- History of Christianity in Romania
Christianitywas brought on the territory of modern-day Romaniaeither by the occupying Romans or, according to legend, by the Apostle Andrew, who preached in Scythia Minor(present-day Dobrogea). The Roman provincehad traces of all imperial religions, including Mithraism, but Christianity, a "regio illicita", existed among some of the Romans. The Roman Empiresoon found it was too costly to maintain a permanent garrison north of the lower Danube. Starting 106 AD, a permanent military and administrative Roman presence was registered only till 271 AD. However, as in many other provinces of the Empire, Christianity had taken root.
When the Romanians formed as a people, it is quite clear that they already possessed the Christian faith, as proved by tradition, as well as by archaeological and linguistic evidence. Basic terms of Christianity are of
Latinorigin: such as church ("biserică" < basilica), God ("Dumnezeu" < Domine Deus), Easter ("Paşte" < Paschae), Pagan ("Păgân" < Paganus), Angel ("Înger" < Angelus). Some of them, especially "Church" - "Biserica" are unique to Romanian Orthodoxy.
Very few traces can be found in Romanian names that are left from Roman Christianity after the Slavic influence began. All the names of the saints were preserved in Latin form: "Sântămăria" (Mary), "Sâmpietru" (
Saint Peter), "Sângiordz" ( Saint George) and Sânmedru ( Saint Demetrius). The non-religious onomastic proof of pre-Christian habits, like "Sânziana" and "Cosânzeana" (Sancta Diana and Qua Sancta Diana) is only of anecdotal value in this contextFact|date=February 2007. Yet, the highly spiritualized places in the mountains, the processions, the calendars, and even the physical locations of the early churches were clearly the same with those of the DaciansFact|date=February 2007. Even Saint Andrew is known locally as the Apostle "of the wolves" - with very old and large connotations, whereby the wolf's head was an ethnicon and a symbol of military and spiritual "fire" for DaciansFact|date=February 2007.
The earliest evidence of
Christianityis a grave inscription from the second century, found in Napoca, bearing the formula "Sit tibi terra levis" [Petre P. Panaitescu, "Istoria Românilor" ("History of the Romanians"), Bucharest, 1942] . The inscription was made by a "college" (a trading association) whose members originated from the Middle East. Among the other persons mentioned in the inscription, most of them bear Roman names, suggesting that Christianity had spread among the ranks of the soldiers as early as the 2nd century A.D.
Christianity in Scythia Minor
Daciawas part of the Roman Empirefor less than two centuries, Scythia Minor(nowadays Dobrogea) was part of it much longer. After the breakdown of the Roman Empire, it became part of the Byzantine Empire.
The first encounter of Christianity in Scythia Minor was when
Saint Andrew, brother of Saint Peter, passed through the region in the 1st centurywith his disciples. Later on, Christianity became the predominant faith of Scythia Minor, as proven by the large number of remains of early Christian churches. The Roman administration was ruthless with the Christians, as the great number of martyrs demonstrates.
Bishop Ephrem, killed on
7 March 304in Tomis, was the first Christian martyr of this region and was followed by countless others, especially during the repression ordered by emperors Diocletian, Galerius, Liciniusand Julian the Apostate.
An important, impressive number of
dioceses and martyrs are first attested during the times of Ante-Nicene Fathers. The first known Daco-RomanChristian priest Montanusand his wife Maxima were drowned, as martyrs, because of their faith, on March 26 304.
The 1971 archaeological digs under the paleo-
Christian basilicain Niculiţel (near ancient Noviodunum in Scythia Minor) unearthed an even older martyrium. Besides Zoticos, Attalos, Kamasis and Filippos, who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian( 304- 305), the relics of two previous martyrs, witnessing and dying during the repressions of Emperor Decius( 249- 251), were unearthed under the crypt.
The names of these martyrs had been placed since their death in church records, and the find of the tomb with the names written inside was astonishing. The fact that the relics of the famous Saint Sava "the Goth" (martyred by drowning in the River Buzău, under
Athanaricon 12 April 372) were recovered by Saint Basil the Greatconclusively demonstrates that (unlike bishop Wulfila) Saint Sava was a follower of the Nicene faith, not a heresiarchlike Arius.
