Cultural Life

Cultural life in this period became less affected by the policies of government or by the reactions to such policies. To be sure, the consolidation of absolutism brought with it censorship. In 1753, Maria Theresa ordered the Gubernium to prohibit the publication of works that were disrespectful of God, of the sovereign and her prerogatives, and of the recognized religions, threatened domestic peace and tranquillity, or propagated some new heresy. All works {2-613.} had to be submitted to the Gubernium before publication, and no printed material could be disseminated without its permission.

The edict had little practical consequence, for censorship proved ineffective. In 1768, the central government ruled that non-Catholics could not propagate their faith outside their schools. In the wake of this decree, Péter Bod's theological works were confiscated, as was his Magyar Athenás, and both István Daniel and his publisher were fined. The possibility of study abroad was also restricted, but Transylvania's intellectual life kept in touch with that of western Europe.[5]5. EK: AG 1751, p. 369.

Indeed, the thirst for culture was growing. Between 1761 and 1766, the Bodenburg theater company made frequent appearances in Szeben (which at the time served as Transylvania' capital), although its audiences consisted mostly of government officials, military officers, and visiting aristocrats. There were clear signs of change in the lifestyle of the aristocracy. One was the emergence of serious book collectors. László Haller and his son, Gábor, built up a rich family library at Ugra; fifty years later, the visiting Hungarian writer Ferenc Kazinczy observed that 'wherever they live, Transylvanians who read French come here to find what they need'.[6]6. Quoted in J. Horváth, 'Báróczi Sándor', BPSz 107, 1901, p. 94. It was during his foreign travels, in 1759, that Sámuel Teleki began to acquire books for what became the great Teleki Collection. In the 1750s, it became fashionable for the aristocratic government officials in Szeben to have 'Tafelmusic' performed during meals. Those aristocratic officials who had no estates tried to keep up with the 'old' aristocracy. Sámuel Szilágyi, who came from a lesser noble family in Enyed, gained a barony for his service as assessor on the royal bench of judges; although wealthy, he owned no estates. He obtained sheet music as well as instruments from Vienna, and organized a weekly 'Collegium Musicum' at Medgyes, his residence when the court was not in session. His fine library included works of the French Enlightenment. Saxon patricians displayed similar tendencies. Samuel Bruckenthal was developing his {2-614.} book and art collections, with special emphasis on Saxonicalia. In some cases, the interest in new intellectual trends was accompanied by a demand for art reproductions, if not for original and innovative works. The book collector László Haller's Hungarian translation (two years after that of József Zoltán) of Fénelon's Télémaque proved so popular that it had to be reprinted every 5–10 years. The Fénelon translations marked the beginnings of French influence in Hungarian literature. Gábor Haller translated into Hungarian Montesquieu's Esprit des lois.

At a time when Transylvania's intelligentsia looked westward beyond the Habsburg empire for literary and political models, the secular figurative arts came under the influence of the Austrian baroque and its Hungarian variant. The first baroque-style castles had appeared in the earlier period. Work began on the Haller castle at Kaplyon in 1725, but the baroque reconstruction of the Magna Curia at Déva must date from after 1743, when the manor at the foot of the castle hill came into the possession of Governor János Haller. The basic groundplan, with bastions at the four corners, was retained, but the roof, facade, banistered staircase, mantelpiece with a coat of arms, and balcony over the main entrance are all in the baroque style.

However, the most significant secular manifestation of the baroque was Dénes Bánffy's addition, on the eastern side of his castle (which had rounded bastions at its four corners) at Bonchida, of a stable and manège, a horseshoe-shaped courtyard, and a statue-lined gallery. The layout of the stable was similar to that of Vienna's Hofstallung, which had been conceived by Fischer von Erlach and completed by his son; the younger Fischer von Erlach may have had a hand in planning the enlargement of Bonchida. The project was completed between 1748 and 1753 by master-builders from Kolozsvár. The gallery of statues was the work of Johann Nachtigall, as were the statues adorning two facades of the castle.

{2-615.} The influence of Austrian baroque is also evident in the Wesselényi castle, on which construction began at Hadad in 1761. Its architect was Josef Litzmann, a man of Bavarian origin who had worked in Moravia and Hungary before coming to Transylvania. His talent lay more in imitation than in originality. The central parts of the castle at Hadad bear a striking resemblance to those of Eugene of Savoy's castle at Ráckeve, which had been designed by J. L. Hildebrandt; Litzmann had evidently copied the plans of that outstanding Austrian architect. The more complex stone carvings were the work of Transylvania's most talented baroque sculptor, Anton Schuchbauer. The Tholdalagi palace, a small gem of Transylvanian baroque, began to rise in Marosvásárhely in 1759; the Turkish heads on its pediment were carved by Schuchbauer. Construction started in 1763 on the Teleki house, also in Marosvásárhely, at the intersection of Szent György and Szentkirály streets. Other secular examples of the baroque style can be found in the construction projects of wealthy burghers in the Armenian towns; Schuchbauer carved the stone figures adorning the entrance of the Lászlóffy house at Szamosújvár.

