Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 06, 2012

16th Century Hungary: An Unlikely Protestant Stronghold

While I often focus on Germany, France, Switzerland, and Britain (which happen to be my ancestral homelands) I recently became interested in Hungary’s part in the Protestant Reformation. To my surprise, many Hungarians accepted Protestantism in its early decades. I was fascinated to learn that there was a quite significant German population that aided native Hungarian speakers with reading the great tracts of the Reform and possibly also with learning Scripture in their own tongue. One influential Protestant Hungarian was Michael Sztarai (I’ll discuss him below).

As was the norm in 16th century Europe, officials aimed to squelch this newfound movement and to restore orthodoxy to Hungary and neighboring territories. While this worked to a certain degree, there were many Protestant Hungarians who refused to be converted. Hungarian Protestantism was sustained by tough individuals like Michael Sztarai, a reformer who helped to carry Luther’s message to the wilds of Transylvania and beyond. Transylvania (which was under Hungarian rule at the time) was full of German nationals and was known by them as “Sibenburgen.” Unfortunately, though Sztarai was a key player in Hungarian Protestantism, little information seems to be known about his personal life.

Hungarian Protestants were not always strictly “Lutheran” in the way they administered the faith, though they ascribed to most Lutheran tenets. These individuals became known for championing an odd mixture of Lutheranism and Calvinism that was too Lutheran for Calvinists and too Calvinist for Lutherans . . . though Catholic officials attempted to destroy it in all forms. Michael Sztarai was only one of many men and women who struggled through the birth pangs of the Reformation just as Germany, the disseminator of their newfound creed, had done. Those who refused to cave into pressure are still noted for their constancy and devotion.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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