By Rev. A. Pekar, OSBM, taken from History of the Church in Carpathian Rus'

One of the thirteen counties that the Mukachevo Eparchy encompassed was Maramaros. In terms of ethnic composition, half the population of this region comprised Carpatho-Ukrainians (Rusyns), one quarter Romanians and the remainder Hungarians, Germans and Jews. The Carpatho-Ukrainian and Romanian inhabitants were Orthodox, while the Hungarians and Germans were Roman Catholics. At the end of the sixteenth century, the majority of Hungarians [in neighboring Transylvania] converted to Calvinism as a form of protest against the Catholic Habsburgs. As the dominant class, the Hungarians hoped to convert both the Carpatho-Ukrainians and the Romanians to Protestantism, and therefore they posed the main obstacle to the Union with Rome in Maramaros county. After the Union with Rome was accepted, the Orthodox bishops of Mukachevo sought to gain a foothold in the Maramaros region and adopted the title "Bishop of Maramaros."

1. The Origins of an Independent Eparchy.
The history of the Maramaros region is closely linked with that of Carpathian Rus'. In the fourteenth century, the center of religious and cultural life in Maramaros was the Monastery of St. Michael in Hrushevo, which had been granted the right of stauropegion by Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople in 1391. Consequently, the Hrushevo monastery was exempt from the jurisdiction of the local bishop. In addition, the patriarch bestowed on the monastery's hegumen with the title of "exarch" and placed the surrounding parishes under his control. Under the protection of his patrons, during the fifteenth century, the archimandrite-exarch of Hrushevo extended his authority over most of the Maramaros region, and it was this development that later gave rise to the idea of establishing a separate Maramaros eparchy.

The bishops of Mukachevo were unwilling to tolerate the spread of the Hrushevo exarch's jurisdiction. Thus, at the end of the fifteenth century, Bishop Ivan of Muchchevo made an attempt to extend his control over the Hrushevo exarchate. The Exarch of Hrushevo, Ilarij, citing the charters of his patrons and the patriarch, appealed to king Ulaszlo II (reigned 1490-1516), who acknowledged the exarchal rights of Hrushevo and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Transylvanian metropolitan. However, Ilarij was instructed to respect the bishop of Mukachevo and pay homage due him.

Failing to gain control over the Hurshevo exarchate, Bishop Ivan tried to limit the exarch's authority to the original seven parishes designated in the patriarchal charter. The king, however, upheld the rights of the Hrushevo exarchate. The Mukachevo prelates persisted in their efforts, and in 1551 we find the first reference to the fact that all of Maramaros county had been placed under the jurisdiction of Bishop Vasylij of Mukachevo, even though there were still individual priests who refused to recognize the authority of "their bishop" and to pay tithes to him. Finally, in 1556, the Transylvanian count Gyorgy Bathory, to whose domain Hrushevo and Mukachevo then belonged, invested the Bishop of Mukachevo, Ilarion (1556-1567?) with the Hrushevo monastery and all its possessions.

During the seventeenth century, the bishops of Mukachevo began adding to their title other regions which lay outside the boundaries of the Mukachevo domain. Thus, for example, in 1623, prince Gabor Bethlen of Transylvania (1613-1629) confirmed Bishop Partenij as the hierarch of Berg, Ung, Szabolcs, Zemplen, Saros and Maramaros counties. When the Romanian bishops later tried to extend their authority over the Maramaros region, prince Bethlen in 1627 named Ivan Hryhorovych "Bishop of Mukachevo and Maramaros of the Greek Rite." At the same time, Bethlen expelled the Romanian Orthodox Bishop Dositej from Alba Iulia. The Maramaros magnates, who opposed Bethlen's rule, took Dositej under their protection and named him "Bishop of Maramaros."

After the death of Dositej, the Romanian clergy elected the Romanian priest Dimitrie Pap as their bishop. The new Transylvanian ruler, Prince Gyorgy Rakoczi I (1630-1648), did not allow Pap to be consecrated bishop and exerted pressure on the Maramaros diet to accept the jurisdiction of the bishop of Mukachevo over the region. In 1634, Prince Rakoczi, who was also lord of the Mukachevo domain, named Vasylij Tarasovych "Bishop of Mukachevo and Maramaros." Rakoczi's action made it appear that he recognized the existence of a separate Maramaros eparchy, which gave rise to the notion of an independent diocese in the region.

