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Major dates from the History of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church

Compiled by Prof. Erdö János

Translated by Gellérd Judit                                             Back  /  Next Page

  1510-1520  Birth of Dávid Ferenc

According to the tradition he was born in 1510, but presumably he was born later, around 1520 in Kolozsvár. His father was Hertel Dávid (citizen of Saxon nationality), his mother was a Hungarian. After his father's first name, David, he named himself Franciscus Davidis (or son of David) and from this he Hungarianized it later into Dávid as his last or family name. His sons, Dávid and János returned to the name of Hertel in its Latin form, Hertelius.

1530-1545  In his own country he went to school in his hometown of Kolozsvár. Later he studied at Gyulafehérvár and Brasso.

1540-1571  The lifespan of the King János Sigismund (John Sigismund).

1544-1556  The Reformation of Kolozsvár.

1546-1551  Dávid Ferenc studied abroad.

Supported by the patrons, Medgyesi Ferenc and Pesti Gáspár, he was educated in German universities in Frankfurt by Odera and in Wittenberg where he became a devotee of the Reformation.

1549  Hoffreff György , a Saxon typographer, founded the printing house of  Kolozsvár which later would become the property of Heltai Gáspár.

1551-1565   Publication of the first 7 volumes of the Bible's Hungarian.

The translation was started but unfinished by Heltai Gáspár. The missing part are: the Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester and Job. Involved in the translation besides Heltai were also Ozorai István, Egri Lukács, Szegedi Lajos, Gyulai István, preachers and Vizaknai Gergely, a headmaster. The translation of the Bible promoted the spread of the Reformation.

1551  After returning home, Dávid Ferenc became a teacher at Beszterce.

1552  He became minister in the village of Petres near Beszterce. In both places  he followed the spirit of the reformation in his activity.

1552-1555  He became the headmaster in Kolozsvár.

1554-1555   The Synod of Szék

As the recognized theologian of the Transylvanian Reformation, Dávid Ferenc participated at the synod which discussed the thesis about salvation of the Italian liberal thinker Francis Stancaro. In defense of the resolution of the synod Dávid Ferenc wrote and published his first work in Latin, the DIALYSIS.

1555, October 6.  Kolozsvár elected Dávid Ferenc as chief minister.

From this point he played a key role in the promotion of the Transylvanian Reformation. At the same time he developed Kolozsvár into the center of religious reform and culture.

He saw the disengagement from the Bible as the main cause of the demoralization of Christianity. The Reformation could not be anything else than the restoration of gospel Christianity based upon the Bible.

1557-1559  Dávid Ferenc became the Bishop of the Transylvanian Hungarian   Lutherans. Because of dogmatic reasons he renounced in 1559.

1559-1564 Spreading of the doctrines of the Swiss reformer, Zwingli and Calvin    in Transylvania.

1560-1564  Dávid Ferenc didn't consider the religious reformation finished with

Martin Luther. He wanted to continue it until a more perfect restoration of Christianity was achieved. He found the communion doctrines of the Swiss reformation more in accord with the Bible than that the Lutheranism. Therefore he joined the Swiss direction as better serving Christian renewal. For the sake of keeping the unity of the Reformation he sought for reconciliation of the Lutherian and Swiss tenderness.

1564. April 9.  The Synod from Nagyenyed.

This was the last attempt at reconciliation. They couldn't agree on the question of communion. Because of this the Transylvanian Reformation split and the separation of the two reforming trends has remained definitive. The Swiss reformation began to organize an independent Church, its followers elected Dávid Ferenc their bishop. The king, John Sigismund nominated him to be his court preacher.

1565  The beginning of the Unitarian reformation.

Dávid Ferenc's biblical and humanistic view came early into conflict with the dogmatism of the Swiss reformation. Opposing Calvin, he considered religious reformation as an eternal principle and its particular directions as evolutionary stages. He saw that God's will progressed step by step in reforming religion and reaching the entire (full) truth. The continuation of the reformation was a prophetic mission in his conception which he had to carry out for the love of God, Jesus and his Church.  "Whom God enlightened by His Spirit must not be silent and must not hide the truth."

    Based on the Bible and reason, Dávid Ferenc continued the reformation of the percepts of Christianity. He only kept those which proved the originate from the Bible and were conceivable by reason. In his searching he rejected the Dogma of the Trinity as a human creation and started preaching the concept of one God based on Jesus' teachings. This is how the principle of God's unity became the central idea of his reformation. Along with this the Transylvanian religious reformation arrived at a new, radical stage in its development, Unitarianism.

1566. January 20.  Dávid Ferenc gave his first Unitarian oration in the main church  of Kolozsvár.

1566-1571  Dávid Ferenc and Meliusz Juhász Péter's religious debates.

    The king allowed the organizing religious debates in order to put an end to the religious tensions by establishing a uniform attitude and to restore the unity of religion.

    Beginning in 1566 these religious debates were a common occurrence between the conservative and the reform-minded orators and laymen about the "old papal science and the  new gospel."

