Digital Data and Prosopography: Preliminary Results of the DaT18 Database

15 December 2021

Author Radu Nedici, University of Bucharest

In terms of the naked figures, the public rise of the Greek Orthodox Church in mid-eighteenth-century Transylvania happened at an impressive pace. Between Empress Maria Theresa’s decree on toleration (1759) and the subsequent appointment of Dionisije Novaković to head the newly recognized religious body (1761), more than half a million people openly identified themselves as Greek Orthodox in nearly 1,000 parishes. While convincing explanations have already been given for why this religious choice had proved so successful, the questions connected to the creation of the rural clerical elite in only a matter of years still ask for answers.

Reconstructing the collective biography of this social group was the main objective of a research project titled ‘Dissent and toleration in Habsburg Transylvania: A socio-political history of the Orthodox protests (1740s–1760s)’. The records created by the Habsburg state and those internal to the Transylvanian diocese provide historians with just enough elements to use prosopography as an investigative tool for better describing the Orthodox rural elites. A relational database available online since early 2020 on the project’s website ( allows the piecing together of the scattered information concerning clerical careers, thus escaping the gaps in knowledge that have until now plagued our understanding.

This data sample is to be interrogated in order to answer two main questions: (i) to what extent was the rise of the Orthodox clergy the result of religious conflict? and (ii) how did this new elite make the transition from the age of contention to the free exercise of religious belief, given the institutional changes of the early 1760s? The DaT18 database enables complex analyses on close to 1,700 individuals identified after record linkage, which contribute to a deeper understanding about the time and place of their ordination, the consecrating bishop, labour migration and the clergy turnover rates during the 1760s, in turn raising new research questions.

clergy database, digital prosopography, statistical analysis, Greek Orthodox Church, Transylvania

[1] Ovidiu Ghitta, Nașterea unei Biserici. Biserica greco-catolică din Sătmar în primul ei secol de existență (1667-1761) [The Birth of a Church. The Greek Catholic Church in Sătmar in Its First Century of Existence (1667-1761)] (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2001); Greta-Monica Miron, Biserica Greco-Catolică din comitatul Cluj în secolul al XVIII-lea [The Greek Catholic Church in Cluj County in the 18th Century] (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2007); Greta-Monica Miron, Viață parohială și diversitate confesională în Transilvania secolului al XVIII-lea. Studiu de caz: Uniți și ortodocși din comitatul Dăbâca [Parish Life and Confessional Diversity in Eighteenth-Century Transylvania. Case Study: Uniate and Orthodox from Dăbâca County] (Cluj-Napoca: Mega, 2015); Radu Nedici, Formarea identității confesionale greco-catolice în Transilvania veacului al XVIII-lea: Biserică și comunitate [The Formation of the Greek-Catholic Confessional Identity in Eighteenth-Century Transylvania: Church and Community] (Bucharest: Editura Universității din București, 2013).

[2] Silviu Dragomir, Istoria desrobirei religioase a românilor din Ardeal în secolul XVIII [The History of the Religious Emancipation of the Romanians from Transylvania in the 18th Century], 2 vols. (Sibiu: Editura și Tiparul Tipografiei Arhidiecezane, 1920-1930); Mircea Păcurariu, Legăturile Bisericii Ortodoxe din Transilvania cu Țara Românească și Moldova în secolele XVI-XVIII [The Connections of the Transylvanian Orthodox Church with Wallachia and Moldavia in the 16th-18th Centuries] (Sibiu: s.n., 1968); Silviu Anuichi, Relațiile bisericești românosârbe în secolele al XVIIlea și al XVIIIlea [Romanian-Serbian Church Relations in the 17th and 18th Centuries] (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Biblic și de Misiune al Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, 1980); Keith Hitchins, The Idea of Nation: The Romanians of Transylvania, 1691-1849 (Bucharest: Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, 1985); Mihai Săsăujan, Politica bisericească a Curții din Viena în Transilvania (1740-1761) [The Church Policy of the Court of Vienna in Transylvania (1740-1761)] (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2002); Johann Marte et al., ed., Die Union der Rumänen Siebenbürgens mit der Kirche von Rom / Unirea românilor transilvăneni cu Biserica Romei, vol. 2 (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 2015).

