The regular commercial and religious communication between the German cities of Slovakia and their motherland led to the rapid spread of the Reformation in northern Carpathia.  In 1521, Martin Cziriak of Leutschau studied in Wittenberg, and in the same year the Hungarian nobleman Stephen Verböczy was a witness to Luther’s refusal to recant at Wörms.  In the following years a steady stream of priests who were highly influenced by Luther’s teaching worked in all of the German towns and cities of Slovakia.  In Neusohl and in the mining towns of Middle Slovakia (where Kremnitz is located) Georg Baumhickel was at work, while in the Zips Georg Leudischer was ministering in Käsmark, Thomas Preisner in Leibitz and Laurence Quendel-Supiliusis.  A wandering prophet from Kremnitz named Andreas Fischer began to work in the Zips,  while in Pressburg (Bratislava) the writings of Martin Luther were already known at a very early stage.


  Alongside of the German cities, the higher nobility of the land also opened their ears to this new and yet old Gospel as Luther proclaimed it in Wittenberg.  In the coming decades and centuries the nobles were the true defenders of the persecuted Lutherans.  But the nobles were equally concerned about their own affairs and as a result caused the German cities some damages to their freedom in the process.


  After Luther’s disputation with John Eck of Ingolstadt at Leipzig and the subsequent papal bull against Luther that was prepared as a result of it, a decree was issued by the Archbishop of Gran (the head of the Hungarian hierarchy in Esztergom) that it be read from all of the pulpits in the land.  The higher nobility who were influenced by Humanism were not prepared to abandon the Reformation in process, but the lesser nobles under the leadership of Johann Zapolyas and the Verböczy nobles set themselves against it.  Through their influence the Hungarian Landtag (Henry’s Note: a parliamentary assembly of the Hungarian nobles, higher clergy and delegates of the free cities) decreed the first laws against the adherents of the Reformation.  Article 54 of the Landtag’s actions in 1523 stated, “All Lutherans and their defenders are public heretics and should be punished with the loss of their estates.”  Two years later it was restated, short and sweet, “All Lutherans shall be burned!”  These laws were simply a repetition of the Edict of Wörms.


  After the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, catastrophe engulfed the whole land.  The Turks occupied all of the southern portions of Hungary.  The widowed queen Maria sought refuge in Pressburg from the royal castle in Ofen and the Hungarian nobles sought safety in the German towns.


  In the first decade of the Reformation, both the Reformation and Humanism flourished and flowed into the land, hand in hand, throughout all of Carpathia.  Johann Heckel of Leutschau wrote to Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1526, informing him of his support of Luther’s reformation.  Martin Luther wrote a letter of consolation to Queen Maria on the death of her young husband King Louis of Hungary at Mohacs and dedicated four pslams to her.  The Gospel, as proclaimed by Luther spread rapidly in all of Carpathia in the first decade.  It did so, in spite of the Turkish threat and internal political quarrels and in the face of the laws of 1523 and 1525.


  After the disaster at Mohacs, a portion of the nobles elected Johann Zapolya as King of Hungary, but the Hapsburg Ferdinand I  (1526-1564) put in a claim to the throne on the basis of his marriage to the former king’s sister, while his own sister, Maria was his widow.


  In Middle Slovakia there was an uprising by the miners in 1527.  The priest Nikolai and the teacher Gregori of the mining town of Lebethen were burned at the stake, not only for their participation in the uprising, but also for spreading the Lutheran heresy.  This occurred on August 23, 1527.  These two men are considered to be the first martyrs of the Lutheran Reformation Slovakia.  They would be followed by countless others.  In the western regions of Slovakia, which was under the lordship of Ferdinand I, the Roman Catholic clergy pronounced sharp denunciations against the spread of the Reformation, and one of the Roman Catholic bishops complained, “Everything is contaminated by the new teaching.  Pastors and teachers speak as if they had gone to the school of Melancthon.”  (Henry’s note:  Philip Melancthon was Luther’s closest confidant and was the author of the Augsburg Confession.)