    "One heard all over the Transylvania in the villages and in cities, even among the ordinary people, the great disputes during meals, during drinking, in the evening and the morning, at night and daytime, in the common talk and from the pulpits, even accusations and fights between the representative of the two religions". (The chronicle of Nagy Szabó Ferenc).

    The religious orientation of Lutheran and  Swiss Reformed presented a united front against Unitarianism. The burden of the religious debates was carried by Dávid Ferenc and Méliusz Juhász Péter.

1566. March 15. The Synod of religious debates at Torda proclaimed

that the only basis of the Christian faith was the Apostolic Creed. This resolution constituted the first objective manifestation of the Unitarian reformation.

    April 24.27.  The first religious dispute at Gyulafehérvár. Here for the first time the question of the Trinity was put forth as an issue in an open (public) debate.

    May 19.  The religious debate at Marosvásárhely.

Dávid Ferenc published a catechism.

1567  The foundation of the printing house at Gyulafehérvár, the king

placing  it at Dávid Ferenc's disposal. The printing house served Unitarians until 1571. The first Unitarian books were published here.

    In 1567 Dávid Ferenc published three works, the most important of them was the SHORT EXPLANATION (Rövid magyarázat) in which he elaborated the articles of faith of Unitarianism based on the Bible.

1568. January 6-13. The Diet of Torda proclaimed freedom of religion and

of conscience as follows:

    "Our Royal Majesty, as he had decided at the previous debates within his country about matters of  religion, confirms as well at the present Diet that every orator shall preach the gospel by his own (personal) conception, at any place if that community is willing to accept him, or if it isn't, no one should force him just because their soul is not satisfied with him; but a community can keep such a preacher whose teachings are delightful. And no one, neither superintendents nor others, may hurt a preacher by this or by the previous constitutions; no one may be blamed because of their religion. No one is allowed to threaten others with prison or divest anyone of their office because of their profession: because faith is God's gift born from hearing and this hearing is conceived by the word of God."

    This decision being unparalleled in contemporary Europe, constituted state recognition of Unitarianism and foundation of the Unitarian Church.

    The new received religion hadn't an accepted name at its beginning. David Ferenc and his associates signed their publications: "The Transylvanian ecclesia of one accord." The Unitarians preferred using the name of "Christian"; David Ferenc referred to himself as "the servant of the crucified Jesus Christ."

1568. March 8-18. The second religious debate at Gyulafehérvár.

    By its importance this stands pre-eminent among the Transylvanian debates. Its report was published by both parties, edited by Dávid Ferenc and Heltai Gáspár respectively.

    The consequences of the religious debates made the victory of the Unitarians likely. Tradition has it that just after coming home from the debate Dávid Ferenc preached standing on the "round rock" at the corner of Torda street in Kolozsvár and converted all there to become Unitarian.

    In this year the Ovár school at Kolozsvár became Unitarian. With the support of the king and of the city, the school developed into a high level college serving the evolution of Unitarian theology and Transylvanian education very efficiently. The first president of Ovár College was Dávid Ferenc.

    In the printing house at Gyulafehérvár Dávid Ferenc's book, Explanation about Jesus Christ on the foundation of Holy Scripture was published; as was the pamphlet from the works of the Western European and Polish Unitarian writers, De falsa et vera unius Dei patris  (Of the false and the true, only one God, our Father) and also the books of Basilius István orator at Kolozsvár: The sort explanation of the apostolic creed and Some Questions of the Christian true belief.

1569. October 20-25.  The religious debate at Nagyvárad.

    It was held in Hungarian in order that the people could understand. The report of this debate was published by Dávid Ferenc on Heltai's press.

    Tradition has it that after this debate 3000 converted to be Unitarian.

1569  The first volume of Dávid Ferenc's sermons was published.

     In this year also appeared the pamphlet written together by Dávid Ferenc and Blandrata György, the Refutatio scripti Georgii Maioris.

1570   The publication of the first Unitarian Hymnbook. Tradition has it belonging  to Dávid Ferenc. No copy of this edition is known today.

1570's  Many foreign  liberal thinkers and antitrinitarian theologians found refuge

in Transylvania. These were Sommer János, Neuser Ádám, Franchen Keresztély, Paleologus Jakab, Glirius-Vehe-Mátyás, and others. The patron of the refugees was Gerendi János who in his manor-house at Aranyosgerend and Olcona housed almost all of them as his guests.

    Blandrata György, Italian physician and antitrinitarian, came to Transylvania in 1562 as the doctor of the king. As a devotee of the radical reformation he participated in the struggles of the Transylvanian religious reform.

1571. January 6-14. The Diet of Marosvásárhely.

       It confirmed the resolutions of the Diet of Torda in 1568: "God's gospel is to be preached everywhere freely, nobody will be hurt because of their confession, neither a preacher nor the audience."

1571. March 14.     Death of the king John Sigismund.(János Zsigmond).

    The system of received religions is associated with his name, which consisted in stopping Catholicism as the state religion and resulted in all the Protestant denominations of the Reformation being gradually recognized as received religions.