[3] Greta-Monica Miron, “Acțiune ortodoxă – acțiune catolică. Efectele mișcării lui Visarion Sarai în Hunedoara, Hațeg, Zarand și Alba” [Orthodox Action - Catholic Action. The Effects of Visarion Sarai’s Movement in Hunedoara, Hațeg, Zarand and Alba], Studia hi. 50, 2 (2005): 1-36.

[4] Miron, Biserica din comitatul Cluj, 78; Miron, Viață parohială și diversitate confesională, 90-92.

[5] See the conditions imposed upon the bishop in 1762, Augustin Bunea, Episcopii Petru Paul Aron și Dionisiu Novacovici sau istoria românilor transilvăneni de la 1751 pănă la 1764 [Bishops Petru Paul Aron and Dionisiu Novacovici or the History of the Transylvanian Romanians from 1751 to 1764] (Blaj: Tipografia Seminarului Archidiecesan, 1902), 244, footnote 1. For the debates on his appointment, see Dragomir, Istoria desrobirei, 2: 73-83; Săsăujan, Politica bisericească, 209-211.

[6] Virgil Ciobanu, “Statistica românilor ardeleni din anii 1760-1762” [The Statistics of Transylvanian Romanians from 1760-1762], AIIN 3 (1924-1925): 699.

[7] “DaT18 Database”, last accessed 10.08.2021,

[8] Radu Nedici, “DaT18 Database: A Prosopographical Approach to the Study of the Social Structures of Religious Dissent in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Transylvania,” Studia dig. 65, 1 (2020): 53-69.

[9] Ibid., 61-64.

[10] See, e.g., “DaT18 Database,” DaT18ID 973, 1014.

[11] Dragomir, Istoria desrobirei, 2, 110-115.

[12] General Buccow to Bishop Novaković, 2 October 1761, Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár, Országos Levéltára, Erdélyi országos kormányhatósági levéltárak, Erdélyi kincstári levéltár, Erdélyi fiscalis levéltár (hereafter: MNL OL, F234), case XX, fasc. 1, fol. 34r; General Buccow to Bishop Novaković, 13 November 1761, MNL OL, F234, case XX, fasc. 1, fol. 33r; General Hadik to Bishop Novaković, 19 April 1765, MNL OL, F234, case XX, fasc. 6, fol. 6r-v.

[13] The release of the Orthodox priests from paying the poll tax already figured among the topics agreed upon by General Buccow and Sofronie from Cioara in a meeting in late April or early May 1761, Nicolae Iorga, Sate și preoți din Ardeal [Villages and Priests from Transylvania] (Bucharest: Carol Göbl, 1902), 259; see the original, MNL OL, F234, case XX, fasc. 9, fol. 21r-v. The provision was included in the investiture decree of November 1762, Bunea, Episcopii Aron și Novacovici, 246, in the footnote.

[14] Bunea, Episcopii Aron și Novacovici, 242-243; MNL OL, F234, case XX, fasc. 18, fol. 44r-v.

[15] The itinerary planned by the authorities, MNL OL, F234, case XX, fasc. 10, bundle 2, unnumbered leaf. An incomplete account on the route and calendar of the visitation, MNL OL, F234, case XX, fasc. 18, fols. 21r-22r.

[16] A largescale investigation to uncover the money left after the bishop’s death produced significant evidence on how he made his fortune in Transylvania. The testimonies collected by the fiscal authorities during the hearing of 24 witnesses in 1768 in Sibiu and Rășinari also provide plenty of details about the interactions with his Romanian subjects. Their publication will follow soon.

