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Guest post: A libellus promotionis of 1715 at Cluj Jesuit College

Many thanks to our friends at Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai din Cluj-Napoca. This guest post was authored by József Lukács and translated into English by Ioana Popa, PhD.

Hungary’s National Széchényi Library collections comprise a copy of the volume entitled Prima Jesu Societas Claudiopolitana sudore, et sangvine secunda et foecunda. From the title page, we learn that it was offered by the illustrious and respectable students of the rhetoric class in Cluj (in Latin: Claudiopolis) to the new doctors of the Royal and Princely Claudiopolitan Academy, reverend gentlemen, nobles, and excellencies, to whom the supreme laurels of philosophy (suprema philosophiae laurea) were conferred by Reverend Father Tobias Dirner, Doctor of Philosophy and Professor Emeritus. The volume was printed in 1715 at the Franciscan Convent in Șumuleu Ciuc, where there was the only Catholic printing press in Transylvania.

The volume contains an epic poem dedicated to the history of the first Jesuit college in Cluj, which continued to function, despite several interruptions, between 1579 and 1603/1606. The poem begins with a presentation of the city of Cluj, followed by a tribute to Count Sigismund Kornis (1677?–1731), governor of the Principality of Transylvania. Next are the versified eulogies dedicated to the Jesuits Joannes Leleszi, the teacher of Prince Sigismund Báthory and the first Jesuit to arrive in Transylvania, Jacobus Wiecus (Wujek), the first rector magnificus of the College and, therefore, of the Claudiopolitan University, Ferdinandus Capecius, the second rector, Joannes Argentus, vice-provincial and rector, and Emmanuel Nerius, coadjutor and martyr of the Jesuit Order. Each poem is preceded by an argument quoted from various official Jesuit histories. In the end, a versified eulogy is addressed to Emperor Charles VI.

We note that the parts of the poem published in the volume have been written in such a way as to offer a wide range of versification examples. The greeting addressed to Governor Kornis and the presentation of the city of Cluj were written in distichs; in the chapters dedicated to monk Leleszi and Rector Wiecus (Wujek), the prosopopoeia, a rhetorical figure of speech, was used; an eclogue was written about Ferdinandus Capecius, and a propemptikon about Argenti. Finally, there is a poem composed in scazons and an epigram in which the year 1715 was encrypted. The fact that such a wide range of versification was employed allows us to assume that this poem also had a pedagogical purpose.

The author of the poem is not mentioned on the title page. Fortunately, someone once noted on the back of the title page Authore: P. Joanne Gyalogi Gyöngyössiensi, thus providing us with a valuable clue. The biography of Jesuit Joannes Gyalogi reveals that he was born in 1686 in Gyöngyös, Hungary. He began his novitiate in 1701. He studied philosophy and theology in Trnava (today, in Slovakia) between 1705 and 1713 when he was ordained a priest. In 1715, he was in Cluj, where he worked as a teacher of rhetoric, that is, a teacher in the upper class of the gymnasium. In the same year, he obtained the supreme title in philosophy. Between 1718 and 1720, he taught logic, then mathematics, in other words, subjects included in the higher studies of philosophy. In Cluj, in 1719, he took his fourth vow (oath), thus becoming a full member of the Jesuit Order. From the biographical data presented here, it is worth underlining that in 1715, the year the volume Prima Jesu Societas Claudiopolitana was published, Joannes Gyalogi was in Cluj, where he was a teacher of rhetoric, and that he also became a doctor of philosophy at that time. Corroborating this data with the memoirs of his contemporaries, who compared Gyalogi’s oratorical ability to that of Cicero, with the fact that Gyalogi was invited to give the festive speech at the laying of the foundation stone of the Jesuit church in Cluj, and also knowing the other poetic works and sermons he authored, we consider the authenticity of the inscription on the back of the title page to be fully confirmed.[1]

The volume Prima Jesu Societas Claudiopolitana belongs to the category of publications referred to as libelli promotionis or, in translation, promotional books. These were printed for important events in the life of Jesuit educational institutions, i.e., public debates, followed by the ceremonies for awarding the academic titles baccalaureus, licentiatus, magister, and doctor. As early as the 16th century, Jesuit colleges established the tradition of offering special volumes in honor of the students who received an academic title. Such books could spread consecrated works employed in the teaching process, new works, or the theses of the public debates in which those who would receive the academic title participated. The layout of the volumes was set by the regulations of the Jesuit Order, which limited print runs and costs. The rules of 1703, concerning how ceremonies for examinations and public debates were to be organized in the Austrian Jesuit Province, to which Transylvania belonged, specified that for such events, 24 copies each could be published at the Universities of Vienna and Graz, and 12 copies each at the Universities of Trnavia and Košice.[2] This explains why these volumes are rare: they appeared in limited print runs.