2. The Maramaros Region as the Stronghold of Orthodoxy.
At the end of the sixteenth century, the majority of the ruling class of the Maramaros region converted to Calvinism. As in the other counties, the Protestant lords were hostile to the Union. When at the end of 1640 Bishop Tarasovych proposed the idea of union with Rome and was imprisoned, the Maramaros diet demanded that prince Rakoczi name a separate Orthodox bishop for the Maramaros region. In order not to lose control over the church there, Rakoczi placed Maramaros under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox archbishop of Alba Iulia, Stefan Simonovici (1643-1651).

Simonovici paid relatively little attention to the Maramaros region, and this enabled Tarasovych, after his return to Orthodoxy, to regain control over the area. This time, however, Rakoczi returned only the Carpatho-Rusyn parishes to Tarasovych while appointing an administrator, the hieromonk Sylvester (adm. 1645-1650) and later the priest Simeon Petrashko (mentioned in 1652), for the Romanian parishes. From 1653-1662, the bishop of Maramaros was Mychajil Molodec', most likely an itinerant Orthodox bishop who had come to the region from abroad. He had no appointment, but as an ordained bishop he administered all the parishes of the Maramaros region.

In 1662, the Orthodox faithful of Maramaros split into two separate national groups. The Romanian parishes acknowledged the authority of the metropolitan of Alba Iulia, while the Carpatho-Ukrainians recognized the Orthodox bishop of Mukachevo, Joannykij Zejkan', as their prelate. There was already a Uniate bishop of Mukachevo at the time, but he still resided in Uzhorod. In 1664, when the Uniate bishop Partenij Petrovych was permitted to make Mukachevo his seat, the Orthodox prelate, Zejkan', moved temporarily to Imstychevo, and later to the Uhlja monastery from where he administered the Orthodox Rusyn parishes in the Maramaros region. From then on, the Maramaros Orthodox bishops had their seat in Uhlja.

During this period, the union in Carpathian Rus' was still in a very precarious state. This was the period of struggle for the right to appoint the bishop of Mukachevo. Moreover, all of Carpathian Rus' was then in turmoil as a result of the uprising of Imre Thokoly, who wanted to liberate Hungary from the Habsburgs with the help of the Turks. In 1686, Thokoly's forces occupied the Mukachevo domain and installed at the monastery on Chernecha Hora the hieromonk Metodij Rakoveckyj, who was then consecrated bishop in Moldavia.

After putting down Thokoly's uprising, the Austrian emperor appointed the Uniate bishop Josyf de Camillis (1689-1706), a great advocate of the Union, to the Mukachevo episcopate. Rakoveckyj then converted to Catholicism and was named superior of the Mukachevo monastery by de Camillis. However, when in an alliance with Mychajil Andrella, the pastor of Orosvyhovo, Rakoveckyj began working against the Union, Bishop de Camillis expelled him from Mukachevo. Rakoveckyj spent a short time in the Imstychevo monastery and then tried his luck in the Maramaros region. But the prince of Transylvania had already installed another bishop there - Josyf I. Stojka (1690-1711).

Bishop de Camillis's work to implement the Union roused the Maramaros magnates. Under pressure from them, Rakoczi named Stojka bishop of Maramaros. After his episcopal ordination in Moldavia, Stojka settled at the Uhlja monastery and used the title: "By the Grace of God, Orthodox bishop of Maramaros, exarch of the patriarchal stauropegion of Constantinople, administrator of the Bilhorod (Alba Iulia) and Pochajiv metropolitanates, etc., etc."

Bishop de Camillis intended to bring about the Union with Rome in the Maramaros region as well, and therefore he asked the Austrian imperial court to place this county under his jurisdiction, arguing that "the Maramaros region has recognized the bishop of Mukachevo as its rightful hierarch from the earliest times." However, determined to avoid new civil disturbances, the emperor left the Maramaros region under the control of the Orthodox bishop Stojka.

The Maramaros clergy accepted Stojka as their bishop on condition that he would govern the eparchy with the assistance of an eparchial synod. Stojka dispensed with the synod and began to move closer to the Protestants, while the clergy increasingly favored union with Rome. Not surprisingly, regular conflicts and disputes soon broke out between the clergy and their bishop. In order to retain his control, Bishop Stojka finally placed himself under the jurisdiction of the Calvinist Church in Transylvania, which had promised him equal privileges with the Catholics and the Protestants.

