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Reformation movements, eastern Christianity and counter-reformation in the territory of Slovakia

1423-1433: Czech Hussites on the territory of today’s Slovakia. During the so-called “beautiful rides” (outside the Kingdom of Bohemia), Hussites raided into Slovakia in two waves. The first invasions, led by the main leader Jan Žižka from Trocnov, were carried out as early as 1423 and they reached Nové Zámky. The campaign was a scare tactic and soon after, the army returned to Moravia. In 1428, Hussites raided Hungary again under the leadership of Prokop Holý and occupied towns in west Slovakia. In 1429, they reached Bratislava. At a meeting with Sigismund, the king of Hungary and a Holy Roman Emperor, hussites failed to defend the Four Articles of Prague. In 1430, Hussites beat Sigismund’s army at Trnava. In autumn 1431, Hussites attacked Považie region and left their military troop in Likava. From there, they went to Topoľčany, where they left another troop and in 1432, they left their troop in Skalica. They conquered Trnava and disrupted the whole defence system on the west Hungarian border. On their last raid, they reached Spiš, conqured Kežmarok and on their way to Moravia, they even seized Mint in Kremnica. In 1433, they raided Poland and headed for Galicia (in today’s Poland). Their troops from Likava (Spiš), Spišská Stará Ves and Kežmarok helped them to raid Krakow. From Spiš they went as far as to Prešov and then returned to Moravia. After the Battle of Lipany in 1434, in which the Hussites were conquered, the Hussite movement fell apart. Brethrens (bratríci) were still active for several years in current Central and East Slovakia. This contributed to a temporary spread of the teachings of Brethrens and Utraquists. They merged freely with the troops of Ján Jiskra of Brandýz and controlled majority of East Slovakia from 1453 to 1455. Their movement experienced the largest boom from 1453 to 1458, during which the movement grew from 5000 men to almost 20000. In 1467, the Hungarian king crushed the last supports of Brethren in Slovakia and incorporated part of its soldiers into his own mercenary army.

1517-1523: The first displays of the teaching by the reformer Martin Luther and Wittenberg Reformation in northern Hungary (current Slovakia) in 1517, the first mention in Bardejov. Preaching by Tomáš Preissener in Ľubica, publishings in Banská Bystrica and students from current Slovakia at the University in Wittenberg. Other centers – Bardejov, Banská Štiavnica and other mine towns. In 1521, the Papal bull directed against Luther was read in churches in Slovakia. In 1523 and 1525, the Diet of Hungary forbade Luther’s works under the threat of forfeiture of property and execution.

1526: Since many priests died in the battle of Mohacs, in which the Hungarian army was defeated by the Ottoman Empire, it was hard to push through legislation on counter-reformation. After the Turkish occupation of Buda (today’s Budapest), the Kingdom of Hungary was divided into three parts. The Kingdom of Hungary (to the north and west from the Danube) became part of the Habsburg monarchy. The second part was Transylvania (current Romania) and the third part, including the southern territory of today’s Slovakia, came under Turkish occupation. The Archbishop of Esztergom moved to Trnava and almost all significant state institutes concentrated to Bratislava and Trnava. Slovakia became the centre of the Kingdom of Hungary, with Bratislava as the capital of the Kingdom from 1526 to 1784. The coronation of Hungarian kings took place there between 1563 and 1830. Since 1530, the reformation began to spread very fast throughout Hungary (in free royal and mine towns as well as among nobility in the northern Hungarian territories), with a strong presence mostly among German-speaking inhabitants (colonizers). Lutheran schools expanded until the end of 16th century. Lutheran administrative districts (Seniorat) by city associations Montana and Pentapolitana were founded on the territory of today’s Slovakia. In central part of Hungary, the Transylvania, a strong presence of Calvin reformation was felt.

1548: The Diet of Hungary (a kind of parliament) passed a law forbidding religious novelties which included an article on expelling Anabaptists and Sacramentarians (adherents of Helvetic reformation movement) from the Kingdom,. Many Catholics interpreted this as a ban on Lutheran activities. As a reaction, Confessio Pentapolitana was adopted in 1549, based on the articles of Augsburg confession and Confession Montana in 1559, and later 1569 Confession Scepusiana, largely based on Confessio Montana. In 1581, a Slovak translation of Luther’s Small Catechism was published in Bardejov. Reformation in Hungary had centres in Bardejov, Prešov, Banská Bystrica. Gradually, Lutheran Protestantism dominated on the territory of upper Hungary, today’s Slovakia. A majority of nobility were Lutherans. It is assumed that only 10% of the inhabitants were Catholic at that time.

1567: A Reformed Constitutional Synod was held in 1567 in Debrecen, the main hub of Hungarian Calvinism, spread mainly among Hungarian-speaking inhabitants and on the territory of today’s southern Slovakia. Here, the Second Helvetic Confession was adopted as the official confession of Hungarian Calvinists. The second strong section of Hungarian Protestantism emerged.

1604-1606: The uprising of the Calvinist Stephen Bocskai ended by the Treaty of Vienna, in which the Diet of Hungary was granted the right to pass its own legislation on the nation. The ban on discussions about religious questions was lifted. The treaty also confirmed the right of noblemen, royal towns and soldiers on Hungarian borders to freely practise their religion. It forbade restricting freedom of religion and opened public posts to candidates irrespective of religion.

