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Gavrilo Stefanović Venclović

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Gavrilo "Gavril" Stefanović Venclović (Serbian Cyrillic: Гаврилo Стефановић Венцловић ; fl. 1680–1749) was a Serbian priest, writer, poet, orator, philosopher, neologist, polyglot, and illuminator. He was one of the first and most notable representatives of Serbian Baroque literature (although he worked in the first half of 18th century, as Baroque trends in Serbian literature emerged in the late 17th century). But Venclović's most unforgettable service to his nation was his initial contribution as a scholar to the development of the vernacular – what was to become, a century later, the Serbian literary language.

Gavrilo Stefanović Venclović
Bornc. 1680
Diedc. 1749
OccupationWriter, poet, philosopher, theologian
Literary movementBaroque



Venclović was born in Srem province (then part of the Hungarian kingdom), now in Serbia. There is little information about his childhood because of the turbulent times. A refugee from the Turkish army, he adopts the town of Sentandrea as his home. There he became a disciple of Kiprijan Račanin, who started a school for young monks, similar to the one in the municipality of Rača, near the river Drina, in Serbia.

Later, as a parish priest serving the Military Frontier communities in Hungary, Venclović advises his peers to use the people's idiom and abandon the Slavonic-Serbian language (славяносербскій / slavjanoserbskij or словенскій slovenskij; Serbian: славеносрпски / slavenosrpski), a form of the Serbian language which was used by an educated merchant class under heavy influence of the Church Slavonic and Russian languages of that time.

The first Rača School in Srem was in the Monastery of St Lucas. Venclović, through learning and talent, acquired special skills as a poet and icon painter. Also, he wrote and collected songs, and wrote Hagiography of Serbian saints. We know from archival records that Venclović attended the Kiev Mohyla Academy (now National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy) from 1711 to 1715 and then went to Győr, a city in northwest Hungary, where he became a parish priest at the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas.

In 1739, during religious persecutions, he came as a renowned speaker (slavni propovednik) to live among the Serbian Šajkaši in Komárom. He spoke his views frankly, but he disliked polemic; he found also more toleration than might have been expected. In 1735, according to his writings, he gives us a clue that he was then already old (v starosti). In politics he played a considerable part.

Preaching to the Orthodox Šajkaši and the Slavonian Military Frontier troops in 1746 and encouraged by the very anti-Turkish inclinations that underlined his loyalty to the Habsburg monarch, he demanded loyalty to the ruling family, and total respect for the military code (as inseparable from dynastic patriotism). Venclović appealed to the Šajkaši and soldiers alike to be devoted to the emperor, to refrain from abusing the weak, stealing, and betraying their comrades and fellow-men-at-arms.

Literary WorkEdit

At the beginning of the 18th century, Gavril Stefanović Venclović of Srem translated some 20,000 pages of old biblical literature into vernacular Serbian.

Venclović's opus is interesting and multifarious. Orations, biographies, church songs, poems, illuminations and illustrations of church books, histories of European peoples and kings, etc. His was a language full of vernacular vitality yet able to express the inner, the subtle, the transcendent. He was familiar with the works of contemporary Russian and Polish theologians of his day. From Russian he translated archbishop Lazar Baranovych's Mech dukhovny (The Spiritual Sword), and from Polish he translated Istorija Barona Cezara, kardinala rimskago.

The sway of Old Church Slavonic as the medieval literary language of all the Eastern Orthodox Slavs lasted many centuries. In Russia it obtained until the time of Peter the Great (1672–1725), and among the Serbs until the time of Venclović. He translated the bible from Old Slavonic to Old Serbian. Thus the Old Slavonic was relegated only to liturgical purposes. From then on, theology and church oratory and administration were carried on in Slavoserbian, a mixture of Old Slavic (Old Church Slavonic) in its Russian form with a popular Serbian rendering, until Vuk Karadžić, who was the first reformer to shake off the remnants of this ancient speech and to institute a phonetic orthography.


Gavrilo Stefanović Venclović was among the first to use Serbian vernacular as a standard language for the purpose of writing sermons. After the Vuk type of written language had won, lexical gaps were filled mainly words and expressions already present in the vernacular. This method provided a very limited stylistic and lexical inventory for the writers. Venclović's stylistic neologisms, possessing such qualities as picturesqueness and semantic transparency, served to draw attention of the audience to the text of the sermon. Rooted in the biblical tradition, they represent a ‘bridge’ between the Old Church Slavonic lexical legacy and the Serbian vernacular, as well as demonstrate the possibility for the creation of a standard language based on vernacular, without divorcement from the tradition of Cyril and Methodius.

Selected worksEdit

  • Slova izbrana
  • Udvorenje arhanđela Gavrila Devici Mariji
  • Sajkasi orations
  • The Spiritual Sword
  • Prayers Against Bloody Waters

See alsoEdit


  • Milorad Pavić: Gavril Stefanović Venclović, 1980, Belgrade
  • Jovan Skerlić, Istorija Nove Srpske Književnosti / History of New Serbian Literature (Belgrade, 1914, 1921), pp. 28–29.

External linksEdit