However, when it became obvious that the promised privileges were not forthcoming, in 1705, the Orthodox eparchial synod ousted Stojka from the bishopric and imprisoned him pending an investigation. The trial concluded the following year with the dismissal of Stojka from the eparchy and the confiscation of his property by the county authorities.

In 1708, a Romanian priest named Job Czirka also a sympathizer of Calvinism and an inveterate foe of the Union, was chosen to take Stojka's place. Czirka's free-thinking soon alienated the clergy, which saw union with Rome as their only solution. Because of his drunkenness and scandalous conduct, Czirka also lost favor with the magnates, who had appointed him administrator of the Maramaros region. In 1710, the court dismissed him from the episcopate and entrusted the administration of the Maramaros eparchy once again to Bishop Stojka. The clergy accepted Stojka but only on the condition that Prince Rakoczi would confirm him as bishop.

Rakoczi had just led a rebellion against the Habsburgs, but in 1711, the rising ended in defeat. The emperor's troops occupied the whole of Transylvania, including the Maramaros region. Bishop Stojka died the same year, leaving behind great disorder and decadence in the eparchy.

3. Attempts at Implementing the Union in Maramaros.
Fear of the Union was the main reason why the Maramaros region split away from the Mukachevo see in 1690 and elected its own Orthodox bishop. Unfortunately, the Maramaros bishops were unable to govern their eparchy independently and became subject to a Protestant administration. The local clergy became divided into three groups. One group wanted to remain under the jurisdiction of the Protestant superintendent; a second group wished to secure independence as an Orthodox entity; a third group favored union with Rome.

After the failure of Rakoczi's rebellion, the sympathy for Protestantism diminished. On the other hand, the struggle between the Orthodox and pro-union groups intensified. Unfortunately, until 1716, the Mukachevo See was also deprived of a bishop who could have taken an interest in the ecclesiastical affairs of the Maramaros region after the death of Bishop Stojka. As a result, the anti-union group succeeded in electing the hieromonk Dosytej Teodorovych, hegumen of the Uhlja monastery, as their bishop. Advocates of the Union put forward the candidacy of the Romanian priest Sefan Petrovan, who took the religious name Serafim. The pro-union group won at the diocesan synod and Petrovan became bishop (1711-1717).

Petrovan wasted no time. Immediately after his episcopal consecration, he asked the Uniate archbishop Athanasius Anhelu of Alba Iulia to extend his guardianship over the Maramaros eparchy. In retaliation, his opponents took measures to oust him from the bishopric. They initiated legal proceedings which lasted three years. Finally, on April 9, 1717, the Maramaros county court sentenced Petrovan to imprisonment "for various abuses" and stripped him of his office. The bishop died in prison that same year, his only crime being that he had wanted union with Rome.

However, Petrovan's work and sacrifice were not in vain. He sustained the union movement among the Maramaros clergy until assistance could come from the Mukachevo eparchy in the person of the hieromonk Prokopij Hodermars'kyj, OSBM. In order to strengthen the union movement, Hodermars'kyj convoked a synod of clergy who favored union with Rome in Sighetul, but the Protestants disbanded the synod. This prompted the Military Council of Transylvania to intervene in the religious affairs of Maramaros in an attempt to re-establish peace in the region. The council decided that parishes that did not wish to enter into union with Rome should remain under the jurisdiction of their Orthodox bishop, while the magnates were ordered to allow Hodermars'kyj to govern those parishes which favored the Union. In 1716, Hodermars'kyj again convoked a synod in Sighetul, which was attended by 60 Carpatho-Ukrainian priests from the Maramaros region. They all accepted the Union and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Mukachevo. Thus, the foundation of the Union in the Maramaros region was laid.

Nonetheless, Transylvania's magnates were determined to keep Maramaros Orthodox. After the death of Petrovan, they named Dosytej Teodorovych bishop of the Orthodox eparchy (1718-1733) and endeavored to make the Uniates of the region also subject to his authority. But Emperor Charles VI blocked these attempts. In 1719, he issued a charter which guaranteed the rights and privileges of the Uniate parishes of the Maramaros region.

Having brought order to the Mukachevo eparchy, Bishop Jurij H. Bizancij (1716-1733) turned his attention again to Maramaros. He began by obtaining jurisdiction from Emperor Charles VI over the entire Maramaros region, as had been the case earlier. The emperor then suspended Bishop Dosytej Teodorovych and forbade him to interfere in the administration of the parishes in Maramaros.

