The Franciscans, as promoters of the Albanian cultural identity

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The cultural activity of the Franciscan Order in the Albanian countries has had a significant impact on our culture, especially in the first half of the 20th century. The researchers who, in one way or another, have examined this activity, have rightly asserted that the main role here was played by Father Gjergj Fishta, who was the personality who, more correctly, Ernest Koliqi at the beginning of In the 50s he was considered the founder of what was constituted as the Franciscan literary school. Since the object of our communication is the work and contribution that the Franciscans have given to the research, collection, publication and study of folklore, it would be good to make a brief parenthesis of the Franciscan fathers themselves.

In order not to make an unnecessary extension of this argument, we are bringing a fragment taken from a work by Father Anton Harapi entitled Andrra e Pretashi: “We Franciscans are one Order for the series: we suffer, we suffer and we give our mouths with people; our capital is quiet life and the help of charities; It’s too much for us, there we build a monastery, here we build a church and we build a cell, the world remembers that we are the ones who are the first ones, as far as our profession is concerned, we have to hold the lowest possible positions; how to improve the poor thing in one place, others come, and honor those plains, continue the action; then we go out and look for other forms of action, we don’t even have a clue why others continue on our toil and sweat; little is known to us, and much is written about our mind and lack of wisdom, but that our founder found in nothing and gave me the greatest joy, Die vollkommene Freudet (La perfetta letizia).”

Based on their activity and concrete contribution, Ernest Koliqi would say that: “The literary activity of the Franciscans, discovered the visages of our folklore, shed light on its priceless beauties. Together with him, he also discovered the Albanian spirit among the old folklore groups and in that spirit he found the criteria for both the internal and external world, the Albanian life and the foreign one. The Franciscan literary school, examined the ancient traditions in the prism of citizenship and gave the Albanians the first advice that those noble traditions, with deep Indo-European roots, should be kept and preserved as a great spiritual wealth from which the nation derives respect and price in the developed world.”

The Franciscans started their good works with oral source creativity, folklore.

Folklore research

Finding a parish priest in the northern regions of Albania at the beginning of the last century was not an easy task. In the houses scattered among the villages, often two hours apart, without any means of communication, except for the horse, the parish priest had to go to celebrate mass regularly and get to know the social and cultural situation of the flock. At the time we are talking about, he was not only a Catholic priest who had the duty to take care of the believers under him, but he was also a teacher, a scholar, a doctor, a “registrar” (because he did the registration in the of the church in the book of baptisms and deaths). Since the Franciscans have carried out their activity among the parishes in the most rugged northern parts of the country, we leave the word again to Harap, who emphasizes that: “For a parishioner, life among the mountains is an ideal life, in which, he Padá, there is a chance, satisfying to enjoy the great beauties of nature, to take part among us in the essence of human life, to convey one of the cradle’s cradle to the mouth of the grave among us the convincing transformations of life, and as much as with sacrifices and sacrifices, as much as with moral and spiritual consolations, he joyfully approaches the eternal ideal. A Franciscan, therefore, who at the head of his rule has for his motto: “non solum sibi vivere, sed et aliis proficere”, to live not only for himself, but also for others, is stripped of any material interests. with the condition of freedom, a mind can do evil and strongly, but it can also do many good works for the benefit of humanity and for the awakening of virtue in the world”.

The parish cell was the “office” where the faithful went to share their daily concerns, to receive advice regarding the harsh conditions of life. The conversation with the simple people of the mountains, imagined from today’s point of view, was without a doubt a great exploration for each of the friars, who came there after long years of philosophical and theological studies from the most famous European Universities. Similarly, the sharing with the “Kambëzdath friar” of customs, traditions, rituals, superstitions, different experiences, must have been a spiritual awakening for each person who allowed himself to “confess spiritually with our ranks of life”. And this act of communication the Franciscan father, affected by this world untouched by the culture of the school and civilization, has identified as a great opportunity to make possible the identification and collection of oral folklore. They did this by going to the direct source; the older and more experienced lute-singers, who delivered the epic songs through the ancient instrument (the lute) under the timbre emitted by the horsehair string. Knowing the terrain, knowing the ethnic spirit of the race there under the mountain ridges, where the folkloric wealth was found hidden deep in the human skulls, needed recording, needed transcription, and precisely this initiative is taken by the Franciscans.

