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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 20 — Protestantism in Hungary and Transylvania

Chapter 4 — Leopold I and the Jesuits

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Ferdinand III — Persecution — The Pastor of Neustadt — Insurrection of Rakotzy — Peace of Linz — Leopold I — His Training — Devotion to the Jesuits — The Golden Age of the Jesuits — Plan of Persecution begins to be Acted on — Hungary Occupied by Austrian Soldiers — Prince Lobkowitz — Bishop Szeleptsenyi — Two Monsters — Diet of Presburg — Petition of the Protestants — Their Complaints — Robbed of their Churches and Schools — Their Pastors and Schoolmasters Banished — Enforced Perversion of the Inhabitants — Count Francis Nadasdy — A Message from the Fire — Protestants Forbidden the Rights of Citizenship — Their Petitions to the King Neglected.

GREAT hopes were entertained by the Protestants of was reputed a lover of learning, and it was expected Ferdinand's son and successor, Ferdinand III. He that he would pursue a wise and liberal policy.

These expectations were realized only in part. His reign opened with the appointment of two perverts from the Protestant faith the one to the palatinate, and the other to the Popish See of Erlau. These were the two posts of greatest influence, civil and ecclesiastical, in Hungary, and the persons now filling them owed their elevation to the Jesuits, and were not likely to be other than subservient to their patrons. The Protestants had been weakened by the secession of thirty magnates to Rome, and of the nobles who still remained on their side many had become lukewarm in the cause of the Reformation. Persecution took a stride in advance. The powerful Romish party utterly disregarded all promises and compacts. The king was unable in many instances to give effect to his own edicts.

The churches, schools, and manses in many places were taken possession of, and the pastors and schoolmasters driven away. The Prebend of Neustadt-on-the-Waag, for instance, was forcibly seized by Count Hommono, with all its heritages and fruits. The superintendent, being an old man, was put in a chair, and carried out by the soldiers. But here a difficulty arose. The unhoused minister was unable to walk, and the soldiers were unwilling to transport their burden to a greater distance.

What was to be done? They took up the aged man, carried him back, and set him down once more at his own hearth, consoling themselves that he had not long to live. All the property and dues, however, appertaining to the church, which comprehended several villages with their mills, the tenth and sixteenth of the grain grown on the lands, and a tenth of all the fowls, were retained by the count. Hommono's example was followed by other nobles, who freely made a spoil of the Protestant property on their estates, and left it to the owners to utter complaints to which no attention was paid.

From the same quarter from which their fathers had so often obtained help in the time of their sore need, came a deliverer to the Protestants. Prince George Rakotzy of Transylvania, unable longer to witness in silence these cruel outrages upon his brethren in the faith, proclaimed war against Ferdinand III in 1644. He was aided by the Swedes, whose armies were then in the field, engaged in the Thirty Years' War. The short but bloody campaign that ensued between Rakotzy and Ferdinand ended with the Peace of Linz, which gave toleration to the Protestants of Hungary, and brought back great part of the property of which they had been violently dispossessed. [1] There remained, however, 300 churches of which they had been despoiled, and which nothing could induce the Romanists to give up.

Four years afterwards (1648) came the Peace of Westphalia. This famous arrangement ended the Thirty Years' War, and gave the Protestants of Germany, and of Western Europe generally, the guarantee of public law for their civil and religious rights. Unhappily, the Austrian Empire did not share in the benefits flowing from that peace. The Protestants whose misfortune it was to live under the House of Hapsburg were left to the tender mercies of their rulers, who suffered themselves to be entirely led by the Jesuits; and now to the Reformed Church of Hungary there came a bitterer cup than any she had yet drunk of, and we have to record a sadder tale, though it must be briefly told, than we have yet had to recount of the sufferings of that unhappy Church and nation.

In 1656, Ferdinand III died in the flower of his age, and was succeeded by his second son, Leopold I, then a youth of seventeen. Destined by his father to be Bishop of Passau, Leopold, till his brothers death, had been educated for the Church. He had as preceptor the Jesuit Neidhard, who, eventually returning to his native Spain, there became Grand Inquisitor. Leopold was fitter for the confessor's box than for the throne. While yet a lad his delight was to brush the dust from the images of the saints, and to deck out mimic altars. In him the Jesuits had a king after their own heart.