On the last pages of the promotional books, there was a list of the sponsors supporting the publishing process. In this case, we find the names of 11 people. The first person on the list was Count Ladislaus Gyulaffy (1699–1754), who in 1715 was a teenager and later became an imperial chancellor of Transylvania. The second one was Antonius Lázár de Lăzarea (1698–1719) from an old family of Szekler magnates, who joined the Jesuit Order; he died a few years later. The name Iosephus Boér de Kövesd (1695–1763) is also noteworthy. In the list, he appears as a Hungarian nobleman from Transylvania, but in fact, he belonged to the Boer de Coveșd/Cuieșd Romanian family from Făgăraș Land. During the 18th century, several members of this family stood out in the administration of Alba de Sus, Alba de Jos, Hunedoara, and Turda counties.[3] Later, Iosephus Boér took the name Huszár and became a baron and supreme county head of Turda County.

Cluj Jesuit Academy resumed its activity in 1698. Between 1703 and 1711, during the civil war caused by the anti-Habsburg uprising of Prince Ferenc Rákóczi, the activity of the Jesuit institution in Cluj stagnated. After the war’s end, on April 14, 1712, the Jesuit Residence in Cluj was promoted to the rank of a college, and the first rector magnificus to be appointed was Jesuit Andreas Horváth (1660–1727). On August 16, 1713, the first ceremony for awarding the title prima philosophiae laurea or baccalaureus took place in Cluj, and on September 17, 1714, the first ceremony for awarding the title suprema philosophiae laurea, i.e., magister or doctor philosophiae.[4] We wish to mention here that at the end of the second year of philosophy studies, the title baccalaureus was awarded, at the end of the third year, the licentiatus title, and, after the recapitulation of the subjects, the supreme title in philosophy was obtained – magister, which, in the case of philosophy studies, was equivalent to the doctoral title. This is why we find the magister and doctor philosophiae titles employed alternately in that period. Otherwise, doctorates were awarded in theology, law, and medicine.

In 1715, the History of the Jesuit College in Cluj recorded that eight students were promoted to baccalaureates, and six became magisters. During the ceremony, the pupils of the rhetoric class offered to the philosophy baccalaureates and magisters “a panegyric each, which narrated in a sublime style the beginnings of the Society of Jesus in Cluj.”[5] It was Prima Jesu Societas Claudiopolitana, which has a special significance for the history of higher education in Cluj and Romania. Until tangible evidence of the ceremony held in September 1714 is found, this volume is the oldest evidence of awarding the supreme title magister/doctor of philosophy in present-day Romania.

Photo 1: Claudiopolis, Coloswar vulgo Clausenburg, Transilvaniae Civitas Primaria - Cluj, the first city in Transilvania. Engraving by Georg (Joris) Hoefnagel (1542-1600), after a painting by Egidius van der Rye (?-1605), finished before 1600. The painting was published in the volume Georg Braun, Franz Hohenberg (ed.), Civitates Orbis Terrarium, vol. VI, Cologne, 1617.

Photo copyright: National History Museum of Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca.

Photo 2. Title page of the volume Prima Jesu Societas Claudiopolitana.

Photo copyright: Hungary’s National Széchényi Library collections

Photo 3. Closing page/last page of the volume Prima Jesu Societas Claudiopolitana.

Photo copyright: Hungary’s National Széchényi Library collections

[1] “Gyalogi János magyar jezsuita emlékezete” [An evocation of the Hungarian Jesuit János Gyalogi], in A kolosvári róm. kath. nyilvános teljes gymnasium évkönyvei, VII: 1857/58, [Yearbook of the Roman-Catholic Gymnasium in Cluj for the year 1857/58], Kolozsvártt, 1858, 3–18; Péter Kőszeghy (ed.), Magyar Művelődéstörténeti Lexikon [Lexicon of Hungarian cultural history], III, Balassi Kiadó: Budapest, 2005, 373. [2] Béla Holl, “A nagyszombati egyetemi vizsgák kiadványait szabályozó rendelet 1703-ból” [Decree no. 1703 that regulated the publications in connection with the university exams in Trnavia], in Magyar Könyvszemle, year 99, no. 1, 1983, 286–292. [3] Remus Câmpeanu, “Recuperarea unui handicap social. Nepotismul în familiile nobiliare românești din Transilvania în veacul al XVIII-lea” [Recovery of a social handicap. Nepotism in Romanian noble families in 18th century Transylvania], in Xenopolina. Buletinul Fundației Academice A. D. Xenopol din Iași, VI, no. 3–4, 1989, 74–91. [4] Vasile Rus, Pro scientiarum academia. Calvaria și școlile iezuite din Cluj [Pro scientiarum academia. Calvaria and Cluj Jesuit schools], Cluj-Napoca: Ecco, 2005, 220–272. [5] Ibidem, 240, 267.


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