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Croatian Translation of Biblical Passages in Medieval Performative Texts

  • Andrea Radošević (a1)


This article will examine the Croatian translations of the biblical parts of medieval Latin performative texts (sermons, dialogues) which were translated in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and written in Glagolitic script. The Croatian translators were acquainted with the parts of Scripture which were read during the liturgy. Their knowledge of the Bible was evident in the addition of archaisms typical for Glagolitic liturgical books written in Croatian Church Slavonic. Often the quotations from Scripture were adjusted to the narrator's (or preacher's) voice in different ways, by changing the grammar of the Latin text as well as by shortening or expanding the quotations. Research has shown that one of the main goals of the translators in changing biblical quotations was to improve the performative characteristics of translation, so that the translated text could be orally performed.


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*Old Church Slavonic Institute, Demetrova 11, Zagreb 10000, Croatia. E-mail:


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1 ‘Every medieval literary text . . . was designed to be communicated aloud to the individuals who constituted its audience’: Zumthor, Paul, ‘The Text and the Voice’, New Literary History 16 (1984), 6791, at 67; cf. Stanton, Robert, ‘The (M)other Tongue: Translation Theory and Old English’, in Beer, Jeanette M. A., ed., Translation Theory and Practice in the Middle Ages (Kalamazoo, MI, 1997), 3346, at 46. Vernacular theology included many kinds of texts, among them catechetical works and Passion meditations: Corbari, Eliana, Vernacular Theology: Dominican Sermons and Audience in Late Medieval Italy (Berlin, 2013), 8.

2 Treharne, Elaine, ‘The Context of Medieval Literature’, in Johnson, David F. and Treharne, Elaine, eds, Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature (Oxford, 2005), 714, at 12; Green, D. H., ‘Orality and Reading: The State of Research in Medieval Studies’, Speculum 65 (1990), 267–80, at 275.

3 Stjepan Damjanović, Slovo iskona (Zagreb, 2004), 59–61. In the late medieval and early modern periods Glagolitic script was used almost entirely in Croatian countries. Slavic countries which were part of the Roman Church generally used Latin script, whilst Slavic countries which were part of the Orthodox Church used Cyrillic script. Most Glagolitic texts were intended to be read aloud: Dürrigl, Marija-Ana, Čti razumno i lipo. Ogledi o hrvatskoj srednjovjekovnoj književnosti (Zagreb, 2007), 9, 53.

4 Andrea Radošević, ‘Pseudo-Anselmov Dialogus beatae Mariae et Anselmi de passione Domini u hrvatskoglagoljskom Žgombićevu zborniku iz 16. stoljeća’, Slovo 60 (2010), 633–68.

5 Croatian literature was also influenced by the Cyrillo-Methodian tradition, and it thus represents a bridge between Western and Eastern literature: see Petrović, Ivanka, ‘Hagiografsko-legendarna književnost hrvatskog srednjovjekovlja i senjski Marijini mirakuli. Izvori, žanrovske, tematske i tipološke karakteristike’, Slovo 34 (1984), 181201; eadem, ‘Croats’, in Vauchez, André, ed., Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, 2 vols (Cambridge, 2001), 1: 384–6, at 385.

6 From the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries, Croatian Church Slavonic, a Croatian redaction of Old Church Slavonic, was used as a liturgical language in littoral parts of Croatia. Mihaljević observes that it ‘was never a spoken language since it was constructed in order to support the Christianization of the Slavs. For that purpose two Slavic scripts were created: Glagolitic and Cyrillic’: Milan Mihaljević, ‘Verba dicendi in Croatian Church Slavonic’, Zbornik Matice srpske za filologiju i lingvistiku 54 (2011), 63–77, at 64. In the mid-thirteenth century, Pope Innocent IV gave permission to the Benedictine monks in Omišalj, on the island of Krk, to use a vernacular liturgy and books copied in the Glagolitic script, provided that they also knew Latin. A few years earlier, Benedictines in the Senj diocese had received similar permission: Bratulić, Josip, Sjaj baštine (Split, 1990), 98.

7 Fališevac, Dunja, ‘Renesansa’, in Visković, Velimir, ed., Hrvatska književna enciklopedija, 4 vols (Zagreb, 2010–12), 3: 564–70.

8 Bogdan, Tomislav, ‘Petrarkizam i ljubavna lirika’, Umjetnost riječi 3–4 (2009), 245–78.

9 Clarke, Andrea, ‘Henry VIII and Marko Marulić’s Evangelistarium’, Colloquia Marulliana 20 (2011), 167–74.

10 ‘Reading community’ is a term developed by Sif Rikhardsdottir, deriving from Brian Stock's ‘textual community’: Rikhardsdottir, Sif, Medieval Translations and Cultural Discourse: The Movement of Texts in England, France and Scandinavia (Cambridge, 2012), 1112. According to Rikhardsdottir, Stock describes a group composed of one or more people able to read a text to a group of possibly unlettered or semi-lettered members. By contrast, ‘[her] use of the term “reading community” here goes beyond Stock's model in incorporating a somewhat more extended notion of the readership, which would have included the person (or persons) instigating the translation and subsequent copying of the text as well as those for whom the text was translated (or copied) and ultimately the groups of audiences who actually read and preserved those texts. It similarly comprises the translators and scribes (as they also form the readership of the texts) and hence their imagined as well as actual audience’: ibid. 12, referring to Stock, Brian, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Century (Princeton, NJ, 1983).

