Visit to Transylvania in 1868

Starting today, and then on each subsequent day, I will be uploading to the new velvethummingbee YouTube channel, a section from John James Tayler’s 1868 ‘Narrative of a Visit to the Unitarian Churches of Transylvania’. Published in The Theological Review for January 1869.

The first instalment can be seen here:

John James Tayler (1797 – 1869) was born in Surrey, the son of a non-conformist minister. At the age of 17 he went to Manchester College, York to be trained for the ministry under the direction of the principal, Charles Wellbeloved.

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John James Tayler (1797–1869). Portrait (1848) by George Patten. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Proving himself an able scholar he graduated from Glasgow University in 1819 and the following year took on the ministry of Mosley Street Chapel in Manchester. Heavily influenced by the romantic movement, and a friend of Wordsworth, Tayler became one of the leaders of Unitarianism in Britain. A close ally of James Martineau he imbibed much of the new theological thinking from German scholars, particularly after a year spent studying there, and, being fluent in German, corresponded with many German theologians. With Martineau and others he also began to propound a more spiritual and devotional approach to worship which was physically embodied in the building of Upper Brook Street Chapel, the new gothic church built for his congregation to the plans of no less an architect than Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the new houses of parliament.

 

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Upper Brook Street Chapel during its recent restoration as student flats [Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)]

For a number of years he combined his ministry in Manchester with the role of professor of ecclesiastical history at Manchester College when it had moved back to that city. However, in 1853 when the college moved to London he moved with it and became the principal.

Over the years Manchester New College had an increasing connection with the Unitarian church in Transylvania which traced its history back to the reformation but which had had very little direct contact with groups in Britain until the mid-nineteenth century. Ministerial students from Transylvania travelled to the College as part of their education so by the time of the celebration of the 300th anniversary in 1868 there was a cohort of English-trained ministers in the country. Another connection came through the person of John Paget, a Leicestershire Unitarian partly educated at Manchester College, York, who met and married a Transylvanian countess, Baroness Polyxena Wesselényi, and went to live at Gyéres in Transylvania.

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John Paget, Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Paget was a noted commentator on Hungarian politics, agriculture and education and turned his estates into a model of modern agriculture. His two volume account of his travels and experiences in the country, Hungary and Transylvania; with Remarks on their Condition, Social, Political, Economical (1839), illustrated by George Hering, became essential reading across Europe and remains an important text today. He was known to Tayler who also made use of Paget’s book in his account of his journey. Paget’s home, estates and vineyards had been ransacked in 1849-50 following the Hungarian war of independence and he and his family were forced to flee to England for a number of years. By 1869 he had been back in Transylvania for about fourteen years and Tayler and his daughter were able to visit him and his wife on their way to Torda.

Old tower at Klausenberg

Illustration by George Hering from John Paget’s ‘Hungary and Transylvania’

Every day I am going to read an extract from Tayler’s ‘Narrative’ as we follow him through his journey through Transylvania to join in the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the Edict of Torda and will upload the readings on my personal YouTube channel.

To be certain of receiving an update for each new video click on the subscribe button at the end of the video.

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David Steers (at the time Moderator of the Presbytery of Antrim); György Jakubinyi, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gyulafehérvár; Ferenc Bálint Benczédi, Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, at the cathedral, Gyulafehérvár in January 2018. The view at the top of the page is also the cathedral at Gyulafehérvár.

I was very honoured to be asked to attend the 450th anniversary celebrations of the anniversary of the Edict of Torda in 2018 and I will include some pictures from that time with the ‘Narrative’ along with a few other illustrations by George Hering from John Paget’s book and from other sources.

There is further information to read concerning my experiences in Transylvania on this blog in the following posts:

Edict of Torda

Gyulaféhervár

Inscriptions in Kolozsvár

Anniversary of the Edict of Torda

Diet of Torda 450 forint stamp

 

Worship Sunday, 17th May: Dunmurry

Dunmurry window

This week our service is recorded at the First Presbyterian NS Church, Dunmurry and Allen Yarr, the church organist, has very kindly provided music on piano for two hymns plus some additional music for the opening and closing of the service. The hymns are:

‘The Church Hymnary’ No. 704 ‘Yield not to temptation’

‘The Church Hymnary’ No.532 ‘Stand up! Stand up for Jesus’

The reading is from John ch. 2 v.13-2 and the address contains some reflection of Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going.

