eurel     Sociological and legal data on religions in Europe and beyond
You are here : Home » Slovakia » Historical highlights » Historical survey

Historical survey

Moravia Magna

Historically supported beginnings of Christianity in the territory where also present-day Slovakia is situated date back to the period of Great Moravia, to the first half of the 9th century. This (...)

Historically supported beginnings of Christianity in the territory where also present-day Slovakia is situated date back to the period of Great Moravia, to the first half of the 9th century. This was the time when the unifying process of kindred Slavic tribes was finished in this territory. Mojmír stood at the head of the multi-tribal, well-organized principality with several economic and political centers. He kept good relationships with Franks and allowed the Frankish clergy – missionaries to enter the principality. Within the same time, another western Slovak multi-tribal center around Nitra came to existence in the territory of the present-day Slovakia. The Nitra principality, which gradually spread its reign over the whole of the present-day Western and a part of Central Slovakia, had thirty economic and political centers.
Pribina was the first historically recognized Slavic prince. His originally dismissive attitude towards Christianity was a reaction of the disgust towards the Frankish expansion. Even though he accepted the activities of Bavarian missionaries on the Slovak territory, he himself remained a pagan. During his reign, in 828, the Salzburg archbishop Adalram consecrated the first Christian temple at the Nitra castle in this territory. In 835 Moravian Prince Mojmír I, being already Christian himself, conquered Nitra and expelled Pribina so the two principalities could create one territorial unit, which was later named Great Moravia. Later, East Frankish king Louis II the German, stripping Mojmír I of his crown, entrusted the royalty to his son Rastislav. Rastislav was forming the new Moravian-Slavic conception consistently. From the economic and military point of view he tried to disentangle from the Bavarian influence completely and build up a sovereign Great Moravian church administration that would be independent from Bavarian episcopacy. In 861 he sent out a message to Pope Nicholas I with a request to send him back a bishop and missionaries with knowledge of the Slavon language. The pope did not satisfy the plea, probably because he did not have such missionaries available. Since Prince Rastislav wanted to realize the idea of an independent Great Moravian church administration as soon as possible, in 862 he turned to the Byzantine emperor Michael III. One can assume that he was trying to get help in both church and political field from Constantinople. Due to territory extension, Great Moravia found itself in the direct neighborhood to then strong Bulgarian kingdom. Simultaneously, in that time period Louis II the German started to establish intensive contacts with Bulgarians. Rastislav, probably fearing the attack, expected a potential help to be sent along with the missionaries. One year later, Michael III sent the brothers Constantine and Methodius to Great Moravia. They were originally Greeks from Thessalonica who spoke Slavic language – southern Macedonian dialect. Constantine created the Slavic alphabet – the Glagolitic, which he used when translating sacral books into Slavon language (ancient Slav). This mission also brought works of alike law educated Methodius, such as “Laws for People” (Zákon sudnyj ljudem) and “A Warn of Governor” (Nomokanon). The first was depicting church and legal organization of land and the other the duties of a governor and moral critique of then nobility, including the king.
The important role the church played to strengthen the position of Great Moravia and state power reflects the fact that archbishop Methodius was entrusted the role of king of Great Moravia’s head of office. Pope Hadrian II appointed Methodius the first Pannonian and Great Moravian archbishop – legate in Slavonic countries in wintertime in between 869 – 870.
Pope John VIII wrote an epistle Industriae tue (June, 880), addressed to Svätopluk (Sventibald) – the Great Moravian governor, in which, besides others, he approved of the liturgy in Slavon language. In the 9th century Great Moravia represented relatively stable state organization, in which quite large kingdom was formed around Moravia-Nitra center. This kingdom played a significant role in the Central European territory. Great Moravian – Slavon cultural values survived as long as up to the deep Middle Ages and enriched then forming feudal European civilization, spreading mainly in Slavic world.

D 3 October 2012    AMichaela Moravcikova

In Hungarian kingdom and Habsburg monarchy

After the fall of Great Moravia in 906 the whole Slavon metropolis gradually disappeared. It took from two to three centuries till the territory with Slav inhabitants integrated into the newly (...)

