An Unconsidered Source for Understanding the Cecilian Movement in Slovenia: Polemic Stands of Stanislav Škrabec


  • Katarina Bedina



Between the monthlies Cvetje z vrtov sv. Frančiška (Flowers from the Gardens of St. Franciscus) and Cerkveni glasbenik (Church Musician) there came in 1884 to a violent ideological dispute about Cecilian singing. It was started by Stanislav Škrabec, the editor of Cvetje, Father as well as outstanding nationalist from the monastery at Konstanjevica near Gorica. In his article "Notes Concerning the Ritual Book of the Third Order" (in Slovene) he launched an attack on the Cecilian movement on the Slovene soil, denouncing it as an immense aberration and stating that it was in a planned way ousting the Slovene language through the officially dictated use of Latin in church service and thereby also the ancient right of the believers to sing and to pray in the vernacular. S. Škrabec believed that it would be possible to carry out the idea of the church reform without forcefully imposing on people a language not understood by them if the domestic church authorities should procure from the Pope a special permission for a continued legitimity of Slovene in church service. The condition for such a permission was represented by the ages-long tradition of folk singing, at least from the year 1372 onwards. Škrabec "reminded" the church authorities that such a tradition existed among Slovenes, that it had lasted since the time of St. Cyril and St. Method for a thousand years now. On behalf of Cerkveni glasbenik it was now J. (Janez?) Borovski, a fanatical Cecilian, who entered into fierce and potentially dangerous polemics against him. Borovski was of a lower intelecutal stature than the attacker, moreover he wanted to dismiss Škrabec's substantial arguments in a quick way, referring to the absolute obedience to the ecclesiastic decrees from Rome. The dispute went on for two years. After the reply from Škrabec, Cecilians advised Borovski to stop. But he raised his voice again: once more in an offensive and biting tone, without convincing counter-arguments. Also on this occasion he failed to say that Škrabec was reproaching Cecilians for the Slovene submissivenss to the German idea of Cecilianism rather than for obedience to the papal doctrines. Škrabec followed up the repeated challenge in an exhaustive way, in three continuations. Yet again he systematically refuted the misinterpretation of his own words and thoughts and denounced the opponent as a perfidious person and a pharisee who should have revoked his ill-grounded reproaches. He himself did not demand repealing, as he regarded Borovski as a fanatic, ideological zealot. In his struggle against Cecilian singing Škrabec enjoyed considerable vocal and quiet support. Secular writers were all the time scandalized by the pointless and politically harmful Latinization of the church rituals. Clerics from the high to the lowest degree in church hierarchy did not dare to join in a loud protest but many among them managed to find various excuses for folk singing in the native language. Clearly above this average rose Father Škrabec: he dared at a very early stage to predict the decline of the Cecilian mentality.


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1. 12. 1994




How to Cite

Bedina, K. (1994). An Unconsidered Source for Understanding the Cecilian Movement in Slovenia: Polemic Stands of Stanislav Škrabec. Musicological Annual, 30(1), 65-70.