[17] For an overview of these measures, see Daniel Dumitran, “Forme ale definirii identitare în Transilvania veacului al XVIII-lea. Introducere la critica imaginii istoriografice a românilor neuniți (II)” [Forms of Defining Identity in Eighteenth-Century Transylvania. Introduction to the Critique of the Historiographical Image of Non-Uniate Romanians (II)], Apulum 50, 1 (2013): 185-190.

[18] Miron, “Acțiune ortodoxă – acțiune catolică,” 8-11, 18.

[19] Daniel Dumitran, “Rezistența ortodoxă împotriva unirii religioase în Brașov și Țara Bârsei” [The Orthodox Resistance Against Religious Union in Brașov and Burzenland], AUA hist. 9, 2 (2005): 57.

[20] For books printed in Bucharest, see Daniela Lupu, Tiparul și cartea din Țara Românească în epoca domniilor fanariote [The Printing Press and the Book from Wallachia in the Time of the Phanariot Rulers] (Bucharest: Muzeul Municipiului București, 2014), 100-107; Ioana Cristache Panait, Circulația cărții vechi bucureștene în Transilvania [The Circulation of the Old Bucharest Book in Transylvania] (Bucharest: Editura Biblioteca București, 1998).

[21] Mihai Săsăujan, “Der Übergang Olteniens unter die Österreichische Herrschaft und der Kirchlichen Jurisdiktion des Bistums Râmnic unter die ‘Nicht-Unierten’ (d.h. Orthodoxen) aus Südsiebenbürgen in der Zeit der Österreichischen Herrschaft 1718-1739,” in Marte et al., ed., Die Union der Rumänen Siebenbürgens, 2, 649-651. Bishop Grigore Socoteanu of Râmnic had been a refugee in Rășinari and kept contacts with the families that had housed him, Nicolae Iorga, ed., Studii și documente cu privire la istoria Românilor, vol. 4, Legăturile Principatelor Române cu Ardealul [Studies and Documents on the History of the Romanians, vol. 4, The Connections of the Romanian Principalities with Transylvania] (Bucharest: Socec, 1902), 89. On book printing, see Aurelian Sacerdoțeanu, “Tipografia episcopiei Râmnicului (1705-1825)” [The Printing House of the Diocese of Râmnic (1705-1825)], MO 12, 5-6 (1960): 291-349; Mihai Mîrza, “Tipografia Mitropoliei Moldovei la mijlocul secolului al XVIII-lea: ipoteze, îndreptări, considerații” [The Typography of the Metropolitan Church of Moldavia in the Middle of the 18th Century: Hypotheses, Corrections, Considerations], AP 10, 2 (2014): 49-72.

[22] E.g., “DaT18 Database,” PersonID 10, 41, 90, 100, 198, 281, 434.

[23] E.g., “DaT18 Database,” PersonID 11, 71, 208, 228, 277, 303.

[24] Keith Hitchins, Ioan N. Beju, “Conscripția clerului ortodox transilvan din 1767” [The Census of the Transylvanian Orthodox Clergy from 1767], MA 29, 7-8 (1984): 540.

[25] Ibid.

[26] The condition of supernumerary priests can be more easily retrieved from the sources; see, e.g., “DaT18 Database,” DaT18ID 1162, 1163, 2381, 2382.

[27] Nedici, Formarea identității confesionale, 312-322. See the religious census data from 1779 and 1786 in Ambrus Miskolczy and Árpád E. Varga, eds., Jozefinizmus Tündérországban: Erdély történeti demográfiájának forrásai a XVIII. század második felében [Josephinismus in Fairyland: Sources of the Historical Demography of Transylvania in the second half of 18th Century] (Budapest: Tarsoly Kiadó, 2013), DVD, pt. 2, Felekezeti összeírások 1750-1850, 1779_görög_katolikus_összegzés and 1786_görög_katolikus_összegzés.

[28] Hitchins, Beju, “Conscripția clerului,” 540.

[29] Nedici, “DaT18 Database,” 63.

[30] See, e.g., “DaT18 Database,” DaT18ID 21, 2101 and 587, 1473.