  The development of the Reformation in Germany, and the policies of Charles V the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, against the Evangelicals as they called themselves, also found its counterpart in Carpathia.  The echo of the Edict of Wörms can be heard in the laws of 1523 and 1525, but the Turkish threat and squabbles for the throne assisted the spread of the Reformation.  In the decade after the Diet of Augsburg, in which Johann Heckel and Queen Maria participated, Matthias Devay, a one-time pupil of Luther worked for the Reformation among the Magyars (Hungarians).  But after 1541 he no longer supported Luther and laid the foundation for the later developing Reformed Church in Hungary.


  After the power of the Smalcald League (Henry’s note:  An alliance of Lutheran princes and towns) was broken at the Battle of Muhlberg in 1547, Ferdinand was determined to put a stop to the expansion of the Reformation.  He was well aware of the need for a renewal of the Church and he thought that could be achieved by giving the laity the chalice at Holy Communion, and allowing priests to marry, and for that purpose he attended the Council of Trent in 1562 to make that proposal.  A year after the defeat of the Smalcald League, the Landtag in Pressburg decreed a law, “…against the heretics.”  But only the Anabaptists were mentioned by name, which included the Habaner, the remnant of the Hussite Brethern of Western Slovakia.  In addition the Sacramentarians were also cited, who were called followers of John Calvin.  The heretics were to be expelled from the land.  In the cities of Carpathia commissions were established to make certain that only the teachings of the True Roman Church would be tolerated.  For it was the German cities of Slovakia that were the open door for the Gospel as proclaimed by Luther and symbolized in the Augsburg Confession, and as a result all of Slovakia was open to the spread of the Lutheran teachings.  But they were adamant that they were not heretics.  For that reason, Leonhard Stöckel, a pupil of Luther and Melancthon served as the author of the Confession of the Five Cities in 1549: Bartfeld (where he was the rector of the school), Leutschau, Eperies, Kaschau and Zieben known as:  Confessio Pentapolitana.  Ten years later, the seven mining towns of Middle Slovakia: Kremnitz, Schemnitz, Neusohl, Libethen, Pukkanz, Konigsberg and Dilln presented the royal commission with their confession of faith:  Confessio Montana.


  The same also occurred in the Zips.  Here the Confession of Faith of Twenty-Four Zipzer cities, the so-called Confession Scepusiana.  All three of these confessions used the Augsburg Confession as their model.   They were written in a conciliatory tone to defuse any talk of being heretics.


  When Ferdinand I died, and Maximillian (1564-1576) succeeded him, there were strong Lutheran congregations throughout Slovakia.  During his reign they enjoyed an unobstructed development.  Maximillian’s tutor Wolfgang Schiefer had been a frequent guest in the Luther home and participated in his “Table Talk”.  The Emperor Maximillian carried on a personal correspondence with Melancthom.  He acted cautiously with the Roman Catholic clergy who had set up the Inquisition in Vienna.  But even during his reign there were some instances of oppression.  The Jesuits had already taken up residence in Tyrnau for a short time during Ferdinand’s reign and marked their time.  There was peace, but the kind of peace there is before a storm.  In terms of the higher nobility, only three families had remained Roman Catholic.


  Maximillian’s successor Rudolph II (1576-1608) had spent his youth in Spain; tutored and raised by the Jesuits.  He was a willing tool in their hands to his life’s end.  From this point on the higher clergy and the Jesuits had a great influence on the leadership of the State.  The Jesuits were re-established in Tyrnau, who then set into motion a plan to the lead the upper nobility back into the Roman Catholic fold.  But the renewal of the church had already sunk deep roots.  In all of the German cities, with the exception of Pressburg, the magistrates and the free citizens all acknowledged the Reformation faith.  In the first two decades of Rudolph’s reign peace was kept in place.  The Landtag had something to say about this and the king needed their support in his war against the Turks.


