Monday 21 September 2009

The Long-Awaited Complete Inventory of the Archives of the Nunciature of Vienna

The long-awaited Inventory of the of the Archives of the Nunciature of Vienna has been published (Archivio della nunziatura apostolica in Vienna, Collectanea Archivi Vaticani 64, Archivio Segreto Vaticano 2008). Over ten years in the making, this publication by Vatican archivist Croatian Father Tomislav Mrknonjić, OFM Conv. represents a work of meticulous erudition in archival science. Many such inventories deal with only a portion of a given archive, whereas Mrknonjić’s work is a catalogue of the entire collection, from 1607 until 1939/1940, the current consultable limits of the archives sources of the Apostolic See.

Previous to the release of this work, scholars had to make do with partial guides, the most recent of which were available for consultation in the Sala Indici of the Vatican Archives. The last such inventory extended only to the late 1880’s. Research of the nunciature’s contents posterior of this period had to be performed by guesswork or with the help of guidelines by scholars who had consulted beyond the indexed segments. In 2006, a skeleton-preview of Mrknonjić’s inventory was made available internally, in anticipation of the definitive publication.

The eminent scholarship of Father Tomislav is manifested in many details of the present work. In it, a meticulous description of the contents of each archival box (numbered from 1 to 904) is given, together with the titles and dates of its contents according to the original classification given by the nunciature’s archivists. Internal divisions (fascicles) of each box are indicated and each document contained therein is individually listed by its folio number, together with a brief description of its contents. The publication’s volume (910 pages) testifies to dedication and perseverence of the editor who, over the last decade, dedicated his energies to researching the history and contents of an enormous quantity of primary source material.

Tomislav Mrknonjić also merits great praise for his care and precision in reproducing the nomenclature of the various personages and places mentioned in the fonds’ correspondence. Of particular mention is his faithful transcription of Slavic terms, which often are paid less heed by western scholars. He has been careful and diligent in checking the current usage of names and places, sometimes indicating several versions, especially when the current usage differs from forms found in the archival sources themselves (for example, L’viv/ Lemberg/ Lwów/ Lvov/ Leopoli(s) or Szeptycki/ Šeptyckyj). Unlike other recent publications of comparable calibre, the transcription of Ruthenian-Ukrainian names found in this work are virtually flawless.

The particular history of the Vienna nunciature, described in the introduction to this volume, sheds light on the singular importance of its archives for both secular and church historians. The papal envoy to the (Holy Roman) emperor became a permanent legation in the sixteenth century. With the the division of the Habsburg kingdoms following the abdication of Charles V, the Imperial Court settled in the city of Vienna as did the papal legation to the emperor. This embassy or nunciature remained in place through the vicissitudes of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, at times when others had to be closed down. For example, with the final partition of Poland, the nunciature of Warsaw closed in 1796 and its archives were conveyed to the Vatican. With the fall of the Habsburg empire, the Viennese nunciature (thenceforth accredited to the Austrian Republic) transferred portions of its historical archives to the Vatican, first in 1921 and then in 1938 with the closure of the nunciature following the Anschluß (annexation of Austria). The final portion of its archives were moved there sometime after 1940.

With the suppression of the nunciature of Warsaw at the end of the eighteenth century, the Viennese nuncio took on the role of unofficial papal liaison for those Catholic communities ruled over by the Russian Tsar and the Ottoman Sultan. Thus, the Viennese archives have come to form a key primary source for material relating to the history of Ukraine and Ukrainians, both in Austrian-Galicia (from 1772) and in Russian Ukraine. In consequence, the inventory of this nunciature will serve as an indispensable research tool, not only for researchers of Austro-German and Hungarian history, but also for that of all of central and eastern Europe.

The vicissitudes of the Greek-Catholic Church are well chronicled in this nunciature’s annals, whether in the nuncios’ reports to the Holy See, in the correspondence with the nunciature of the Greek-Catholic clergy and faithful, or in the Latin clergys and civil authorities’ observations concerning the Greek-Catholics. Various topics of interest include: information pertaining to the Eparchies of Lviv, Przemyśl, Stanislaviv, Lutsk, Chełm (Kholm); the negotiations and nomination processes of Greek-Catholic bishops and church dignitaries; the internal condition and reforms of the Basilian Order and its relations with the Ruthenian-Ukrainian Church hierarchy; the conflict over the attempted introduction of the Gregorian calendar in the Stanislaviv Eparchy; the attempts by the Hungarian Government to interfere with the nomination of the Greek-Catholic bishop for the United States; news about and relations with the nascent Ukrainian state; the return of Metropolitan Sheptytsky to Lviv (via Vienna) in 1923. There is also one fascile containing reports about the nascent Ukrainian Republic's atitude towards Catholicism.

In contrast to the significant number of researchers belonging to Slavic nations such as Poland and Romania, very few Ukrainian historians are consulting the Vatican Secret Archives. Unlike the the aforementioned countries, neither the Ukrainian government nor its academic institutions offer support for such research. The single notable scholar to make prolific use of the primary sources contained in the Vatican’s numerous collections was the late Basilian Father Athanasius Welykyj. Since his death, over twenty years ago, only a handful of Ukrainian historians have made any significant use of its fonds (foremost among these is John-Paul Himka). With the publication of Tomislav Mrknonjić’s inventory, Ukrainian scholars who come to the Vatican in future, will be encouraged to access the documents of the Vienna Nunciature, which can now be accomplished with infinitely greater ease.

EVOLUTIO: As if in contradiction to my dire but accurate observations, two Ukrainians made a brief consultation of the Vatican Archives, at the end of September. Their funding, however, continues to come from North America. If Ukraine wants to stand with the rest of the world, then it needs to step up to the plate. A great nation must give more than it takes.