Oláh, Miklós

Miklós Oláh (Nagyszeben, 13th January 1493 – Vienna, 15th January 1568) humanist scientist. His father, István Oláh, was a descendant of the Wallachian Dan family, kin to the Hunyadi family, her mother was Borbála Huszár. After his student years in Várad, in 1510 he moved to Buda, become a secretary in the chancellery in 1516, and was later ordained. From 1518, he was canon of Pécs, from 1522, canon of Esztergom and Archdeacon of Komárom. In 1526, he was the secretary of Louis II and Mary. After the Battle of Mohács, with the escort of Mary, he travelled to Pozsony, and later to Brussels. He has also been in Paris. In 1542, he returned home. In 1543, he was named Bishop and Chancellor of Zagreb, in 1548, Bishop of Eger, and in 1553, Archbishop of Esztergom. In 1562, he became Vicar of the king. He crowned Maximilian Habsburg in 1653.

During his stay on the German Lowlands, he became friends with Erasmus of Rotterdam, who called him to Brussels. With the other members of the ‘academia trium linguarum’, they mutually sent their works to the others for them to criticise. During these years, he was an erasmist, and thus tolerant to other religions. However, when he returned to Hungary, he began the Counter-Reformation, and started reforming the education system and the Catholic religious life. He printed catechisms, breviaries, and pontifical. He treated readers of heretic books extremely strictly, and sometimes even imprisoned them. In 1558, he united the school of Nagyszombat with the school of the Chapter of Esztergom that fleed to Nagyszombat. He also invited excellent teachers, and in 1561, the Jesuit Order, to take care of the school. He sent his protégées to universities abroad, especially to Bologna. He also left a thousand gold forints for the education of the talented, but poor children of Vienna. He aided, for example, János Zsámboky, Ferenc Forgách and Miklós Istvánffy.

He only had significant literary activities during his stay abroad. He wrote poems and orations in Greek and Latin. He excelled in the art of writing letters. Following the footprints of János Vajda, and as the last in Hungarian literature, he constructed his letters to his friends with ?, and arranged them in a volume. (Epistolae familiares, 1527-38) The style of his letters is brilliant, their tone is made enthralling by nostalgia. They mostly tell about being in foreign lands, and having difficulties integrating as an intellectual. He observed the events of war with curiosity and concern. Against the two pretenders of the throne, he saw the solution in inviting the Polish king to the Hungarian throne. He was planning a monumental work, to write about important events of Hungarian history as István Brodarics did. He only finished the first two parts. Hungaria (1536) is a cosmographic introduction of this monumental work, a nostalgic picture of his faraway home. He liked anecdotes. He also has statements of source value, but they are often inaccurate. The second piece is a Hun story, Athila (1537). The Pagans (the “bad men”) have a well-armed, ordered army led by a strong, creative monarch, and the Christians (the “good men”) have a clumsy, lazy mass with idiotic leaders. This represents the Ottomans and the Hungarians, and reveals not only the reason for our losses, but the opportunity to rise.

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