WHILE DÁVID’S BODY LAY mouldering in its unknown or forgotten grave, his spirit continued to live on in the church of his followers. From having been its inspiring leader in the days when it was sweeping all before it, he now became transformed into its sanctified martyr, the personal incarnation of its faith, and the symbol of a heroic devotion to conviction which was to furnish it with inspiration and strength to endure long generations of persecution yet to come. Before we take leave of him it will be well to review the faith that was his bequest to the church that he founded. Dávid early became convinced that the reformation of Christian doctrine, if it were to be faithful to Scripture, needed to go much further than the first Protestant reformers had attempted. Moving in this direction after his break with the Calvinists he was at first strongly influenced by Servetus in his criticism of the doctrine of the Trinity and of the person of Christ, as also somewhat by the writings of Gentile and Ochino. But in his independent studies of Scripture he rapidly outgrew these; and taking this as his sole authority he noted how much that was solely of human origin the reformers had retained in their creeds. He never did, in fact, elaborate a fully rounded system of belief, but by 1567 he published the first and most important part of it.1 In stating his reformed beliefs Dávid at first moved carefully, desiring if possible to avoid dividing the church on doctrinal lines. The first step was taken at the synod at Maros-Vásárhely in 1566, in a decisive stand for the Apostles’ Creed as an authoritative and sufficient expression of scripture teaching; but later in the same year a Catechismus Ecclesiarum was approved which, after the first fifteen questions and answers, was identical with the Heidelberg Catechism. Though rejecting the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity it still retained a doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Dávid soon, however, centered his emphasis upon the unqualified unity of God as the first and greatest idea in religion; and ‘God is one’ (Egy az Isten) was taken up and has ever since remained as the watchword and rallying-cry of the Unitarian churches in Transylvania. He conceived of God as a spiritual being, whose power is manifested in Nature, and whose goodness, wisdom, love and omniscience are everywhere apparent. His love for man is most fully shown in the person of Jesus, who was the promised Messiah, and was conceived by the Holy Spirit, though incontestably a human being, and divine only in the sense that he was the Son of God and that upon him God conferred especial dignity. He was sent of God, endowed by his spirit, and appointed to be judge of the quick and the dead; became our teacher, prophet, priest and King, and was at length seated at the right hand of God. Through him we have been enlightened and sanctified, and through repentance and faith in him we are saved.2 Into other doctrines Dávid did not go to any extent. To matters of organization and the ceremonies of the church he attached little importance, believing them largely superfluous; since those that heed the teaching of Scripture and follow the example of Jesus will not go astray. Infant baptism was rejected as unscriptural, and the Lord’s Supper though retained evidently did not greatly appeal to him, being but an outward rite which in the Roman Church had been exaggerated far beyond its original meaning.
Had Dávid lived, his active mind would undoubtedly have proceeded much further in the reconstruction of religious belief. The question of the invocation of Christ was indeed but a prelude to others to be taken up when the time proved ripe and the minds of the people had been prepared for further steps. Already in i578 he was revolving the doctrines of justification and predestination taught by Luther and Calvin as calling for attention.3 It may be presumed therefore that had his course not been interrupted he might have carried through a thorough revision of the whole existing system of Christian doctrine, and have left his followers a Confession much more independent of the accretions of tradition, and much more consistent with Scripture, than were those of the great reformers. Even as it was, he went further, and showed himself much freer and more fearless in his teaching, than the Polish Brethren, whose progress had been hindered by the long controversy over baptism, and by the bitter one between tritheists, ditheists and unitarians. But unfortunately, with the removal of Dávid, and the determination of the civil power to resist any further changes in doctrine, the Unitarians of Transylvania were forced into practical doctrinal stagnation for over two centuries. Leadership in this field passed to Faustus Socinus, whose system as elaborated in the Racovian Catechism was accepted also by the Transylvanians as their standard of faith.