After the fall of Great Moravia in 906 the whole Slavon metropolis gradually disappeared. It took from two to three centuries till the territory with Slav inhabitants integrated into the newly formed Hungary, in which it preserved for almost one thousand years. The part of the territory, where in the 9th century the Pribina principality was situated, remained the historical core of the Slovak country. Teofilaktos (933 – 956), the Byzantine patriarch, sent Bulgarian monks to Hungary to maintain the liturgy language as well as the whole Eastern Rite. The first bishop of Hungary – Hieroteos, was one of those who came as a response.
The territory of the present-day Slovakia, as integrated into the Hungarian kingdom, was gradually falling into the sphere of prevailing influence of the Western Church. In the 10th to 12th century the territory of present-day Slovakia was covered with a net of Benedictine, Cistercian and Premonstratesian monasteries that were centers of cultural and economic development.
During the reign of the first Hungarian king Stephen I (1000 – 1038) a whole-Hungarian state organization was formed, in many areas referring to the former Great Moravian one. It characterizes best its reign that thanks to his christianization efforts and credits, Stephen I was canonized in the end of the 11th century. The state as a whole was built as a European Christian state with Latin as its both official and liturgical language. It represented the eastern border of a Latin-Catholic civilization sphere. The Hungarian church province had two archdioceses; the majority of Slovak territory was under the authority of the archdiocese with the seat in Esztergom, eastern Slovakia fell under the Eger diocese. In the beginning of the 12th century the Nitra diocese was restored. There is a historically supported existence of Jewish religious communities in the territory of Slovakia in the beginning of the 11th century. The number of them rose especially after the expelling of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia in the second half of the 11th century.
Hussite movement in Bohemia met with its responds also in Slovakia, especially because of the persisting conflict between the Hussites and king Zigmund. They found him the archenemy and the cause why Jan Hus was burned at stake. In 1428 – 1432 the Hussite armies made several rides to Slovakia and captured a number of fortified castles and towns. Hussite ideas met with a certain respond especially among townsmen, poor squires and the town poverty. Hussite preachers performed here as well, though, the Hussite movement did not get a vast public support. The main reason for that was that Hussite armies tried to economically ruin the kingdom of their archenemy as much as possible. They demolished several villages and some towns; that is why the people had justifiable fear of the Hussites.
In the times of the battles between Habsburgs and the aristocracy, accompanied by the pressure of the strong Osman Empire and the battle of reformation against antireformation, Slovakia became a core of the Habsburg Hungary. Pressburg became its capital as the town where the meeting of concilium and coronation of Hungarian kings took place.
The enlightened absolutism exercised by the Habsburgs in the 18th century brought the interference of kings into the internal business of church. In 1723, emperor Carl VI forbade religious institutions to gather estates. Maria Theresia established state inspection over the administration of church and monastery property. The profit of church foundations was transferred for the benefit of army and public education system. Joseph II even issued decrees, which referred to liturgical issues. He closed down contemplative monasteries the property of whose he used when creating new parishes through land religious funds. During the reign of emperor Joseph II, clergy became a subject to secular courts. “Tolerance patent” from 1781 became valid.
In 1848, a constitution, which guaranteed freedom of religion and conscience, became valid in Austrian monarchy. A process of church emancipation started in the society. The 1855 concordat made Catholic Church achieve vast autonomy in several areas of its action. In 1870, the concordat was terminated by the Austrian state because of approval of dogma on infallibility of Pope at the First Vatican Council. In 1874, the government passed a law on the reform of the outside relationships of Catholic Church, which repeatedly consolidated the relations between the Holy See and the monarchy. A parity relationship between Catholic Church and state was generally accepted. The same stance was taken by state towards non-Catholics as well.
Hungarian legal law differentiated among churches recipated by law, recognized by law and not recognized by law. The basic difference in the position they held was based on a principle that prerogative and state help and support was in full scale provided only to recipated churches, while the recognized churches were practically treated as private law associations. Not recognized churches were not even treated as private law entities and were imposed to regulations of public gathering. The March revolution in 1848 legitimatized complete equality of all recipated churches, when the XX/1848 regulation made state to meet the costs and necessities of churches and schools of recipated churches. The rudimental legal regulation framing the attitude of state towards religion was the XLIII/1895 regulation. By its issuing the church-political development in Hungarian legislature reached its climax before 1918. The character of the reform was basically identical to Austrian regulations. The former regulations about all recognized churches and religious associations remained valid.

D 3 October 2012    AMichaela Moravcikova

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 (...)

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

Religious tolerance, pluralisation and national revival

1781: It was only with the Edict of Toleration by Joseph II that a restricted freedom of confession was guaranteed to the adherents of the Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church, Reformed Helvetic (...)

1781: It was only with the Edict of Toleration by Joseph II that a restricted freedom of confession was guaranteed to the adherents of the Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church, Reformed Helvetic (Calvinists) and Orthodox (not united) Church. This edict ended counter-reformation in the Habsburg Monarchy. However, this was just the first step towards religious freedom in the monarchy. Adherents of these confessions could own property, pursue a craft, become citizens of towns, gain academic degrees and hold official positions. Various restrictions such as ban on entrance from the main street or square applied on their temples and churches, but these were soon also abolished. Despite this, Catholic religion was still the only public and state religion. Protestant churches from this period are sometimes referred to as tolerance churches.

1787: Reorganization of the Greek-Catholic Church on the territory of today’s Slovakia. Diocese of Spiš was established in 1776, and included Greek-Catholic parishes. However, in 1787, upon order by the Emperor Joseph II, they were handed over to the administration of Eparchy of Mukachevo.