11 For instance, the priest Tomas Petrinić made a manuscript for the monk Matija Gašćanin: ‘ĵa mnogo-griš’ni pop’ Tomaš’ Petriniĉь . . . pisah počtovanomu redovniku Matiju Gašĉaninu . . . I bih’ plaĉen’ dukate .v. [= 3] ča im’ bi cêna’ (‘I, very sinful priest Tomas, wrote for a respected monk Matthew . . . And I was paid 3 coins, which was their price.’): Johannes Reinhart, ‘Hrvatskoglagoljski zbornik Tomaša Petrinića iz god. 1503 (Cod. Vindob. Slav. br. 78)’, Croatica 42–4 (1996), 391–421, at 392. Broz Kolunić wrote a manucript for a vicar Levnard: ‘pisahь ê Brozь . . . k'nige poč’tovanu mužu gospodinu Levnardu vikaru gatanskomu v nega hiži sidi za moju plaĉu’ (‘I, Broz, wrote “these books” for a respected vicar Levnard in his house for my salary’): Damjanović, Stjepan, Jezik hrvatskih glagoljaša (Zagreb, 2008), 226–7.

12 Stipčević, Aleksandar, Socijalna povijest knjige u Hrvata. Knjiga I. Srednji vijek. Od prvih početaka do glagoljskoga prvotiska iz 1483. godine (Zagreb, 2004), 141; Butcher, Andrew, ‘The Functions of Script in the Speech Community of a Late Medieval Town, c.1300–1550’, in Crick, Julia and Walsham, Alexandra, eds, The Uses of Script and Print, 1300–1700 (Cambridge, 2004), 157–90, at 170.

13 Stipčević, Socijalna povijest knjige, 141, 145–6; Dürrigl, Čti razumno i lipo, 74; Eduard Hercigonja, Povijest hrvatske književnosti: srednjovjekovna književnost: knj. 2 (Zagreb 1975), 202.

14 Mihaljević, ‘Verba dicendi in Croatian Church Slavonic’; Damjanović, Jezik hrvatskih glagoljaša, 117.

15 Mihaljević, Milan, ‘Položaj crkvenoslavenskga jezika u hrvatskoj srednjovjekovnoj kulturi’, in Velev, Ilija et al., eds, Sveti Naum Ohridski i slovenskata duhovna, kulturna i pismena tradicija (Ohrid, 2010), 229–38, at 232.

16 Biggs, Brendan, ‘The Style of the first English Translation of the Imitatio Christi’, in Ellis, Roger and Tixier, René, eds, The Medieval Translator = Traduire au Moyen Âge, vol. 5 (Turnhout, c. 1996), 187211, at 198. According to Biggs's exploration of the rhetorical effect of translation, a translated text can have an equal, a lower or a higher effect when compared with the original.

17 In sermons and other texts about key events from the gospels, the Bible is generally the most frequently cited source: Ocker, Christopher, ‘The Bible in the Fifteenth Century’, in Rubin, Miri and Simons, Walter, eds, CHC, 4: Christianity in Western Europe c.1100–c.1500 (Cambridge, 2009), 472–93, at 490–2; Minnis, Alastair, ‘Late Medieval Discussions of compilatio and the Role of the compilator’, Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 101 (1979), 385421, at 389.

18 Nida, Eugene A., Toward a Science of Translating, with Special Reference to principles and Procedures involved in Bible Translating (Leiden, 1964); Stanton, ‘The (M)other Tongue’, 45.

19 D'Avray, David, Medieval Marriage Sermons: Mass Communication in a Culture without Print (Oxford, 2001), 30; Beverly Mayne Kienzle, ‘Introduction’, in eadem, ed., The Sermon, Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge occidental 81–3 (Turnhout, 2000), 143–74, at 154.

20 Kienzle, Beverly Mayne, ‘Medieval Sermons and their Performance: Theory and Record’, in Muessig, Carolyn, ed., Preacher, Sermon and Audience in the Middle Ages (Leiden, Boston, MA, and Cologne, 2002), 89124; Kienzle, ‘Introduction’, 155.

21 Carlo Delcorno, ‘Medieval Preaching in Italy (1200–1500)’, in Kienzle, ed., The Sermon, 449–560, at 474.

22 Kienzle, ‘Introduction’, 152.

23 It must not be forgotten that the reader plays an important part in receiving written communication, and this is important in translation: Kelly, Luis G., The True Interpreter: A History of Translation Theory and Practice in the West (Oxford, 1979), 47.

