From the college library to the hereditary collection (by Ines Cerovac)



Saint Ignatius of Loyola established The Society of Jesus during the first half of the 16th century, within the aegis of Catholic reforms and Counter-Reformation. From the Pope's approval of Jesuit Order in 1540 to its abolition in 1773, The Society of Jesus remained the main exponent of Tridentine Catholicism regarding the implementation of the latter’s basic provisions in practice: the education of new clergy, the mission of evangelization and of catechising the common folk. Catholic leaders came to conclusion that one of the causes of Reformation was the lack of formed and educated clergy. Thus, education became the most important instrument of Catholic reform and a necessary precondition for implementing the other goals of The Council of Trent.

Beside the three common monastic wows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Saint Ignatius of Loyola added the fourth wow, that of obedience to the Pope, so the latter could deploy Jesuits on missions to any part of the world. Subsequently, Jesuits were entirely in the service of Church and executed evangelization according to both Old and New Testament. They also constructed churches, established residencies, mission stations, colleges and universities. Traditional monasteries outside the settlements were replaced by city dwellings which became the seats of Jesuits' residences and their pastoral work. Later on, these centres became the seats of developing the educational colleges.

Jesuits were not originally founded as an educational order, but soon enough became one. Starting with 1548 they begun establishing the educational institutions not only for the members of clergy, but also for laity from all the social classes. This education was free of charge, financed through donations of municipal governments and aided by imperial privileges. Laity education was directed towards shaping the social elite which was  destined to play an important role in spiritual, cultural and social life.

By the early 17th century Rijeka experienced a growing need for public and organized education. As The Society of Jesus already established Gymnasiums in Zagreb (1607) and Trieste (1619), in 1623 The Municipal Government of Rijeka started negotiations on founding a college and a seminary in Rijeka. It was necessary to devise financial means and find an adequate space for both teaching and pastoral activities. To this end, the City offered to provide an annual sum amounting to 200 forints, along with donating the old school, edifice (domus scholae publicae), garden and the church of St Rok and Sokol Tower. Emperor Ferdinand II gave Jesuits the annual donation amounting to 400 forints, along with the half of imperial court’s tithe. He also exempted Jesuits from all the import, export and realty taxes and gave them a right to cut trees in Imperial forests. Countess Ursula Thonhausen donated Rijeka’s College her properties at Veprinac, Kastav and Mošćenice along with the substantial financial means for building the college, church and seminary.

November 22nd 1627, St. Cecilia Day, marked the festive opening of Gymnasium with 150 students enrolled. Until 1633 gymnasium had all six grades. Hence Emperor Ferdinand III, in his chart dating July 31st 1633, gave Jesuit Gymnasium in Rijeka rights which ranked it equal with the academies and universities in Graz, Vienna and elsewhere in Europe. Another 100 year had elapsed until the Faculty was opened. The Faculty of Philosophy become operational in 1726, with its 49 attendees (hearers). Two years later, The Faculty of Theology opened, with 29 attendees.

The Constitutions of The Society of Jesus prescribes the following in the 4th chapter: If possible, the colleges should include a library. The Rector will decide as to who should be given the library’s key. Besides, everyone will dispose by and of himself of all the books he necessitates.

The above said refers us to a fact that library was to be found simultaneously with the start of school. Also, library’s books were inventoried, while the front pages of books were inscribed by ex libris containing the title of college and a year of record within the catalogue/inventory. The oldest handwritten record in the collection of books of Jesuit College in Rijeka dates from 1627. The library continued to be enriched with new titles for educational and pastoral needs until the Order was suppressed in 1773, as testified by ex libris dating from 1773.

On July 21st 1773 Pope Clement XIV promulgated Dominus ac Redemptorthe papal brief on the suppression of The Society of Jesus, designed to become valid only following a decision of the respective country’s ruler. On September 30th 1773 Empress Maria Theresa issued a decree on the nationalization of movable and immovable properties in possession of The Society of Jesus. Already by September 23rd , Rijeka Jesuit College was visited by the commission whose president, upon reading Empress' decree, demanded the Rector to hand over the record containing the list of College’s properties to the commissioner Julio Benzoni. The properties were nationalized and education became secular. Money gained by selling the real estates was used to establish two foundations: fondo convitto and fondo studi. The first foundation financed the boarding school, while the other was designated for funding the Gymnasium.

At the time, the facility within the College building which housed the library was sealed. Four years have elapsed before the founding of new commission which catalogued books and produces Inuentario e Catallogo della Bibliotecha e delli Libri delle Congregazioni. This inventory, made by city councillor Luigi de Orlando and Rijekan solicitor Anselmo Nepomuceno Peri, contained 1644 titles in 2570 volumes.

The books were inventoried into eleven subject groups, just as they were found at the shelves of College Library. Libri delle Congregazioni inventoried books belonging to various congregations in Rijeka: Confraternita del Crocefisso, Confraternita della Vergine Maria Addolorata, Confraternita Maggiore de Studiosi sotto il Titolo di Maria Vergine Purificata, Confraternita Minore de Studenti sotto il Titolo della Visitazione.

