In the month of January 2022 we have uploaded four new short video Reflections to our YouTube channel. These cover Epiphany; the installation of the Rev István Kovács as the new bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár, Transylvania, Romania; the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; and Psalm 8. John Strain and Allen Yarr provide music. The Reflections are by Rev David Steers and Jennifer Miles provides a reading. The picture at the top of the page and the thumbnail for the fourth video are images taken remotely from the camera on the International Space Station. The videos can be seen below.
The latest issue of the Transactions, including a special Supplement, is now ready. New subscribers are very welcome, annual membership costs only £10. If you haven’t yet taken out a subscription or would like to renew your subscription that can be done through the Society’s treasurer who can be contacted via the Unitarian Historical Society website here.
The new issue contains the following articles:
The History of the Kolozsvár English Conversation Club
Sándor Kovács relates the hitherto unresearched story of the Kolozsvár English Conversation Club. A major source for illuminating the relationship between Unitarians in Transylvania and Hungary and in the UK and USA. The Club was founded in 1876 by János Kovács and gave local people the opportunity to learn English. It became the main point of contact for visiting Unitarians throughout the rest of the century, over the period of the celebration of the Hungarian Millennium in 1896 and on into the twentieth century.
Received with Thanks. Unitarian Hymns sung by Mainstream Churches
Nigel Lemon investigates hymns penned by Unitarian writers which have found favour in mainstream hymnbooks. He looks at around 50 Unitarian hymns which are found in a selection of mainstream books published in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and focusses on thirteen Unitarian authors.
Thomas Aikenhead: An Historiographical Introduction
Thomas Aikenhead was an Edinburgh student who stood trial for blasphemy in December 1696, and was put to death in the following January. Said to be the last person to be executed for blasphemy in Britain he is often also claimed as a Unitarian martyr. Rob Whiteman examines the way his trial and execution has been understood across the centuries.
Tercentenary of a Unique Donation: Glasgow University and Chowbent Chapel
Universities are not known for their generosity to outside bodies but in 1721 the University of Glasgow (see image at the top of this page which shows Glasgow College at the end of the seventeenth century) made a donation to Chowbent Chapel whilst it was being built. The congregation had just been dispossessed from their old chapel by a new landlord. This short article explains how and why Glasgow University supported the building of the new chapel (pictured above).
Protestant Dissent and Philanthropy 1660-1914,
edited by Clyde Binfield, G.M. Ditchfield and David L. Wykes,
The Boydell Press, 2020,
hardback, 264 pages, ISBN 978-1-78327-451-2. Studies in Modern British History Vol 39. Price £65.
Reviewed by Alan Ruston
Subscribers to the Transactions will be pleased to know that they are able to purchase this book with a special 35% discount using the code given in the issue.
A Radical Religious Heritage, by John Maindonald,
second edition, 2020,
paperback, 68 pages ISBN 978-0-473-52784-6. Price $NZ 25.00
Reviewed by Graham Murphy
Obituaries of Ministers of Unitarian Congregations
Index and synopsis of references
New entries, and Additions and Corrections
extended from 1 February 2014 to 31 January 2021
Compiled by ALAN RUSTON
This issue comes with Alan’s latest Supplement which brings over twenty years of research by Alan on Unitarian obituaries right up to date. It also makes use of the late Professor R.K. Webb’s index cards based on a wide variety of sources for biographical details of Unitarian ministers from circa 1780 to the early 1990s.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Inside the Catholic Church in Torda immediately prior to the service to mark the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda, much of which was simultaneously translated into English for visitors
Last year I was very pleased and honoured to be present in Torda, Transylvania, to attend the celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda. I blogged about my experiences there and in Transylvania at the time and the blog can be read here:
In April 2018 I addressed the annual meeting of the Unitarian Historical Society at their meeting at Staverton near Daventry, Northamptonshire. The talk and illustrations were filmed by the Society and subsequently uploaded to YouTube in slightly edited form. But as this week just passed marks the 451st anniversary of the Edict of Torda on 13th January 2019 I thought I would add a link to it for anyone who has not seen it:
Another location for theological controversies in Transylvania in the sixteenth century was the cathedral of Gyulafehérvár, for a long time the centre of royal power in Transylvania and the resting place of the only Unitarian king in history. It is a very impressive late Romanesque building as these images which I took last year show:
We were given a fascinating introduction to the cathedral and its history by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gyulafehérvár who very graciously took us on an extensive guided tour. I was also pleased to get my photograph taken with both the Roman Catholic Archbishop and the Unitarian Bishop. Since I was also the Moderator of the Presbytery of Antrim at the time I thought that this made for an interesting trinity.
