Cathedral Library Kalocsa


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Treasures of Kalocsa

• Book of Psalms
MS 382, c. 1438



Treasures of Kalocsa

A CD series published by the Cathedral Library of Kalocsa and Studiolum

Vol. 1: Book of Psalms, MS 382
  (Bohemia, c. 1438)


History of the
Cathedral Library of Kalocsa

The medieval predecessors of the present library were the chapter’s library and the private library of the archbishops. Beginning with the reign of Saint Stephen and lasting up to the beginning of the 16th century, some 300-400 codices and incunabula are thought to have been collected in Kalocsa. Back then they were used primarily by the professors and students of the cathedral school, as well as by the priests of the archdiocese. But in 1526 Archbishop Pál Tomori died in the battle of Mohács against Suleyman I, and in 1529 the Turkish troops burned the town of Kalocsa. The members of the chapter were forced to flee, taking with them whatever valuables and books they could gather. Only two incunabula from the medieval collection would return to Kalocsa at the beginning of the 20th century, although a few other books are kept in other libraries scattered throughout the world. The majority of the medieval collection, however, has been lost forever, and practically all of it disappeared during the 150 years of Turkish occupation of Hungary.

At the beginning of the 18th century the reorganization of the chapter became one of the most important objectives of the archbishops in the task of the reconstruction of the archdiocese. The members of the Cathedral Chapter, the canons, were the first collaborators of the archbishop, and whether they were involved with the jobs of archiving documents, celebrating the liturgy, teaching in the seminary or assisting in the governance of the diocese, they all needed books. The status of the collections of the chapter’s library in the 18th century is recorded in some surviving inventories and catalogs. One of the earliest inventories was made by Canon György Házy in 1752. It listed 287 works in 602 volumes.

The 18th-century chapter library was used primarily by the priests of the diocese. The borrowing of books is registered by receipts next to the inventory book. According to one of these receipts, in 1776 the professor of rhetoric checked out the eight-languages dictionary of Ambrosius Calepinus and some works of Seneca and Cicero from the chapter library.

One of the most outstanding bibliophile archbishops of that period, Ádám Patachich (1776-1784), bequeathed his private library of 19 thousand volumes to the archdiocese, as attested by the bequest document dated in 1784. It mandated that the archbishop’s library and that of the chapter be gathered into a single collection, and also provided for its maintenance with a special fund. From that time on, the library has been the common property of the archbishops and of the Cathedral Chapter of Kalocsa. Its official name is Bibliotheca Metropolitanae Ecclesiae Colocensis, that is, Cathedral Library of Kalocsa.

Ádám Patachich was followed in the archiepiscopal seat by László Kollonich (1787-1817) who shared the interest in collectionism of his predecessor. He purchased a number of volumes from the libraries of the religious orders dissolved by Joseph II. His acquisitions often had the intention of preserving treasures of great importance to cultural history. Starting in 1791, Archbishop Kollonich was assisted in his acquisitions by the historian István Katona. Thanks to his expertise and knowledge of books, the collection was enriched during this period with several important volumes on history, geography and history of sciences.

At the beginning of the 19th century the number of volumes in the library was well over 42 thousand. Many people came to Kalocsa to visit the hall of the Baroque library and its rarities. The guest book of the library, in use beginning in 1813, recorded the visits of the Benedictine historians Gergely Czuczor and Flóris Rómer, the minister Ágoston Trefort, and the painter Mihály Munkácsy with his wife.

In more recent times the library’s collection was enlarged principally by archiepiscopal and canonical bequests. In the second half of the 19th century the number of readers and borrowers has increased substantially, as a consequence of the consolidation of general schooling. The archbishops of 19th and 20th centuries also enriched the library with the donation of works from their periods. Among them, the excellent botanist and bibliophile Lajos Haynald stands out. György Császka collected books of history, genealogy and heraldry, while Gyula Várossy was a scholar of history and literature who has left Hungarian, German, French, and English books to the library. The legacy of József Grősz consists of works of modern pastoral theology and biblical studies.

The Library today has about 130 thousand volumes, among them about 90 thousand old prints and more than 800 manuscripts, including 64 medieval codices (11th-16th centuries). The content of these manuscripts is quite varied, including bibles, psalteries, regulae of religious orders, sermon collections as well as medical, juridical, astronomical and historical works.

The first volume of our CD series presents the most beautifully decorated manuscript of the library’s collection. This codex was purchased by Archbishop Ádám Patachich (1776-1784) at an auction in Vienna in 1782, the same year that he decided to unite his private library with that of the Chapter of Kalocsa, thus founding the Cathedral Library.


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