In August 1721, Bishop Bizancij began a tour of the Maramaros region for the purpose of bringing about the Union. Individual parishes gladly accepted the Union because Bizancij had secured for them all the benefits and privileges of the so-called "accepted" religions. Bizancij concluded his tour in December 1721, by which time the Union had been consolidated throughout all of Carpathian Rus'.

Bizancij also tried to persuade Bishop Teodorovych to accept the Union, but the later refused the conditions offered. Consequently, in accordance with the emperor's decree, Bizancij stripped Teodorovych of all episcopal functions, although he provided him with the revenues of the Uhlja monastery. Despite the ban, Teodorovych continued to ordain priests in secret and to grant various dispensations, which created serious problems for Bizancij. Teodorovych died in 1733 at the Uhlja monastery. With his death, the Maramaros eparchy ceased to exist and all the parishes in Carpathian Rus' were finally united under the jurisdiction of the Mukachevo hierarch.

4. The Struggle for Control of the Maramaros Region.
As part of Transylvania, the Maramaros region was together with that principality incorporated in 1733 into the Hungarian kingdom. After accepting the Union, the Carpatho-Ukrainian clergy of Maramaros gladly accepted the jurisdiction of the Mukachevo bishop. The Romanian clergy, on the other hand, wanted to join the Transylvanian Romanians, who had also entered into union with Rome in 1698. It was for this reason that Bishop Bizancij had asked the emperor for a charter to allow him to extend his authority over the entire Maramaros county "according to ancient custom."

When the Greek Catholic Romanian eparchy of Fagaras was created in 1721, Bishop J. Giugiu de Pataky (1723-1727) established relations with the Romanian clergy of the Maramaros region, in order to place them under his own jurisdiction. Through the efforts of Bishop Pataky, in 1723 the Transylvanian governor recognized the authority of the Fagaras prelate over the Maramaros region, but Bishop Bizancij opposed this decision, citing the imperial charter of 1720. This gave rise to a struggle for jurisdiction over the Maramaros region between the Mukachevo and Fagaras bishops.

The matter ultimately ended up in Rome. At its meeting on May 7, 1725, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith was unable to reach any decision and had to wait for the opinion of the papal nuncio in Vienna. While Bizancij responded to the nuncio's inquiry, Pataky ignored it. Thus, on June 24, 1727, Bizancij once again raised in Rome the issue of jurisdiction over Maramaros. Just then Bishop Pataky died and the Vatican appointed Bishop Bizancij the temporary administrator of the Fagaras eparchy. This helped Bizancij to consolidate his jurisdiction over Maramaros.

In 1731, the new bishop of Fagaras, Giurgiu Micu-Klein revived the struggle for ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Maramaros. For its part, Rome waited for a decision from the Austrian imperial court. On November 15, 1732, the papal nuncio in Vienna advised Rome to wait before making a decision, because the imperial court, too, was unable to determine whether Maramaros should belong administratively to Transylvania or to the kingdom of Hungary.

Finally, in 1733, the Transylvanian principality was abolished, and the bishop of Fagaras no longer had a basis for his claim to episcopal authority over the Maramaros region. Thus, after the death of Bishop Bizancij, Emperor Charles VI named S. Ol'shavs'kyj (1733-1737) "Bishop of Mukachevo and Maramaros." The Apostolic See concurred with the emperor's decision. Thus, jurisdiction over the Maramaros region passed into the hands of the Mukachevo hierarch.

5. The Establishment of the Maramaros Vicariate.
Bishop Jurij Bizancij found the Maramaros clergy to be in a deplorable condition. As earlier in other parts of Carpathian Rus', very little distinguished this clergy from the rest of the serfs. Priests had to perform all the duties of serfdom, including statute labor. In addition to lacking education, the priests had fallen under Protestant influence. Superstition and drunkenness were also widespread. It was essential that the clergy be liberated from the control of the secular lords and that the dignity of their office be raised to the same level as that of the Catholic clergy.

Both Hodermars'kyj and Bizancij were convinced that the only way in which to improve the lot of the Carpatho-Ukrainian clergy was through union with Rome. With the authority of the emperor and the Military Council of Transylvania behind him, Bizancij set about ordering the affairs of individual parishes immediately after his arrival in Maramaros county. His principal problem was to find appointments for priests, whose number had uncontrollably swelled. In larger localities he appointed assistant pastors, but in other places he had to appoint some priests as cantors or sextons in order to secure for them the exemptions. This forced the landowners to exempt all these priests from serfdom and to provide them with church lands. In this manner, Bishop Bizancij elevated the prestige of the Maramaros clergy and won their trust.