If the tragic death of Dávid, as we have said, was eventually to be a perpetual source of inspiration and strength to his followers, by holding up before them an example of unwavering fidelity to their religion, its immediate effect was nevertheless devastating, as they found themselves stunned and bewildered, and their leader dishonored and disgraced. Large numbers of both the common people and the magnates who had of late flocked to his cause now fell away from it or were deterred from joining it. Yet on the other hand, as the next generation was to make evident, there were still many in Transylvania that sympathized with the views for which he had been condemned, though bound for the present not to avow them publicly. Sympathy with Dávid was especially pronounced in the churches of Lower Hungary which, being under the Turkish rule, were free from the influences that swayed Christopher Báthory. These churches had multiplied and flourished vigorously on both sides of the Danube since the early mission of Basilius; and the Lutheran chaplain, Stephen Gerlach, passing through on his way to Constantinople, as early as 1573, reported finding many ‘Arians’ along the middle Danube.4 In this territory, as in Transylvania, public disputations with the Calvinists were held as usual. Of these the most celebrated was in 1574 at Nagy Harsany, where the two preachers championing the Unitarian cause were persecuted for their heresy under the old Hungarian law. Lukas Tolnai managed to escape, but his companion George Alvinczi was condemned to death and hanged by order of the Calvinist Bishop.5 Upon this a wealthy Unitarian at the risk of his life brought the matter to the attention of the Turkish Governor at Buda and demanded satisfaction. The Governor gave ear, and ordered the Calvinist Bishop to appear. A new disputation was ordered and was held before a great crowd. The Governor gave judgment that the execution of Alvinczi had been inhuman, and the Bishop and his two fellows were sentenced to death as murderers. The Calvinists were thunderstruck; but the Unitarian preacher at Pécs interceded for them, saying that his people did not seek revenge. The sentence was therefore remitted, and in lieu of it a heavy annual tribute was imposed on the whole province. Another famous discussion was held at Pécs in 1588 between the Calvinist Matthew Skaricza of Tolna and George Valaszuti of Pécs, which was carried on in amicable fashion and resulted in better understanding.6
After this the Unitarians, who now had more than threescore congregations in the two counties of Temes and Baranya. lived in peace for the rest of the century. They had followed the case of Dávid with deepest concern, and immediately upon receiving word of his death at Déva Pál Kárádi, Pastor at Temesvár, addressed to Demetrius Hunyadi who had succeeded Dávid as Superintendent. and to three other ministers at Kolozsvár who with him had been active opponents of Dávid, a long letter7 in which, after saluting them as brethren of Judas Iscariot,’ he covered them with maledictions and reproaches, charging them with treachery to an innocent man, conspirators with the infamous Biandrata, murderers and brethren of Cain. To this letter Stephen Basilius, one of the addressees, wrote a dignified reply, as also one to Benedek Óvári, who had for several years been teaching non-adoration in Lower Hungary.8 From this time on the churches in Lower Hungary drew more and more apart from those in Transylvania. Basilius, indeed, whom we have seen active in the early spread of the faith in Hungary, exerted himself to prevent a separation, and visited the ministers and churches to that end, but with no success, since at present they preferred an independent course, and Basilius found them in 1580 full of what he called ‘judaizing notions.’ They therefore chose a Superintendent of their own in Kárádi, who became known as ‘Bishop of the Alföld’ (i.e., the Great Plain of Lower Hungary, east of the Danube). His diocese had more than sixty churches, all under Turkish rule, and he also had oversight of the churches in Baranya County west of the Danube. In their detachment from the brethren in Transylvania these churches were bound to suffer; but when Kárádi died about 1600 the wound had begun to heal, and no new Superintendent was chosen. Henceforth they seem to have had no efficient organization, and extant records of them are scanty;9 but as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century Unitarianism was still vigorous and widespread in lower Baranya County. In 1628, however, came the plague to devastate the country, and in the following year a Jesuit mission began operations and won many converts. As the Turkish power waned late in the century, Catholicism under the patronage of the Emperor made corresponding gains, and churches were taken from the Unitarians and given to them, and the Unitarian ministers were banished, so that by the end of the century Pécs, which two generations before had been nearly all Unitarian, had become Catholic again. The Emperor Leopold rid the country of Turkish rule 1683–88, and a quarter of a century of violent persecution by the Catholic government ensued. Yet as late as 1710 the surviving Unitarian congregations were still sending to Transylvania for ministers. By the middle of the century, however, the inevitable fate overtook them. They were a hopeless and dwindling minority surrounded by Catholics and Calvinists, both bitterly hostile to them, the relatively tolerant government of the Turks was at an end, the churches in lower Hungary became extinct and their few remaining members were absorbed among Catholics or Calvinists.10 It was not until late in the nineteenth century that Unitarian churches began again to be established in Hungary.
