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.

Portrait JJTayler

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.

 

Upper_Brook_Street_Chapel_2017_006

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.

Paget_János

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.

gyulafehervar 02

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

 

Diet of Torda 450 forint stamp

 

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.

Torda stamp image

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.

The Edict of Torda

I was privileged to be present at the special celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda held in Torda, Romania, on Saturday, 13th January. It was a remarkable occasion with three churches filled in the town, the service relayed to a screen in the town square and the event broadcast live on Hungarian television.

 

The Edict of Torda was the first promulgation of religious toleration in Europe. From the point of view of Western Europe it came at the surprisingly early date of 1568 and took place in Transylvania under the rule of King John II Sigismund, the only Unitarian king in history.

 

Here I will post some images from the service held in the Catholic Church in Torda, traditionally regarded as the location for the meeting of the Diet of 1568.

Assembing in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Assembling in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Inside the Church before the service

Inside the Church before the service

Rev Marton Csesc and Rev Imola Molnar who introduced the 16 speakers in the Church

Rev Márton Csésc and Rev Imola Molnár who introduced the 16 speakers at the service

Laszlo Kover President of the Hungarian Parliament

Lászlo Kövér, President of the Hungarian Parliament

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Some of the congregation outslde

Some of the congregation outside

Bishop Ferenc Balint Benczedi of the HUC and Archbishop Gyorgy Jakubinyi

Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, Archbishop György Jakubinyi of the Roman Catholic Church and other dignitaries

Rev David Gyero deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Dávid Gyerő, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Istvan Kovacs Director of Public Affairs HUC

Rev István Kovács Public Affairs Director of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

Rev Jozsef Kaszoni

Rev József Kászoni-Kövendi, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

UNveiling the memorial

Unveiling the memorial

The new memorial to religious freedom at Torda

The new memorial to religious freedom, Ad Astra, by Liviu Mocan