It pleases me to stand in silence here;

 

A serious house on serious earth it is,

In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,

Are recognized, and robed as destinies.

And that much never can be obsolete

In the end though our spiritual relationship with the divine is about something more than any building.

 

Over this last week we also uploaded another video, one which tells the little-known story of Henry Croft. His life-size, but diminutive, statue is hidden underneath Trafalgar Square in London. As such it is the complete antithesis of the giant statue of Lord Nelson that sits high in the sky, almost touching the clouds. You can hear all about the life of Henry Croft on this Time for a Story video above.

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View looking across Trafalgar Square from Charing Cross, towards the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column, St Martin’s Church on the far right, in the foreground to the left is the equestrian statue of Charles I, the surrounding streets busy with pedestrians, riders, coaches and carriages. 1852 Colour lithograph. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Worship in a Church of the Polish Brethren

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There are a number of previous posts on this blog about the Minor Reformed Church/Polish Brethren and my visit to Poland in the summer of 2019. They can be seen here:

The Polish Brethren

Fausto Sozzini, the Polish Brethren and Kraków

The Dominican Church of the Holy Trinity and the Unitarian history of Kraków

Raków

The grave of Fausto Sozzini

But I have now uploaded to YouTube a video of the short act of worship we held on Sunday, 28th July 2019 in the former Polish Brethren church at Kolosy.

To be honest there is a lot wrong with this video – sound, picture, continuity, all are faulty in one way or another. It was recorded on a device that was seriously unreliable, indeed the picture cuts out altogether towards the end although the sound continues for a little bit longer. However, the end of the film now contains a number of still images of the former church at Kolosy, both exterior and interior shots, and closes with the text of the Lord’s Prayer in Polish which we tried, but did not succeed, in saying together in that language.

It is reproduced here because it represents a rare if not quite unique event – an act of worship in a church of the Polish Brethren/Minor Reformed Church, a church which was suppressed during the counter-reformation in 1658, just four years after this little church was built.

The service is led by myself, the Rev Dr Sándor Kovács (Unitarian, Kolozsvár, Transylvania), and the Rev Dr Roger Jones (UU, Sacramento, California). We were part of an organised tour of sites connected with the Polish Brethren in July and August 2019. Although a service was planned for this day this was essentially an impromptu act of worship because the Rev Dr Jay Atkinson, who was to have led the service, was unfortunately taken ill on the way to the building and had to go to hospital. So it fell to the three other clergy present to devise a service on the way. This is the service which is presented in the video, albeit in rather imperfect form. The chapel was built in 1654 and closed in 1658 but somehow has survived to the present day, perhaps being used as a store for many years. But it is still immediately recognisable as a place of worship. 

Paradise Street, Liverpool

I bought this black and white print of a view of Paradise Street dated 17 April 1973 for a small amount on eBay recently. I was interested in seeing it because Paradise Street as it was before the building of the Liverpool 1 shopping development has been so completely obliterated. It is today forgotten and it takes some effort to recall it to mind. Not that Paradise Street in the 1970s deserves to loom large in anyone’s memory, even at the time it had the feeling of something like a backlot to the city centre, a place where there was nothing much to see, a place that existed as an adjunct to the streets and places that mattered.

A lot of it was car parks and this picture clearly shows the new multi-story car park which was then just being completed in 1973. A brutal and functional building, it wasn’t very pleasant although it was handy enough. Its contemporary neighbour the Holiday Inn, seen on the left of the photograph, was little better to look at. But the multi-story wasn’t the only car park on Paradise Street. On the opposite side of the road, not visible in the picture, was a street-level car park complete with parking meters. I can’t be the only person straining to remember this entirely forgettable piece of streetscape because another photograph of Paradise Street featuring the corner of the street-level car park sold just after this one on eBay for about £5. But that car park must have been somewhere near the site of the Paradise Street chapel of 1791.

