Croatia at the Time of Šimun Kožičić Benja With Special Emphasis on Rijeka at That Time

Petar Strčić; Zavod za povijesne i društvene znanosti HAZU, Rijeka
The bishop of Modruš and the head of the Senj diocese, a diplomat, a writer, a Glagolitic author, a Latinist, a translator and a printer Šimun Kožičić Benja (Zadar, around 1460-1536) was a prolific author under the wing of the Catholic church, and outside it, at this difficult period in history for Croatia. At that time, Croatia was divided between the Republic of Venice, Hungary-Croatia, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire and only the city of Dubrovnik managed to retain a certain level of independence. The period was particularly burdened by a serious plight – the unexpected conquerors from the East, the fierce Ottomans. The easterners were a deciding factor in the downfall of the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, and therefore in the inclusion of Croatia into the Habsburg Monarchy. Feudal strifes were also fully blown. The conquerors (also known as Turks in Croatia) penetrated the eastern part of the Croatian coast, as well as its western part – the Kvarner Bay and Istria. They attacked the Senj and Vinodol area that belonged to the Princes Frankopans and the hinterland of Rijeka (for example, an important traffic and commercial centre Klana was destroyed). At the time, Rijeka was situated on the right bank of the Rječina river at the area where it flows into the Rijeka Bay. This is the area that is still known as the Old Town, and the area that is now Korzo was the waterfront. On the east bank of Rječina, the old castle Trsat, which until that period belonged to the Frankopans, with a shrine to the Virgin Mary and a small settlement, all situated on a hill, were the only populated areas. This was also the time when one of the most powerful families in southern Europe, the Frankopans, started to fall apart. However, the then Habsburg Rijeka managed to retain its position of an important commercial port in which the great majority of population was Croatian, but where Italians and people of other nationalities also lived. In 1530 Rijeka got its statute. This is how it came that the Bishop Kožičić, in exile, decided to live and start the first Croatian printing house in this town. However, the Bishop of Pula under whose rule Rijeka was, forced the Latin language in Rijeka. However, the Croatian character of the town was so strong that the people were able to keep and nurture their Čakavian language and the Old Church Slavonic/Old Croatian mass and the Glagolitic script. Furthermore, with the help of Italians from the Apennine Peninsula, Kožičić printed books in Croatian Čakavian, in the first Croatian Glagolitic script in 1530 and 1531. However, the plights in Croatia, and in Rijeka, continued and towards the end of his life Kožičić returned to his hometown Zadar in the southern part of Croatia, Dalmatia, which was safer at that time.
Key words
Bishop Šimun Kožiči; Bishop; Ottomans; Rijeka; Croatian printing house 1530-1531
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