We return now to the situation at Gyulafehérvár after the imprisonment of Dávid. With the Superintendent of the Unitarian churches removed from the scene, it developed upon Biandrata as their most prominent lay Elder to gather together and reorganize the demoralized congregations. He acted with promptness and decision. All the ministers that had followed Dávid at his trial were at once summoned before the Prince and threatened with the same punishment as Dávid unless they abjured his opinions. The nobles asked that they be given a day for consultation, which was granted; but lest any escape their names were recorded and the gates were guarded. When again summoned to the palace on the following morning they yielded to the inevitable, disowned sympathy with Dávid’s opinions, and were permitted to return to their homes. A month later Biandrata convened a general synod at Kolozsvár, which was attended by nearly all the ministers. He reminded them of their promise to the Prince, and induced them (by false representations, it was afterwards asserted) to subscribe a doctrinal statement supposed to have been compiled out of books published in the time of King John. This consisted of four articles, affirming their faith as to the divinity, adoration, invocation and kingdom of Christ.11 Twenty-four of their number were elected as a Consistory; but when it came to the election of a new Superintendent there was such general objection to Demetrius Hunyadi to whom Biandrata had promised the office that no election was had. Nevertheless, Biandrata took Hunyadi with him to Gyulafehérvár and recommended him to the Prince in the name of the churches, whereupon he was confirmed by the Prince as Superintendent in place of Dávid, and the city Council at Kolozsvár had also to accept him as their chief Pastor.12
At this synod, in the interest of good order, regulations were adopted forbidding either public or private debate on controversial questions, or pulpit discussion of useless questions calculated to disturb the common people, and charging ministers rather to urge their hearers to good works. The Lord’s Prayer was to be retained in public worship before the sermon, and a scriptural benediction was to conclude the service. Ministers were not to change their posts without consent of the Superintendent and the Consistory, and the two were to join in proposing a brief plan for a complete reform of the churches. The Lord’s Supper and infant baptism, which had more or less fallen into disuse, were ordered restored. Ministers who failed to attend synods were to be fined, and if contumacious were to be removed from office.13
It is evident that under Dávid’s loose administration the customs and usages in individual congregations had fallen into disorder, and loudly called for reform and stricter control; for in October of the same year the Diet at Torda reported that innovation was continuing in the land, and voted that the innovators be punished.14 In the face of such conditions the new Superintendent proved to be a wise and judicious administrator, and in his thirteen years’ service he succeeded in bringing the churches into established and wholesome good order.
