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Šimun Kožičić-Benja


Šimun Kožičić-Benja (Zadar, 1460 – Zadar, 1536) was Croatian nobleman, the bishop of Modruš and the founder of the glagolithic printing house in Rijeka.

 

Šimun Kožičić-Benja (Zadar, 1460 – Zadar, 1536) was Croatian nobleman, the bishop of Modruš and the founder of the glagolithic printing house in Rijeka.

 

He was born into the prominent Benja - Kožičić family. His mother was Venetian from the Contarini household. While his parents wanted him to become a soldier he decided to enter the priesthood. After his education in Zadar and Rome, he became a canon and the prefect of the Church of St. John near the port in Zadar.

 

Pope Julius II named him bishop of Modruš in 1509 in a time of uncertainty in Croatia after the Croatian loss to the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Krbava field of 1493.

 

Kožičić wrote the well-known work "Psaltir" which was a small prayerbook which contained some basic Christian prayers, as well as some psalms and other songs for prayer and for use in mass. These kinds of booklets were the basics which aspiring priests and other believers used to learn to read. On the first page of Kožičić´s "Psaltir", at the very top, was written a primer which contained all the Croatian letters written in the glagolithic script. After this came the Our FatherHail Mary and the start of the Apostles Creed.

 

At the Fifth Lateran Council in Rome in 1513, Šimun Kožičić Benja lectured on the hardshipsof his homeland in speech called De Croatae desolatione (Isolated Croatia) and sought help. After the Turks attacked Modruš, Benja travelled to Rijeka in 1530 and founded his glagolithic printing press.

 

By 1531 he printed five more books in glagolithic: "Oficij rimski" (a prayer book), "Knjižice krsta" (a book of rites), "Misal hruacki" (a missal), "Knjižice od žitija rimskih arhijerov i cesarov" (a historic work about the Roman popes and emperors) and "Od bitja redovničkog knjižice" (a handbook about the proper conduct of clerics).

 

In 1532 he returned to Zadar where he died in March 1536. He was laid to rest in the Franciscan monastery of St. Jerome in Ugljan, where his brother Ivan Donat put up a grave marker. A retrospective portrait of Bishop Šimun Kožičić Benja is located in the National Museum in Zadar.