Category: Religion in the Basque Country

February 16, 2015: First edition of rare Basque manuscript discovered

Cover of Dotrina christiana (first edition, 1617), by Esteve Materra. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On February 16, 2015 it was announced that a unique first edition of Esteve Materra’s Doctrina Christiana (Christian Doctrine, Bordeaux, 1617) had been discovered in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark. The discovery was made by the Aziti Bihia linguists’ and philologists’ association, a group of doctoral students at the University of the Basque Country whose interests lay predominantly in historical linguistics linked to Basque philology. The young people involved in the find were Borja Ariztimuño, Dorota Krajewska, Urtzi Reguero, Ekaitz Santazilia, Oxel Uribe-Etxeberria, and Eneko Zuloaga.

Flyer to promote the official announcement of the find, February 16, 2015. From the Aziti Bihia website.

Doctrina Christiana was one of the first ever books published in Euskara, the Basque language, and is written in classical Lapurdian. Its author, Esteve Materra (or possibly Materre), was a Franciscan monk and abbot of the La Réole monastery in southwestern France when the book was first published, although by the time it went to a second edition (1623) he had moved to the Franciscan monastery in Toulouse. Although not a native Basque-speaker, Materra spent some time in Sara, Lapurdi, where he had been sent at the height of the Counter Reformation to bolster the rearguard action of the Roman Catholic Church, including in its Inquisition policy. In barely twelve months in the Basque Country he learned Basque, although the very clarity and perfection of the text makes the members of Aziti Bihia suspect that he may have received help in writing it. Masterra himself notes in the prologue to the book that he was aided by Axular. Pedro Axular (1556-1664) was the parish priest of Sara and author of the first great literary text in Basque, Guero (1643). Whatever the case, the book is an important work when it comes to understanding the historical development of written Basque.

The first edition of the work is relatively simple in appearance, as if written for children or young people, in question and answer style; by the second edition, however, an additional section had been added, specifically for seafarers, and the work as a whole was more serious in tone and longer. This is important because originally the Aziti Bihia group had been working on transcribing the second edition of 1623, a copy of which is housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, before stumbling across a reference to the earlier edition in Denmark.

For more information on the text itself (including transcriptions) click here at the Aziti Bihia website.

 

Aita Antton’s visit to the CBS

Last Wednesday morning, the CBS had a surprise visit from Aita Antton, the Basque chaplain in the Diocese of Boise. He came to Reno in order meet the wider Basque-American society here in Nevada, providing pastoral and sacramental attention to many of the elderly in our community. He also held a meet and greet at Louis’ Basque Corner on the very same day. He received a warm welcome from everyone who were very pleased to make his acquaintance.

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Aita Antton has filled this position after a five-year vacancy, and he plans to carry on the tradition, encouraging and aiding in the spiritual life of Basques across the United States. From 1911-2009, the Diocese of Bayonne sent a priest to fulfill this symbolic position for the Basque-American community. After Fr. Martxel Tillous’ death in 2009, the diocese was no longer able to spare any priests. It’s only by chance that Aita Antton learned of the position. One day, as he was listening to the radio on a drive through Iparralde to his hometown of Bidegoian/Bidania-Goiatz (Gipuzkoa), he came across a program about the history of Basque chaplains in the United States, which commented on the end of the tradition. This sparked his interest in the position. “This started me thinking and I said to myself ‘why not me?’ I only had a few years left before retiring and I always wanted, not to go back to the Basque Country, but to serve Basques somewhere else.” This revelation led him to get in contact with NABO and the Bishop of Idaho, and the rest is history.

 

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Fr. Antton has quite the impressive C.V. Born in 1953, he took his vows as a Franciscan monk in 1979 and was ordained the following year. His missionary work has taken him around the world, especially in Asia, working and teaching in Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and China. Before coming to the United States, he was teaching in Belgium. He has a PhD in Theology, and has worked as an anthropologist, specializing in comparative religion. He speaks 10 languages: Basque, Spanish, French, and English as well as Chinese, Korean, Thai, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. He has written on his experience in his book True Confucians, Bold Christians: Korean Missionary Experience, a Model for the Third Millennium, published by Rodopi Press. He is sure to be an asset to the Basque community, both spiritually and intellectually.

Visit Aita Antton’s website at: http://basquecatholic.org/

For more information about the history of Basque chaplains in the United States, visit:  http://www.nabasque.org/chaplains.html

(Quote from an interview with Joseba Etxarri for www.euskalkultura.com

November 16, 1528: Birth of Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre

Born on November 16, 1528, to Marguerite of Angoulême and King Henry II of Navarre, Jeanne d’Albret would eventually become not only an important historical figure in general in her role as the spiritual and political leader of the Protestant Huguenots but also a major personality in Basque history for introducing the Protestant faith into the Basque Country and sponsoring the publication of a key text in the Basque language. Besides all this, she also stands out for being a strong, forthright woman leader of a significant sixteenth-century European power, the Kingdom of Navarre.

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Jeanne d’Albert (1528-1572), Queen of Navarre, c. late-16th century. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jeanne married Antoine de Bourbon, the Duke of Vendôme, in 1548 and, on Henry II’s death in 1555, they were crowned joint rulers of Navarre. Influenced by her mother, she had taken an early interest in humanism and individual liberty, which led ultimately to her conversion to Calvinism in 1560. Jeanne d’Albert was a hands-on ruler, with a sharp intellect and a conviction in her beliefs. As Queen of Navarre between 1555 and 1572 (and Queen Regnant on the death of her husband in 1562), as well as carrying out a series of important economic and judicial reforms, she made Calvinism the official religion of her territories. To this end, she commissioned the priest and Protestant-convert Joannes Leizarraga (1506-1601), himself a central figure in Basque letters and one of the first people to attempt to create a standardized version of the Basque language, to translate the New Testament into Basque. This was eventually published under the title Iesus Christ Gure Iaunaren Testamentu Berria (The New Testament of Jesus Christ our Lord) in 1571.

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The New Testament, as translated into Basque by Joannes Leizarraga (1571). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Her attempts to instill Calvinism in her lands led to a series of religious wars throughout the 1560s, during which her husband Antoine was fatally wounded in 1562, with pressure applied on her by the surrounding Catholic monarchs, Charles IX of France and Philip II of Spain. These wars culminated in the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1570), whereby hostilities would end, Jeanne’s son,  Henry, would marry the French King Charles IX’s Catholic sister Marguerite, and the Protestant Huguenots would have the right to hold public office in France, a privilege which they had previously been denied. Jeanne died in June 1572, two months before her son’s marriage. On her death, he became King Henry III of Navarre; and in 1589 he ascended the French throne as Henry IV, founding the Bourbon royal house that came to dominate both France and, ultimately, Spain.

Jeanne d’Albret left her mark on Basque history in many ways. She ranks as a strong-willed ruler with a clear vision of how she wanted to reform the society over which she ruled. She held strong humanist values that championed individual freedom and she did all she could to try and instill those values on those around her. And, it should be remembered, she was responsible for commissioning one of the most important historical publications in and contributions to the development of the Basque language.

Further reading:

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/protestant/a/jeanne_dalbret.htm

http://www.reformed.org/webfiles/antithesis/index.html?mainframe=/webfiles/antithesis/v1n2/ant_v1n2_royalty.html

In The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and Their Traditions, Philippe Veyrin discusses the impact of Jeanne d’Albret, especially with regard to her religious reform, at length.