Hunyadi, though the second Superintendent of the Unitarian churches, was their first real administrator, and he was well chosen for his task. As a student in the college at Kolozsvár he had early showed distinguished talents, and was made an assistant teacher. From here he was promoted to be Rector of the school at Enyed, where he won a high reputation. At a disputation in the great debate at Gyulafehérvár in 1566 he so attracted the attention of King John that he was sent abroad for further study, and spent six years at Padua, being a fellow-student with Stephen Báthorv and several others who later stood high in public life. Returning home in 1573 he was at once appointed Rector of the college at Kolozsvár, the first native Unitarian to hold this position, for hitherto Biandrata and Dávid had been obliged to go abroad for competent Rectors. He was distinguished as a Greek scholar, and served his office with great credit as long as Dávid lived. As Superintendent he now convened annual synods, constantly aiming to bring about better organization of the churches, and he especially advocated the religious education of their children, which had of late been much neglected.15 He also divided the churches into twelve districts, each under the charge of a Dean or District Superintendent (Esperes). With the Jesuits, who in his time were beginning to extend their work into Transylvania, he had numerous debates. In his office he had a very difficult role to fill, for he had succeeded a leader idolized by his people, and as he was placed in office not by free choice of the people but under pressure from above, he never became popular with them; while the fact that he had sided with Biandrata and had been favored byhim brought upon him the charge that he had joined with him in a wicked conspiracy against Dávid. He had therefore for a time to suffer a share of the obloquy that covered the former. Yet as he was by temperament evidently conservative, there is no good reason for doubting that he honestly disapproved Dávid’s action in promoting more radical views, nor for believing that out of ambition or otherwise he allowed himself to be made Biandrata’s mere tool. After serving for just less than thirteen years as Superintendent he was stricken with apoplexy while preaching in the great church at Kolozsvár, and two days later he expired.16
In the autumn after Dávid’s trial the judgment of the Polish churches, to which the arguments between Dávid and Biandrata had been submitted, was received.17 As already related, the decision was strongly against Dávid’s position, and was supported by lengthy arguments from Scripture. The judgment was of course too late to have the least effect upon Dávid’s case, which had been determined by the Diet in June; though Biandrata doubtless felt that it might have considerable moral effect with the churches, and make them more reconciled to what had been done. He therefore laid the document before the Consistory at its November meeting at Kolozsvar, charging the members under serious threats to subscribe to it. A few subscribed at once, several refused, and the matter was adjourned to the general synod, by which time all had had opportunity to read it in print. At this meeting held at Kolozsvár in January, 1580 the subject was again brought up, and now out of 250 ministers present all subscribed but sixteen or eighteen, who were therefore forbidden to preach until their case should be dealt with at a later synod. Thus a nominal conformity was at length secured, which furnished at least some assurance against further prosecution for innovation, though how sincere the conformity was which was thus secured must in many cases have been open to grave doubt. The long letter that in this year or the next was written to Palaeologus in the name of the Transylvania brethren,18 passionately defending Dávid’s side, shows clearly that beneath a quiet surface there was a suppressed fever of discontent. In fact, a contemporary witness reports that many of the nobles still held and supported Dávid’s view,19 while a number of the best ministers of the church now left Transylvania for the greater freedom to be enjoyed in Hungary.20
From this point on Biandrata ceases to play any part in our history. He had won his contest with Dávid, and had secured the organization of the church on a basis that promised to ensure its safety from attack under the law, and thus he may with some reason be said to have saved it from imminent ruin; but even if so, it was at the sacrifice of any further leadership or influence in the Unitarian community. Probably the last word that we have from his pen is a letter that he wrote in 1580 from Gyulafehérvár to his and Dávid’s old friend and colleague in reform, Palaeologus, who had now returned to Poland.21 It is dated January 10, and thus immediately after the judgment of the Polish churches had been subscribed. It is mildly apologetic for the course he has taken with regard to Dávid, and intimates that he was less disturbed by Dávid’s doctrine than by the consequences resulting from it. The later years of Biandrata’s life are obscured by conflicting rumors.