David Steers; György Jakubinyi, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gyulafehérvár; Ferenc Bálint Benczédi, Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, at the cathedral, Gyulafehérvár
Unveiling the new monument to religious freedom at Torda – ‘Ad Astra’, the work of Liviu Mocan, a Romanian artist
Please note that this blog now has its own domain name:
and I am pleased to say that it is also now ad-free.
The Faith and Freedom Calendar is available and has been sent out to all individual subscribers to the journal. You can order additional hard copies from Nigel Clarke, the business manager (email@example.com), in return for a donation which will go to the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund.
The whole Calendar is also available to view and to download via the following link:
This year’s Calendar features:
Winter in the Vale of Edale, Peak District National Park. Photo: Andrew Clarke
Church House, Abbey Street, Armagh.Photo: Paul Eliasberg
Gerbera (African Daisy). Photo: Graham Bonham
Juvenile blackbird. Photo: Graham Bonham
A celebration of famous Unitarians on Dunas Day, Torockó, Romania. Photo: Sára Bíró
St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta. Photo: Anne Wild
Lake Ohrid viewed from the church of the Archangel Michael, Radožda, Macedonia. Photo: Tony Lemon
Unitarian service at Bölön, Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Sára Bíró
Dandelion seed head. Photo: Graham Bonham
Methodist chapel, Barber Booth, Edale, Derbyshire. Photo: Andrew Clarke
Commemorating the centenary of the end of WW1, Downpatrick. Photo: David Steers
Cygnets on Ballydugan Lake, county Down. Photo: David Steers
Faith and Freedom was able to report on another successful year at the Ministerial Old Students Association and the Annual Meeting of Friends and Honorary Governors held at Harris Manchester College, Oxford on 18th – 20th June. The meetings also marked the retirement of the Principal, Rev Dr Ralph Waller, now Sir Ralph Waller KBE to whom goes warmest congratulations. It was also pleasing to see Rev Dr Peter Godfrey, our Editor Emeritus at the meetings.
Rev Dr Peter Godfrey, Editor Emeritus, and Nigel Clarke, Business Manager, Faith and Freedom
Retiring Principal Sir Ralph Waller, KBE, addresses the Annual Meeting of Friends and Governors
The cover of the latest issue depicting the inscription at the base of the new religious freedom monument in Torda. ‘No one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, for faith is the gift of God’. Quotation from the Edict of Torda of 1568 inscribed on the new memorial, ‘Ad Astra’ by Liviu Mocan, unveiled at Torda, Transylvania, Romania on 13th January 2018.
On sale in Hungary since 2nd May is this stamp depicting this famous painting of the Diet of Torda. The painting has been very widely reproduced over the last one hundred years, there was, I remember, a print of it in the Unitarian College, Manchester when I was there and I have a Unitarian magic lantern slide of it dating from before the First World War. Needless to say it is not a contemporary image but painted by Hungarian art nouveau painter Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch and first exhibited as part of the Hungarian millennium celebrations in Budapest in 1896. It was part of that flowering of Hungarian culture that turned Budapest into a great modern city at the time of its 1,000th anniversary.
It depicts Francis David in the centre of the picture with King John II Sigismund on the left in red, Giorgio Biandrata stands behind him and other key figures in Transylvania. By tradition the meeting of the diet took place in the Catholic Church – which became Unitarian following the event. The picture now hangs in what is today the museum in Torda which was actually a royal residence in the town in the sixteenth century and may well have been the actual location for the diet to meet. S.A. Steinthal, when he visited Torda in 1859, was not led to believe the church was the venue:
“The house in which the diet met at which this remarkable enactment was made was pointed out to me, and that plain edifice will always remain impressed upon my memory as a spot consecrated by the true spirit of Christianity, manifested long before the world at large was ready to receive its genial spirit of enlightened love.”
