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Responses to Habsburg Persecution of Protestants in Seventeenth-Century Hungary

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2009


This article considers responses to Habsburg persecution of Protestants in Hungary during the 1670s. Focusing on the Reformed church, it will first assess how long-established contacts with Reformed co-religionists in northwestern Europe came to provide support for Hungarians in the face of violent state repression. This will concentrate in particular on the trial and imprisonment of Protestant clergy after 1674 and on the liberation of one group of ministers in 1676, thanks to Dutch intervention. It will then consider the diverse ways in which Habsburg persecution of Hungarian Protestants was represented in the Dutch Republic, England, France, and in Hungary, and what this reveals about the international Reformed community toward the end of the confessional age. It will then assess the role of persistent but shifting memories of this era of martyrs and liberators in the later development of Hungarian Reformed identity.

Forum in Honor of R.J.W. Evans
Copyright © Center for Austrian Studies, University of Minnesota 2009

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1 See, for example, Barnard, T., “The Uses of 23 October 1641 and Irish Protestant Celebrations,” English Historical Review 106 (1991): 889920CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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7 Evans, Robert described this Wesselényi conspiracy as “a very bizarre episode and an odd misnomer, a kind of Fronde nobiliare with large dashes of slapstick,” in The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1550–1700 (Oxford, 1979), 261Google Scholar; Spielman, J., Leopold I of Austria (London, 1977)Google Scholar. Ingrao, C., The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618–1815 (Cambridge, 1994), 6174Google Scholar.

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11 Kocsi, “Kősziklán épült ház ostroma” (1976), 88.

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13 Bengt Gabrielsson Oxenstierna, “Memorial … wegen der bedrangten Evangelischen … in Ungarn” (1674), translated and published in 1675 in Dutch and in English as The Case of the Persecuted and Oppressed Protestants in some parts of Germany and Hungary, suggested that only the “cunning of some zealots” had previously prevented “Protestant groans” from reaching the emperor's ears. See also the defence of the court's action by the Jesuit Labsánszky, János, Extractus brevis et verus, quo candide demonstratur acatholicorum praedicantium e regno Hungariae proscriptio, et degradatio facta esse respectu rebellionis, non autem religionis (Trnava, 1675)Google Scholar.

14 Kocsi, “Kősziklán épült ház ostroma” (1976), 96.

15 Ibid., 97; E. Thury, “Gályarabok megszabaditás,” Protestáns Szemle (1909): 594–95; Otrokócsi's letter in Történelmi Tár (1909): 555–56; L. Nagy, “Prisonniers protestants hongrois sur les galères de Naples et leur rédemption (1675–1676),” Cahiers de la Méditerranée 65 (2002).

16 du Maurier, Louis Aubery, The Lives of all the Princes of Orange; from William the Great, founder of the common-wealth of the United Provinces (London, 1693)Google Scholar, preface.

17 Reproduced in A magyarországi gályarab prédikátorok emlékezete, ed. Makkai (1976), 57.

18 Csergő, Bálint Kocsi, “Narratio brevis de oppressa libertate ecclesiarum Hungaricarum,” [1676], reproduced in 1738 translation in A magyarországi gályarab prédikátorok emlékezete, ed. Makkai, (1976), 29110Google Scholar; A Short Memorial of the most grievous sufferings of the ministers of the Protestant churches in Hungary by the instigation of the Popish clergy there (London, 1676); and a shorter summary of events was printed as A Brief Narrative of the State of the Protestants in Hungary (1677); Kort en waaragtig verhaal van de laetste vervolginge der Evangelische leeraaren in Hungarien (Amsterdam, 1677), and translated into German as Kurzer und warhafftiger Bericht von der letzten Verfolgung der Evangelischen Prediger in Ungarn (1676/1683). For a list of texts related to these events, see Makkai, L., Barcza, J., and Csohány, J., eds., In Memoriam. Eliberationis verbi divini ministrorum Hungaricorum ad triremes condemnatorum 1676. Studia et Acta Ecclesiastica Nove Series. Acta Ecclesiastica 1 (Debrecen, 1976)Google Scholar.

19 Ferenc Fóris Otrokócsi, “Furor bestiae contra testes Jesu Christi in Hungaria,” which was the basis for Abraham van Poot, Naauwkeurig Verhaal van der Vervolginge aangerecht tegens de Evangelise Leeraren in Hungarien (1684).

20 Lani, Georgius, Funda Davidis contra Goliath (Leipzig, 1676)Google Scholar and Kurtzer und doch warhaftiger historische Extract der grausamen und fast unerhörten Papistischen Gefängnis (Leipzig, 1675/6). The texts of Masznyik, Tobias, Unerhörter Gefängnis-Process (Halle, 1676)Google Scholar and Simonides, Johannes, “Minden szentek galériája” (1675), are reproduced in A magyarországi gályarab prédikátorok emlékezete, ed. Makkai, (1976), 127–65, 164Google Scholar.

21 D. Watson, “Jean Crespin and the Writing of History in the French Reformation,” and Pettegree, A., “Adriaan van Haemstede: The Heretic as Historian,” in Gordon, B., ed., Protestant History and Identity in Sixteenth-Century Europe. Volume 2. The Later Reformation (Aldershot, 1996), 3976Google Scholar.

22 Kort en waaragtig verhaal van de laetste vervolginge der Evangelische leeraaren in Hungarien (1676) is reproduced in Hungarian translation together with illustrations from van Poot, , Hungarise Vervolginge (1684) in A magyarországi gályarab prédikátorok emlékezete, ed. Makkai, (1976), 111–26Google Scholar.