Some would have it that after a year or two he removed with Socinus to Poland in order the better to enjoy the favor of his patron, King Stephen, and there died. It is certain, however, that he continued to live at Gyulafehérvár and to practice his profession at court, where his medical skill was highly valued; but he appears henceforth to have lost his old interest in his church, and to have cared only for amassing wealth. Hence he seems more and more to have withdrawn from association with the Unitarians, and to have cultivated relations chiefly with Catholics of the court circle; so that the rumor naturally arose that he had quite forsaken his old faith and gone back to Romanism. It is true that he had intimate relations with the Jesuit fathers, bore witness to their learning and blameless life, and ministered faithfully to their physical needs, and that they highly esteemed him in turn, and were persistent in their efforts to effect his conversion; but at length they gave him up as incorrigible, and he remained to the end stedfast in his heresy. He led a lonely life, but at the end he had the companionship of his nephew and namesake, whom in his last will he made heir of all his property, on condition that he remain stedfast in the Unitarian faith. The date and place of his death are variously reported; but it is established that he died at Gyulafehérvár early in May, 1588, at the age of 72. Whether there is truth in the persistent rumor that he was smothered in his sleep by his nephew who was impatient for his promised inheritance is open to serious doubt, though Socinus evidently crediting the rumor attributed his death to the just judgment of God.22
In the very year when the tragedy of Francis Dávid was being enacted, a movement was taking shape that threatened ill to the whole cause of the Reformation in Transylvania. This was the introduction of the Jesuits into the country.23 Even before he became King of Poland Stephen Báthory had greatly desired to see the Catholic religion restored in Transylvania and had repeatedly requested that priests be sent from Hungary, though none could then be had. Appeal was therefore made to the Jesuits, and at the time when Dávid’s case was just about to break, the Jesuit father, Janos Lelesi, who had for some time been awaiting orders over the border at Egér in Hungary, appeared at Gyulafehérvár, where he was warmly received by Christopher Báthory, and was easily persuaded by him to stay and take charge of the education of the young Prince Sigismund, then a lad of seven. They at once began to lay plans for the introduction of the Jesuits into the country, in order to win the inhabitants back to their old faith by the quiet methods of teaching, preaching and personal influence. As the cause of the Unitarians, who were still the most powerful of the Protestant sects, was now in confusion for want of a leader, the time seemed auspicious for aggressive Catholic action, and it was decided to establish colleges at Kolozsvár and Gyulafehérvár. Under John Sigismund the Diet had indeed ordered that no more monks should be admitted into Transylvania; but despite this Stephen decided to bring them in, and with his cooperation a band of ten chosen members of the order, with Jacob Wujek as their Rector,24 was brought to Kolozsvár even before the date of Dávid’s death. They were given residence in an abandoned Dominican abbey at Kolozsmonostor just outside the city and there quietly resided for eight years before proceeding further. They at once set to work making converts in increasing numbers; for they discovered that while the upper classes were nearly all Protestant, many of the common people were still Catholics at heart and were glad to return to their old religious customs. They opened a school in 1581, and took steps for opening one as soon as possible at Gyulafehérvár.25
The Estates and magnates, however, being overwhelmingly of the Protestant confessions, were greatly offended that the priests, who had practically been banned from the country for a quarter of a century, and their properties confiscated, should now he trying stealthily to creep back; and before the King’s diploma had been issued confirming them in possession of their seat, the Diet publicly censured the Prince for introducing the Jesuits, and forbade him to bring them into any other places either by force or peaceably.26 Nevertheless, the camel had now got its nose under the tent, and the traditional result followed. Hardly were the fathers settled in their quarters at Kolozsmonostor before they began to press the Prince for permission to bring their school into thecity itself. Christopher gladly fell in with a design that he and Stephen had long cherished, and the King therefore assigned to them a long-deserted Franciscan cloister in Kolozsvár with an adjoining church and adjacent grounds, as well as an abandoned convent which had fallen to the crown when the Catholics were driven from the country. All near the centre of the city.27 Generous land endowments were added for the support of the foundation, including curiously enough three villages that had reverted to the crown in Isabella’s time, and had later been presented to Biandrata by Stephen, and which the latter had lately repurchased and now devoted again to their earlier purpose. At Kolozsvár itself, still very strongly Unitarian, with the government entirely in Unitarian hands, so hostile was public feeling to the Jesuits that they did not venture to set it at defiance by taking possession at once, but bided their time until 1588 when, taking advantage of a plague then furiously raging which distracted all attention, they quietly moved in.