Dacian-born Emperor Galeriusproclaimed freedom for Christians all over the Roman Empire in 311 [See Galerius and Constantines edicts of Toleration from 311 and 313, at [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/edict-milan.html Medieval Sourcebook] ] , the city of Tomisalone (modern Constanţa) became a Metropolitanatewith as many as 14 bishoprics.
By the 4th century, a powerful and organised nucleous of Christian monks existed in the area, known as the "
Romanian Orthodox Church"
Following the complex relationship of Byzantine Patriarchates and Bulgarian kingdom, Romanians adopted
Old Church Slavonicin the liturgyin the early 9th century. However, most of the religious texts were learned by heart by priests who either did not understand Slavic languages, always wanted to be understood by their own community, or both. Fact|date=February 2007 Some priest used to mumble ("a boscorodi") the sermon, using certain Slavic prefixes, so at least it would sound like Slavic. Fact|date=February 2007
Since the south-of Danube Dacia was also known as Vlahia Mare - Greater Wallachia, the north-of-Danube Dacia was known as Ungro-Vlahia - the "Hungarian" Wallachia. This important geographical and ethnogenetic fact of Romania is still reflected into the name of the first
Metropolitanate of Ungro-Vlachia, which was founded in 1359in Curtea de Argeş. Another Romanian Metropolitanate was founded in 1401at Suceava, Metropolitanate of Moldavia.
Translation of the Bible
Ecclesiastical life flourished in all organized forms on both sides of the
Lower Danube. However, national metropoles and Metropolitanates for the Romanians north of the Danube were only created in the late 13th centuryand early 14th century, according to the political developments there. Many religious texts were to be periodically transcribed until the 16th centuryin Old Church Slavoniconly.
However, important Romanian translations certainly circulated, including the "
Codicele Voroneţean" (the Codex of Voroneţ) and " Palia de la Orăştie". The Bucharest Bible("Biblia de la Bucureşti") was the first complete Romanian translation of the Biblein the late 17th century. It was published in 1688during the reign of Şerban Cantacuzinoin Wallachiaand is considered a mature and sumptuous work.
Its cultural importance is not unlike that of
King James Versionfor the English language. This could not have been achieved without many previous (and perhaps as yet unknown) anonymous translation work. For this, a wealth of Byzantine manuscripts, brought north of the Danube in the " Byzantium after Byzantium" movement described by famous historian Nicolae Iorgais an outstanding proof.
Thereafter, the importance of Church Slavonic and Greek languages in the Romanian Orthodox Church began to fade.
1736was the year when the last Slavonic liturgy was published in Wallachia, but only in 1863did Romanian became the sole official language of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Although most of the time under foreign suzerainty (under the
Ottoman Turksin Moldaviaand Wallachiaand under the Hungarian rule in Transylvania), Romanians characteristically kept their Orthodox faith as part of their national identity.
The Greek-Catholic Church
Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic"
1698in Transylvania, a part of the Romanian Orthodox Church granted ecclesiastical authority to the Pope, but retained the Orthodox rite. This is seen by some historians as a political move designed to obtain equality of rights with Roman Catholics. Indeed, by becoming members of the "Greek-rite Roman Catholics" church, a minority of Romanians in Transylvania eventually managed to be recognized as a nation by the Habsburgrulers, achieving status equal to the three Transylvanian peoples collectively known under the syntagm of " Unio Trium Nationum". Along with this came the arrival of the Jesuits who attempted to align Transylvania more closely with Western Europe.
The communist government suppressed the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic, in 1948, the churches being confiscated and given to the Orthodox Church, while the Romanian Greek-Catholics were re-accepted into the Orthodox Church in 1950. As of
2002, there were 191,000 Romanian Greek Catholics.
The Romanian Orthodox Church held, through its monasteries, large amounts of land, reaching one third of the land of the United Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia) in the 1850s. This land was worked either by
serfs ("şerbi") or Gypsy slaves ("robi mănăstireşti" or "ţigani mănăstireşti"). The abolition of this church slavery took place in 1844 in Moldavia and 1847 in Wallachia. The large estates of the church were confiscated in 1863 by the Mihail Kogălniceanugovernment.
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