Collection of folklore

The second stage of the work was the collection of folklore. Many foreign and local researchers collected, published and studied the epic of the Kreshniks that was already facing the Slavs, legends, tales, songs, that is, a part of the reserve of oral tradition that was still alive in the Northern highlands. After Hahn, (Johann Georg von Hahn) Rainhold, (Karl Heinrich Theodor Reinhold) Dozon, (Auguste Dozon) Jarnik, (Jan Urban Jarnik) Pedersen, (Holger Pedersen) Meyer (Gustav Meyer) (all these foreigners) Jeronim de Radës (1914-1903) among Arbëresh, Thimi Mitkos (1820-1890) and Spiro Dine (1844-1922) in the south, would be Zef Jubani, (1818-1880), who published the first collection of Greek folk songs. “With the publication of Jeronim de Rada’s collection, in fact, the continuous collection and almost regular publication of Albanian popular literature with cultural, literary and scientific purposes begins.” Members of the Catholic clergy, such as Father Lovro Mihačevič o.f.m., but also Monsignor Lazer Mjeda, Dom Nikollë Gazulli, Dom Nikollë Kimza, Dom Nikollë Kaçorri, Dom Ndre Zadeja, Father Gjon Karma S.J., Father Zef Valentini S.J. Father Fulvio Cordignano S-J., Ernesto Cozzi dealt with the collection of folklore and ethnological findings, but the basic work was carried out by Franciscans such as: Father Shtjefën Gjeçovi (1874-1929), Father Vinçenc Prennushi O.F.M. (1885-1949), Father Bernardin Palaj O.F.M (1894-1947), Father Donat Kurti O.F.M. (1903-1983), Father Marin Sirdani O.F.M. (1885-1962), Father Nikola Dajçi O.F.M. Father Bernardin Llupi O.F.M. Father Simon Mikeli O.F.M. Father Leonard Shajakaj O.F.M. Father Rrok Gurashi O.F.M. but others too, would vilify this precious asset which would constitute the excellent series of several volumes of Visares Kombi. They (the Franciscans) wandered in all the geographical environments of the space where oral creativity was alive with songs, legends, tales, etc.

The initiator of this venture was without a doubt Father Shtjefën Gjeçovi, who, since he was a parish priest in Laç i Kurbin, had started tracking and collecting folk songs, legends as well as the docks and canonical customs of this province, which will follow later in Zara, Troshan, Gomsiqe and Kosovo, thus becoming the first Albanian folklorist to collect oral literature in a systematic and scientific way. In 1911, Father Vinçenc Prennushi will publish the Gegnish Folk Song. In the introduction the author says. “Well, this is my first book of the work “Visari Komtar. This lets us understand that in this publication we are dealing with a well-thought-out project, and for this project the author says: “Based on this opinion and carried out by the intention of the progress and development of the community, we have tried I collected and published my own thoughts, the songs, the canon, the tales, the prayers of the elders, the folk songs and the early beliefs of our people, both in Gegni, and in Tuscany, and among the Albanians of the exception, this work we called him “Visari Komtar”, because this will come to compile the history of Albania and to twist and shade the language, without which no one can progress, I say that history is the teacher of life and language It is the first tool of trying our thoughts and the main foundation of the community.”

In the introduction to the publication of the songs of the Kreshniks in the first issue of the magazine “Hylli i Drita” from 1924, which starts with the song: Gjeto Basho Muji. Marriage, the authors have set the preface that would be more or less that of the Preface of the 1937 edition. But it is noted that they have removed a fragment that is missing in the preface of the integral edition, which is implied through the ellipsis. The authors tell us that Gjeçov’s project started by himself, in 1905, they continued by starting it in 1919.