1791: General Consistory established at the Protestant synod in Peš, where the religious constitution enacting presbyteral-synodal principle and parity representation among clergymen and laymen in church administration was adopted. At the same time, the two Protestant churches in Hungary - The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Lutherans) and Evangelical Church of the Helvetic Confession (Reformed) formally united into a common General Consistory as a joint institute of both churches. However, the unification efforts met with the resistance particularly of Slovak Lutherans (in contrast with German-speaking Lutherans). Therefore, a compromise was reached in the form of the formal existence of a Protestant Church in the Hungary, while preserving the competencies of districts – relatively independent administrative units of individual churches. Gradually, however, both in the General Consistory itself and within independent churches, national issues came up, fueled by the diverging ambitions of Hungarian, Slovak and German protestants in terms of church fusion and relationship to Hungary and to Hungarian nation. Slovak congregations were the dominant constituent of Lutheranism in Hungary (out of more than 800 000 Lutheran in 1861, the number of Slovaks was two times higher than of Germans and four times higher than of Hungarians). There were more Reformed among Hungarians Protestants, Lutherans were only a minor group (only approximately 10% of all Protestants).

At the end of the 18th century a National Revival period started, connected with the codification of literary Slovak. This was also the moment of constitution of the principles of the modern Slovak nation. In 1787, the Catholic priest Anton Bernolák codified the first standard Slovak, which was based on literate West Slovak with features of Central Slovak dialect and phonologic spelling. Language codification was part of movements of the Catholic priests and scholars known under the name Bernolákovci (followers of Bernolák) linked predominantly by Bernolák’s literate Slovak, the concept of Slovak national independence and the idea of equal nations. They founded an organization called Slovak Educated Brotherhood devoted to cultivating language, writing works of art and translating texts into Bernolak’s Slovak.

First half of the 19th Century: Second generation of national movement – the Štúrovci. In 1843 a professor at the Lutheran Lycée in Bratislava, Ludovít Štúr, came up with the idea of joining the Catholic and Lutheran streams of Slovak through a mutual standard Slovak. Liturgical and literary language used by Slovak Lutheran was the biblical Czech. He selected the Central Slovak Dialect as the basis of the new standard Slovak, above all for its wide use, originality and comprehensibility. Slovaks were supposed to be united by a pan-Slovak over-confessional society called Tatrín. Initially, he proposed to create a common Czechoslovak language, but abandoned the idea due to a lack of interest of the Czech linguists. At the 4th assembly of the Tatrín society in Čachtice, the representatives of the Catholics and the Lutherans definitely agreed to use a new common standard language (Agreement on the unification of Slovak Catholics and Lutherans on the question of standard Slovak).

1839: Karol (Charles) Zay was appointed general inspector of the Lutheran Church in Hungary. He aimed to magyarise Slovak and German Lutherans and to unite them with the Reformed. He came in conflict with the representatives of the Slovak Revival Movement, such as Štúr. The joining of two churches with members of three different nationalities, in which the Hungarians were dominant, would have led not only to the suppression of other nationalities, but to the dominancy of Calvinism in the united church as well as to the suppression of Lutheran theology. The dispute over the union shifted to a Lutheran-Calvinist and Slovak-Hungarian issue.

1848: During the revolution of 1948-1849, the Slovaks supported the Austrian Emperor against Hungarian national and revolutionary movement. Slovak Lutheran intellectuals - Štúr, Hurban and Hodža - established the First Slovak National Council and called for independence from the Hungarian part of the Habsburg Monarchy. The Slovak National Council stopped its activity after the revolution ended in failure, and Slovakia remained part of the Hungarian part of monarchy. Act No. 20/1848 on freedom of religion in the Hungary and equality of confessions.

After the defeat of the Hungarian army at Világos in 1849 and the introduction of neoabsolutism, the emperor abolished Protestant religious independence in Hungary. The Order of 10 February 1850, in fact, cancelled the self-government of the Protestant churches in Hungary.

In 1859, the Protestant Patent (for the Austrian part in 1861) was declared. This regulation (prepared in part by the Slovak Lutheran priest Karol Kuzmany) introduced a united system for Protestants of both permitted churches – the Lutheran and the Reformed. It included declaration of formal equality with the Catholic Church and limited the influence of secular power over the Church. The Patent was supposed to prevent magyarization on church ground. It suggested the foundation of a Church Board as the highest institute connecting the Church and the government; the division of superintendences from four to six; a synod was supposed to take place every six years and the church was to be given yearly support by the state. The Patent divided Protestants into two groups: patent adherents, who welcomed it (Slovak Lutherans and German Lutherans in the west and in the south of Hungary) and autonomists, who perceived it as an intervention into Church autonomy (Hungarian Lutherans, the Reformed and the German from the Spiš region). Patent adherents appreciated various freedoms and the organization of administrative districts (so called seniorate “seniorát”) and congregations through electoral system. They could have perceived the submission to the High Church Board in Vienna as a form of protection against the Hungarian nationalism and the rule of magnates in the church. Autonomists opposed above all the intervention of the political power into church matters and the form of the emperor’s order. By the end of 1860, only 341 out of 555 Protestant congregations organized themselves according to the Patent. After the easing of the absolutism, on 15 May 1860, the emperor issued a decree, which allowed choosing between patental or autonomist management, which, de facto, meant the failure of the Protestant Patent. On 15 May 1867, the Patent was lifted and organization of the church returned to the prior state.