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Paradise Street, Chapel

I have written before about this chapel which had an unusual history and ended up as a music hall. To some extent it enshrined the fortunes of this city centre street – from a well to do residential neighbourhood with its fashionable chapel and the home of the first US consul, to a seedy street with a licentious and dangerous reputation. Later still it became a commercial area (and the old chapel a warehouse) and later still Nazi bombs in 1941 finished off what was left and prepared the ground for the 1970s car parks and cheap hotels.

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Click on the above image to read about the history of Paradise Street Chapel/Royal Colosseum

So let’s compare then and now views of Paradise Street.

Paradise Street

Paradise Street April 1973

Paradise Street 2020

Paradise Street February 2020

The only buildings which remain are at opposite ends of the road. On the right in the 1973 picture is a red-brick building and the Eagle pub. The red-brick building is still there and is today a tapas bar, but you can’t take a picture from the same spot because there is so much furniture outside. Just visible next door is what was the Eagle pub, originally the US Consul’s house and which still carries an American eagle above the front door. Everything else has been redeveloped except for the post-war building at the far end of the street behind which the tower of the Municipal Buildings on Dale Street can still be seen. This was for many years Horne Brothers, the gentleman’s outfitters. In my youth I had to be a customer there because they had a monopoly on the provision of uniforms for my school. An at least annual visit there was inevitable. But I had another connection with Horne Brothers in that I was sent to the barbers shop in the basement to get my hair cut. This was done by Mr Cannon, one of the team of barbers who worked in the gloom of the basement. You had to make an appointment and my appointment was always with him. Unknown to me then it was Mr Cannon who first cut the hair of the Beatles. In volume one of Mark Lewisohn’s excellent book All These Years he tells how when Brian Epstein took over their management he sent them to Mr Cannon to get their first Beatles hair cut. Had I known anything of this back in the 1970s I would have asked him about it, but such things were of little general interest in the 70s. But although the building is still there Horne Bros has long gone, it was turned into a McDonalds years ago.

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

Gladstone’s Library, North Wales

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Along with my friends and colleagues in the ministerial covenant group I had a great time at our meeting at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire, in February. A unique institution, there is no other Prime Ministerial library in Britain and nothing else like it that hosts all manner of literary and theological courses and meetings.

But I was particularly struck by the words on this postcard on sale at the library:

Gladstone Library 01

The back of the card states: Source W.E. Gladstone, from a letter to Samuel Dukenfield (sic) Darbishire of 2nd January, 1895, quoted in John Morley, Life of Gladstone (1903). Samuel Dukinfield Darbishire and his family were all prominent Manchester Unitarians, members of Cross Street Chapel, so I was interested to see that this quote was in a letter written to him. It makes me want to follow up the 1903 biography and also Roy Jenkins’ biography of W.E. Gladstone, copies of which were available in the library.

But it is a remarkable place. No other Prime Minister has ever been motivated to leave their library to the nation. An impressive legacy and  a marvellous resource.

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Faith and Freedom Calendar 2020 available to download

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Once again the annual Faith and Freedom Calendar has been sent out to all individual subscribers to the journal. Additional hard copies can be ordered (while stocks last) from Nigel Clarke, the business manager (email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com) in return for a donation which will go to the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund.

The Calendar can also be viewed and downloaded for free via the following link:

Faith and Freedom Calendar 2020

The 2020 Faith and Freedom Calendar features:

January

The interior of the Unitarian Church, Oklánd, Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Bíró Sára Gyöngyvér (see picture at the top of this page)

February

Wigeon (male at front, female at back) on Startops End reservoir, near Tring, Herts. Photo: Graham Bonham

March

Sunrise, Kirton in Lindsey, Lincolnshire. Photo: Nigel Clarke

April

Sikh festival of Vaisakhi, Gravesend. Photo: Rev Daniel Costley

May

Gatehouse of Thornton Curtis Abbey, North Lincs. Photo: C.P. Williams

June

Retrieving the football. Photo: E. Evanson

July

Open air celebration of Roman Catholic Priesthood, Dover Castle. Photo: Rev Daniel Costley

August

The Kabbalat Shabbat, Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo: Rev Daniel Costley

September

Machuco, in the Chilean Andes. Photo: Anthony Lemon

October

The Choir, Beverley Minster. Photo: Meg Myers

November

Remembrancetide service. Photo: Nigel Clarke

December

Unitarian Pilgrims at Déva, Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Bíró Sára Gyöngyvér

 

A big thank you goes to all of this year’s contributors and to everyone who sent photos in.

