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Truber, Ungnad & Vergerio

Territorial Churches in the Habsburg/Ottoman Borderlands


Benjamin Esswein

Truber, Ungnad & Vergerio: Territorial Churches in the Habsburg/Ottoman Borderlands provides a critical study of Lutheran reformers in Krain, formerly a province along what is now the Croatian/Slovenian border, and acts as a case study for the rest of the Habsburg-Ottoman borderlands. Focus is given to the Austrian Habsburgs, benefactors to the reformers, who sought to adopt Johannes Brenz’ Lutheran «territorial church» model that would provide the Habsburgs the means to expand their hegemony over the region for decades.

During this time, there were three individuals who were integral in establishing this movement: reformer and Bible translator Primus Truber, Lutheran diplomat Peter Paul Vergerio, and Austrian nobleman Hans Ungnad, the latter of whom played a central role in transmitting Slavic translation of Biblical and Evangelical texts into Krain through his personal network, which continued to help grow the Habsburg sphere of influence and contributed to their larger goal – keeping the Ottomans out.

All three men established networks of support including notable moderate Catholics and Swiss Reformed, relying on their networks integrally to spread their faith and financially support them. The use of the Lutheran «territorial church» model signifies an attempt to establish a Lutheran confession and church regulation in Slovenian and Croatian lands by making them loyal to the regional reformer responsible for instilling Godly virtue and the true faith.

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Chapter 3: Vergerio, Truber & Ungnad


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Primus Truber is one of the great reformers of the Protestant Reformation. In the final analysis of his translation work and efforts to establish a territorial church in Krain, one cannot judge his fervor for reform to be any less than that of the other great reformers. If, as has been famously declared, it was Martin Luther that taught the Germans how to speak through his German Bible translation, then the same should and has been applied to Truber in Slovenia with his Slovenian Bible translation.1 Both men left a lasting impression upon their perspective cultures, languages, and traditions. For instance, Truber’s translation had a similar effect on the culture of the region as well as its church, stretching beyond the Counter-Reformation.2 So while Truber’s territorial church may not have lasted as long as Luther’s Evangelical vision for the HRE, there is reason to believe that his legacy not only for Slovenia, but also for the entire borderlands, was similar in longevity to that of the more well-known names like Luther or Calvin. Indeed, we are hard pressed to find another Protestant reformer so well-liked today in a predominantly Catholic country like Slovenia as Primus Truber.

However, in the analysis of both Truber and Luther, significant contributions by the men who worked next to them must be considered and acknowledged as essential to their success. As Luther had Melanchthon and Brenz, ← 97 | 98 → among many others,...

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