FRIAR ANDRIJA KAČIĆ MIOŠIĆ

Friar Andrija Kačić Miošić was born in Brist (17 April 1704), in the coastal area of Makarska. He was a Franciscan friar, a Croatian and European intellectual, a university professor, a philosopher and theologian, a historian and collector of traditional poems, a poet and a writer. Among all Croatian poets, he was the first one whose poems were translated and included into a European poetry collection. After he finished his elementary education in Zaostrog, he joined the Franciscan Order, majored in philosophy and theology in Osijek and Budim, was ordained as a priest, passed a professor exam in Venice, taught at the Faculty of Theology in Šibenik, received the Franciscan equivalent of a PhD, built the monastery in Sumartin as a guardian, prepared for printing his three works in Zaostrog and printed them in Venice in four editions, and died after a short illness at the age of 56 (14 December 1760). He was buried in the Church of St. Mary in Zaostrog where a bust and a graveyard stone were placed in his honour.

His first biographer, Luka Vladmirović, wrote 10 years after his death that he was not only noble by birth but also a virtuous man of high moral values. He emphasised his profound faith and true devotion to God, and above all his charity work. While pursuing his noble calling, wanting to feed hungry families, he sacrificed his own life. If it were not for contemporary sources, it would all sound quite unlikely.In the late fall, Jure Lorić, Ivan and Šimun Rabušić, farmers from the village of Podaca near Makarska, forced by extreme poverty, went to the region of the Neretva River on a rowing boat to beg for some grain to feed their starving families. On their return home, they were caught up in a great storm below the village of Baćine, their boat capsized, the grain they were given fell into the sea, Šimun drowned, and Jure and Ivan barely made it to the shore. The sad news spread quickly throughout the Littoral region. When Friar Andrija heard it, he called the shipwreck survivors and started to convince them that they had to go back to the Neretva River. When they told him that they could not go back there because only a few days before they had been there to beg for food, he offered to accompany them and to tell the people of the Neretva valley the truth of what happened. He was in the parish in the town of Opuzen and when he retold the tragedy that had befallen these men people believed him since he was a friar. He decided to go and beg with them. Biographers testify that they received three times more than the first time that they went to beg. They were returning home happily when again below Baćine a severe storm broke out. They were soaking wet. The poor men took the food that they received to their homes, and father Andrija went to his humble room. There was neither heating nor medicine. He contracted pneumonia and passed away a couple of days later. He died on 14 December 1760. In order to help the poor, he sacrificed his life.

Not only was father Andrija a virtuous priest, humanitarian, sacrificing benefactor of Christian charity, but also an excellent European intellectual of the time. He wrote and published a book in Latin for his students, entitled “Elementa peripatherica“, a manual on philosophy. He realised that there were no appropriate books for uneducated people in Croatia. This is why he embarked upon writing two books for the illiterate audience which he printed in three editions during his lifetime. In his Razgovor ugodni naroda slovinskoga (1756) (Pleasant Conversations of Slavic People), he brought to his readers the history of the Croatian and neighbouring peoples in ten-syllable verse poems which became very popular. He did not want them to forget the heroic acts of famous heroes and knights as he wished them to be the role models for the younger generations. The language in which he wrote was the new Shtokavian dialect which made him one of the creators of the Croatian standard language and a predecessor of the Croatian National Revival. In his second work Korabljica (1760), father Andrija offered his readers a general history from the beginning of times to 1760. This was exactly what was missing for the wide uneducated masses.

Even though father Andrija wrote for land workers and shepherds, his works soon became sought after by other nations. Bulgarian monks were the first ones to do so in 1762. They translated Kačić’s texts into Bulgarian. The first one who realised that Europe had to find out about the content of the Pleasant Conversations was father Emerik Pavić, the dean of the Faculty of Theology in Budim. He translated it into Latin and he published most of the prose and poetry from Kačić’s Pismarica because he thought that that was the best way to introduce Croatian history to Europe. Until this day, Kačić’s poems have been translated into 14 languages. We must not forget that Korabljica had 13 and Pleasant Conversations more than 70 editions.