marked by the achievement of full ecclesiastical autonomy, as the jurisdiction of foreign hierarchies over the two Romanian churches had ultimately been removed. What this meant was that the national principle had triumphed in the Church. Insofar as the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church was concerned, this principle entailed suppressing the authority that the Hungarian Latin Rite Archdiocese of ←11 | 12→Esztergom had exerted over it and establishing itself as a sui iuris Metropolitan Church, directly subordinated to the Holy See in Rome.

Few were the periods in the history of the Transylvanian Greek- Catholic Church with more profound transformations or more important long-term consequences. Pope Pius IX’s elevation of this Church to the canonical status of a metropolitan see, under the Ecclesiam Christi ex omni lingua Bull of November 26, 1853, and the establishment of two new dioceses in Gherla and Lugoj led to the institutional consolidation of the Romanian Church, which territorially defined itself now as a metropolitan province and was intent on intensifying its missionary and proselytising activity among the Romanians in the Austrian Empire. Attached to a strong Eastern tradition,1 particularly inside the Carpathian arch, and boasting a plural identity at the overall level of the provinces it encompassed, the Greek- Catholic Church was subject to several systematic organisation attempts from a constitutional viewpoint, since the Holy See envisioned the young Romanian Metropolitan Province as a model to be followed by other Eastern Rite Catholic Churches as well.2

The participation of Metropolitan Ioan Vancea and of Iosif Papp- Szilágyi, Bishop of Oradea, in the First Vatican Council (1869–1870) represented one of the most important moments in the history of the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church, which asserted not only its communion with the Roman Apostolic See and its unity with Catholicism, but also its identity as an Eastern and as a Romanian Church.3 During this period, there were intense efforts to organise this Church, as stipulated by the three provincial synods held in 1872, 1882, and 1900, followed by several diocesan synods that implemented the ecclesiastical organisation project at the local level.

Interestingly, there were two approaches concerning the way in which the Greek- Catholic province of Făgăraș and Alba Iulia was to be organised from ←12 | 13→canonical and disciplinary points of view. On the one hand, the perspective advanced by the ecclesiastical leaders in Blaj, in the form of the resolutions issued by the provincial synod of 1872, evinced a strong Orientalising impulse. On the other hand, there was the vision of the Holy See, which included the dogmatic innovations of the First Vatican Council. This is shown by the version of the 1872 synodal decrees that was amended in Rome, its final draft being sent back to Blaj to be implemented in 1881.4

By the end of this complex process of reforms, the institutions and identity of Romanian Greek- Catholicism had been strengthened not only in an ecclesiastical sense, in relation to the other Churches in Transylvania and to Latin Rite Catholicism in the Austro- Hungarian Monarchy, but also in national terms, since even in late modernity, religious denominations and church structures continued to individualise Romanians, playing the role of ethnic-national identity markers. The difficult, ever tenser situation generated by the Catholic Autonomy in Hungary lasted from the rise of that movement in 1868 until the First World War. This forced the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church to constantly redefine its boundaries and to develop an ever-stronger discourse of identity in relation to the Latin Rite Catholic Church in Hungary, given its perceived hostility to Romanian Greek- Catholicism.5

The history of the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church in the second half of the nineteenth century reveals a strong elite component, both at the level of the institution itself and as regards the presence of this Church in the life of the Romanian nation. Through its schools, most of all, the Romanian Greek-Catholic community contributed substantially to the rise of an increasingly diversified intelligentsia in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In fact, ←13 | 14→from the time of the 1848 Revolution until the First World War, the Romanian elites in the Danubian Monarchy arose mostly from the ranks of the Greek-Catholic population, although the Transylvanian Orthodox Church, which underwent a genuine revival during Bishop Andrei Șaguna’s pastorate (1846–1873), fostered the growth of Romanian elites as well. The rapid consolidation of the highest echelons of Greek- Catholicism in Transylvania, where prestigious scholars continued the work of tremendous cultural richness, started by the members of the Transylvanian School in the eighteenth century, is bound to whet the researchers’ appetite for investigating an issue that has been less frequently addressed in the literature: the local ecclesiastical life of Greek- Catholic Romanians in the nineteenth century. Parishes, deaneries, and vicariates forane formed the local structures of this Church. They punctuated the entire ecclesiastical geography of the Romanian Greek- Catholic denomination, which had disseminated throughout the lands inhabited by Romanians in the two-headed Austro- Hungarian Empire, transformed into a dual monarchy in 1867.

In this study, we aim to dwell on the Metropolitan Diocese of Blaj in the second half of the nineteenth century, in order to capture some aspects related to the educational background, the career pathways, and the “cultural practice” levels of the local clergy within this diocese. The Metropolitan Archdiocese or Diocese of Blaj was the outcome of territorial rearrangements undertaken by the Greek- Catholic ecclesiastical administration in the second half of the nineteenth century, as part of large-scale reforms targeted at the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church during this period. Within its jurisdictional limits, the Archdiocese of Blaj comprised a sizable section of the territory of the former Diocese of Făgăraș from before the establishment of the Metropolitan Province in 1853. The setting up of the metropolitan see entailed, among other things, a territorial adjustment of the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church. Its most extensive diocese was the metropolitan one, whose jurisdiction encompassed a few of the Romanian Greek- Catholic communities inside the Carpathian arch. On this occasion, 29 deaneries were transferred from the former Diocese of Făgăraș to the newly founded Diocese of Gherla. According to the data provided by canon Victor Bojor, upon its establishment, the Diocese of Gherla took over 540 parishes with 350,000 souls that had belonged to the Diocese of Făgăraș (this calculation very likely omitted the filial churches incorporated, along with the parishes, in the newly formed Armenopolitan diocese).6 In addition, when the ←14 | 15→Diocese of Lugoj was set up, 91 parishes were transferred to it from the former Diocese of Făgăraș. Most of them were located in Hunedoara County.7 From the data published in the schematism of 1865, printed a few years before the death of Metropolitan Alexandru Șterca Șuluțiu, it is apparent that the metropolitan diocese was made up of 38 protopresbyterial eparchies, 1 vicariate forane, 719 parishes –675 of which had tenured priests – and 358 filial churches, totalling 368,549 souls.