There is a very good account in English of the making of the stamp on the Magyar Posta website (https://www.posta.hu/stamps/stamps/new-stamps/the-diet-of-torda-was-held-450-years-ago) which includes the following:
‘Magyar Posta is issuing a commemorative stamp in honour of the 450th anniversary of the proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom adopted by the Diet of Torda in 1568. Two hundred thousand copies of the commemorative stamp designed by the graphic artist Attila André Elekes were produced by the banknote printing company Pénzjegynyomda…
The Hungarian Unitarian Church dates its establishment as an institution from the proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom adopted by the Diet of Torda in 1568. The Transylvanian Diet held in Torda (today Turda, Romania) between 6 and 13 January was the first to commit itself to religious diversity, due to which the different branches of Reformation could evolve freely and peaceably into independent churches, making it possible for the four established denominations (Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical-Lutheran and Unitarian) to develop their sectarian system. The Hungarian Unitarian Church declared 2018 as the year of religious freedom and on its initiative the Hungarian Parliament passed Act I of 2018 on the importance of the 1568 Act on Religious Freedom of Torda and the Day of Religious Freedom and made 13 January, the day on which the 1568 religious law was proclaimed, the Day of Religious Freedom.
The celebratory 2018 law is a worthy tribute to the religious law adopted at Torda, which was the first in the world to proclaim one of the fundamental merits of modern democracy, the right to exercise religious freedom. According to the celebratory law’s justification “… The notion of the Torda Act, the religious self-determination of the community, can also be considered as paving the way for modern democracy, which gained universal acknowledgement in western civilisation over the course of history and can deservedly be regarded as one of the basic values of Christian Europe.”
The stamp features a reproduction of an oil painting by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, Ferenc Dávid’s Address to the 1568 Diet of Torda. On the occasion of the millennium of the foundation of the Hungarian state, several counties, towns and communities were preparing to erect a memorial of artistic value of local historic figures or outstanding events for posterity. The town of Torda made a community decision to commission a painting that recorded the historic moment of the 1568 Diet, the proclamation of religious tolerance and freedom. The commission to make the artwork was awarded to the painter Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch.’
It is not often that anything representative of Unitarian history is reproduced on a stamp so it is nice to see this image going around the world. I am very grateful to Phil Waldron who kindly gave me this stamp.
Recently I have published a couple of ‘then and now’ shots featuring Edwardian postcards and contemporary photographs on this blog. One featured a view of a street in Toxteth and one some of the churches in Banbridge. This is another ‘then and now’ view but, in this case, it is taken from a glass lantern slide of the Unitarian College building in Cluj/Kolozsvár.
I have an interesting set of magic lantern slides depicting notable sites in Hungary and Transylvania, some of them showing groups of people at what must be some sort of gathering, possibly international. The purpose of the collection, which is in a poor state and which is probably not complete, is to illustrate something about the Unitarian history and life of that region. They are not easy to date exactly but this slide helps enormously.
The Unitarian College was built in 1901, then a very modern, state of the art building which is still impressive and giving excellent service as headquarters, College as well as senior and junior schools.
It is right next door to the First Unitarian Church which can just be seen on the left of the photograph. This helps us date the slides since the College was built in 1901 and the church had the top of its tower replaced in 1908. In that year Lajos Pákey, the city architect who was educated at the Unitarian College and was also responsible for many of the prominent buildings and monuments in the town, redesigned the tower in its present baroque form. I had always assumed that this feature dated to the 1790s when the church was built and had never seen a picture of the original tower before finding this slide.
By chance I took a picture in January 2018 from the same place as the photographer of 1901-1908, not surprising since there are not so many vantage points for such a large building. But here we have the same view, separated by about 110 years.
As time and circumstance permit I will try and digitise the glass lantern slides and post them on here.
Unitarian Church door
Franciscan Church plaque
Lutheran Church inscription
St Michael’s Church door
Roman Catholic parochial house door
Obelisk commemorating the visit of the emperor. Built in 1831.
Obelisk detail by Austrian sculptor Josef Klieber. The emperor and his wife visit the city hospital. Note the gas lamp.
The original arms of the city
Plaque commemorating the visit of Emperor Francis I and Princess Caroline Augusta to ‘Claudiopolis’ in 1817
The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Cathedrals
Roman Catholic Cathedral
Diocesan noticeboard in four languages
The Archbishop greets us
Tomb of King John II Sigismund
Tomb of Queen Isabella Jagiellon