In 1861 the Memorandum of the Slovak Nation was declared the basic programme document of the Slovak national movement. A common declaration of the Lutheran and Catholic intelligentsia demanded the recognition of the Slovaks as a political nation with its own self-government, the establishment of Slovak cultural and educational institutes and the guarantee of language rights. The Memorandum was denied by the Diet of Hungary. They were only able to gain the temporary opening of Matica Slovenská and three Slovak grammar schools (shut down in 1874).

1867: Austro-Hungarian Settlement – transformation of the Habsburg Monarchy into the dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The autonomous status of Hungary did not accomplish the claims of non-Hungarian nations. In 1868, the equalization of Protestants and Catholics in the Hungary (Article 53/1868), which legalized confessional dualism, was finalized. The Act also included the regulation of children’s confessions in mixed marriages – sons followed the father’s confession and daughters the mother’s. Trouble emerged with the so-called stolen christening – christening of children legally not belonging to the confession of the priest baptizing the child (this mainly applied to the Catholic confession).

1879: Hungarian was introduced at all types of schools by the Act No 18/1879 so that everybody could master written and spoken Hungarian. Church schools were the only ones with minor exceptions.

1880: Anti-Pan-Slavic (Magyarization) movement within Protestant churches. Regulation of the general convent obliged lower organizational units to impede the spreading of Pan-Slavism since it stood for hostility towards the Hungarian nation. Since 1882, Pan-Slavism was considered a canonical offence, which deprived the responsible of the church office. In 1883, a new church constitution was approved, which changed the territorial arrangement used so far. This led to breaking the Slovak majority in Pre-Danubian district. Since 1896, Hungarian was the sole official language of the Protestant convents.

1885: Lutheran superintendents were permitted to be called bishops. Act No. 7/1885 allowed the Protestants to take positions in the Upper House (three bishops and three Church overseers).

1890: Cultural fights for baptism: order of the so-called stolen christenings, ended in 1893 by Act No 32, which left the decision on the affiliation to the parents.
1894/98: Liberal laws. Act No 31/1894 introduced obligatory civil marriages. By Act No 33/1894 the state took over the registries of births and deaths (register of Protestant children as Catholics by Catholic priests /registrars was abolished). Act No 43/1859 enabled anybody to convert or be without confession. Act No 41/1895 made Jewish religion equal to other religions. Act No. 14/1898 established Congrua for the clerics.

End of 1890s: The concept of national unity arises amongst Slovaks and Czechs (“hlasisti” – Slovak Evangelic intellectuals around the daily newspaper “Hlas”).
1907: Adoption of school legislation of Albert Apponyi – total magyarization of schools including the religious schools.

1907: Adoption of school legislation of Albert Apponyi – total magyarization of schools including the religious schools.

D 13 October 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

How the Habsburg Emperor terminated the Concordat with Vatican

The Empire of Austria concluded the Concordat on August 18, 1855 and ratified on September 25, 1855. It had 36 articles, most of which are devoted to the work of the Catholic Church in education. (...)

The Empire of Austria concluded the Concordat on August 18, 1855 and ratified on September 25, 1855. It had 36 articles, most of which are devoted to the work of the Catholic Church in education. The treaty also contains arrangements about the administration of church property, about state contribution for the clergy (congrua) and about the autonomy of the Catholic Church. The concluding article of the treaty states that all Austrian laws which are in conflict with the provisions of the treaty expire on the date of ratification. The contract does not contain any clause that would regulate the conditions of its termination.

Nevertheless, the termination took place. It was preceded by a pressure from Protestants, who pointed out that the relatively progressive laws that the Austrian Empire was gradually adopting were at odds with what the Austrian state had committed itself to in the Treaty with the Vatican. They also insisted that the declared religious neutrality of the state not remain on paper only but become a reality. The Constitution of December 1867 subjected the supervision of education and upbringing to the state and guaranteed every citizen freedom of religion and conscience. The laws of May 1868 further restricted the privileged position of the Catholic Church. Among other things, contrary to Article 10 of the Concordat, they reintroduced the right to civil marriage, which had been in force in Austria since 1811, but expired with the adoption of the Concordat in 1855.