Every morning he heard three masses, one after the other, remaining all the while on his knees, without once lifting his eyes. On fete-days he insisted on all the ambassadors at his court being present at these services, and those who were not so young, or whose devotion was not so ardent as his own, were in danger of succumbing under so lengthened a performance, and were tempted to evade the infliction by soliciting employment at the court of some sovereign less pious than Leopold. The approach of Lent was a terror to the courtiers, for some eighty offices had to be gone through during that holy season. The emperor held monk and priest in all reverence. Did one with a shorn crown approach him, the pious king humbly doffed his hat. and held out his hand to be kissed. Phlegmatic as a Mussulman, and an equally firm believer in fate, he was on

no occasion either sad or elate, but submitted to events which he construed as omens. On one occasion, when sitting down to dinner, the lightning entered the apartment. Leopold coldly said, "As Heaven calls us not to eat, but to fast and pray, remove the dishes." So saying he retired to his chapel, his suite following him with what grace they could.

His appearance was as unkingly as it is possible to imagine. Diminutive in stature, his lower jaw protruding horribly, his little bald head enveloped in an immense peruke, surmounted by a hat shaded with a black feather, his person wrapped in a Spanish cloak, his feet thrust into red shoes, and his thin tottering legs encased in stockings of the same color, [2] "as if," says Michiels, "he had been walking up to the knees in blood," he looked more like one of those uncouth figures which are seen in booths than the living head of the Holy Roman Empire.

He had a rooted aversion to business, and the Jesuits relieved him of that burden. He signed without reading the papers brought him. Music, the theater, the gambling-table, the turning-lathe, alchemy, and divination furnished him by turns with occupation and amusement. Sooth-sayers and miracle-mongers had never long to wait for an audience: it was only Protestants who found the palace-gates strait. Oftener than once a notice was found affixed to the doors of the palace, bearing the words, "Leopolde, sis Caesar et non Jesuita" (Leopold, be an Emperor and not a Jesuit). [3]

A puppet on the throne, the Jesuits were the masters of the kingdom. It was their golden age in Austria, and they were resolved not to let slip the opportunity it offered. The odious project drawn up thirty years ago still remained a dead letter, but the hour for putting it in execution had at last arrived. But they would not startle men by a too sudden zeal; they would not set up the gallows at once; petty vexations and subtle seductions would gain over the weaker spirits, and the axe and the cord would be held in reserve for the more obstinate. Austrian soldiers were distributed in the forts, the cities, and the provinces of Hungary. This military occupation by foreign troops was in violation of Hungarian charters, but the Turk served as a convenient pretext for this treachery. "You are unable," said Leopold's ministers, "to repel the Mussulman, who is always hovering on your border and breaking into your country; we shall assist you." It mattered little, however, to keep out the Turk while the Jesuit was allowed to enter; the troops were no sooner introduced than they began to pillage :and oppress those they had come to pro-feet, and the Hungarians soon discovered that what the Court of Vienna sought was not to defend them from the fanatical Moslem, but to subjugate them to the equally fanatical Jesuit.

When a great crime is to be done it is often seen that a fitting tool for its execution turns up at the fight moment. So was it now. The Jesuits found, not one, but two men every way qualified for the atrocious business on which they were embarking. The first was Prince Lobkowitz, owner of an immense fortune, which his father had amassed in the Thirty Years' War. He was a proud, tyrannical, pitiless man, and being entirely devoted to the Jesuits, he was to Hungary what Lichtenstein had been to Bohemia. At the same time that this ferocious man stood up at the head of the army, a man of similar character appeared in the Church. The See of Gran became vacant, and the Government promoted to it an ardent adversary of the Reformed faith, named Szeleptsenyi. This barbarous name might have been held as indicative of the barbarous nature of the man it designated.