    He was a devotee of the Reformation from 1563 and after 1568 the follower and patron of Unitarianism. He was buried in the cathedral at Gyulafehérvár. At the king's funeral Dávid Ferenc preached his oration in Hungarian and Sommer János in Latin.

    After the death of John Sigismund two important theological works of Dávid Ferenc were published: About the glorious God himself and his true son, Jesus of Nazareth  and the  True confession about divinity of the only one God the Father and of his holy son Jesus Christ.

1571, September 20. The religious debate at Marosvásárhely.

The religious debates and the attempts at compromise remained unsuccessful because of intolerance and exclusivity in the conviction of each to their own dogmatic conceptions. David Ferenc with his sermons, debates and works attained great success at conserving the results. The majority of the ministers, having a Swiss spirit before, joined Unitarianism and as did the king and the aristocracy who had been symphatizing with it. Unitarianism came away victoriously from the ardor of the religious debates. It took roots in the whole country and became an important factor in the life of Transylvania. The ideas of the Unitarian reformation also were spreading outside of Transylvania, beyond the Danube in Bánság, Alföld and Dunántúl.

1571-1576  The rule of Báthori István

    The Prince and his successors introduced a religious policy for restoration of the Catholic Church, supplanting Unitarianism.

    Báthori István confiscated the printing house at Gyulafehérvár from the Unitarians, removed Dávid Ferenc from his office of court orator and except for Blandrata György, displaced all Unitarians from his court.

1571. September 17.  The introduction of censorship.

    The Prince forbade the publication and distribution of any religious works of old or new writers without censorship.

1572. May 15-19.  The Law of Innovation.

    Though the Diet of Torda confirmed the religious laws of Prince John Sigismund, at Báthori István's initiation it forbade any further religious reform promising punishment from Prince Báthori himself for innovators (reformers).

    This Innovation Law plays a decisive role in the further fate of the Unitarian Church.

1572-1579  The years of tribulation.

    Unitarianism continued dogmatic analysis in the 1570's and through this process baptism and Jesus' personality became a center of interest.

    In the dispute about Jesus, two sides opposed each other: one was the party of Dávid Ferenc teaching the humanity of Jesus and, consequently, his being due respect but not worship. The other group represented the conservative opinion of Blandrata György and Hunyadi Demeter, who in spite of their antitrinitarism taught the worship and appeal of Christ.

    The antagonism between the two sides gradually became more manifest, which not only  split Unitarianism but also tragically turned the previous collaborators against each other at a time when the counter-reformation had already appeared in Transylvania.

1574  Death of Heltai Gáspár

    He was an orator, a translator of the Bible, a writer and publisher at the same time. He had been following David Ferenc faithfully in the developments of the reformation. Since 1544 he was a Lutheran reformer in Kolozsvar, starting in 1559 he was a devotee of the Swiss reformation; and beginning with 1569 he became a Unitarian orator. His printing house was one of the few European presses making the publication of Unitarian books possible.

Death of Alvinczi György, Unitarian minister.

    At the religious dispute in Nagyharsány his opponents - the followers of the Swiss reformation - condemned him to death and killed him. This was a flagrant case of the religious intolerance in the 16th century.

1576. Jan.28. The Diet at Medgyes recognized the episcopacy (bishopcy)

of Dávid Ferenc and confirmed the right of the Unitarian Church to elect a bishop.

1576-1581  The rule of Báthori Kristóf.

    At the Diet of Torda the Prince limited the right of Unitarians to hold a synod to Kolozsvár and Torda.

1578. March  The Unitarian synod at Torda with participation of 322 ministers

confirmed the principle of free inquiry. According to this, nobody can be accused and condemned of violating the Innovation Law if he is searching questions which the synod hasn't yet decided.

1578. March  Socinus Faustus came to Kolozsvár.

    Blandrata György invoked the help of the well-known antitrinitarian theologian to try to convince Dávid Ferenc and make him accept the practice of Jesus' worship and his appeal.

    The disputation between Socinus Faustus and Dávid Ferenc ended without any result.

1579. Feb. 28. The synod at Torda rejected the charge of Blandrata György

against Dávid Ferenc and his followers violating the Innovation Law. The synod affirmed that Unitarians did not innovate, but they only developed their previous teachings. Seeking for the religious knowledge and truth is not only allowed but it is the duty of ministers.

1579. March  Blandrata György denounced Dávid Ferenc before the Prince

as a religious reformer who has violating the Law of Innovation and preaching new teachings.

    Prince Báthori Kristóf was waiting for the right opportunity to turn against Dávid Ferenc and based on that denunciation, forbad the Unitarian reformer to preach, detained him under house-arrest and brought his case before the Diet.

1579. April 26.  Dávid Ferenc's cause before the Diet at Torda.

    The courageous espousal of the orator and the attitude of his supporters crossed up the Prince's plans. The Diet warned the Prince that "in this case he shouldn't be carried away by any unconsidered decision but act deliberately, appealing to the advice of both the lay and the Church judges."

    Arrangement of Dávid Ferenc's case was postponed until the Diet in June.

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