The termination of the treaty itself, however, was prompted by a very controversial step by the Vatican, namely the proclamation of the dogma of the infallibility of the pope on July 18, 1870. This was too much even for the good Catholic the Emperor Franz Joseph I certainly was. He adopted the objections of the Crown Council and few days later, on July 30 1870, a handwritten letter by the emperor was handed over to the papal nuncio in Vienna announcing the unilateral termination of the treaty. The reason given for the termination was that after the proclamation of the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope, the character of the contracting party has changed fundamentally. Habsburg Empire applied the "clausula rebus sic stantibus" used in the international law, according to which the treaties apply provided that "things remain as they are" meaning that the character of the treaty parties will not change substantially.

Critics of the move argued that the dogma of the Pope’s infallibility had not changed the character of Vatican’s legal personality, but they could not reverse the termination of the treaty itself. Pope Pius IX, in response to the termination of the Concordat, limited himself to threatening the emperor with ecclesiastical punishments stating that he would have bad conscience because of what he did.
If we were to draw some lessons from the 150th anniversary of Habsburg’s termination of the Concordat with the Vatican, it would probably be above all the knowledge that the path from the declared religious neutrality of the state to its actual application is always long and tortuous.

D 22 October 2020    AOndrej Prostredník

How the separation of church and state did not take place in 1920

The Czechoslovak Republic founded on October 28 also displays a clear effort to separate the state from the church in one of its founding documents, the Washington Declaration of 18 October 1918. (...)

The Czechoslovak Republic founded on October 28 also displays a clear effort to separate the state from the church in one of its founding documents, the Washington Declaration of 18 October 1918. This principle was then incorporated into the draft constitution. Thus, among other areas, Czechoslovakia could have become a truly modern state.

However, this did not happen. Such a demand for separation was too radical for the time. In addition, complications with the organization of religious issues, especially in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Russia, as well as the emergence of the new Czechoslovak Church redirected the social energy and determination of the founders of the state to seek more pragmatic solutions. The 1920 Constitution (adopted from February 1920) thus abandoned the idea of strict separation of church and state.

Historians state that the principle of separation did not make it into the first Czechoslovak constitution is, among other reasons, that no one was able to determine the actual number of believers and of those who only had a formal relationship with the church. It was estimated that the vast majority of citizens belonged to the church, and that separation could, therefore, provoke destructive resistance to the fragile order of nascent republic. The state officials were also did not want to risk strengthening the Hungarian separatism of the Catholic and Calvinist churches in Slovakia. A similar problem threatened areas with a German-speaking population.

The draft constitution of the first Czechoslovak Republic contained the wording: "Let there be a separation between the state and the church". However, all Slovak deputies opposed its adoption. They obtained the deletion of this article in exchange for the promise not to demand that the autonomy of Slovakia be enshrined in the constitution, and not to vote against the establishment of counties as an administrative structure of the new republic. Some would say that the connection of the church to the state was of greater value to the Slovaks at that time than autonomy.

Although several political parties later sought to enforce this separation, it never took place.

D 3 December 2020    AOndrej Prostredník

Religious composition and contexts in the Czechoslovak Republic

October 28, 1918: Declaration of the independence of the Czecho-Slovak Republic. Slovakia entered it with the Martin Declaration on October 30, 1918. Problem occurred with the organization of (...)

October 28, 1918: Declaration of the independence of the Czecho-Slovak Republic. Slovakia entered it with the Martin Declaration on October 30, 1918. Problem occurred with the organization of church structures. Catholic archdioceses resided in Hungary and did not comply with the border of the new state. Similarly, Lutheran districts did not follow the state borders. However, their organization was more decratic and copied the national structure of the inhabitants. Lutheran congregations in Slovakia gave up voluntarily their autonomy and for the duration of two years handed power (supervision) over the church over to the hands of the new state until the new church constitution, new church laws had been adopted, and church reorganized according to new state borders. German-speaking and Hungarian-speaking Lutherans did not fully accept the new political conditions and organizations and tried to press for the national principle rather than for the territorial principle. In the Greek-Catholic Church, a majority of parishes remained in Zemplin under the management of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, while the rest of Slovakia belonged to the Eparchy of Prešov. Between 1913 and 1920 the bishop Štefan Novák managed the Eparchy of Prešov. He refused to take a vow of loyalty to the new state. Besides, he introduced Hungarian as the language of instruction into church schools. Then, Cyrillic started disappearing from sacral and prayer books and the Roman alphabet with Hungarian phonetics was introduced.

1921-27: Lutheran Church put all its grammar schools and teaching institutes voluntarily under state ownership, mainly for financial reasons.

1928: Modus vivendi between Czechoslovakia and the Holy See regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations (interrupted in 1925), about appointing bishops and adjusting borders of church provinces, orders, and monastic congregations to correspond to the state borders.

1933: Establishment of the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Faculty at the Commenius University in Bratislava.

September 30, 1938: An agreement was signed in Munich, Germany, which allowed Nazi Germany to partially dismember the country by occupying what was called the Sudetenland (a mainly German-speaking region bordering Germany and Austria). The remainder of "rump" Czechoslovakia was renamed Czecho-Slovakia and included a greater degree of Slovak political autonomy. Southern and eastern Slovakia, however, were reclaimed by Hungary at the First Vienna Award in 2 November, 1938. On 18 November, the autonomy of the Slovak country in Czecho-Slovakia was declared. German-speaking Lutherans required an independent church organization within the Lutheran Church in Slovakia.

