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Cerkovna Ordninga

The precious work of Primož Trubar back on home soil

Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Cerkovna Ordninga (Church Order), written by Primož Trubar, a Slovenian Protestant writer, translator and priest, was published in 1564 in the German town of Tübingen and is considered to be one of his most important cultural works. At the 450th anniversary of its publication, the original version of this work was put on display at the National and University Library in Ljubljana. It was discovered by chance in the City Archives of the German town of Memmingen last October.

Primož Trubar

In Cerkovna Ordninga, Primož Trubar, the founder of Slovenian literature, presented his vision of legal, organisational and spiritual foundations for the Slovenian church. It is considered to be the first work written in Slovenian, intended exclusively for educated elite readership, yet it was the first work to establish Slovenian as the language for all church rites.

It is also an important theological text, which is a testimony to Trubar's complete dedication to Christian teachings and his strong disapproval of all those who did not accept Christian teachings or did not abide by them properly.

The Cerkovna Ordninga consists of three parts. The first part, which has 131 pages, explains Protestant Christian teachings in detail. The second part consists of 30 pages and explains the work of preachers and priests and discusses their upbringing, education, appointments, as well as the elections and appointments of bishops. The third part, with 185 pages, is focused exclusively on religious rites. The Church Order was some kind of compilation of translations of German church orders, supplemented by original contributions (about fifteen percent) by Trubar. He added shorter appendices, clarifications and border titles, as well as longer additions with entirely original text. The result of his efforts and work was the new Cerkovna Ordninga, a text which functions as an entirely new work.

Only two copies have survived

Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Primož Trubar published the Cerkovna Ordninga illegally, without first receiving official approval from the provincial prince. It was published in 1564 in Tübingen with a circulation of 300-400 copies, the majority of which were confiscated or destroyed soon after publication. The only undamaged copy, which had been kept at the Dresden Saxon State Library, was lost during World War II. In 1971, another copy was discovered at the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome, but its final pages are badly damaged along the edges.

In 2013, at the city archives in Memmingen, Germany, Ulrich D. Oppitz discovered a copy of this important work in perfect condition by accident. This copy is of particular importance also because it is currently the only one which is completely undamaged. Both the Vatican and Memmingen copies contain their owner's mark, since at the time owners always signed their books. The Memmingen copy was signed by Bernard Steiner, who was born in Ljubljana but worked mostly in Germany. He lived in the second half of the 16th century. As well as being very well preserved, the Memmingen copy also has very interesting handwritten additions. An unknown author from the 16th or early 17th century corrected a few prayers intended for women, so that they were now written in the singular instead of the plural.

At the National and University Library , they say that this is one of the first texts written in Slovenian intended for women. Perhaps someone in Germany spoke Slovenian, or perhaps he courted a Slovenian woman and wanted to express respect or love with his additions?

Church of the Slovenian Language

At the "Church of the Slovenian Language" exhibition, the original copy of the Cerkovna Ordninga had the place of honour. Displayed under glass and protected from touch, it attracted the most visitors. The yellowed pages, leather covers with bookmark ribbons, traces of the past ... the precious 450-year-old work of a Protestant writer, back in Slovenia again.

In addition to the Cerkovna Ordninga, the exhibition also presented a few other works of Trubar, such as the Prvi, Drugi in Poslednji del Noviga testamenta (First, Second and Final Parts of the New Testament) (1557, 1560, 1577), Register iz leta 1561 (Register of 1561), Postilo (1562) and Katekizem z dvema razlagama (Catechism with two interpretations) (1575). Facsimiles of the first two Slovenian books, Katekizem and Abecednik (Abecedary), were available for perusal. Visitors could also see a few other books and archive documents connected to the Cerkovna Ordninga in some way. These included Archduke Carl's order to confiscate the Cerkovna Ordninga and send Trubar into exile on 15 December 1564. The attitude towards the Protestant writer and his works sharpened considerably in the decades to follow, which is also felt in his Ta Celi Nov Testament (The Whole New Testament). On the page with his picture, someone had symbolically removed Trubar's mouth. Perhaps in the old medieval way, to make sure he "remains silent".

Until the mid-16th century, the Slovenian language lived only in the form of highly fragmented dialects and rare manuscripts. As the father of the Slovenian literary language, Primož Trubar gave Slovenians their first printed book. The writer, translator, and author of the first printed books in Slovenian ... In those times, it was rare for people to know as much as he did about the world and we can be grateful for all the knowledge he transmitted to us and for our own Slovenian literary language.

Text by Danila Golob