23 A Short Memorial (1676), 1–2. Shagan, E., “Constructing Discord: Ideology, Propaganda and English Responses to the Irish Rebellion of 1641,” Journal of British Studies 36 (1997): 434CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 A Short Memorial (1676), 5, 8.

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26 A Short Memorial (1676), 9.

27 Ibid., 10–17, 11.

28 Ibid., 2, 9.

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30 Baxter, Richard, The Nonconformists Plea for Peace: Or an account of their judgment in certain things in which they are misunderstood: written to reconcile and pacifie such as by mistaking them hinder love and concord (London, 1679), 244Google Scholar.

31 Ferguson, Robert, A Representation of threatening dangers, impending over Protestants in Great Britain (London, 1687), 23Google Scholar.

32 Defoe, Daniel, An Enquiry into the most proper ways to prevent the persecution of the Protestants in France (London, 1698), 19Google Scholar.

33 Jurieu, Pierre, Lettres pastorales addressées aux fidèles qui gémissent sous la captivité de Babylone (1686) and translated as Prejudices against Popery: The Pastoral Letters of the incomparable Jurieu directed to the Protestants in France groaning under the Babylonish tyranny (London, 1689)Google Scholar.

34 Ibid., 648; Bod, Péter, Magyar Athenas, avagy az Erdélyben és Magyarországban élt tudós embereknek… historiájok (1766), ed. Torda, I. (Budapest, 1982), 323Google Scholar.

35 Jurieu, Prejudices against Popery (1689), 637–38, has a clear basis in Kocsi's 1676 text; see here, for example, “Kősziklán épült ház ostroma” (1976), 74–75.

36 Jurieu, Prejudices against Popery (1689), 640, 643.

37 Ibid., 643–44.

38 Ibid., 645–46.

39 Ibid., 648.

40 A magyarországi gályarab prédikátorok emlékezete, ed. Makkai (1976), 23–24.

41 Ember, Pál Debreceni, Historia ecclesiae reformatae in Hungaria et Transylvania (Utrecht, 1728)Google Scholar; Péter Bod, “Kősziklán épült ház ostroma” [1738].

42 Nagy, István Szőnyi, Martyrok Coronaja (Kolozsvár, 1675)Google Scholar; Nagy, R., “Protestáns mártirológia és élettörténeti narráció-Szőnyi Nagy István 17. századi református lelkész példája,” in Balázs, M. and Gábor, Cs., eds., Emlékezet és devóció a régi magyar irodalomban (Kolozsvár, 2007), 333–54Google Scholar.

43 Bethlen, Miklós, Apologia ministrorum evangelicorum Hungariae, ad innocentiam suam orbi Christiano declarandam opposito judicio tribunalis Posoniensis (Kolozsvár, 1677; Utrecht, 1678)Google Scholar.

44 This was translated by 1682 as The Declaration of the Hungarians war newly published by the most illustrious Michael Apafi prince of Transylvania, against his Imperial Majesty (London, 1682).

45 Kősziklán épült ház ostroma” (1976), 45. Also see Gyulai, Mihály, Fertelmeskedő, s'bujálkodó tancz jutalma (Debrecen, 1681)Google Scholar; Szenci, Pál, Reszegesek jajos pohara (Debrecen, 1681)Google Scholar; also, Bethlen, Miklós, Önéletírása and Imádságoskönyve, ed. Windisch, É. (Budapest, 1955), 400981, 985–1080Google Scholar.

46 Otrokócsi, Ferenc Fóris, Róma, Istennek sz. városa (Nagyszombat, 1698)Google Scholar; Bod, , Magyar Athenas (1766), 388–90Google Scholar.

47 Evans, R. J. W., “Hungary: Limited Rejection,” in The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1550–1700 (Oxford, 1979), 235–75Google Scholar. See also Fata, M., Ungarn, das Reich der Stephanskrone, im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung. Multiethnizität, Land und Konfession 1500 bis 1700 (Münster, 2000)Google Scholar. For the situation of the Catholic church in Transylvania, see Bahlcke, J., “Catholic Identity and Ecclesiastical Politics in Early Modern Transylvania,” in Crăciun, M., Ghitta, O., and Murdock, G., eds., Confessional Identity in East-Central Europe (Aldershot, 2002), 134–52Google Scholar.

48 (all Web pages consulted 1 September 2008). The square now also features a statue of István Bocskai, the Reformed leader of a 1604 anti-Habsburg revolt. Other memorial sites in Hungary to the release of the ministers in 1676 include a relief on the wall of Sárospatak Reformed college bearing an image of the galley-slaves and the legend “Dixit Jehova: Captivos meos liberabo.”

49 Evans, Robert has argued that the forms of “engagement which religious-based communities bequeathed to the modern world became filled with ever more overtly national content, but a content which still bore a deep imprint of pre-modern confessional commitment,” in “Religion and Nation in Hungary, 1790–1848” in Evans, R. J. W., ed., Austria, Hungary and the Habsburgs: Essays on Central Europe, c. 1683–1867 (Oxford, 2006), 153Google Scholar.

50 For discussion of religion and memory, see Hervieu-Léger, D., La Religion pour Mémoire (Paris, 1993; translation London, 2000)Google Scholar.

51 Makkai wrote that although it might be better in some ways to forget the suffering of the 1670s, it was helpful in order to understand religious mentalities during the early modern period, the development of Hungarian resistance to the Habsburgs, and to consider how the ruling class had responded to a crisis in authority by imposing religious persecution in A magyarországi gályarab prédikátorok emlékezete, ed. Makkai (1976), 8; A magyar református egyház története, ed. I. Révész et al. (Budapest, 1949), 110–19.

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