XVIth CENTURY OF HUNGARIAN PROTESTANTISM
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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 ) .
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.
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.