Unscrupulous, merciless, savage, this Szeleptsenyi was a worthy coadjutor of the ferocious Lobkowitz. As men shudder when they behold nature producing monsters, or the heavens teeming with ill-omened conjunctions, so did the Hungarians tremble when they saw these two terrible men appear together, the one in the civil and the other in the ecclesiastical firmament of Austria. We shall meet them afterwards. Their vehemence would have vented itself at once, and brought on a crisis, but the firm hand of the Jesuits, who held them in leading-strings, checked their impetuosity, and taught them to make a beginning with something like moderation.

In 1562 a Diet was held at Presburg, and the petition which the Hungarians presented to it enables us to trace the progress of the persecution during the thirteen previous years. During that term the disciples of the Gospel in Hungary had been deprived by force of numerous churches, and of a great amount of property. These acts of spoliation, in open violation of the law, which professed to grant them freedom of worship, extended over seventeen counties, and fifty-three magnates, prelates, and landowners were concerned in the perpetration of them. Within the three past years they had been robbed of not fewer than forty churches; [4] and when they complained, instead of finding redress, the deputy-lieutenants only contrived to terrify and weary them.

To be robbed of their property was only the least of the evils they were called to suffer; their consciences had been outraged; dragoons were sent to convert them to the Roman faith. The superior judge, Count Francis Nadasdy, harassed them in innumerable ways. On one occasion he sent a party of soldiers to a village, with orders to convert every man in it from the Protestant faith. The inhabitants fled on the approach of the military, and a chase ensued. Overtaken, the entire crowd of fugitives were summarily transferred into the Roman fold. On another occasion the same count sent a servant with an armed force to the village of Szill, to demand the keys of the church. They were given up at his summons, and some days

after, the bell began tolling. The parishioners, thinking that worship was about to be celebrated, assembled in the church, and sat waiting the entrance of the pastor. In a few minutes a priest appeared, attired in canonicals, and carrying the requisites for mass, which he straightway began to read, and the whole assembly, in spite of their tears and protestations, were compelled to receive the Communion in its Popish form.

The active zeal of Nadasdy suggested to him numerous expedients for converting men to the Roman faith; some of them were very extraordinary, and far from pleasant to those who were the subjects of them. The Protestants who lived in Burgois were accustomed to go to church in the neighboring town of Nemesker. The count thought that he would put a stop to a practice that displeased him. He gave orders to the keeper of his forests to lie in wait, with his assistants, for the Protestants on their way back. The worshippers on their return from church were seized, stripped of their clothes, and sent home in a state of perfect nudity. Upon another occasion, having extruded Pastor Stephen Pilarick, of Beczko, he seized all his books, and transporting them to his castle, burned them on the hall-floor.

The Bible was reserved for a special auto-da-fe. It was put upon a spit and turned round before the fire, the count and his suite standing by and watching the process of its slow combustion. A sudden gust of wind swept into the apartment, stripped off a number of the half-burned leaves and, swirling them through the hall, deposited one of them upon the count's breast. Baron Ladislaus Revay caught at it, but the count anticipating him took possession of it, and began to read. The words were those in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah: "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the Word of ore: God shall stand for ever." The Count Nadasdy, turning pale, immediately retired. [5] Not fewer than 200 Protestant Churches, on his estates, did he contrive to ruin, either partially or wholly. "For these feats," say the historians of the Protestant Church of Hungary, "he became the darling of the Jesuits at the Court of Vienna." [6]

His good deeds, however, were not remembered by the Fathers in the hour of his calamity. When shortly after the count was drawn into insurrection, and condemned to die, they left him to mount the scaffold. Before laying his head on the block, he said, "The Lord is just in all his ways." These words the Jesuits interpreted into an acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence; but the Protestants saw in them, with more probability, an expression of sorrow for forsaking the faith of his youth. [7]

In Eisenberg county, Count George Erdody turned the Pastor of Wippendorf out of doors in the depth of winter, and threw his furniture on the street. All the Protestants on his estates were ordered to return to the Church of Rome, under penalty of banishment, with only four florins for their journey. When this threat failed, the rude Wallachian soldiery were billeted upon them; and such as still proved obdurate were thrown into the dungeons of his castle, and kept there until, worn out by cold and hunger and darkness, they at last yielded.

