Zechariah Orfelin’s manuscript found


During the first phase of the project “Digitalization, revision and expert processing of handwriting fund of the Library of the Serbian Patriarchate – compilation of the inventory of manuscripts”, a manuscript no. 214 was noticed. In its short description we found out that Zechariah Orfelin wrote this manuscript in XVIII century in Slavoserbian, and it has 927 pages. Knowing that in the literature about Orfelin is one monumental and controversial manuscript, known as Against Roman Papacy, which has been lost for a half of a century. We wonder whether this is that manuscript, which is the very significant work, both for theology and the national history of the Serbs in XVIII century?

The Orfelin’s book Against Roman Papacy appeared as the reaction to proselyte activities of the Austrian court and the Roman Catholic Church among the Serbs in XVIII century. The sermon On Unity of Christians of the Imperial spiritual adviser Antonio Ruschizki, who pronounced it during a mass at the court chapel in Vienna in 1773, was the last straw which caused a huge anti-Catholic reaction among Orthodox believers of the Austrian Empire.

All the time until the Second World War the Orfelin’s manuscript had been kept at the library of the Cathedral church in Sremski Karlovci. At the beginning of the war, along with the entire inventory of the library it was transferred to Zagreb. Since the end of the war and the return of the books to Belgrade, the Orfelin’s manuscript has been listed as lost.

It is important to emphasize that there is no doubt that the manuscript no. 214 of the Library of the Serbian Patriarchate, in fact, is the Orfelin’s book Against Roman Papacy. Written in very difficult times for the Serbian people and its Church, this book of Zechariah Orfelin is the most precious example of the handwritten anti-Catholic theological literature among the Serbs in XVIII century.


Biography of Zechariah Orfelin

Zechariah Orfelin Stefanović (1726 – 1785) was an 18th-century Serb polymath who was born in a Serbian family in Vukovar (Austrian Monarchy) in 1726. Described as a Renaissance man, he was an educator, administrator, historian, winemaker, translator, editor, publisher, polemicist, polyglot and traveler.

Among his most important works is Slavoserbian (Slavenosrpski) magazine printed in Venice in 1768. This is the first South Slavic magazine. In 1768 Zechariah Orfelin introduced into the Serbian literature a language which was a mixture of Church and spoken language, having many Russian words. In this way he practically founded Slavoserbian language.

Orfelin is the author of the first Serbian alphabet book (bukvar) which was used since 1767 in teaching, writing and reading many generations of students. He is also the author of the first Latin textbook. His most comprehensive work was The Life of Peter the Great (Venice, 1772), which he had seen as the enlightened monarch. He also wrote Perpetual (eternal) calendar printed in 1783 in Vienna.