Meantime the deaths of both Christopher and Stephen Báthory were the occasion of much confusion and the beginning of wide changes in the affairs of both State and church. During his brief rule Christopher had suffered much from ill health, and his early death was feared. Some of his counselors therefore, wishing to ensure a peaceful succession and to avoid a contest for the vacant throne, urged him to consent to having his young son Sigismund created Vaivode while he himself still lived. Though reluctant to have his son burdened with such heavy cares while yet so young, he was at length persuaded by the urgency of his advisers, and Stephen also after at first violently opposing the plan at length gave his assent to it. In the Diet, too, strong objections were urged; but they were overruled, and Sigismund Báthory was duly elected Vaivode of Transylvania in 1581 when but nine years of age. Shortly afterwards Christopher, feeling the approach of death, commended the boy to the Jesuit father Lelesi for education and guidance, and devoutly died.28
During Sigismund’s minority the government was at first administered by a regency of twelve; 29 while he himself, as appointed by his father, continued subject to his religious guardian, who carefully directed his education and missed no opportunity to mold his mind in the right way. His education was carried on in the palace by his Jesuit teachers, and many sons of the leading nobles now abandoned the Unitarian school at Kolozsvár for the new Jesuit one at Gyulafehérvár for the sake of intimacy with the young Prince. This pleased the Jesuits, who well knew how easy it would be to mold them into good Catholics and thus weaken the Protestant cause, as was also being done in their schools in Poland. The results of this bringing up under clerical patronage, while the responsibilities of governing the country were borne by experienced statesmen, became evident when he at length assumed the powers of actual ruler. For he had from his youth cherished the ambition to enter the Church and become a Cardinal, and this desire continued to obsess him after political power was laid upon him. But now, instead of being ruler of a united people, he found his subjects divided into conflicting groups, pulling two different ways. On the one hand were those that desired to keep Transylvania a separate Hungarian state, independent of the Empire, and who for support to this end relied upon a treaty alliance with Turkey. This party included most of the Protestant population, who were anxious to conserve the gains of the Reformation. On the other hand were those that felt that the welfare of the country would be safest if it broke off relations with Turkey, and though sacrificing some of its political independence sought shelter under the German Empire. This party embodied a hope which the government at Vienna had never abandoned in the seventy years since the battle of Mohács, and it included the now reviving Catholic interest, had the strong approval of Rome, and was ably directed by the Jesuits at court, who had the intimate confidence of the young Prince. Pulled three ways between these two political parties and his inner personal desires, Sigismund found himself unable to pursue a consistent, independent course, and showed himself an unstable, impulsive ruler, easily influenced and made the pliant tool of different interests. So (to anticipate the end of his career), after a vacillating course in which he several times tried to divest himself of his office and its uncongenial responsibilities, grown weary of the vexations and burdens of public life, while he saw Transylvania kicked about like a football between Turkey and the Empire, he abdicated in 1599, left the Principality to his cousin, the Jesuit Cardinal Andrew Báthory of Poland, and left the country forever as he supposed, hoping to seek peace by joining a monastic order at Rome, yet destined once more to return a year later to resume rule as Prince for a few brief and stormy months.30
Sigismund’s uncle, King Stephen of Poland, was much concerned for his young nephew, of whom he was very fond, and kept close watch of his development, writing him letters of counsel as to his studies and his serious responsibilities as ruler, and also emphasizing his duties to the cause of religion. For Stephen was a very devout Catholic, and desired nothing more fervently than that Transylvania should by all lawful means be brought back to the mother Church. In the year before his death, therefore, he addressed to Sigismund an earnest testamentary letter,31 commending to his especial interest the Jesuit colleges at Kolozsvár and Gyulafehérvár, which he and Christopher had endowed from their own funds, for he saw that they were in danger of being overthrown by the Unitarians of Kolozsvár, abetted also by the Calvinists and Lutherans. He laments that the young Prince’s fellow-students are heretics who may corrupt his faith, and that none of his intimate counselors is Catholic,32 though the next few years were to show that his misgivings were needless.