This is how the authors express themselves: “We Franciscans of Albania had this need even before “Hylli i Drita” was published, because as early as 1911 we started collecting and, under the name “Visari Komtar”, we published the first collection of poems of folk dances, we even had enough material for the publication of the second volume; Very difficult times are coming, so not only that the work we started was not continued, but, moreover, we had the risk of losing a large part of the material we gathered for this purpose. So, because the price of our collaborators is very high, there is still other material after the publication of books in Albania, like everywhere else, is too expensive, so let’s start with (p. 33) the temporary publication of the folklore to choose our people, I will tell you about the songs of the Kreshniks or the rhapsodies and legends of our country. We are sure that our dear readers will be grateful for this work, and we hope that someone will join us in this work, please collect and send it to us wherever you are. to have been published until now, and we have them published under the name of delegates. But it begs more, so that the name of the one from whom the song was written, as well as the name of the country where this song was found among the people, is also published. Therefore, we are asking everyone who has the kindness to cooperate with us in this very necessary work, do not forget this work, moreover, for what can be done, clarify the text with any comments for what it concerns especially mythologjís, êmnas and docks of the country. And for this, I would like to remind our kind-hearted readers how important their collaboration is in this historical work, that is why I want to talk more about the source of these rhapsodies and legends. historical perspective. Another time we will take it from a psychological point of view, so that this publication is as complete and interesting as possible. “We brought the above quote, because in the integral edition of these songs of the Kreshniks, in 1937, we do not find it.

Folklore edition

In the conditions of the interruption of the natural flow of written literature, (we are talking here about the old Albanian literature), a kind of compensation in the literary culture was made by the oral tradition, also known as popular literature, which, however, had remained untouched by the culture of school.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Albanian literature was not very different from folklore, because it was transmitted and consumed mainly orally, in forms similar to those of songs, legends, fairy tales, and written texts circulated in closed environments, which were considered elite. The publication of the folklore material of the Franciscans was first made in Faik Konica’s Albania magazine, in which Father Shtjefën Gjeçovi published, while then, as we mentioned above, the publication was systematically carried out in Hylli i Drita Magazine. Six volumes have arrived as separate publications from the Franciscans, which we are listing according to the chronology of the publication as follows: In 1911, Father Vinçenc Prennushi publishes Kangë folkloric Gegnishte; in 1926, Father Marin Sirdani published Skandërbeg according to oral tradition, in 1933, the posthumous publication of Father Shtjefën Gjeçov came out with the title of the Canon of Lekë Dukagjin; in 1937 Father Bernardin Palaj & Father Donat Kurti publish Kangë kreshnikesh e legenda; and then we have two publications by Father Donat Kurti with the title Prralla komtare. Volume I, which had 52 tales and was first published in 1940 and then reprinted in 1942, as was the second volume which had 52 more tales and was published together with the reprint of the first volume in 1942.

The study of folklore

The Franciscans were not only simple collectors of songs, but also connoisseurs of the technique of recording them, connoisseurs of different variants (sisterhoods) of the same song and in general of the biology and morphology of this folk singing technique. They recorded the names of the singers as well as the recording location. As the author Father Vinçenc Prennushi claims, in his preface, whose authorship has been quite controversial, it appears that “All the books of this book were collected in the lands of Shkoder, in the province of Peja, in “Mirdite, in Kthella and on the Mata Coast.” Palaj Kurti collected the material in Upper Curraj (Mëhill Prêka, Mirash Gjoni, Dede Zefi, Lulash Zefi and Shan Zefi), Thet (Marash Sokoli, Gjergj Pllumi), Shosh (Mirash Ndou), Selcë (Pál Buli), Kastrat (Palok Ujka), Mertúr, Dushman (Tomë Sokoli), Vukël (Dodë Nikollë Loshi), Shale (Marash Nika), Vermosh (Zef Luca), Nikaj ( Gjokë Sadiku) etc. Father Marin Sirdani collected the traditional stories and songs about Skanderbeg in Mat (Rranxa) Kurbin e Krujë (p. I), the province in which Sirdani emphasizes “I, who was found in those stories for several years, often felt from one time from the other, word of mouth. “Donat Kurti tells us that: “Most of these tales were collected in Dukagjin, some in Malcí te Madhe and some in Shestan.” So this was the geographical area that the Franciscans “pruned”. All published songs are preceded by the argument, which at the top of the time is a summary retelling of the content of the lyrics of the songs, but a good part of these arguments have preliminary explanatory data, information, historical, ethnographic, literary-linguistic analysis and aesthetic quite useful and of primary importance to anyone who will make these songs the object of study. The arguments of the songs of Gjergj Alez Alija and Muji e Behuri are presented interestingly. The field work process is also interesting. Palaj and Kurti state that: “Each rhapsode, before singing the song, has a habit of singing the argument long and like in a legend, which is many times more poetic than the rhapsody itself. I went to the rhapsody of the old man from the tribe of Nikaj, that’s why, every time I begged him to dictate any rhapsody, he didn’t miss a phrase from the previous call. As a young singer, he knew the text of the rhapsody by heart. To be emphasized is this fact, that when they take the lute in their hands, they have an interesting audience, at that time their vivid fantasy of the rhapsody is more beautiful than when they are dictating. I have no other way to save the legend with all the poetry, but write me the song once and then they gave me the lute and I did the reprimands.”

