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Primus Truber, the Slovenian Luther PDF Print E-mail
Important Slavic Protestant Reformers

Primoz TrubarThe accomplishments of Protestant Reformer and author Primus Truber (Primož Trubar, 1508–1586) are of outstanding importance for Slovenian culture. He was the author of the first books in Slovenian (Abecedarium and Catechismus, 1550) and the first translator of the Bible (Psalms, 1566; the complete New Testament, 1582) into Slovenian. Today Truber is considered to be the founder of Slovenian literature and of the modern Slovenian language, having developed its theological and juridical terminology.

He played an important role in helping to establish and run the Slavic Protestant printing press in Urach, where some of his books were printed. Altogether, he published about 30 works between 1550 and 1586, mostly in Slovenian but also in German. Among them was the first printing of Slovenian music.

 
Truber's life journey

Truber was born in the village of Rašica, 17 miles south of the present-day Slovenian capital, Ljubljana on 9 June 1508. The reconstructed home of the family was turned into a Memorial House in 1986, for the 400th anniversary of his death and can be visited today. Truber’s father, Miha was a miller whose piety Primus observed as a child and later wrote about. He sent his son to be educated first in Fiume (Rijeka) in the fall of 1520 or at the beginning of 1521, then at the school of St. Peter’s Benedictine Monastery in Salzburg, where Primus remained for three years. During this time Primus sang in the choir, both at church and in the streets, in order to support himself. It was here that he met Bishop Peter Bonomo (1458–1546) from Trieste, who invited Truber to come and be a singer in the bishop’s choir and an attendant of his, while continuing his education. His studies in that environment, influenced by the Renaissance and humanism, included theological training and deepening his knowledge of languages.

At the beginning of 1528 Truber was sent to continue his studies at the University of Vienna. Soon after his arrival he witnessed the burning at the stake of the Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier and the drowning of his wife, which left a deep impression on him and contributed to his later conversion to Protestantism. He was forced to leave Vienna around Easter 1529, as the army of the Turkish Sultan Suleiman I was beginning to lay siege to the city. Truber returned to Trieste, where in 1530 he was ordained for the priesthood by Bishop Bonomo. His first parish was Laško in Slovenia. During his pastorate he started reading literature written by Luther and the Swiss Reformers. All this reading, together with the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam, which were already familiar to him from his time in Trieste, began impacting his theology. Truber was invited to become preacher at St. Nicholas Cathedral Church in the city of Ljubljana in 1536. There he was advocating religious, moral and institutional renewal within the church and maintained contact with Protestant laypeople in the city. In the 1540s Truber began serving Communion in both Catholic and Protestant ways in Ljubljana. As a result of the Protestants’ defeat in the Schmalcaldic War (1547), the Catholic position was strengthened and at this point the Catholic bishop in Ljubljana, Urban Textor, who was trying to rid his territory of any influence of reform-minded priests, exiled Truber from Slovenia in March 1548. He escaped to Nuremberg, where preacher Dietrich Veit (1506-1549) offered him refuge. It was only then that Truber officially left the Catholic Church and joined Lutheranism.
Upon Veit’s recommendation Truber was given a preaching post in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is where he got inspired to share the message of the Reformation with his fellow nationals in Slovenian. As he later wrote, “The great love and worship that I harbor for you (my countrymen), and the grace given to me by God, my priesthood, this calling and God’s commandment force and urge me to do this.” As a result, the first book in the Slovenian language, Catechismus was printed in 1550. Drawing on a variety of sources, including Martin Luther’s and Johannes Brenz’s catechisms, it contained a litany, hymns, Bible expositions, and also a sermon on the true faith by Matthias Flacius Illyricus, taken from his master’s thesis. Soon afterwards, Truber published his second work, Abecedarium, a spelling book meant to teach people to read Slovenian. With these two publications, Truber established the basis for the Slovenian literary language. After five years spent in Rothenburg, where he got married and his first son, Primus Jr. was born he moved south, closer to his homeland. Truber then became pastor in Kempten, where he served from 1553 to 1561.
Already in 1555 Truber began to correspond with Heinrich Bullinger in Zurich at the request of Pietro Paolo Vergerio the younger. Vergerio had talked to Gessner, a publisher in Zurich about printing the whole New Testament in the Slovenian language. Even though those plans fell through, Truber kept his correspondence with Bullinger and was also reading his works.
At the end of 1559 Truber got caught the middle of the Sacramentarian controversy and he was accused of being a Crypto-Calvinist (there were some major differences in understanding of the Lord’s Supper between the Calvinist/Reformed and Lutheran camps). As a result, Duke Christopher of Württemberg forbade Truber from publishing and ordered a detailed check of all of his previous publications to establish if there was any hint of Zwinglian spiritual understanding of the Lord’s Supper in them. Truber then recanted and confessed that he believed in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Communion (which was the Lutheran understanding).
While making plans to return to Slovenia, he began his cooperation with Baron Hans Ungnad in Urach. The Duke allowed Truber to have a parish there and to establish a printing press for Slovenian and Croatian books. Truber lived in Urach for only a year and then he accepted a call to become the first general superintendent in Ljubljana, from where he was exiled a second time in 1565.
Truber returned to Germany again, taking a pastorate in Lauffen am Neckar for a year and in 1566 published his Slovenian translation of the Psalms. He then settled in Derendingen, a suburb of Tübingen, where he served as the pastor while continuing to write books and translate. When the Book of Concord was published in Tübingen in 1580, Truber sent his son Felician (1555-1602) to the Austrian and Slovenian lands to solicit the support and signatures of the local clergy. Truber died on 28 June 1586 at the age of 78. Jakob Andreae preached the sermon at his funeral. He is buried in the graveyard of the St.-Gallus-Kirche and an epitaph in the church pays tribute to his life.
Two of Truber’s sons followed in their father’s footsteps: Primus, Jr. (1550-1591), who became pastor in Kilchberg, and Felician, who just like his father, was superintendent of Ljubljana from 1591 to 1599 and died as a pastor in Grüntal.

