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The Catholic Historical Review 89.2 (2003) 301-302

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Confessional Identity in East-Central Europe. Edited by Maria Cra(breve)ciun, Ovidiu Ghitta, and Graeme Murdock. [St Andrews Studies in Reformation History.] (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate. 2002. Pp. xviii, 207. $84.95.)

This carefully edited collection refines some of the papers presented at a conference in Cluj, Romania, in 1999. Of the ten contributors, half were based at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj. An introductory study by the three co-editors, "Religious Reform, Printed Books, and Confessional Identity" (pp. 1-30), does an excellent job of synthesizing the secondary literature and some findings of the other chapters. Historians of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in France and Germany have highlighted the importance of books, especially catechisms, in the creation and survival of religious communities of discourse. In East Central Europe and especially Transylvania, community definition through publication became a key strategy for Protestants, resurgent Catholics, and newly established Uniate (Greek Catholic) churches.

Six chapters examine the role of catechisms in specific contexts. Thomas Fudge concludes that the "Hussite" or Czech catechism of 1522 was an ambiguous document, parts of which Luther either welcomed or criticized. Krista Zach surveys Protestant vernacular catechisms in the former Hungarian lands, finding they had didactic, polemical, and political purposes and significantly affected the development of national languages, but could not secure their target populations against Catholic resurgence. Carmen Florea demonstrates that urban political dynamics as well as catechisms characterized the establishment of the Unitarian community in sixteenth-century Cluj. While both Hungarian and Romanian historians have minimized the impact of Reformed proselytism among the Romanians, Maria Cra9breve0 ciun considers the influence of Calvinism on the Romanians as reflected in visitation reports, a Hungarian catechism translated into Romanian, and the theological conditions imposed upon Romanian church leaders. Graeme Murdock, considering the presentation of Eucharistic doctrine in Hungarian Reformed catechisms, argues for these publications' lasting influence in Reformed religious culture. Ovidiu Ghitta considers the first catechisms published for the Romanian Greek Catholics of Hungary and Transylvania in the eighteenth century, contrasting their emphasis on the Catholic, or on the Eastern, character of that church.

Other chapters look at social and political factors in the establishment of religious identity. Csilla Gábor studies Roman Catholic devotional literature among Hungarians in Transylvania, suggesting that it assisted in the survival of this community despite unfavorable political conditions until the arrival of the Habsburgs at the end of the seventeenth century. Joachim Bahlke examines the importance of the lay administrative body, the Status Catholicus, in this same community during the seventeenth and especially the eighteenth century. The contribution by the late Pompiliu Teodor sheds new light on the difficult relations of Romanian Greek Catholics and Orthodox during the eighteenth century by examining doctrinal and political evidence. Judith Kalik documents divisions among the Catholic clergy in eighteenth-century Poland in their attitude [End Page 301] toward the Jews, with the call for conversion rather than simple coexistence becoming stronger during this period.

This volume offers a coherent collection of studies on the announced topic, albeit primarily for Transylvania rather than all of East Central Europe. The individual chapters by the three co-editors are the most substantial contributions, but all the studies present analysis of contemporary confessional publications that readers of this journal will find virtually inaccessible. Today's researcher is the beneficiary of the Communist Romanian confiscation of most ecclesiastical libraries in Transylvania, which took them from their rightful owners but concentrated their holdings of early modern confessional literature in the Library of the Romanian Academy in Cluj. The book concludes with a useful short bibliography of secondary literature and an index of names, places, and subjects. It is a shame that the contemporary publications are not incorporated into the bibliography and index, especially since some are discussed in more than one chapter.


James P. Niessen
Rutgers University



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