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From the Archives

Clough Flower Service 1954

Clough 1956 01

James Robinson lent me this Calendar from Clough dating to 1956. As the caption says it shows the Sunday School before the Flower Service in July 1954. I think the Rev George Buckley made a Calendar for each year he was minister of Ballee and Clough and I will search out any more of them that we can post online. But this one is particularly interesting because it shows the members of the Sunday School. The Flower Service was an important annual service in Clough in those days and many members remember it. Mr Buckley took the picture one year and used it in the Calendar eighteen months later. I am sure everyone in the photo can be identified and a great many of them are regular attenders in the church to this day. It would be nice to put a name to each of the children so that we can post those online too.

Clough 1956 02

 

Downpatrick: Then and Now

I am grateful to Mary Stewart and Thelma Lowry for the next image which is of the interior of Downpatrick in 1967 immediately following its previous renovation and redecoration in the 1960s. This picture was taken on the day of Thelma’s wedding in the church:

Church renovations 1967

As can be seen the colour scheme is quite different to what we are used to today as this picture taken by Down County Museum in 2014 shows:

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In the five years since this picture was taken a number of features have changed, including the addition of furniture and wall plaques. The ‘Squire’s Gallery’ is tidier too! But there is a different feel entirely to the interior, which is believed to be one much closer to the original interior of 1711.

Visit to seven churches – in one day

I was pleased to lead members of Reclaim the Enlightenment on a tour of no less than seven Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches on Saturday, 26th October. We were fortunate to enjoy a beautiful bright day and although we couldn’t see everything or hear the full story in each place we did cover a lot of ground and saw a great deal. We visited, in turn, All Souls’, Belfast; Dunmurry (where the ladies kindly provided very welcome sustenance in the form of tea and scones); Rademon; Clough; Downpatrick; Ballee and Killinchy. As we went around the congregations we were welcomed by clergy and church members and I gave a talk about each church in each place except in Rademon where Jim Ferris gave a wonderful talk about his church. Below are some images from the day. You can read about Reclaim the Enlightenment here.

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Dunmurry

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Refreshments at Dunmurry

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Rademon

RtEDownpatrick

Members of Reclaim the Enlightenment at Downpatrick

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On our way back on the bus outside Ballee

 

Ancient Chapel: then and now

‘Then and now’ pictures can be interesting and informative. Standing outside the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth on 4 August 2019 I thought I would try and get a shot of the building from approximately the same position as the print that I have of the same view dating from about one hundred and fifteen years previously.

Ancient Chapel Tram 02

You can read about this photograph from between 1901 and 1904 and see some details from it here.

Ancient Chapel 2019

Whenever I take pictures of buildings I spend a lot of time trying to keep cars, buses, people, street furniture etc. out of shot. But, of course, for the historian it is the other details that often make the photograph useful and interesting. I picked this spot for the picture without referring to the old print and was half inclined to try and get a nice big Arriva bus coming up Park Road at the same time but there was a limit to how long I wanted to stand in the road! It’s a busy place and I suspect modern buses travel faster than old trams. So no buses in the picture but still a view that enables us to compare ‘then’ with ‘now’.

The picture at the top of the page is the wildflower meadow at St Agnes Field on the edge of Sefton Park.

 

The Dominican Church of the Holy Trinity and the Unitarian history of Kraków

On arriving in Kraków early in August 1879 the second place Alexander Gordon visited, after Ulica Bracka, was the Dominican Church of the Holy Trinity:

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Then I went to the Trójcy Kósciól where Gregory Pauli, on Trinity Sunday, 1562, preached that famous sermon during which the golden ball fell from the top of the spire, and the Unitarians said it was a good – and the Catholics a bad – omen.