The members of the Diet, however, perceived what forces were at work behind the scenes, and in 1588 at Megyes they rallied against the threatening peril and by unanimous vote gave the young Prince to understand that he must give up either the Jesuits or his rule. The pressure thus put upon him was so strong that he felt forced, though a Catholic, to exclude all Jesuits from Transylvania within twenty-five days, and to declare all their properties forfeit to the State.33 This act however did not put an end to their influence. Though without legal sanction they had quietly and steadily grown in strength at Kolozsvár ever since their arrival in 1579, and in 1585 they were said already to have 230 pupils in their school there. They must therefore have left many friends behind to favor their cause. Hence plans were soon forming for restoring to them their schools at Kolozsmonostor and Gyulafehérvár in 1589; though disorders ensued, and they were alternately banished and recalled several times before the end of the century. For apart from their missionary activity among the common people and their conversion of noble youth sent to their schools, they were found to be persistently stirring up civil strife and interfering in affairs of government, and thus inviting the hostility of the strong Protestant majority in the Diet. In fact, under cover of their religious ministry and their teaching they were losing no opportunity to promote a farsighted scheme in the political world. For it was becoming clear that they were quietly plotting to bring about a union of Transylvania with the Empire in a Catholic state under the rule of the German Hapsburgs, instead of its being merely an unstable principality under the rule of Hungarian Princes with a Protestant Diet, and that with this plan Sigismund was expected to cooperate. Already in 1583 the original administration by a regency of twelve had been replaced by a close triumvirate,34 and now his Jesuit advisers were encouraging him to feel restive even under the rule of the elder statesmen.35 In 1589 therefore, before placing his signature to the Articles lately passed at the Megyes Diet, he was induced to insert in them secretly an article declaring him absolute Prince.36 He then assumed ruling powers accordingly, and denied his late governors access to his presence.
As a first step in the proposed plan, Sigismund now began in 1591, at the age of twenty, under the inspiration of his Jesuit advisers, secretly to plan a revolt from his allegiance to the Turkish power.37 The Pope strongly favored breaking the existing treaty, but the plan was slow in maturing, for in the Diet there was determined opposition, openly offered by’ some of the Prince’s most able and respected counselors and by many of the chief magnates. Sigismund, however, went on, and by a solemn oath given to the Emperor Rudolf he bound himself to break the treaty with the Turks. On the other hand, the members of the Diet who did not favor this policy saw in such an action nothing but ruin for the country, and offered such determined opposition that for a time he found himself baffled, laid down his office in anger, and went into unwilling exile, from which however the Diet soon recalled him.38 Welcomed with expressions of joy on all sides, he professed forgiveness of his opponents and disclaimed any intention of taking vengeance on any of them. All this, however, was said for effect and to disarm suspicion: for he at once took counsel with his most trusted followers, and formed a plot to put out of the way those that had been most active in opposing his political policies.
At the time of the Diet then meeting at Kolozsvár, therefore, when the question of breaking with Turkey was again discussed, and was opposed as before, Sigismund invited the Senators to meet at his residence on Sunday that they might accompany him to divine worship. Once there they were treacherously surrounded by soldiers, and thirteen of the company were seized and placed under arrest. On the following day, August 28, 1594, the five principal ones, charged with conspiracy but without lawful trial, were taken to the marketplace and publicly beheaded, Sigismund himself witnessing the execution.39 Of the remaining eight, four were strangled privately and the rest were banished and despoiled of their wealth.40 Thus Sigismund, having removed his chief opponents and appropriated their great wealth on which he relied for the prosecution of the war to come, struck terror into the hearts of the others, and now proceeded to carry out his plan, made a treaty with the Emperor Rudolf, transferred the supreme allegiance of Transylvania to him, assumed the new title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire,41 and married the daughter of an Austrian Archduke (1595).