Naturally, the baroque style continued to predominate in religious art. A shining example, dating from this period, is Szamosújvár's main Armenian church; the unknown designer was obviously inspired by such masters of the Austrian baroque as Hildebrandt, Neumann, and Fischer von Erlach. Orthodox church art retained its distinctiveness; despite the religious union, baroque influences were kept at bay. A school for icon-painters enjoyed a hundred year-long existence at Mikola, in Doboka County.

There was significant progress in the spheres of education and scholarship as well. As noted earlier, some of the teachers at Kolozsvár's Jesuit academy became eminent members of the Jesuit school of historiography. The development of the natural sciences proceeded at a slower pace than in the days when education was dominated by Protestant schools, but it gave rise to such outstanding {2-616.} figures as the internationally-recognized Miksa Hell and the polymath János Fridvaldszky. In 1752, Hell came from Nagyszombat (Upper-Hungary) to fill the Kolozsvár academy's chair of mathematics, and he remained in that post until 1755. He installed an observatory in his home and built up a physics laboratory at the school. Although Hell produced work of lasting value on the links between magnetism and electricity, he was above all an astronomer. In 1755, he moved to Vienna, where he taught at the university and served as director of the astronomical observatory. After he had left Transylvania, Hell unwittingly contributed to the emergence of Hungarian, Finno–Ugric linguistics when he took János Sajnovics along on a trip to study the northern stars. Fridvaldszky's scholarly work, which was closely linked to the activity of the Societas Agri-culturae, is discussed in the next chapter.

For Uniates, the major development was the establishment of a school at Balázsfalva. Previously, their clergy and intelligentsia had been trained at the schools of other denominations, notably the Jesuit academy at Kolozsvár. A primary school began operation at Balázsfalva in 1738, and a lower secondary school in 1754. The latter underwent a gradual evolution. At first, grammar was taught, by Grigore Maior, in the lower grades; a course in syntax was added in 1757, followed by courses in poetry and rhetoric. The teaching of philosophy was introduced at the beginning of the next historical period, in 1772. Ever since its foundation, the school had served for the training of priests; the teachers were Sylvester Kalyáni and a future bishop, Athanasie Rednic. A Romanian printing house had been established at Balázsfalva in 1747, and it was subsequently modernized under the supervision of Bishop Petru Aron.

Although disputes were rife among the leading spirits of the Uniate Church, Balázsfalva developed into a centre of Romanian intellectual activity. Most of the principal protagonists had been educated in Hungarian Jesuit colleges, at Kolozsvár and Nagyszombat; only a few had the opportunity of pursuing further studies {2-617.} in Rome. The foundations of a distinctive, Transylvanian–Romanian outlook had been laid by Inochentie Micu-Klein, but its intellectual elaboration had to await the next historical period. Meanwhile, Bishop Aron busied himself in the educational sphere, founding no less than fifty-six grammar schools; this activity was closely linked to the promotion of religious union, for three-quarters of the new schools were in southern Transylvania, where Orthodoxy was dominant. As noted, Uniate schools were also established in the military frontier zone.

In Protestant education, which was under strong pressure from the Counter-Reformation, the period's major achievement was the development, in the Methodus docendi of 1769, of common standards for Calvinist colleges. The curricula of bigger colleges (notably the one drafted at Nagyenyed in 1748) served as a model. Although it was essentially a systematic compilation of traditional educational practices, the Methodus also reflected the influence of Wolff's philosophy: his mathematics book was a prescribed text for the so-called Greek class, and a handbook of logic and philosophy authored by one of his disciples, F. C. Baumeister, was recommended as a teaching aid.

The period's most significant Transylvanian scholar, Péter Bod, was not affiliated with any Protestant school. He served first as a village pastor, then as court chaplain to his patroness, the rigidly religious Kata Bethlen, and later as chief clerk of a diocese, then of a district of the Calvinist Church. Early in his career, he turned down an invitation to teach theology at Marosvásárhely. Most of his writings were of a religious nature; they included works of theology, church history (notably a comprehensive history of the Hungarian Church), and church law (including analyses of matrimonial law and of the jurisprudence of religious tribunals, published respectively in 1763 and 1764). Yet it was Bod's works of literature and cultural history that earned him lasting renown in Hungary. They included Magyar Athenás (1767), the first lexicon {2-618.} and comprehensive history of Hungarian literature, as well as biographies of Albert Szenczi Molnár and Miklós Misztótfalusi Kis. Bod was the first since János Apáczai Csere to promote the creation of a Hungarian Academy. In 1756, he proposed the formation of a Hungarian–Transylvanian 'literary society' that would develop a reference work on Hungarian grammar and defend the purity of the language. Four years later, he called for the establishment of a 'Hungarian society of scholars' that, 'like similar institutions in other countries, would work to revitalize the mother tongue'.

Péter Bod is a towering figure, not merely in the context of 18th century culture in Transylvania, but in the general history of Hungarian culture as well. His Magyar Athenás encompassed the entire realm of Hungarian culture. He translated from Latin the memoirs of Bálint Kocsi Csergő, a preacher from Transdanubia who became a galley-slave. A forerunner of other solitary giants of the late 18th and early 19th century, Bod stood at the borderline between an orthodox Calvinism, qualified by loyalty to the Habsburgs, and the Enlightenment. His boldest intellectual flights marked the beginning of the Enlightenment.