The Reformed Church of Csenger

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1. Csenger and the Reformation

Csenger’s church played an outstanding church historical role in the Reformation era, as the history of the historical Szatmár County became significant in many aspects during the Turkish occupation. Very important trade routes passed through the region linking the Principality of Transylvania with the free royal towns of Szepes County. In the light of this fact, it was no wonder that this economically and socially developed region became the cradle of the Reformation in Hungary. Following October 31, 1517, the Lutheran Reformation spread very quickly throughout Europe. In the historical Szatmár County, Reformed pastors held services already from 1520. Not only did the pastors play an important role in spreading the new ideas, but also the nobles made special efforts to protect their new religion by securing financial and political support, and when it was necessary, military protection. As a result, the historical Szatmár County had a leading role in the spread of the Reformation. Erdőd, a major domain of Gáspár Drágffy, who was one of the first nobles giving ground to the spread of the new beliefs in their courts, became one of the most important sites for the holding of synods. The Reformation arrived in Csenger quite early, where the early Gothic Reformed church of today became the site for the holding of several synods. The synod of 1576, which followed the synods of the Calvinist Rome, Debrecen and Óvár in order of importance, was held in Csenger. Here, Péter Méliusz Juhász constructed “The Confession of Csenger”, by which the theological physiognomy of the Hungarian Reformed Church was established. The Confession was written for the protection of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The synod was congregated by our first bishop, Péter Méliusz Juhász. It was perhaps due to these facts that the entire population of Csenger converted to Reformed religion. Following the quick spread of the Reformation, in 1629, the only vicarage in the historical Szatmár County where Roman Catholic priests held services was in Ecsed. Due to the fact that Csenger has a population of approximately 5100 people, out of which approximately 4100 people are Reformed, the Reformed community of Csenger is still a significant Protestant community in the region.

 

 

2. Catholics and Protestants against each other.

The religious wars continued in the 17th century. The Catholic Church lost a significant number of its followers in the northern and eastern counties of the Kingdom of Hungary. Their churches were standing empty, or the Reformed occupied and altered them in accordance with the liturgical elements of their religion. At that time, the Catholics had no charismatic leaders to provide direction to the followers.

The rise of the Catholic Church in Hungary began under the leadership of Péter Pázmány. As the Reformed Churches and their followers protected their religious beliefs with all existing ”weapons”, the road to unity was very difficult. “Battles” were fought within the field of book publishing and at general assemblies. At that time, significant works of Hungarian authors and the translations of the works of foreign theoreticians were published.

The religious conflict reached its climax at the General Assembly of 1662. The Christian triumph over the Turks in Szentgotthárd, following that, the Treaty of Vasvár triggered dissatisfaction not only among the Protestant nobility, but also among the Catholic nobility. Leaving the strategically important fortresses (e.g. Érsekújvár, Várad), which were occupied by the Ottomans from 1663 to 1664, in the hands of the Muslims was a slap in the face for the Kingdom of Hungary. The Wesselényi-conspiracy, which unfolded following that event, and became known as Kuruc movement, gave reason to the Habsburg emperor Leopold I and the Austrian government to eliminate the members of the Hungarian nobility, and the Protestant nobility.

The religious conflict reached its climax at the General Assembly of 1662. The Christian triumph over the Turks in Szentgotthárd, following that, the Treaty of Vasvár triggered dissatisfaction not only among the Protestant nobility, but also among the Catholic nobility. Leaving the strategically important fortresses (e.g. Érsekújvár, Várad), which were occupied by the Ottomans from 1663 to 1664, in the hands of the Muslims was a slap in the face for the Kingdom of Hungary. The Wesselényi-conspiracy, which unfolded following that event, and became known as Kuruc movement, gave reason to the Habsburg emperor Leopold I and the Austrian government to eliminate the members of the Hungarian nobility, and the Protestant nobility.

It is true that the above-mentioned period brought strength to Catholicism, but the attitude of the Reformed toward the protection of their religion and their church organization is among the exemplary events in the history of Hungary.