UU Minute #22

Transylvanian Unitarianism Down to this Day

The Unitarian Church in Transylvania was first recognized by the 1568 Edict of Torda, which also established religious toleration among the four allowed religions: Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Unitarian. In its early years, the Unitarian Church attracted members in large numbers, and grew to 425 parishes.

Still the Catholics as well as both Protestant churches reviled the Unitarians as heretics. Transylvania’s King John died in 1571, just a couple years after officially converting to Unitarian himself. Having no heirs, he was succeeded by Istvan Bathory, a Catholic.

The press of Gyulafehérvár was taken away from the Unitarian control.

The Diet of 1572 did not dare to repeal the Edict of Toleration, so it prohibited anyone to change religion. The people of Transylvania had freedom of religion – but only once. A person could freely choose, once – and then was stuck with the choice.

Also in 1572, Ferenc David, whose mind was always probing and questioning, as Unitarian minds tend to do, went so far as to deny the necessity of invoking Jesus Christ in prayer. Prayer, he said, may be addressed simply to God. This was deemed to be a change in religion, and David was arrested and imprisoned. He died in prison 7 years later.

Without a sympathetic king, and without its leading advocate, Transylvanian Unitarians had a hard go of it for about a century, but the faith survived, even down to this day. Today, in Romania, there are 110 Unitarian priests and 141 places of worship. Church officials in Romania estimate 80,000 to 100,000 Romanians are Unitarian – an enduring legacy of the innovative thinking of Queen Isabella, her son, King John Sigismund, and the impassioned advocate of freedom, Ferenc David.

NEXT: The Reformation in Italy

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