The Jesuits finding that their plan, though it emitted neither flame nor blood, was effectual enough to make consciences bow, resolved to persevere with it. In Neusiedel, in the county of the Wieselburg, there went forth an order from the landlords, John and George Lippay, commanding all the Protestants to worship in the Popish church, and imposing a fine of forty florins for every case of absence. No Protestant widow was permitted to marry. At no Protestant funeral dare psalm or hymn be sung. No Protestant could fill any public office; and if already in such he was to be extruded. Foot of Protestant pastor must not enter the gates of the now orthodox Neusiedel, and if he chose to disregard this prohibition, he was to pay the penalty of his presumption with his life.

The corporate trades of Raab and other towns declared it indispensable to enrolment in a guild, or the exercise of a craft, that the applicant should profess the Romish faith. No Protestant could make a coat, or weave a yard of cloth, or fabricate a pair of shoes, or mould a vessel of clay, or wield the hammer of the armorer or execute the commonest piece of carpenter's work.

Jealous over the orthodoxy of their lands, and desirous of preserving them from all taint of heresy, the bishops drove into banishment their Protestant tenantry. Nuns were very careful that neither should Protestant plough turn their soils, nor Protestant psalm be sung on their estates; the great magnates showed themselves equally valiant for the Romish faith.

They banished air Protestants from their territorial fiefs; they threw the Protestant population of entire villages into prison, loaded them with chains, and kept them in dark and filthy cells till, worn with sickness and broken in spirit, they abjured their faith. Many churches were razed to the ground; others were appropriated to the Romish worship. While Divine service was being celebrated in the Church of Mishdorf, the soldiers broke into it with drawn swords, and barricading the door, made a priest sing mass. This sufficed to make the congregation "Catholic." Mass had been said in their presence, and both people and church henceforth belonged to Rome. If a Jesuit thought the manse of a Protestant pastor better than his own, he had only to throw the incumbent into the street and take possession of the coveted dwelling. It mattered not if the minister was old, or sick, or dying, he and his family were carted across the boundary of the county and left to shift for themselves. Similar acts of cruelty were being enacted in Transylvania, and in those parts of Hungary connected

with the Reformed Church, which under Rakotzy had enjoyed some glorious days.

The petition of the Protestants specified the acts, named the authors of them, supported each averment with proof, and pleaded the law which enacted toleration, and threatened with punishment such outrages as those of which they complained. They approached the throne with this complaint through the Protestant members of the Diet of 1662. Believing the king to be ignorant of these oppressions, they did not doubt that Leopold would at once grant them redress.

After waiting a week, the royal reply was communicated to the complainants through the prime minister, Prince Portia. It admonished them not to annoy his Majesty with such complaints, and reminded them that the law had arranged all religious matters, and assigned to each transgression its proper punishment.

The hearts of the Protestants sank within them when they read this reply, which reflected even more disgrace on the throne than it inflicted injustice on them. Nevertheless they again presented themselves, through their deputies, in the royal presence. They complained that the law was being every day flagrantly violated, that of the men notoriously guilty of these illegal acts not one had been punished; and that even were sentence given against any such, they despaired of seeing it executed. Their hope was in the king alone. This time they waited longer for an answer, and when at last it came it was even more cold and cruel than the first. Six times did the cry of the Protestants ascend before the throne of their sovereign. Six times were they answered by a voice as inexorably stern as fate. They could no longer hide from themselves that their king was their enemy.

On the 4th of July, 1662, the Palatine Vesselenyi, president of the Diet, handed the paper containing the king's answer to the Protestant deputies, and accompanied it with these words: "I had rather that the funeral-knell had tolled over me than live to see this day; may the day and the hour be covered with eternal darkness." [8] There is a Power that keeps a reckoning with thrones and nations, and notes down in silence the days on which great crimes are done, and stamps them in after-ages with a brand of reprobation, by making them the eras of great calamities. Two centuries after Vesselenyi's words were uttered, the day and hour were darkened to Austria. On the 4th of July, 1866, the fatal field of Koniggratz was stricken, and on that day of slaughter and blood Austria descended from her rank as the first of the German Powers.

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