Gregory Pauli (1526-1591) was one of the leaders of the Reformed church in Poland who had been appointed pastor of the congregation of Kraków in 1558. Educated at Kraków, Königsberg and Wittenberg he was regarded as a very able preacher. By this time the former Dominican church was in the hands of the Protestants and through the patronage of Stanlislas Cikowski , arch-chamberlain of Kraków and a general in the army, Pauli was appointed minister of Holy Trinity Church. As well as being an open advocate of Unitarianism he was also a pacifist and espoused millennialism, adult baptism and communism. He was involved in the subsequent division of Polish Protestantism into the Minor and Major Reformed churches.

According to Robert Wallace, in the second volume of his Antitrinitarian Biography (1850), “the citizens crowded to hear his sermons”. Wallace also recounts this incident on Trinity Sunday: “Some said, that the blow was meant to strike terror to the heart of the Preacher; but others said, that it was intended to impart new courage to him. The wiser and more reflecting portion of the community were silent.” Older images of the church seem to show a tower at the front of the building which is presumably where this golden ball was positioned.

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Chancel ceiling

The church, dating from 1222 and currently undergoing extensive renovation, is every bit as impressive today as when Gordon saw it. In 1879 he wrote:

A fire, in 1850, did very serious damage to this church, but it has been handsomely restored, with a good deal of the old work entire. From a noble marble gallery, adjoining the choir, I could view the whole interior and the spectacle was striking in every way. Certainly the Jesuits did their work well. A more devoutly Catholic assemblage I never saw. People in all sorts of picturesque costumes were kneeling prostrate like Turks, and kissing the floor. The white-robed Dominicans sang lustily in their stalls, and the organ was a splendid one. The vergers in this church were women, all in pure white linen, with no caps, but elaborately-braided hair.

I don’t think there are women vergers any more but I saw plenty of white-robed monks and large, devout congregations. I sought out some of the other things Gordon had found but was not entirely successful, because of the restoration it is not possible to see everything.

Dominican cloisters

Part of the extensive cloisters

Dominican cloisters additional

Another view of the cloisters

Dominican side chapel 01

A side chapel

Dominican staircase

Staircase to the ‘noble marble gallery’ currently undergoing restoration

Gordon was impressed by what he saw in Kraków:

The richness of the churches here, of the cathedral especially, in splendid monuments, is beyond description. It was not without a thrill of emotion that I stood before the red marble figure of Archbishop Peter Gamrat, who burnt Katherine Weygel in the market-place. This prelate’s likeness has a huge underhung jowl, but a massive, intellectual forehead, exactly correspondent with the career of power and sensuality which he ran.

Peter Gamrat (whose memorial is actually in Wawel cathedral) was simultaneously Bishop of Kraków (1538-1545) and Archbishop of Gniezno, Primate of Poland (1441-1545), and was responsible for the brutal treatment of Katherine Weygel (c.1460-1539).

Katherine Weygel/Katarzyna Weiglowa (or Catherine Vogel as he calls her) is one of very few women listed in Wallace’s Antitrinitarian Biography. She was married to Melchior, a Jewish goldsmith and alderman of Krakow. She seems to have imbibed something of his religious views and after his death was charged with apostasy telling her inquisitors “I believe in the existence of one God, who has created all the visible and invisible world, and who cannot be conceived by the human intellect.” For this she was imprisoned for ten years before being burned at the stake at the age of about 80 in the market place. This took place at a time in Polish history when such brutal oppression was rare but Katherine Weygel certainly suffered at the hands of the religious authorities.

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The market square in which Katherine Weygel was burned at the stake

In his letter to the Christian Life of 1879 Gordon also recorded that to his surprise his guide book noted there were 14 Unitarians listed in Kraków. The local Protestant pastor, who was very helpful to him, could not account for this in any way. But in a later publication Gordon suggested that this was probably a reference to “Uniat Greeks, that is members of that section of the Greek Church which is un union with Rome”. So there wasn’t a little hidden group of Unitarians that had laid undiscovered for centuries, but there was plenty of Unitarian history, hidden in plain sight.