Gábor Sipos: The Life Style of the Protestant Intelligentsia in Transylvania in the Seventeenth-Eighteenth Centuries (p. 91-102)


The ecclesiastic and secular intelligentsia - administration officials, diplomats, clergymen, teachers, schoolmasters, economic and financial experts etc. - stemming from the lower ranks of the landed gentry, commoners, yeomen or serfs, who made a living and had achieved high social position, at least partly due to their learning and qualifications, have come to occupy increasingly more important social positions in Transylvania in the early modern age. They constituted an intermediary social group in the principality which, thanks to its greater mobility and more widespread network of relations, managed to connect the various layers of Transylvanian society. Within this group the Protestant clergymen, teachers and schoolmasters form a sizeable majority. In his study, Gábor Sipos proposes to survey the main perspectives of the study of lifestyle with regard to the Protestant (Calvinist) intelligentsia, as well as to illustrate it with examples.

The youth of non-noble birth embarking on an ecclesiastic career became, through their profession, members of the privileged class; however, the juridical status of their offspring remained unresolved. The 1629 diploma of Prince Gábor Bethlen marked the apex of a social phenomenon long in progress and ultimately established: according to this diploma, the offspring of ministers, independently of their fathers' origin, fully adhered to the gentry. Ministers' sons usually attended college themselves and, having completed their studies, they either took up the profession of their fathers or became secular professionals. This channel of social progress was well-established and functioned throughout the seventeenth century, amounting to the (partial) self-reproduction of the intelligentsia. As examples of this rise in status one may cite the family history of Sándor Kovásznai, professor of the Târgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely) Protestant College whose father, Kelemen Kovásznai Tóth, came from a tenant peasant family at the very outset of the eighteenth century. János Apáczai Csere was himself the son of a former pauper of Barca-Apáca, but he had risen from this status, gaining a doctorate in theology and a professorship at Cluj (Kolozsvár). We can also detect traces of the gentry and ministry in the lineage of the Szathmári Pap dynasty of intellectuals. A similar phenomenon can be observed in the history of the Pataki dynasty of physicians. Based on these examples, the author argued that these genealogies of intellectuals show the traditional importance of learning, of achieving high qualification, highlighting especially the role of university training abroad - the so-called peregrinations. After they have finished their college or university education, the next step in their life was settling down and founding a family. The lifestyle of the families of ecclesiastic intellectuals did not differ greatly from the lifestyle of families of similar financial means. From the peculiarities of the intellectuals' lifestyle, in the author's opinion the collecting of books can be considered as the most characteristic.

            In his conclusions, Sipos argues that the seventeenth - eighteenth century Transylvanian intelligentsia was not merely the receiver of contemporary European spiritual movements, but their active follower, disseminator and adapter. Thus, they contributed, as receivers and mediators, to the general social recognition of creative intellectual work. Besides these, the benefic, close relationship of ecclesiastic intelligentsia with the upper, wealthier classes made it possible for new works to be published.