In the foreword of the joint volume, Palaj and Kurti prove that they know the folklore theories of the time, the theoretical schools as well as their most vocal representatives quite well. This is noticed when the names of Fridrich von Leyen, Basile, Perrault, Klement Brentano and Luddwig Tieck, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, Kristensen, Afanasjev, E. Costquin, G. Pitrè, Anti Asbjornson, Paul Zaumert, August Dozon, Gjeçovi, Maksimilian are cited. Lambertz Hahn, Pedersen, Giuseppe Schiro, A. Baldacci, Margaret M. Hasluck, etc. Researchers Max Müller, Theodor Benfey, Köhler, Tylor, Jakob, etc.

Likewise, Fishta’s preface to Lekë Dukagjin’s Canon, which would “define” folklore thus far, has remained authoritative: “Folklore” is the clear reflection of the psyche of the community; It is a marble slab, with which history carves out the wandering and healthy peoples; it is the inexhaustible source of language and literature. “Folklore”, yes, you will describe it, if you wanted to write the story of the comic, which I guess is not written, but even without it, there is no life; You will behave to “folklore”, if you want to add to the richness of the language with catchy words, expressive phraseology, vivid, dramatic examples; in “folklore” again, there are more high types, more strong characters, and more future and tangible motives for the development of folk literature.” And, further, he would explain to us that: “Albanian Franciscans have one thing in common, that they are among the first in Albania to feel the need to collect the “folklore” of the region; and among these, here is the first one – light after! – Át Shtjefen Const. Gjeçov, with diligence, enthusiasm and patience put his work to it. After completing his studies and taking the Orders of the Priest, this excellent Franciscan once began to collect folk songs and dances, fairy tales, mythological superstitions, sayings, old sayings, games, puns, words synonyms etr. of our people. Even after a few years, he put together quite a large folklore material. Frančeskâjt, at that time, built within his circle the work “Visari Komtar”, to collect and publish “folklore”, in which work all civilian boys, enthusiastic patriots from Shkodra took part. Also in 1910, the first edition of this folklore collection was published, under the title “Visari Komtar” consisting of songs, folk dances and children’s dances, compiled – especially by A. Shtjefen Gjeçov – on the side of Gegni. – This work would have followed its publications methodically, but the uprisings, the wars, the difficult times came and it was not published, I bought it somewhere else, I lost most of the collected material. During this time A. Sh. Gjeçov, who always followed with an unparalleled patience among his folkloristic works, had gathered a lot of material on the Canon of Lekë Dukagjini: when Françeskâjt (1913) built the temporary “Hylli i Drita”, he started publishing it number by number its own interpretations and interpretations of the canon.”

In conclusion, we emphasize that the research, collection, publication and study of the folklore of the Franciscan fathers, but also of archaeological, museum and ethnological values, marks an important cornerstone in the Albanian sciences, which will constantly require further recognition, as their research is based on essentially on the Albanian cultural identity, it turned into a project which saw the Albanian from himself, from his being, and this is what makes the Franciscan fathers special.

Kastriot MARKU

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