1608: Matthias II (known also as Mátyás II) enabled the Protestants to form their own ecclesiastical organizations and elect their own representatives.
1610: Lutheran synod in Žilina and the creation of three superintendencies, which meant freedom from legal jurisdiction of the Roman-Catholic hierarchy. After the synod in Spišské Podhradie, two other superintendencies originated, which meant the acknowledgement of Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of Hungary.

1616: After George Thurzo’s death, the new Archbishop of Esztergom – Péter Pázmány, began a successful recatholization by creating a seminary in Vienna (1624) and by founding the University of Trnava in 1635. More than 50 Lutheran aristocratic families converted to Catholicism. As a reaction to the Counter-reformation, the Prince of Transylvania Gabriel Bethlen rebelled against the Habsburgs in 1619. A rebel diet in Bratislava announced the equality of all confessions. Hand-in-hand with the coming of Protestant exilees from Czech lands and Moravia, who boosted the Protestant character of Slovakia (Hungary), the counter-reformation progressed by taking churches and parishes from the Lutherans and appointing Catholic priests to territories in which the nobility converted to Catholicism (cuius regio, eius religio). Protestants lost more than 400 churches by 1640.

1644: Anti-Habsburg rebellion led by the Transylvanian Prince George Rákóczi I (Calvinist), who announced himself the protector of the non-Catholics. In 1645, in the Treaty of Linz, later confirmed by the Diet in 1647, the freedom of religion was granted for all inhabitants in the country, including the subjects in towns and villages as well as the right to use churches, bells and cemeteries. Nobility was forbidden to force the subjects to convert to another confession.

1646: foundation of the Union of Orthodox Parishes of the Byzantine Rite in Eastern Slovakia (and in the whole Hungary) with Catholic Church in Uzhgorod – the origin of the Greek Catholic Church. As a result of the cooperation of Polish kings Stephen Báthory and Sigismund III and upon request of a section of bishops of the Byzantine Church in Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the Union of Brest in 1595 was reached. Rome confirmed the existing rights of the Metropolitan of Kiev. The Union of Brest safeguarded the preservation of traditions and rites of the Eastern Church. In Hungary, the unification process was assisted by the Drugeths, particularly by George Drugeth III /1605-1620/ (head of the House of Drugeths who converted in 1605 back to Catholicism from Calvinism), John Drugeth X /1620-1645/, the Bishop of Eger György Lippay later Archbishop of Esztergom and the Primate of Hungary, jesuits from Collete in Humenne and Catholic rulers. This Union, so lengthily emerging, was finally reached on 24 April 1646 in a castle chapel of the Drugeth family in Uzhgorod. The Bishop of Eger, György Jakusics, invited priests from three counties – Sáros, Zemplén and Ung, to the meeting.

1657: Strengthening of counter-reformation in Hungary after Leopold I accession. In 1665, Jesuits founded the university together with printing works in Košice. In 1666-67 Protestants founded the College of Upper-Hungarian Lutheran estates (grammar schools with a focus on theology, law and philosophy).

1670: Wesselényi conspiracy (Protestants and Catholic magnates) against Leopold I. Tens of Lutheran noblemen were convicted and their properties were taken over by the Jesuits. More than 300 churches, tens of schools including the College in Prešov were seized. The most brutal persecution of Lutheran Church on the territory of Slovakia was during Trials of Pressburg in 1671, 1673 and 1674.

1678: Emeric Thököly led an anti-Habsburg uprising. With the assistance of a Transylvanian prince and Turks, he gained control over Slovakia. He tried to renew religious freedom. Leopold I summoned a Congress in Sopron, in which religious freedom for both Protestant confessions (Calvinists and Lutheran) was reintroduced, although restrictions on the number of churches were implemented (two churches per administrative region). When the uprising was defeated, counter-reformation continued, churches were again seized and Protestants were only allowed to build wooden churches outside villages.

1683: Army of the Catholic League supported by Polish king John Sobieski beat Turks near Vienna and then by 1711 freed all Hungarian territories taken by the Turks.

1687: The so-called Prešov Slaughter. Based on trumped-up conviction of conspiracy, Antonio Caraffa organized a trial (also known as Caraffa’s Slaughter), in which 24 Lutheran noblemen and priests were charged of conspiracy and executed.

1687-1691: Strengthening of counter-reformation legislation. At a Diet of Hungary in Bratislava (1687-88) the so-called Sopron Articles, which were restrictive articles of an act on religious freedom, were confirmed. In 1691, Leopold I published explanation of laws, Explanatio Leopoldina. They declared that Protestants of both confessions had the right for service at 22 places of the whole country only. Service fees were paid to Catholic priests, they had to observe Catholic feasts and participate in processions. Protestants could not hold any administrative positions.

1703: Francis II Rákóczi led an uprising to solve confessional issues in the kingdom of Hungary. In 1705, in Kuruc, the council passed religious freedom for three equal religions across the whole territory for all the subjects. Churches were supposed to be returned to Protestants. F. Rákóczi had Jesuits, as the main force of counter-reformation, expelled from the country. After 1710, Rákóczi’s power was on the decline. In 1711, the Treaty of Szatmár was concluded with a commitment to respect the laws on religion.

1731: Release of Resolutio Carolina, which, among others, forbade the Catholics to convert to another religion, strengthened censoring and restrictions on religious practices and study for Protestants.

Since the beginning of 18th Century: Beginning of the settlement of the so-called Lower Land (after Turks were expelled from the territories of today’s Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Croatia), above all by Slovak inhabitants of Lutheran confession, which spread Lutheran Protestantism to areas on the south of the Kingdom of Hungary.

D 13 October 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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