THE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF TRUBER’S BIRTH

June 2008 marked the quincentennial of Truber’s birth, which was commemorated in many different ways throughout the year in the Republic of Slovenia, Germany and beyond. UNESCO placed this event onto its list of significant anniversaries and in May the European Central Bank put into circulation one million commemorative EUR 2 coins bearing Truber’s image. Slovenia also issued a postal stamp honouring Truber. The jubilee year was inaugurated by the country’s president on 7 February 2008, unveiling a bust of Truber at the National and University Library in Ljubljana. Numerous exhibitions, conferences, concerts, excursions and other special events were organized to celebrate the anniversary, which took place during Slovenia’s six-month turn at the rotating presidency of the European Union. Even a documentary film has been produced about Truber’s life. Tuber’s image had previously been featured on the old Slovenian currency, the tolar.

See Luka Ilić, "Primus Truber (1508-1586), the Slovenian Luther," Lutheran Quarterly XXII/3 (Autumn 2008): 268-277.

Works:

- Katekizam (1550) – The first book ever printed in Slovenian. It was inspired by a variety of sources, including Luther’s and Brenz’s catechisms. The book contains a litany, hymns, Bible expositions and also a text by Matthias Flacius Illyricus about the true faith, taken from his master’s thesis.
- Abecedarij (1550) – This spelling book was meant to teach people read Slovenian.
- Ta evangeli sv. Matevža (1555) – The Gospel of Matthew.
- Ena molitov tih krščenikov, kir so zavolo te prave vere v Jezusa Kristusa pregnani (1555).
- Ta prvi dejl tiga noviga testamenta (1557) – The first part of the New Testament in Slovenian.
- Ta slovenski koledar (1557).
- En regišter…Ena kratka postila (1558).
- Ta drugi dejl tiga noviga testamenta (1560) – The second part of the New Testament in Slovenian.
- Sv. Pavla ta dva listi (1561).
- Artikuli oli dejli te prave stare vere krščanske (1562).
- Cerkovna ordninga (1564) – Church Order. Most copies of this book were destroyed in the 16th century as a result of the persecution against Truber and his works. When its last known copy burned to ashes during the bombing of Dresden in 1945, it was thought that this outstanding work was lost forever. It was in 1971 that a German, Christoph Weismann, found a copy of it in the Vatican Library. This valuable tome left the Vatican for the first time in 2008 when it was on loan for three months at the University Library in Ljubljana for an exhibition honouring the 500th anniversary of Truber’s birth.
- Ta celi psalter Davidov (1566).
- Ta celi Katehismus (1567).
- Sv. Pavla listuvi (1567).
- Ena duhovska pesem (1567).
- Eni psalmi (1567).
- Tri duhovske pejsni (1575).
- Noviga testamenta pusledni dejl (1577).
- Ta prvi psalm ž nega trijemi izlogami (1579).
- Ta celi novi testament (1582).
- Hišna postila (1595) – A translation of Luther’s Postille which was published posthumously by Truber’s son, Felicijan.