The report drafted by Vancea on the ad limina visit in 1886 listed 725 parishes (four of which were newly converted), with 375,016 souls, in the archdiocese. This remained, unquestionably, the largest diocese of the Greek-Catholic Church, as illustrated by the reports the Romanian Greek- Catholic bishop compiled at the time of his ad limina visit in 1886. These reports stated that the largest diocese was the metropolitan one, followed by the Diocese of Gherla, with 486 parishes; the Diocese of Oradea Mare, with 169 parishes; and that of Lugoj, with 155 parishes. The statistical data presented in the schematism of 1896 confirmed that in the Archdiocese of Blaj there were 2 vicarages, 1 archiepiscopal vicar forane, 32 deaneries, 706 parishes (of which 411 had parish priests, 211 had administrators, and 85 were vacant), 601 filial churches, 406,330 souls, 306 stone churches, 444 wooden churches, and 762 secular priests.8 The parishes and deaneries of the archdiocese formed the institutional framework within which the local clergy operated as “directors of conscience” or as spiritual counsellors of their rural communities, shaping the cultural universe of traditional Romanian villages. In the second half of the nineteenth century, most of the clergy of the two Romanian Churches were, therefore, priests ministering in rural parishes, “country parsons”, men of God in a world where modernisation, with all its consequences, was to arrive at a later time than in Western Europe.

The people

As shown by the “censuses” (schematisms) that the church itself carried out periodically, in the Metropolitan Diocese of Blaj, which was the largest eparchy of the Greek- Catholic Church in terms of territorial size, parish priests accounted for a massive percentage of the Greek- Catholic clergy – in excess of ←15 | 16→750 individuals, towards the end of the century. This was by far the broadest category of the Romanian Greek- Catholic clergy, unlike the more rarefied upper echelons, which included only the archbishop (metropolitan), the canons, and the theology professors at the schools in Blaj. Our study aims to examine this category – the representatives of the Church in the everyday life of the rural communities. To start with, we should ask a few questions: Who were these people? What was the social and human profile of the Greek- Catholic parish clergy in Transylvania, a territory that, as seen above, was under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Blaj in the second half of the nineteenth century? Was the priest visible in the community, by way of his social status, wealth, and intellectual training, or did the model of a “country parson”, who did not rise above the mass of his peasant parishioners prevail, much like in previous centuries? In 1900, the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church was to celebrate the bicentennial of its unification with the Church of Rome, so a legitimate question that arises is whether the level of clerical training and performance of the Romanian Greek- Catholic priests was now substantially different than it had been in the 1700s. Talking about the spiritual identity of the Greek- Catholic parish clergy, can we safely ascertain that early twentieth- century priests were more aware that they were “members” of the Catholic Church clad in Eastern garb than their predecessors had been two centuries before? This study will try to sketch some broad- stroke answers to these questions.

If we operate with the concept of “elites” in a larger sense, including in this category not only the central elites, but also the foremost “personalities” within a local community, then we can also regard the parish clergy as a local religious elite. Romanian scholars have made significant, albeit not always systematic, contributions to the debate on elites in international historiography.9 There were three aspects whereby this numerically small category distinguished itself ←16 | 17→in the social life of a community: its literacy, social status, and decision-making power. Comprising the two well- known skills: reading (above all, books of worship) and writing, literacy set the clergy apart from the rural masses. Among the peasantry, the rate of illiteracy was extremely high. A parish priest, even one who had completed his theological studies (an “absolute theologian”), could not compare with a canon or a professor at the schools in Blaj in terms of the amount of knowledge he had acquired and the ability to apply it. However, at the micro-level of the rural parish in which he ministered, he was a beacon of knowledge and a pillar of his community. This was reflected at the level of the entire Romanian nation in the Austrian Empire (after 1867, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy), where “men of the Church” remained a significant part of the elite not only in the second half of the nineteenth century, but well into the early twentieth century. Thus, according to an estimate made by historian Ladislau Gyémánt, in Transylvania and in the Habsburg provinces west of it that were inhabited by Romanians, the Romanian intelligentsia amounted, on the eve of the 1848 Revolution, to 5,343 people. Most of them were priests: 2,036 were Orthodox, and 1,733 were Greek Catholics, totalling 3,769 individuals and representing 70.5 % of the Romanian intellectual elite. They were followed, in percentage order, by teachers (23.8 %), by a small number of civil servants, 95 (1.8 %), and by a mere 86 lawyers (1.6 %). This statistics does not include engineers, physicians, the graduates of fine arts academies, officers, or other categories of intellectuals.10 In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Romanian secular intelligentsia grew steadily in number. This ascending trend was reflected in the prominent role and position these intellectuals had in Romanian communities and, most of all, in the political-national emancipation movement.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (April)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 300 pp., 13 fig. b/w, 7 tables.

Biographical notes

Marius Eppel (Volume editor)

Marius Eppel is a lecturer at the Faculty of History and Philosophy, Babes,-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. He has a PhD in history (2006) and completed his habilitation in history in 2015. His research areas include modern history, the history of Transylvania, the history of the Orthodox Church, family history, religious anthropology, and cultural anthropology.


Title: Connecting Faiths and Nationalities