After Jesuit Order had been suppressed, The Nautical Study – which operated within Jesuit College in Trieste and was lead by Rijekan Jesuit Francis Xavier Orlando – got relocated to Rijeka, together with its books and instruments. Once in Rijeka, Father Orlando opened the city’s first Two Year College of Nautical Studies where he taught mathematics, nautical science and double-entry bookkeeping. Bi-annual Corso nautico went on until 1784 when Father Orlando passed away, upon which this College, along with its instruments and a larger portion of books, returned to Trieste.

Rijekan patricians Giulio de Benzoni (1779) and Giuseppe Marotti (1780) donated the city a large number of extraordinary valuable books from their own private libraries, conditioning their donation by the public accessibility of donated books. By the end of 1782 the Jesuit, Nautical and Benzoni-Marotti Libraries merged, forming The Municipal-Gymnasium Library with publicly accessible collection i.e. ad usum publicum – as originally demanded by the donors. The library was located (with some occasional relocations due to wartime conditions) within the facilities in the building of former Jesuit Seminary.

By the middle of the 19th century the conflicts between Italians and Croats in the city intensified. Hence Gymnasium, which in the year 1848/1849 started teaching classes in Croatian language, was subject to a growing pressure exerted by Municipal Government to return a part of the Library belonging to City – actually the Jesuit part of collection and Benzoni-Marotti donations. Negotiations begun in 1875 and were finalized on November 26th 1881 when books of the Municipal-Gymnasium Library were officially handed over to The City of Rijeka.

Biblioteca civica, Rijeka Municipal Library, was opened to public on December 5th 1892.

The Library survived many relocations, the changes of states and two Great Wars. Some authors claim that on April 21st 1945 the members of German SS military units, during their retreat, spilled a barrel of gasoline and set a fire in a building located at 1 Dolac St, where the Library was relocated following the previous German military order issued in September 1944. On this occasion, west wing burned to the ground, while eastern wing's ground floor was preserved. Library materials and documents located at the ground floor and the subterranean level were preserved. After the war Biblioteca civica returned to Ciotta St – with entrance at 12 Edmondo De Amicis St – and was opened to the public on December 15th 1945.

On October 14th 1948, The Ministry of Education of The People's Republic of Croatia issued a decision to allocate the lending collection of Biblioteca civica to Rijeka Municipal Library. Older books, along with those of scientific character, became a part of the collection of newly founded Scientific Library Rijeka. The latter took over the hereditary section of Biblioteca civica collection, along with its catalogues and inventory books, leaving the books intact at their former topographical location.

Building at 1 Dolac St, where the Library fortunately survived the death threat, became its permanent home after the burnt building was repaired during the second half of 1956.

Within the new building, Biblioteca civica acquired its own storage, protected by the special rules regulating the rights to access the facility and the use of actual materials. Its historical catalogues, both alphabetical and subject-related, were physically accessible to users through the Information Department of University Library Rijeka until 1999, when they became digitalized and accessible at

Previously mentioned topographic location meant that collection was placed on the shelves according to books’ format, rather than following the subject group or specific collections. It is important to accentuate this fact in order to explain why one can find a book from the 16th century next to the book dating from the 19th century on the same shelf, in case these are of the same format and were inventoried approximately at the same time. Also, neither the historical catalogues of Biblioteca civica nor the inventory records contain a remark/note on a previous book's owner. (In case of donations after 1882, a donor's name was recorded in the inventory book.)

In order to find the books belonging to Jesuit College which, following the above described changes, are still part of The Hereditary Collection of University Library Rijeka, we had to review the entire collection, volume by volume. The books in University Library Rijeka's collection dating from the 16th century were catalogued during 1998. This included the creation of list with remarks regarding the previous owners and donors. Electronic cataloguing modules were created for all the donors and owners. The result of the first phase of researching the Jesuit Collection can be found at

In August 2016 we begun to systematically review the entire collection of Biblioteca civica, singling out the books containing handwritten ex libris of College, missions, congregations, College professors and the editions marked by the emblem of The Society of Jesus. The cataloguing is performed continuously. The inclusive catalogue presently contains a a description of the so called ideal specimen. Work on the local local catalogue comprises creating the descriptions of specifics pertaining to binding, the state of actual specimen and producing the cataloguing modules for previous owners.

Some twenty ears ago, on the occasion of the 370th anniversary of educational activity of The Society of Jesus in Rijeka, professor Irvin Lukežić published a significant work in “Vjesnik” of State Archive in Rijeka, where he tackled a content of the only integrally preserved document of Jesuit Library Collection. This document is in fact the already mentioned Inuentario e Catallogo della Bibliotecha e delli Libri delle Congregazioni. The article also contains the copy of inventory, along with numerous biographic notes.

Referring to professor Lukežić’s recommendation, which says “We should exactly ascertain how many books from the old Jesuit collection remained preserved today in the collection of the mentioned library (University Library Rijeka) and afterwards we should publish the integral list of books of the Jesuit College”, I hereby draw the conclusion that we know what has to be done and endeavour to do it in a best possible way. 

From the college library to the hereditary collection (by Ines Cerovac)