Edict of Turda

Edict of Turda

The Edict of Torda (modern name: Turda) in 1568, also known as the Patent of Toleration. [cite web | title=Unitarianism in Transylvania | url=http://www.unitarius.hu/english/lelteto.rtf | author=Louis Elteto (Éltető Lajos) | date=March 2000 Page 7.] is the earliest known general attempt to guarantee religious freedom in Christian Europe.

The original edict

King John II Sigismund of Hungary, encouraged by his Unitarian Minister Francis David (Dávid Ferenc), during the Diet of 1568de Marcos, Jaume [http://www.miguelservet.org/noticias/previsualizacion.php?ID=107 "Servetus at the European Congress of Religious Studies 2004"] . Retrieved on 2008-01-23.] issued the following proclamation (roughly translated into English):

"His majesty, our Lord, in what manner he – together with his realm – legislated in the matter of religion at the previous Diets, in the same matter now, in this Diet, reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearings is by the word of God."Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council. [http://www.uupcc.org/docs/edict-of-torda.doc "Edict of Torda"] (DOC). Retrieved on 2008-01-23.]

This edict was given at the city of Torda/Turda. Torda (now part of Transylvania in Romania) was in 1568 at the center of a maelstrom of power struggles between cultures, religions, and thrones. The edict, appearing during the counter-Reformation and during a time when national churches were being established,Williams, George M. [http://w3.enternet.hu/sandor64/cffr/essays/historytreason.htm "History as Treason"] . Retrieved 2008-01-23.] represented a move toward religious toleration and a direct renunciation of national establishment of a single religion.

This edict was not the first attempt to legislate religious freedoms in this area. Owing to the near collapse of the Catholic Church in Hungary in this era (accelerated by the Battle of Mohács in 1526, in which most of the Catholic leadership of Hungary perished), the Reformation made great inroads in Hungary. The edict was only one of a series in which various religious groups seized the opportunity to secure legal tolerance for their own adherents. Despite the language quoted above, the edict of 1568 legally applied only to the four well-connected groups of the time: Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Unitarians. Other groups without political representation in the Diet, such as Jews, Muslims, and especially the numerous ethnic Romanians who were Eastern Orthodox, were "tolerated" but not granted legal guarantees. Moreover, the edict speaks of preachers and congregations, not of individuals. It does not guarantee the free exercise of "personal" religious conscience. [Miklós Molnár, "A Concise History of Hungary", Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 110.]

Nevertheless, what is striking about this edict is the universality of its language, which owes much to the influence of Dávid, and goes beyond any previous edict. It helped foster toleration as a notion beyond mere political expedience, and helped pave the way for the remarkably tolerant regime of the Calvinist Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania, when (for example) Jews were relieved of the requirement of wearing the Star of David. [Paul Lendvai, "The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat", Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 110.]

In the near term, however, the Edict of Torda sparked a backlash from opposing political forces: King John was replaced, and subsequent edicts revoked the Edict of Torda. Francis David, who went on to teach that praying to Christ is an error (nonadorantism), split the Unitarians and jeopardized their legal protection. [ "Encyclopedia Britannica", 15th. edition, vol. 3, p. 909.] He was convicted of heresy and died in prison under the ascendancy of the Catholic Church and the rule of Prince Báthory István.

Modern influence

Despite the change and turmoil in Eastern Europe since 1568, the notion of religious tolerance remains a key influence in the Unitarian tradition. Many churches calling themselves Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists point to the Unitarians of Transylvania and the Edict of Torda as an important point in their history.Szekely, Janos. [http://www.uupcc.org/plantingseeds/html/janossermon.pdf "Janos Szekely’s sermon for Sunday, January 30, 2005"] (PDF). Retrieved on 2008-01-23.]

Aladar Korosfoi-Kriesch painted a Romantic recreation of the debate at the Diet of 1568, with Francis David standing at the center dramatically promoting the declaration of tolerance. The painting, completed in 1896, currently hangs in The City Museum of Budapest. Reprints hang in many Unitarian households throughout Transylvania today, though prints in the United States are rare. One such print was donated to The Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance at Rice University [The presentation of the print is shown at http://cohesion.rice.edu/centersandinst/boniuk/boniuk.cfm?doc_id=9174 (retrieved on 2008-01-23), though the print itself does not show up well in this (very large) image.] A clearer but low-resolution image of the print can be seen at [http://www.uniuniques.com/UniFineArt/Printwork/Prints.htm "UU Prints and Watercolor Paintings"] , retrieved on 2008-01-23.] .

In 1993 Unitarians in Transylvania met at Turda to celebrate the anniversary of the original 1568 edict. They issued a new statement of religious tolerance, which said in part: "In this solemn moment of remembrance we reaffirm that faith is the gift of God; we promote religious freedom and strive for the respect and implementation of basic human rights...."Erdo, Janos (Translated by Gellerd, Judit). [http://www.unitarius.hu/english/dates.html "Major dates from the History of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church"] . Retrieved 2008-01-23.]

There is some irony here, in that in modern times Unitarians in Transylvania (being a religious minority within the ethnic minority of Hungarians in Romania), have been fighting (especially under the Ceauşescu regime) for religious recognition and freedom in largely Orthodox Romania, whereas the Orthodox Romanians were the largest group not legally covered by the Edict of Torda in 1568.


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