Josip Juraj Strossmayer

Josip Juraj Strossmayer

Infobox Person
name = Joseph Juraj Strossmayer


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birth_date = February 4, 1815
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death_date = May 8, 1905
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nationality = Croatian
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religion = Roman Catholic
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Josip Juraj Strossmayer (also "Joseph Georg Strossmayer"; February 4, 1815 – May 8, 1905) was a Roman Catholic bishop, benefactor and a politician from Croatia.

Strossmayer was born in Osijek to a Croatian family with a German name because his great-grandfather was an ethnic German immigrant from Styria who had married a Croatian woman. He finished a gymnasium in Osijek, graduated theology at the Catholic seminary in Đakovo, and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at a high seminary in Budapest, at the age of 20.

In 1838 he worked as a vicar in Petrovaradin, before moving to Vienna in 1840 to the "Augustineum" and the University of Vienna, where he received another doctorate in philosophy and Canon law in 1842. In 1847 he was made the Habsburg palace chaplain (a position he would hold until 1859), and named one of the rectors of the Augustineum.

On November 18, 1849, he was made the bishop of Bosnia and Srijem with see in Đakovo. The proclamation was made by emperor Franz Joseph and at the proposal of Croatian ban Josip Jelačić. Pope Pius IX confirmed the imperial decree on May 20, 1850. He was made a bishop on September 8, 1850, and officially instated in Đakovo on September 29 the same year. Upon installment as bishop, he declared his motto to be "Everything for the faith and the homeland". Strossmayer inherited a wealthy diocese: it had 70,000 acres (280 km²) of mixed forests, pastures, arable land and vineyards, with developed cattle and horse breeding facilities, and it generated a yearly income of 150,000 to 300,000 forints.

In 1860 he became the leader of the Croatian People's Party, Strossmayer's National Party was in favour of the unity of the Croatian and Serbian people only on condition that the Serbs eventually merge with the Croats. To achieve this more easily and quickly, Pozor raised its voice against the setting up of any separate Serbian institutions and societies in Croatia. Characteristic in this respect is the setting up of the society of the United Serbian Youth in Zagreb, under the name of Zvezda. When the society was constituted early in 1867, the National Party took offence. Pozor complained: "For such a society to be set up in Budapest, Vienna, Munich or anywhere in foreign parts is quite natural; young people in a foreign world like to get together and remember their homeland. For the Serbs, even if they were born in Serbia - not to speak of Orthodox Croats - to feel in Zagreb as if they were abroad, this is something we did not know or expect."

Strossmayer's National Party believed that in the Triune Kingdom there is only one, namely, Croatian political people. In accordance with that, they treated the Serbs in the Triune Kingdom as a part of the Croat political people and not as a separate diplomatic, what is today known as constitutive people. For this reason they opposed Subotic's proposal, not wanting to share state sovereignty with the Serbs and, even indirectly, by introducing the Serbian name in the Sabor's address, recognise that the Serbs have their political individuality. The most determined stand was taken by Dragojlo baron Kuslan: "This state of ours, which is known to our ruler and to the rest of the diplomatic world exclusively as Croatian, nor can it be called any other way, we cannot share with anybody in the world for the sake of any accord. Therefore, our Serbian brothers should not ask us for it, because thereby they will ask our death." Because of the hard line adopted by the majority of the Croat deputies, particularly those from the ranks of the National Party which was led by Strossmayer and Racki, Subotic's motion was voted down and the expression "our people", proposed in the draft of the address, remained in its final version.

He remained at its head until 1873. He had previously befriended Ján Kollár in Pest and worked with Czech politicians František Palacký and František Rieger on their common ideals of cultural and political association of the Slavic peoples. He was, like ban Jelačić, a supporter of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy, but nevertheless strove to obtain more rights for the Slavs within the Monarchy. He advocated federalization, merging of the kingdoms of Dalmatia and Croatia, as well as the introduction of Croatian language into public administration and schools.