D 13 October 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

Religious minorities during war time in the Slovak Republic

March 14, 1939: On the basis of the protection agreement with Germany, establishment of the independent Slovak Republic (end of the Czecho-Slovak Republic). Close collaboration of the Slovak (...)

March 14, 1939: On the basis of the protection agreement with Germany, establishment of the independent Slovak Republic (end of the Czecho-Slovak Republic). Close collaboration of the Slovak Government and Nazi Germany. On 27 June and 6 November 1939, foundation of the German Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia. Activities of the Evangelical Church during war in the Slovak republic were legal, although limited – censorship of Evangelical Press, enforcement of Catholic symbolism in schools and favouring the Catholics in school administration. Church lost the obligation to contribute to popular education, as well as the right to appoint its teachers. All schools went under state control in 1944-45, except for the Faculty of Theology. Some Jews converted to Christianism, above all to Lutheran confession, as a form of protection from deportation to concentration camps. From 1942 the deportation of Jews from Slovakia started. The Jews were nearly exterminated in Slovakia.

August 29, 1944: Slovak National Uprising – armed antifascist revolt that rounded off the gradual disintegration of the wartime Slovak republic.

1945: The Slovak Republic came to an end, its territory becoming part of the renewed Czechoslovak Republic. German Evangelical Church was abolished and its congregations, together with Hungarian Congregations from the territories which were part of Hungary during the war (more than 20), were incorporated into the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia.

D 13 October 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

The Czechoslovak Republic and the Slovak military state

The creation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic was connected with a dynamic development of church conditions as well as hidden and open conflicts between the state and churches. Though, it (...)

The creation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic was connected with a dynamic development of church conditions as well as hidden and open conflicts between the state and churches. Though, it did not bring any significant changes in legislature. The attitude of the state towards churches practically did not change. Also, the conception of recognized and recipated religions as public entities remained unchanged.
The issue of separation and related complicated questions of the constitutional resolution of state-church relationship in 1918 – 1920 was one of the most complex problems within the initial political-legal state development. Even though, neither the temporary constitution from 1918, nor its amendment from 1919 did eventually touch the subject of religious issues.
The then legal law provided certain advantages to recipated and recognized churches within the scope of tax and seizure or debt enforcement law. The priests of the recognized and recipated churches were provided a congrua or a donation. The Congrua law cancelled the “stole fee”, rewards and other payments provided to clergy according to former regulations, but it did not touch the others, so-called local incomes. The same law designated also the pension for priests and their bereaved according to analogy of pension regulations valid for state employees. The state treated priests as public officers, as long as they provided state administration services of contracting the marriages, running the birth and death records, teaching religion at all general educational schools and solving the issues of administrative and political character.
After the creation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic, “Modus Vivendi” was passed in 1928 – an agreement between Czechoslovakia and the Holy See, which guaranteed mutual respect of the forthcoming partners. Even though, compared to the former period, the mutual relationship between the state and church did not change significantly.
Among the most burdensome periods of Slovak history is the era of the military Slovak state. It was created on March 14, 1939 as Hitler’s satellite. In the preamble of its constitution it defined itself as a Christian state. Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest became its president. The parliament of the Slovak republic was by one fifth comprised of clergy. On March 25, 1939 the Holy See acknowledged the Slovak Republic as well. Slovak government naturally placed remarkable importance to this act. Diplomatic relations between the two states were established in June 1939. Though, they cooled off almost instantly when a German ambassador became the Doyen of diplomatic corps in the Slovak Republic. Pope Pio XII had this to say about it: “We had been considering whether or not to send a nuncios to Slovakia. After neglecting the traditional rights of the Holy See it will no longer be possible.” Complicated diplomatic relations of the Christian Slovak Republic (whose president was a Catholic priest) and the Holy See were cold already at the beginning and gradually got worse. After the Jewish Codex was passed and the anti-Hitler Banská Bystrica uprising suppressed, the Holy See sent several protest notes to president Tiso. Vatican nuncios Burzio let himself heard that president Tiso raised disgust especially in Slovak episcopacy and monkhood. The era of the military Slovak state and the attitude of president Tiso towards “solving the Jewish issue” is one of the most difficult issues within Slovak history. Up to nowadays it influences the emotions of especially (but not only) the older generation. When it comes to current preference of political parties and elites, their attitude towards this era in Slovak history is employed. Particularly nationally oriented political groups interpret this period as an effort of Tiso and his co-workers to protect Slovak nation and territory.

D 3 October 2012    AMichaela Moravcikova

Socialistic Czechoslovakia

During the post-war period churches represented an influential political power. According to a population census, 99.72 % of inhabitants identified with a church and only 0.28 % claimed to have (...)