24 Ellis, Roger, ‘Introduction’, in The Medieval Translator: The Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages. Papers read at a Conference held 20–23 August 1987, University of Wales, ed. Ellis, Roger (Cambridge, 1989), 1–14, at 6.

25 Dürrigl, Marija-Ana, ‘O čitanju, pisanju i kompiliranju u hrvatskoglagoljskom srednjovjekovlju’, Slovo 60 (2010), 219–34, at 220.

26 Herolt, Johannes, Sermones Discipuli de tempore et de sanctis cum Promptuario exemplorum et de miraculis Beatae Mariae Virginis (Strasbourg, 1488), 32r.

27 Zagreb, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, VIII 126, ‘Disipul B’, fol. 7c.

28 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 32r.

29 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 7c.

30 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 36r.

31 Zagreb, Croatian State Archives, Archdiocese of Krk, G–55 (ZM 57/16), ‘Disipul A’, fol. 14c.

32 Sioned Davies, ‘He was the best Teller of Tales in the World’, in Evelyn Birge Vitz; Nancy Freeman Regalado and Marilyn Lawrence, eds, Performing Medieval Narrative (Woodbridge, 2005), 15–26, at 22.

33 Berardini, Valentina, ‘Performance Indicators in Late Medieval Sermons’, Medieval Sermon Studies 54 (2000), 7586, at 85.

34 Anselmus Cantuariensis, Dialogus beatae Mariae et Anselmi de Passione Domini, PL 159, cols 271–90, at 283c.

35 Zagreb, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, VII 30, ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 95v.

36 PL 159, 281b.

37 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 93v.

38 PL 159, 277a.

39 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 89v.

40 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 31v.

41 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 6d.

42 PL 159, 273c.

43 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 86v.

44 PL 159, 282c.

45 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 95r.

46 PL 159, 284a.

47 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 96r.

48 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 211r.

49 Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, VIa 95, ‘Disipul C’, fol. 51v.

50 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 35v.

51 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 8d.

52 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 89r.

53 ‘Disipul A’, fol. 52d.

54 PL 159, 278d.

55 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 91v.

56 PL 159, 285c.

57 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 97v.

58 PL 159, 277a.

59 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 89v.

60 PL 159, 274a.

61 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 87r.

62 PL 159, 283d.

63 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 95v.

64 PL 159, 275b.

65 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 88r.

66 PL 159, 280c.

67 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 93r.

68 Tandarić, Josip Leonard, Hrvatskoglagoljska liturgijska književnost (Zagreb, 1993), 307–9.

69 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 86r.

70 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 71b.

71 Peregrinus of Oppeln, Sermones Peregrini de tempore [et] de sanctis (Strasbourg, 1493), ‘De sancto Stephano’.

72 Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, IVa 99, ‘Blagdanar popa Andrije’, fol. 10v.

73 Peregrinus, Sermones, ‘De Innocentibus’.

74 ‘Blagdanar popa Andrije’, fol. 14r.

75 In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century manuscripts, az is most often used when God is speaking. Otherwise, most of the time, ê or ja are used: Damjanović, Stjepan, Tragom jezika hrvatskih glagoljaša (Zagreb, 1984), 126; Hercigonja, Eduard, Nad iskonom hrvatske knjige (Zagreb, 1983), 405. This means that, as Mihaljević observed: ‘God speaks Croatian Church Slavonic, while human beings speak Croatian’: ‘Položaj crkvenoslavenskga jezika’, 232.

76 A parallel for this conclusion is found in Vitz's description of biblical quotation in liturgical texts and sermons: Birge Vitz, Evelyn, ‘Liturgical versus Biblical Citation in Medieval Vernacular Literature’, in Tribute to Jonathan J. G. Alexander: The Making and Meaning of Illuminated Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, Art and Architecture, ed. L'Engle, Susan and Huest, Gerlad B. (London 2006), 443–9, at 447.

77 Peregrinus, Sermones, ‘De sancto Thoma’.

78 ‘Blagdanar popa Andrije’, fol. 6r.

79 Ibid., fol. 8v.

80 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 87v.

81 ‘Disipul C’, fol. 172r.

82 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 263v.

83 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 139a.

84 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 49v.

85 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 180a.

86 Herolt, Sermones Discipuli, 179r.

87 ‘Disipul B’, fol. 100c.

88 Fuentes, Amelia Fraga, ‘A Study of the Virgin Mary in the Thirteenth-and Fourteenth-Century English Crucifixion Lyrics’ (Part II), Atlantis 3 (1981), 1623, at 17.

89 PL 159, 286a.

90 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 97v.

91 PL 159, 281b.

92 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 93v.

93 PL 159, 280a.

94 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fol. 92v.

95 PL 159, 285c.

96 ‘Žgombićev zbornik’, fols 96v–97r.

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Croatian Translation of Biblical Passages in Medieval Performative Texts

  • Andrea Radošević (a1)


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