by Kateřina Bobková-Valentová, The Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague and
Hedvika Kuchařová, Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov, Prague; The Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Is it possible to find out what a person living at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries did year by year? If this person entered a religious order, then in many cases the answer would be yes.
Once the Bohemian Revolt was defeated in 1621, a large number of male and female religious orders started to flourish in Bohemia and Moravia and this heyday lasted 160 years up to the reign of Joseph II (1780–1790). All of these orders were keeping records of its members, which had — besides purely practical reasons — also its legal and spiritual importance. By entering an order, the man or a woman committed himself/herself to leading a certain type of life and to fulfilling certain duties; life stories of deceased members were passed on within the community as examples of particular abilities and virtues, and the community prayed for its dead members.
Various orders kept various records. For orders established in the Middle Ages (the Benedictines, the Cistercians, the Premonstratensians) there is no central register of its members, while the records of the Jesuits are very thorough and detailed. Preservation of sources containing valuable biographical data also varies. The extent of preservation is usually much worse in the case of religious orders that were banned under the reign of Joseph II, and whose archives fell victim to extensive destruction of documents. After 1773, Jesuit colleges and residences were not spared the destruction either; however, for Jesuits we can draw information from the preserved central archive of the Order in Rome. Throughout the 18th century, these record-keeping sources started to be published also in a printed form.
Our aim has become to create a database environment for these data, and thus The Bio-Bibliographical Database of Members of the Religious Order Living in the Czech Lands in the Early Modern Age (http://reholnici.hiu.cas.cz/katalog/) was created in 2010. Its development and operation is funded from various grant projects, as well as from the budget of The Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences. At present, the database comprises more than 13 000 personal entries. These entries are divided into several categories according to their comprehensiveness. The basic entry is composed of the information about the name of the order a given person was a member of and of basic data (date of birth, death, profession, or possibly ordaining and entry into the order). The more advanced category contains a description of at least a part of the career. Full entries cover the life of an individual since the entry into to order until death (or leaving the order respectively); ideally, information on parents and life prior to entering the order is also added.
We strive for maximum faithfulness regarding the sources. The data are thus entered into the database in the language of the source, mostly Latin. The database of persons is linked with the database of sources from which the data originate, and it is also possible to refer to the digitalized version of the source so in case of doubt the information can be verified by the user. With regard to the technical aspect, the database is based on the international bibliographic format UNIMARC (with possible transfer to MARC21); however a number of fields were added directly for this database.
At present, the database makes it possible primarily to search individual persons. It is used mainly by historians, art historians, literary scholars and musicologists. We hope that feeding more data into the database and improving the search tools will result in much more effective working with the data, statistical outputs and visualisations.