The Glagolitic script (Ⰳⰾⰰⰳⱁⰾⰹⱌⰰ, Glagolitsa) is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. It is generally agreed
to have been created in the 9th century by Saint Cyril, a Byzantine monk from Thessaloniki. He and his brother, Saint Methodius, were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III in 863 to Great Moravia to spread Christianity among the West Slavs in the area. The brothers decided to translate liturgical books into the Old Slavic language that was understandable to the general population, but as the words of that language could not be easily written by using either the Greek or Latin alphabets, Cyril decided to invent a new script, Glagolitic, which he based on the local dialect of the Slavic tribes from the Byzantine theme of Thessalonica.
After the deaths of Cyril and Methodius, the Glagolitic alphabet ceased to be used in Moravia, but their students continued to propagate it in the First Bulgarian Empire, where it was subsequently also displaced by the Cyrillic alphabet. The Glagolitic alphabet was preserved only by the clergy of Croatia to write Church Slavonic until the early 19th century.
Name[edit | edit source]
The name was not created until many centuries after the script's creation, and comes from the Old Church Slavonic глаголъ glagol "utterance". The verb glagolati means "to speak". It has been conjectured that the name glagolitsa developed in Croatia around the 14th century and was derived from the word glagolity, applied to adherents of the liturgy in Slavonic.
History[edit | edit source]
Origins[edit | edit source]
The creation of the characters is popularly attributed to Saints Cyril and Methodius, who may have created them to facilitate the introduction of Christianity. It is believed that the original letters were fitted to Macedonian dialects specifically.
The number of letters in the original Glagolitic alphabet is not known, but it may have been close to its
presumed Greek model. The 41 letters known today include letters for non-Greek sounds, which may have been added by Saint Cyril, as well as ligatures added in the 12th century under the influence of Cyrillic, as Glagolitic lost its dominance. In later centuries, the number of letters dropped dramatically, to fewer than 30 in modern Croatian and Czech recensions of the Church Slavic language. Twenty-four of the 41 original Glagolitic letters (see table below) probably derive from graphemes of the medieval cursive Greek small alphabet but have been given an ornamental design.
The source of the other consonantal letters is unknown. If they were added by Cyril, it is likely that they were taken from an alphabet used for Christian scripture. It is frequently
proposed that the letters sha Ⱎ, tsi Ⱌ, and cherv Ⱍ were taken from the letters shin ש and tsadi צ of the Hebrew alphabet, and that Ⰶ zhivete derives from Coptic janja Ϫ. However, Cubberley (1996) suggests that if a single prototype were presumed, the most likely source would be Armenian. Other proposals include the Samaritan alphabet, which Cyril learned during his journey to the Khazars in Cherson.
Glagolitic letters were also used as numbers, similarly to Cyrillic numerals. Unlike Cyrillic numerals, which inherited their numeric value from the corresponding Greek letter (see Greek numerals), Glagolitic letters were assigned values based on their native alphabetic order.
The two monks later canonized as Saints Cyril and Methodius, brothers from Thessaloniki, were sent to Great Moravia in 862 by the Byzantine emperor at the request of Prince Rastislav, who wanted to weaken the dependence of his country on East Frankish priests. The Glagolitic alphabet, however it originated, was used between 863 and 885 for government and religious documents and books and at the Great Moravian Academy (Veľkomoravské učilište) founded by the missionaries, where their followers were educated. The Kiev Missal, found in the 19th century in Jerusalem, was dated to the 10th century.
In 886 an East Frankish bishop of Nitra named Wiching banned the script and jailed 200 followers of Methodius, mostly students of the original academy. They were then dispersed or, according to some sources, sold as slaves by the Franks. Many of them (including Naum, Clement, Angelarious, Sava and Gorazd), however, reached Bulgaria and were commissioned by Boris I of Bulgaria to teach and instruct the future clergy of the state in the Slavic languages. After the adoption of Christianity in Bulgaria in 865, religious ceremonies and Divine Liturgy were conducted in Greek by clergy sent from the Byzantine Empire, using the Byzantine rite. Fearing growing Byzantine influence and weakening of the state, Boris viewed the introduction of the Slavic alphabet and language into church use as a way to preserve the independence of the Bulgarian Empire from Byzantine Constantinople. As a result of Boris' measures, two academies, one in Ohrid and one in Preslav, were founded.
