Historia Universitatis Iassiensis 6, 57–186

Leonidas RADOS | Constantin Erbiceanu, profesor la Seminarul de la Socola (1868-1886)

Abstract. Constantin Erbiceanu stood out, at the end of the 19th century, as one of the first scholars who deemed right to accept the Phanariote Regime as part of the Romanians’ history, bringing out to light, at the same time, its pluses. To this purpose, he investigated and partly published documents and ancient manuscripts discovered in the archives and the libraries, trying to understand in depth the relations between the two cultures, as well as the contribution of the Greek teachers and schools to the Romanians’ education at that time. This titanic effort is the reason why the scholar climbed the professional ladder quite quickly, from the position of teacher at the Socola Seminary, to that of Professor and Dean of the Theology Faculty of the University of Bucharest, Academy member and even vice-president of the Romanian Academy. He was himself perfectly aware of the role played in his career by the researches made in the field of the cultural Greek-Romanian interferences, mentioning in his autobiography: “This special work on the Greek manuscripts made my future, I admit that. I was a theologian, and no matter how hard I would have worked in this field, I could not have become a member of our Academy, of the Syllogos in Constantinople, of the Medieval History Society from the same place, etc. […] I was also naturally inclined to scrutinizing and researching in detail ancient things, in order to find out new things. And I succeeded.” Following a number of published papers and scientific preoccupations we have had over the last years, where we were mainly concerned with the scholar’s thorough education starting with his first days in school and finishing with the graduation from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Athens, the present paper will deal with Constantin Erbiceanu’s return home, with his period as a teacher at the school where he had been a pupil years before (“Veniamin Costachi” Seminary of Socola) and with his first scientific preoccupations during the “Iaşi period” of his career. In the summer of 1868, Constantin Erbiceanu came back home from his studies abroad, with a degree of prolytas (bachelor) granted by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Athens and with a very short Parisian experience as well. After a short stay at the “Sf. Sava” High school of Bucharest, where he occupied, by competitive examination, the Philosophy chair, he accepted in October 1868 the transfer to the chair of Universal and Ecclesial History of the Theological Seminary of Socola (post-secondary). Because of some pressure coming from the Church hierarchy for him to become a monk, which he rejected, the young teacher tries to find alternatives, participating in 1870 in the competitions for the chair of Universal History at the Military School and for the chair of Greek Language at the High School of Iaşi, but he fails. Meanwhile, he gets married (1873), he and his wife, Aglae Negrescu, will make a beautiful family with four children: Constanţa, Laurenţiu, Constantin and Eduard, the last two with tragic destinies. He continued to do, with much responsibility, his work at the Seminary, so he is transferred in 1871, with his consent, to the chair of Dogmatic, Moral, Pastoral Theology and Canon Law (the former teacher, Clement Nicolau, had attempted to kill the Metropolitan, so he had been fired and sent to court), one of the fundamental subjects of theological study; here he remained until his leaving for Bucharest, in December 1886. Constantin Erbiceanu participated in all the aspects of the Seminary’s life of those years: he thoroughly taught his subject, he also ensured some other courses for different chairs for lower and higher grades, he was a member of the examination boards of the Seminary and of the baccalaureate boards in Iaşi, he joined the Committee for the Church Books, who had the mission to analyse the textbooks used in the theological educational system, etc. His destiny changed in 1883, when Metropolitan Iosif Naniescu chose him to edit a church periodical publication, Revista Teologică [The Theological Journal], by means of which he could circulate his ideas and which was supposed to defend him against the attacks of the group of priests gathered around the Deşteptarea newspaper [The Awakening], who insistently asked for the modernization and the democratization of the Church. Revista Teologică stood out as the main body in Iasi to fight the new ideas that started to emerge in the cultural and social life of the city in the 8th-9th decades, quite influential among the high school and university students: evolutionism, materialism and socialism. Besides the efforts made to defend the Church, the work in the editorial segment of the new publication occasioned for the teacher a contact with the old documents and manuscripts, including those of the Greek schools that existed in the Principalities in the Phanariote Regime, which he partly published or commented in the journal. This way, he asserted himself not only as a teacher and a preacher in the Church, as he used to say, but also as a contributing editor and a scientist. The diligence and competence he had demonstrated in the investigation of the educational institutions of Iasi brought forward, pretty soon, his appointment as a member of the organization committee for the celebration of 50 years of Higher Education in Iasi (counted since the establishment of the Academia Mihăileană, in 1835, although the higher education had been established much later, at the end of the 6th decade). Thus, on 27 June 1885, in the central amphitheatre of the University of Iaşi, he presented a warmly welcomed scientific communication about schools of the Phanariote Regime. His discourse impressed the public – he was then just a teacher of the Seminary, sitting near famous academic personalities – and especially the minister of Cults and Public Instruction, Dimitrie A. Sturdza, who in a private meeting proposed him to be transferred, in a near future, to the Central Theological Seminary of Bucharest. Constantin Erbiceanu accepted the invitation and, taking advantage of the favourable circumstances, he obtained, besides the chair of Dogmatic Theology at the Central Seminary (therefore the same subject he had taught in Iaşi), the position of supply teacher at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Bucharest, and that of director of the Printing House of the Church Books and of editor in the staff of the Saint Synod’s publication, Biserica Ortodoxă Română [The Romanian Orthodox Church]. So started, rather suddenly and late, but following a titanic sustained work, his professional and social ascension, taking him to the top of the cultural-scientific hierarchy, being co-opted first as a corresponding, than as a full member of the Romanian Academy, whose vice-president he would eventually become, in the twilights of his life.