« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Bachi, and his entertainment—the only recompense expected for so much hospitality and trouble. With the exception of such occasions as this, or in honour of some saint, or feast of the Church, the food of these people is extremely simple; and they never forget to make the sign of the Cross, previous either to eating or drinking; and this they do so quickly, and so different from the usage of the Latin Church, that I was obliged to desist in despair, from my awkward attempts to imitate them, and content myself with invoking a blessing on the food, which never failed to give rise to sundry questionings as to the veracity of my Christian belief, and inquiries as to the religious opinions entertained by the English. All my experience among these members of the Greek Church, of whatever tribe or nationality, tended to convince me of the intense hatred borne even by these simple mountaineers towards the Latin Church, as bitter and fanatic as that displayed in the early ages of that schism, which has made hereditary enemies of the professors of the two creeds. These feelings of mutual detestation I found entertained by their adversaries, the Latins, to the same extent; and as we must attribute them to the influence of their respective religious teachers, it is much to be deplored that, when inculcating the duty of faith, they did not remember the relative importance of the Christian graces, “the greatest of these is charity.” We cannot be surprized at the animosity exhibited by a Mahometan towards all who differ from him in belief, since charity is not enjoined in his code of ethics, as a duty paramount to all others; and it is this fanatic zeal for persecution that constitutes the great difficulty in the administration of these provinces, which must be overcome, if possible, as it tends steadily and surely to undermine the authority of the Sultan. Unfortunately the Osmanli is little changed in his religious feeling, in his contempt for a creed he despises as idolatrous, and that he considers openly to violate the command of God: “Thou shalt not bow down to any graven image, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven or earth,” and in permitting such a religion to prosper, believes he is sinning against heaven and against man. The Rayah, therefore, has from time immemorial suffered every humiliation and outrage Mahometan fanaticism could inflict. How distressing must it be to a people to see their churches burnt, their altars defiled, and in every fresh encounter which may take place among the discontented Mussulmen against the Ottoman Porte—when the passions of each party are excited to fury, and the executive is powerless—however they may differ in other respects, both agree in perpetrating insult and outrage upon the person, the church, and the property of the Rayah. As an instance of this, I may mention, that in several towns through which I passed, such as Leskovatz, Vrania, &c., I beheld the churches of the Rayah, some partially devastated, and others burnt to the ground. Notwithstanding the reforms of the Sultan have already been productive of much good, too many causes of complaint, on the subject of religion, still remain unredressed. The Rayah can neither erect nor repair church or monastery without an especial firman from the Divan; and when, after repeatedly petitioning perhaps for several years, the request is conceded, an exorbitant charge is made for the permission. Again, the Government imposes on the Rayah, in the name of the Patriarch of Constantinople, a heavy hearth-tax for the maintenance of the higher order of the clergy of the Greek Church, reserving to itself the nomination of the bishops to certain districts, and to make matters worse, these dignities are sold by the Osmanli authorities to the highest bidders. The political opinions of these high dignitaries are always supposed to be favorable to the Government, and as they are invariably Fanariot Greeks, ignorant of the language, customs and manners of the Slavonian subjects of the Sultan, their appointment is always in opposition to the wishes of the people, whose clergy they are called upon to govern. Nay, I have heard more than one radical Slavonian declare, they are little better than Government spies. Be this as it may, they exercise a very powerful control over the inferior clergy, who, for the most part imperfectly educated, simple in their manners, and unacquainted with the world, readily submit to the dictation of their superiors. In addition to this tax, the Rayah provides for the working clergy, and contributes towards the support of the monastery. This is done willingly, for they are a religiously disposed people; no man, however poor he may be, refusing his mite towards the maintenance of the Church. We may, therefore, well conceive that among this primitive people, where religion forms the base of all their customs, manners and institutions, the influence of the clergy is unbounded.
Spirit of the Greek Church—Superstition—Clergy—Religious festivals—Singular customs of the people—Traditions—Rivalry between the Greek and the Latin Church.
THE inhabitants of this mountain district, and indeed most of the Slavonian tribes, were evidently civilized by the Greeks at a very early epoch; whatever traces of refinement we meet with among them, whether here or on the steppes of Russia, the mountains of Illyria or the Karpathian, is of Greek origin.
The Athenian dance described by Homer, although somewhat modified, is still the dance of this people— the “Kolo.” Even the “Pyrrhic” may be seen danced here, as well as in Tchernegoria, Bosnia and Albania. The whole of their superstitions, and their religion, they derived from the same source. The Vladica, or Patriarch of Constantinople, exercises an authority, in his spiritual character, greater than that of the Sultan : in him has been vested, by the people, the supreme jurisdiction, and from the decision of his tribunal there can be no appeal; for the laws of the Church are regarded