In order to placate the Romanians and preserve the Maramaros region as a traditionally independent unity, Bizancij in 1723 established the "Maramaros Vicariate" together with its own consistory. As the first vicar in Sighetul, Bizancij appointed the Basilian monk Prokopij Hodermars'kyj (1723-1726) who had worked hard to bring about the Union in the Maramaros region.

Because of the struggle for control over the Maramaros region, Hodermars'kyj's successor, Vicar S. Ol'shavs'kyj (1729-1733), was forced to return to Mukachevo, where he was appointed bishop after the death of Bizancij in 1733.

The Mukachevo bishops also encountered difficulties with the Transylvanian princes, because the Maramaros clergy had not paid them taxes since the seventeenth century. In order to resolve the problem, Bishop Havryjil Blazhovs'kyj (1738-1742) called a synod in 1739, at which it was decided to pay Prince M. Apafi at least a "nominal tax." In return, the prince exempted the Maramaros clergy from taxes and statute labor.

The synod also resolved to revive the Maramaros vicariate, which had ceased to exist when S. Ol'shavs'kyj was elected bishop. Acting on a proposal of the synod, on September 6, 1740, Bishop Blazhovs'kyj appointed the proto-hegumen Hryhorij Bulko, OSBM, vicar of Maramaros. Bulko held the position briefly because he died two years later.

The principal city of the county, Sighetul (Marmatiei), was designated the seat of the vicariate, even though there was no Carpatho-Rusyn parish there at the time. A building to serve as the vicar's residence and land for a church were donated by the nobleman, Rudolf A. Eldbeck, who was well disposed towards the Carpatho-Ukrainians. The first vicar, P. Hodermars'kyj, took up residence in the new building. At first, the faithful held religious services in the Roman Catholic Church, but in 1748 Vicar Andrej Bachyns'kyj (1746-1754) built a wooden church in Sighetul for the Greek Catholics. These were difficult times for the Maramaros vicars. They had no income and had to rely on the bishop of Mukachevo for material assistance. The bishop thus preferred to name Basilian monks to head the vicariate, since they received aid from their monasteries.

The conditions of the Maramaros vicariate improved during the tenure of Bishop Andrej Bachyns'kyj, who managed to obtain an annual income of 400 florins for the vicar from the religious fund. Bachyns'kyj also succeeded in securing grants of land for the parish priest, his assistant, the cantor and the sexton, since the Sighetul parish had grown significantly during the eighteenth century.

Through the efforts of Bishop Bachyns'kyj, in 1778 an attractive residence was built for the vicar in Sighetul and in 1800 work began on the erection of a new stone church. The Maramaros vicar thus gained respect and prestige, and was able to perform his high office with dignity.

After the death of Bishop Bachynk'kyj in 1809, there were attempts to attach the Maramaros vicariate to the Romanian Greek Catholic eparchy of Oradea, but the Mukachevo consistory, headed by the captiulary vicar Ivan Kutka, vigorously opposed this. When a new Romanian Greek Catholic eparchy was established in Gherla in 1853, almost all the Romanian parishes of the Maramaros vicariate were attached to it.

A dispute also arose at the time about the fate of the Sighetul parish, which included both Carpatho-Ukrainians and Romanians. The vicar Peter Anderko (1815-1869), of Romanian descent, wanted to incorporate the Sighetul parish into the Gherla eparchy. After a protracted debate, on August 29, 1865, the Supervisory Council of Hungary recognized the Sighetul parish as Carpatho-Rusyn and left it under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Mukachevo.

The Romanians were not satisfied with the decision, and so, supported by the vicar Anderko himself, they built a separate church. In order to bring the matter to a close, the Mukachevo bishop granted separate status to the Romanian parish in Sighetul, but did not relinquish his jurisdiction over it.

After World War I, Sighetul and eleven Carpatho-Ukrainian parishes became part of Romania. At first, these parishes constituted a separate administrative unit, but in 1930, they were incorporated into the newly-established Romanian Greek Catholic eparchy of Maramures with a seat in Baia Mare. This marked the end of the historic Maramaros vicariate. In its place, the parishes that after World War I remained in the Mukachevo eparchy were formed into the so-called Maramorosh archdiaconate with a seat in Chust.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, there were plans to create a metropolitanate in Carpathian Rus'. Then, it was proposed to transform the Maramorosh archdiaconate into a new Chust eparchy, but the war put an end to these plans.

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