MILESTONES

 XVIth CENTURY OF HUNGARIAN PROTESTANTISM

 

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The 16th  century  is one of the most significant periods in Hungarian history. The first decades of the century are marked  by  fighting between lesser notability and  aristocracy, on the one hand, and the impotent royal power on the other. The Turks continued to present a threatening menace from the South. The  country received no aid from allies and, in 1526, it  suffered a defeat from the Turkish  army at Mohács. The king died in battle and his country, now divided into two parties, elected two kings: János  Szapolyai (1526-1540) and  Ferdinand Hapsburg I (1526-1564).   In 1541 Buda fell into the hands of  the Turkish empire. As a result, the country broke up into three parts: Royal Hungary ruled by the House of Hapsburg,  parts of Hungary under Turkish rule, and the Principality of Transylvania. The Reformation came to Hungary not long after 1517 in the midst of all this strife. First, it spread  among the burghers and  intelligentsia  (specifically to the German-speaking people in the free royal towns  of  Upper Northern Hungary  and to the  Saxons of Transylvania) . Merchants going through  Europe as well as the teachers and pastors  coming home from Wittenberg (Germany) were the first  propagandists of this new  religion. After the Mohács Disaster (1526), a  great many of the lesser nobility and  aristocracy (e.g.: Tamás Nádasdy in Sárvár) became the main supporters of the Reformation. The peasant villagers joined the reformation of the Christian faith  in country-towns  of  North-north-east Hungary and in the South. The Hungarian  legislative assembly passed  an Act against the Lutheran Reformation in the Diets (today, Parliament) held in Buda (1523, 1525). (Mátyás Dévai, also called the Hungarian Luther, was sent to prison and then taken to an Inquisition in Vienna).  Spreading of the Reformation  could not have been  hindered  by the  Catholic Counter-Reformation that started in the second half of the century.  (The best  example of this is of Péter Bornemissza).  A considerable segment of the  population became Protestant through the middle of the 16th century. 

In 1549 the Hungarian legislative assembly also accepted the  Lutheran  confession  (Confessio Pentapolitana) of the five free royal towns of Upper Northern Hungary.  In 1598  the Lutherans  of the Western Trans-Danube region translated  the Formula of Concord into Hungarian and accepted it.

The teachings of the Swiss Reformers became known throughout Hungary in the second half of the century. The followers of this teaching organized a separate church. In 1567, the Reformed pastors signed the Helvetian Confession II.  (Calvinism)  under the leadership of Péter Meliusz Juhász at the Council of Debrecen

In Transylvania and in the southern parts of Hungary under Turkish rule, the Anti-Trinitarian denomination was wide-spread  (Ferenc Dávid  became the first bishop of  Unitarianism).  Prince of Transylvania  Zsigmond János  (1540-1571)   put into force  the  freedom of religion in an unique way in Europe at the Diet (today: parliament) of Torda (Turda, Ro).

Printing of books  became  one of the important means of the Reformation  in Hungary , too. Several Protestant  pastors  had  a printing press  (in Brassó (Kronstadt, Braşov Ro): Johannes Honterus; in Magyaróvár, etc.: Gál Huszár, in Kolozsvár (Klausenburg, Cluj-Napoca, Ro): Gáspár Heltai).

 The school system based on the classical education of  Melanchton  played an important role  in the  formation of our schools and in the edition of the school books. Our  preachers wrote such theological works in Latin language that were used all over Europe (See the works of the reformed István Szegedi Kiss, Péter Laskai Csókás and Izsák Fegyverneki ) .

Program  of the Reformation written  in mother tongue promoted the comprehensive  cultivation of the literature in Hungarian language. In 1591 the Bible was published in Hungarian in Vizsoly (translated by Gáspár Károlyi and his co-workers)  following  the initiative of the partial   translation of the Bible  carried out by  erasmists  (Benedek Komjáthy,  Gábor Pesti, János Sylvester) and others.

About one third of  poems written in Hungarian to the year 1600 was  Protestant congregational,  liturgical  hymn,  chant of sermons (e.g.: poems of András Szkhárosi Horváth)  and biblical stories.

Commentaries,  volumes of  sermons, dramas of  religious controversies (e.g.: of Mihály Sztárai), writings of confession, prayer-books written  in Hungarian  popularized not only the Protestant  doctrines , but also they nursed  a comprehensive  reading  public.


Trial of  - the Hungarian Luther -  Mátyás Dévai Bíró

Frontpage of New Testament translated by János Sylvester

Holy Scripture of Vizsoly

István Szegedi Kiss

Herbarium - Marosvásárhely

(Târgu Mureş) Romania