Spread[edit | edit source]
From there, the students travelled to other places and spread the use of their alphabet. Some went to Croatia
(Dalmatia), where the squared variant arose and where Glagolitic remained in use for a long time. In 1248, Pope Innocent IV granted the Croatians of southern Dalmatia the unique privilege of using their own language and this script in the Roman Rite liturgy. Formally granted to bishop Philip of Senj, permission to use the Glagolitic liturgy (the Roman Rite conducted in the Slavic language instead of Latin, not the Byzantine rite), actually extended to all Croatian lands, mostly along the Adriatic coast. The Holy See had several Glagolitic missals published in Rome. Authorization for the use of this language was extended to some other Slavic regions between 1886 and 1935. In missals, the Glagolitic script was eventually replaced with the Latin alphabet, but the use of the Slavic language in the Mass continued, until replaced by modern vernacular languages.
Some students of the Ohrid academy went to Bohemia where the alphabet was used in the 10th and 11th centuries, along with other scripts. It is not clear whether the Glagolitic alphabet was used in the Duchy of Kopnik before the Wendish Crusade, but it was certainly used in Kievan Rus'.
In Croatia, from the 12th century, Glagolitic inscriptions appeared mostly in littoral areas: Istria, Primorje,
Kvarner, and Kvarner islands, notably Krk, Cres, and Lošinj; in Dalmatia, on the islands of Zadar, but there were also findings in inner Lika and Krbava, reaching to Kupa river, and even as far as Međimurje and Slovenia. The Hrvoje's Missal (Croatian: Hrvojev misal) from 1404 was written in Split, and it is considered one of the most beautiful Croatian Glagolitic books. The 1483 Missale Romanum Glagolitice was the first printed Croatian Glagolitic book.
It was believed that Glagolitsa in Croatia was present only in those areas. But, in 1992, the discovery of Glagolitic inscriptions in churches along the Orljava river in Slavonia totally changed the picture (churches in Brodski Drenovac, Lovčić, and some others), showing that use of the Glagolitic alphabet was spread from Slavonia also.
At the end of the 9th century, one of these students of Methodius – Naum, who had settled in Preslav, Bulgaria – created the Cyrillic script, which almost entirely replaced Glagolitic during the Middle Ages. The Cyrillic alphabet is derived from the Greek alphabet, with some letters (like ⟨ш⟩, ⟨ц⟩, ⟨ч⟩, ⟨ъ⟩, ⟨ь⟩, ⟨ѣ⟩) peculiar to Slavic languages being derived from the Hebrew alphabet. The
decision in favor of Cyrillic created an alphabetical difference between the two literary centres of the Bulgarian state in Pliska and Ohrid. In the western part the Glagolitic alphabet remained dominant at first. However, subsequently in the next two centuries, mostly after the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire to the Byzantines, Glagolitic gradually ceased to be used there at all. Nevertheless, particular passages or words written with the Glagolitic alphabet appeared in Bulgarian Cyrillic manuscripts till the end of the 14th century. Sporadic instances aside, Glagolitic survived beyond the 12th century as a primary script in Croatia alone, although from there a brief attempt at reintroduction was made in the West Slavic area in the 14th century. The centre of influence appears to have been in the Kvarner Gulf, though the nature and extent of this
influence remain subjects of debate. The early development of the Glagolitic minuscule script alongside the increasingly square majuscule is poorly documented, but before the advent of printing, a mutual relationship evolved between the two varieties; the majuscule being used primarily for inscriptions and higher liturgical uses, and the minuscule being applied to both religious and secular documents. Ignoring the problematic early Slavonian inscriptions, the use of the Glagolitic script at its peak before the Croatian-Ottoman wars corresponded roughly to the area that spoke the Chakavian dialect at the time, in addition to, to varying extents, the adjacent Kajkavian regions within the Zagreb bishopric. As a result, vernacular impact on the liturgical language and script largely stems from Chakavian sub-dialects.
Decline[edit | edit source]
The first major threat to Croatian Glagolitic since it attained stability
was from the Ottoman excursions, though the extent of cultural damage varied locally depending on the course of war. In the 17th century, though, the first successful direct attack on the script since the 12th century was headed by the Bishop of Zagreb, and after the Magnate conspiracy left the script without secular protectors, its use was limited to the littoral region. In the meantime, printing gradually overtook handwriting for liturgical manuscripts, resulting in a decline of the majuscule script, which was absorbed for titular and sometimes initial use within for minuscule documents. It was not until the late 18th century and the onset of modernity that Glagolitic received significant further threats, and through western influence, especially secular, Glagolitic culture collapsed, so that by the mid 19th century, the script was purely liturgical, relying mostly on printed materials. By the time of the devastating Italianization movements under Fascist Italy in the early 20th century, numerous independent events had already greatly reduced the area of the liturgical use of Glagolitic.
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