In 1861, Strossmayer made an influential speech in front of the Croatian Parliament regarding the relations of Croatia and Hungary, where he stated federalization as a goal, and advocated the merging of Međimurje and Rijeka with Croatia. In 1866, the Parliament elected him the president of the Croatian "regnikolar" deputation ("regnikolarna", that which represents the people of the kingdom), a committee that was to negotiate terms of statehood with Hungary, but which failed to successfully make a deal. Instead, the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement of 1868 was passed which was less favorably inclined towards the Croatian cause — and which Strossmayer protested with respect to decreased autonomy in the areas of budget and finances.

In 1872 the Parliament formed another "regnikolar" deputation for the revision of the Settlement, and Strossmayer was its member, but they again failed in their task. This made Strossmayer retire from active political life and from the leadership of the People's Party. He later sided with the Independent People's Party which was in the opposition and which protested the rule of ban Khuen Hedervary (1883-1903), and insisted on the merger of all Croatian lands under the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1888 he retired from public politics after the Emperor had rebuked him for favoring the Russians and opposing the Hungarians.

Strossmayer supported the union of all south Slavic peoples under the aegis of the Habsburgs, and promoted religious unification through the use of the Slavonic rite both in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. He served as the papal nuncio for Serbia and visited that country seven times between 1852 and 1886, and he also helped establish the concordat between the Holy See and the state of Montenegro in 1866.

Strossmayer was instrumental in the founding of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1867, as well as the re-establishment of the University of Zagreb in 1874. He initiated the building of the Academy Palace (completed in 1880) and the Gallery of the Academy (1884) in Zagreb, as well as aided the creation of the printing house in Cetinje. He also helped found the "Matica slovenska", the national culture societies of the Serbs and the Slovenes, respectively. In 1861 he had the book "Bulgarian Folk Songs" by the Miladinov Brothers from Macedonia printed in Zagreb. He also had several Glagolitic missals printed in the spirit of restoring the Slavonic liturgy that connected the two Christian religions of the South Slavs, and revering the work of saints Cyril and Methodius.

In 1869 and 1870 he attended the First Vatican Council in Rome. He also headed the Slavic deputations to Rome in 1881 and 1888 which succeeded in convincing Pope Leo XIII to allow the south Slavs of Croatia and Dalmatia to retain Slavonic in the Roman Rite liturgy as well as in the Byzantine Rite.

Strossmayer continued to use the money obtained from his diocese to fund the building of schools, galleries and churches, notably the ornamental cathedral in Đakovo whose building he oversaw between 1866 and 1882, and which he dedicated to the "glory of God, unity of the churches, concord and love of his people". The cathedral of Đakovo was the most grandiose object built by Strossmayer during his 55 years as a bishop: he also opened the printing house in Đakovo, the boys' seminary in Osijek, supported the main theological seminary and the arrival of nuns in Đakovo to help the female youth and caritative efforts, established new parishes throughout the diocese, organized missions for the laity, and finally wrote hundreds if not thousands of pastoral letters sent to the diocese as well as to other parts of Croatia, and elsewhere.

Since the early days of his bishopry, he was a close friend of dr. Franjo Rački, the most renowned Croatian historian of his time. When the Academy was founded in 1867, Strossmayer was named chief sponsor, and Rački its President. In 1894, when Rački died, Strossmayer wrote: "I lost my dearest friend... I lost a part of myself... the good half of everything I have created was his thought, his credit and his glory." Their friendship was well documented in a series of four books containing their letters, compiled by historian Ferdo Šišić.

Strossmayer is credited with monetary and organizational support for a wide variety of public works in Croatia: schools, gymnasiums, public libraries, helping the poor in remote areas, even building roads, and donating building material for St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Josip Juraj Strossmayer died in Đakovo at the age of 90. The university of the city of Osijek is named after him, and a large statue of Strossmayer is located in the park that the Academy building overlooks. The city of Đakovo built him a memorial museum in 1991.


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