During the post-war period churches represented an influential political power. According to a population census, 99.72 % of inhabitants identified with a church and only 0.28 % claimed to have no religion. Catholic Church of Latin and Byzantine rite was the biggest and most influential, comprising 82.75 % of inhabitants. Other significant churches were Evangelic Church of Augsburg Confession and Calvinistic believers. Baptists, Adventists, Methodists, Orthodox and other churches had only minimum number of followers. Within People’s Democratic Regime, the government proclaimed and actually ensured the freedom of religion in practice. All churches showed the loyalty towards the restored Czechoslovak Republic. In Slovakia, the situation of Catholic Church was a bit more complicated and its relations with state more tense when compared with other churches. It paid its bitter price for its ties with the Hlinka’s Public Party – the creator and bearer of reign and force in the Slovak Republic in between 1939 – 1945. The ban of Hlinka’s Public Party and lawsuit with Tiso and other state representatives harmed also Catholic Church, since the dividing line between Catholic Church and political Catholicism was not firmly laid. The government had a negative attitude towards majority of Catholic bishops who were extra-connected with Tiso’s former regime. Chief representatives of Evangelic Church of Augsburg Confession had close political contacts with after-war, predominantly Evangelic leadership of Democratic Party. Reformed Church was practically lame and divided after the war in connection with the then sharpened Slovak-Hungarian relations. Slovak clergy stood at the head of church, whose majority was comprised of Hungarian nationality believers. The majority of clergy of Hungarian nationality did not have Slovak state citizenship and could not perform official functions within the church. Thus their impact on social happening was minimal.
By the February subversion in 1948 and shortly after, dismantling of what was left of democracy in Czechoslovakia came to its peak. Communists took over the power. The prior interest of communist regime was to manipulate churches according to its own interests via their representatives. Though, when these steps did not prove effective, communist force put the center of anti-church activities on minimizing its social influence and establishing a strict state control.
The Act No. 217/1949 Coll. created State Office for Church Affairs as a central organ of state administration. One year later a law on economic provision of churches and religious associations by state was passed. This regulation enabled the state a differentiated approach towards clergy. This law also brought to existence the institute of “state approval” for clergy. Churches and religious associations ceased to have character of public law subjects and became completely dependable on state economically. Majority of church property, and church schools were nationalized. State had control over liturgical, pastoral, social, charity, educational, economic and any other activity of churches. It established compulsory registration of churches; the clergy was enabled public performance only if approved by state. This approval was conditioned by their vow of loyalty to the republic.
Communist state had never been considering separation of church from state. It assumed that such step within given historical conditions would raise social influence of churches. It would also strengthen the discipline of clergy towards church hierarchy. This represented a counter-productive element for the then state power struggling to disintegrate churches from within. Naturally, the strict totalitarian control of churches activated illegal activities of individual believers, clergy or various groups that were out of the reach of state control. They became the target of persecution by national security forces.
The period of 1948-1953 represented an extremely acute conflict situation in state-church relations. Churches resisted interference into their internal matters and restriction of religious freedom with a remarkable intensity. During the following stage, state power concentrated on “overcoming religious relics” through governmental interventions as well as party and state structures supporting secularization and atheisation of society. Some bishops, priests and monks were imprisoned. The vacant positions of church hierarchs were occupied by administrators appointed by communist government. The government also had its attendants on bishop ministries who controlled the activities of episcopacies.
In August 1948 communists came with an idea to create a national Catholic Church. Because of the ceremonial and disciplinary differences between Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics they consequently started to sort out the “Greek Catholic issue”. They proposed “return” of Greek Catholics into Orthodox Church. In 1946, a so-called “sobor” (council) took place in Lvov, western Ukraine. Here, union with Rome was abolished and a return of Greek Catholics to the belief of their ancestors, to Orthodox Church was proclaimed. Since the standpoints and acts of Russian communists were authoritative for Slovak communists, similar procedure was chosen in Slovakia as well. After the Russian Orthodox Church delegation visit to Czechoslovakia (whose aim was to prepare fusion of Greek Catholic and Orthodox church in Slovakia), this political plan was given a name Action P. On April 28, 1950, sobor (council) of Greek Catholics with participation of Greek Catholic delegates appointed by state power took place in Prešov. It made a decision on abolition of Uzhorod Union from 1646, separation from Rome and return to “father” Orthodox Church. At the same time it addressed Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and whole Russia to accept it under his church jurisdiction. On May 27, the Exarch of The Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia – Jelefterij, received a letter from the State Office for Church Affairs. The letter acknowledges the legitimacy of decisions taken by Prešov sobor. From the point of view of state power Greek Catholic church ceased to exist in Slovakia. Greek Catholic clergy, who refused to enter Orthodox Church had to give up cleric profession. In most cases they were interned and later on transferred to Czech-German border region to work in agriculture or blue-collar jobs. The two Greek Catholic bishops were convicted of seditious activities and sentenced to prison for a long-lasting period.