Although this bloody tragedy was for an alleged political crime and not for any religious offence, yet it had serious effects upon the fortunes of the Unitarian movement. For it happened that the opposition had centered at Kolozsvár, and the five chief victims therefore (and doubtless at least some of the rest) were all Unitarians, leading citizens of Kolozsvár and pillars of the churches there, as well as prominent magnates of Transylvania. Their untimely death was thus a severe blow to the Unitarian cause, and perceptibly weakened it.42 Dávid in his time had had a foreboding of the danger that was then beginning to threaten. It was reported that he used to say to one of his friends, ‘I can see that the Prince means to bring in the Jesuits, and hence I often warn my ministers to be on their guard lest they be overcome by them; but they will not listen to me.’43
It was just at the beginning of this period of political uncertainty and terror that George Enyedi was called in 1592 after the sudden death of Hunyadi, to direct the life of the Unitarian churches as their Superintendent.44 He was born at Enyed in 1554, and having shown much promise as a scholar he was sent abroad at the expense of the Kolozsvár Council, and studied for three or four years in Germany, at Vienna, in Switzerland and at Padua. Returning to Kolozsvár he taught theology and philosophy at the Unitarian college for ten years, and then for six more was its Rector as well as Superintendent of the churches. He fortunately did not fall heir to the animosity which had made Hunyadi unpopular with many of the Unitarians on account of his part in the tragedy of Dávid; and at a period when many of the nobility, setting political interests above religious convictions, had been abandoning the Unitarian church and professing the Calvinist or the Catholic faith, while many others were yet wavering in their allegiance, he rose like a new Elijah to confirm the fainthearted, reassure the doubting, and increase the zeal of the faithful. He held annual synods of the pastors and conventions of the teachers alternately in the mother churches at Kolozsvár or Torda, which were numerously attended. As Superintendent he was vigilant and laborious, and as a teacher he showed himself a brilliant scholar of wide learning and a profound knowledge of Scripture, one of the most learned men in Transylvania. An eloquent preacher, he watched with deep concern the vacillating course of Sigismund and openly prophesied the ruin to which it was sure to lead; and he was a sorrowful witness of the execution of the five Unitarian magnates in 1595. Yet the church was still vigorous, and in that year. besides those in southern Hungary, there were in Transylvania and the neighboring parts of Hungary more than 425 churches under his supervision, and over sixty in the three Szekler counties.45 He suffered from ill health, which must have been aggravated by the distressful experiences he had to undergo, and he died in 1597 at the early age of 43 years.
Several published writings are attributed to Enyedi but his fame rests upon a posthumous work in which he made an exhaustive study of the passages of Scripture commonly appealed to in support of the doctrine of the Trinity.46 This book, of ample size, based on an unpublished work by Stephen Basilius, was first printed (perhaps in 1598) and circulated secretly, but it was soon discovered to be a terribly dangerous book and was put under the ban. All possible copies were publicly burned, and it was interdicted throughout the Empire. Later on it was translated into Hungarian by Matthew Toroczkai, a successor of Enyedi as Superintendent, and published at Kolozsvár in 1619. Finaly, after two generations, and repeated confutations by Calvinists, Luterans and Catholics, the original Latin was clandestinely republished under liberal auspices in Holland in 1670. 47 The work was generally admired for its great thoroughness, though opinions varied as to its scholarship and its interpretations; but it was well over a half-century before the orthodox gave up trying to answer its arguments.
The death of Enyedi in 1597, followed by the abdication of Sigismund two years later, may fairly be taken to mark the end of a period in our history. The second half of the sixteenth century had seen the permanent division of the Protestant forces of Transylvania into three separate camps, and also saw the Unitarians, after a few years of triumphant prosperity, and after acquiring by a narrow margin a permanent status as a recognized form of religion with equal rights under the law, decline to a position of inferior power, in which it had constantly to be on the alert against both Catholic and Calvinist aggression. During most of the seventeenth century, on the other hand, the government of the country lay in Protestant hands, in which the Unitarians, though not so often subjected to bloody persecution were jealously watched by Calvinist rulers disposed to be bitterly hostile to them as wicked heretics, and were pretty steadily pursued by manifold and severe vexations and oppressions. Meantime there intervened several years of chaos in which the Hungarian Protestant nobles on the one hand, and the Catholic Germans on the other, strove bitterly for supremacy. A brief account of this struggle will form the prelude to the next chapter.
Click here to open the frame set built to read this document.
This page was last modified
Sunday 12 November 2006.