Along with the Greek Catholic Church liquidation, monasteries and holy orders were closed down well. This came as the response to their significance within the Catholic Church and influence they had on the society.
At the break of March and April 1950, in an artificially constructed lawsuit against monastery and holy order representatives, monasteries were “revealed” as centers of sedition, where espionage is being organized, weapons collected and provocations are being prepared. Action K took place in the night from April 12 to 13, 1950. Security forces seized majority of monasteries and the monks were concentrated into detention camps. Even though massive security forces were put to operation, several sharp crashes appeared. Similar intervention against women’s holy orders followed as a part of Action R. Interned nuns and monks were first re-educated, afterwards transferred to work in factory productions, nuns especially to Czech border region to work in textile industry.
After 1950, theological studies were available only at the Constantine-Methodius Theological Faculty in Bratislava and at Orthodox Theological Faculty in Prešov. All the other theological institutes were closed down. State took strict actions against “reaction” priests, who were often imprisoned without a lawsuit or sentenced to military service to carry out hard labor in subsidiary technical battalions of army forces.
At the beginning of the fifties, hundreds of clergy were imprisoned or interned. Bishops were isolated and interned in the bishops’ ministries or imprisoned. As for the Catholic Church a parallel church structure began to flourish in illegality. It overtook some functions of official Church. State, on the other hand, organized “Catholic clergy peace movement”, in which it strived for establishing connections among priests who were willing to cooperate with state power. Doing so, state could differentiate Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia. Though, the membership ended up very low and the movement did not have significant influence on the society. Evangelical churches, in this period, did not come with a strong resist against state; Calvin Church found importance in the national problem and not the problem of loyalty towards the regime. Church press was a subject to state control to such extent that in fact it did not have religious character any longer.
Before 1968, the first symptoms of change in church-political situation appeared. It was mainly under the influence of Marxist-Christian dialogue that was popular especially with French and Italian communists. The dialogue with Christians was found one of the specific instruments of ideological battle for suppression of religious way of thinking with believers. Sporadically, requests to recompense the wrongdoing to believers and churches appeared. The Prague Spring in 1968, when Alexander Dubcek became the first secretary of Communist Party, started off certain democratization processes along with new state church policy. The censorship of church press was eased, “cadre ceiling for believers” for the religious was cancelled and communication between Catholic ordinaries and the Holy See was allowed. The government passed a decree that approved the activity of Greek Catholic Church. Limits for accepting candidates for priesthood to theological faculties were cancelled. The Supreme Court was asked to go through the processes with Catholic hierarchy, representatives of monasteries and the like. Many officials and members of Communist Party reproached such attitude against Party leadership. Though, party bodies planned changes of a larger extent within the church policy after the then being prepared change of legal norms from 1949. These processes were much more striking in the Czech Republic than in Slovakia. The dialogue between the Marxists and Christians in Slovakia did not take place at all. Occupation of Czechoslovakia by armies of five Warsaw Pact states in 1969 put on the brake to the state democratization processes. A process of the so-called normalization was started. Representatives of hard line replaced pro-reform Party and state officials. They rated the situation as exclusion of churches from state control. A regress in church-political situation and a return to state-church relations from before the 1968 followed. A new, state-collaboration movement of Catholic clergy – Pacem in terries, started to be formed. Through this, Communist Party wanted to penetrate into the inside of the Church and influence its activities according to Party’s interests. State-church relations were reduced to church-political control and suppression of any church activities and public religious manifests.
The time-consuming negotiations between Czechoslovakia and the Holy See were an exception. They negotiated about filling the vacant bishop stools, about theology faculties and reorganization of the diocese boundaries so they do not overreach the state boundaries. Pope Paul VI used the Praescriptorum Sacrosancti constitution from December 30, 1977 to create Slovak church province with the seat in Trnava. The pressure of the Holy See as well as international-political pressure to realize Helsinki commitments in Czechoslovakia got consequently stronger after Karol Wojtyla’s accession to pope stool. Church activity was increasing; believers showed their discontent with the steps of state power towards churches and religion and demanded real religious freedom. Religious pilgrimages were becoming the events of revolt; the number of lay religious activists was growing. On March 25, 1988, a manifestation that entered the history as “candle manifestation” took place in Bratislava. Some thousand people from the whole republic found courage to gather at the Hviezdoslav Square. Carrying candles in their hands they demonstrated their support of requests to defend religious and human rights. After the crowd did not respond to the call of dismiss, a strong intervention of security forces followed. It was one of the last shake of power before its eventual downfall. In spite of the fact that especially outer events influenced the downfall of the regime, we cannot forget to mention even the activities of churches and Catholic dissent. The latest mentioned was one of the strongest bodies representing the communist regime resistance in Slovakia.

D 3 October 2012    AMichaela Moravcikova

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

Follow us:
© 2002-2020 eurel - Contact