  At one of the Landtags at Pressburg in 1582 they had to deal with the new calendar reforms of Pope Gregory XIII.  The Lutheran delegates opposed the reforms.  Only after a long and acrimonious debate, were the Lutherans prepared to accept the reforms, but not on the basis of the authority of the pope, but of the king.


  Rudolph II secured the former Carthusian abbot, Barbiano to head his army of ten thousand against the Turks through the assistance of the pope.  He was named Commander in Chief of the army and received the order from Rudolph II to confiscate the Elisabeth Church in Kaschau from the Lutherans who had possessed it for fifty years.  The general was understandably the victor, not only in Kaschau, but also in the surrounding communities, in which he expelled the pastors and prohibited Lutheran worship of any kind.  What had apparently worked for the general, the Probst of the Zips in Leutschau decided would work for him as well.  He ordered that the churches in the city were to be taken away from the Lutherans.  But the brave people of Leutschau braced themselves against it.  The populace surrounded the main church and the military monks had to withdraw.  The Protestant party at the Landtag in Pressburg in 1604 had great difficulty in raising the issue of their rights being trampled upon.  Rudolph II decreed an additional article #22 at the assembly, in which it was stated that it was the duty of the King to protect and defend the Catholic Church and help it maintain power in the land.


  But at that time, Barbiano quarreled with the Prince of Transylvania, Stephen Bocskay.  This Reformed prince set himself at the head of the dissatisfied nobles and allied himself with the political opposition to Rudolph II on the basis of seeking support for religious freedom in the Kingdom of Hungary.  The German cities that had been spared the kind of encroachment of their rights like Kaschau had experienced, declined to join the uprising of Bocskay that followed.  But the renegade prince was successful and defeated the army of Rudolph II forcing him to retreat into Moravia.  The struggle between the two parties was resolved in the Peace of Vienna, on June 23, 1606.  The king promised all members of the Landtag the freedom of their religion, with this one proscription, that this freedom of religion could not be to the detriment or damage of the Roman Catholic religion.  The Peace of Vienna built the foundation for succeeding centuries of Lutheranism’s right to exist in northern Carpathia.


  As the Landtag assembled in Pressburg in 1608, Bocskay had died, and Rudolph had been forced to abdicate in favour of his brother Matthias II.  The Landtag ratified the Peace of Vienna that the new king Matthias was forced to acknowledge (Articles 5 and 8).  The first attack against the spread of the Reformation was therefore diffused.  The Lutheran congregations and their pastors which up until now had been under the jurisdiction of the Roman Church, obtained the possibility of electing their own Superintendent (Henry’s note: the person would function like a bishop but not be called one as such.)


  But the Peace of Vienna was of far greater importance for the city of Pressburg.  During the 16th century the population of the city had been overwhelmingly Lutheran, but it had not been possible to introduce any form of Lutheran church life, because the royal court in Vienna had forbidden it, which they had been unsuccessful in doing in any of the other German cities in Slovakia.  But during the 16th century there were individual pastors in the city who preached in the spirit of the Reformation and towards the end of the century practiced communion in both kinds.  When this was forbidden under Rudolph II, the Lutherans of Pressburg went to the neighboring Lutheran congregations in their vicinity for that purpose at St. Georgen, Bösing and Modern, as well as Ratzersdorf, where the court preacher of Count Kollnics, named Andreas Reuss ministered and was called to Pressburg in 1606 to hold Lutheran services.  He was forced to leave the city shortly afterwards, but in 1608 the Lutherans in Pressburg established a congregation with the assistance of the city magistrate.  The first pastor who was called came from the Princedom of Pfalz-Neuberg, which was a Lutheran stronghold along the Rhine.  But it would take thirty years for the congregation to receive permission to build a church.  The land upon which they built was crown property and the Royal Court in Vienna forbade the construction on such a site, and this was used later as the reason for confiscating the church in 1672.  But in spite of the refusal to allow construction, it was undertaken by the congregation in 1635.  In 1638 the Trinity Church was consecrated by the Senior (Dean) of the Pressburg Lutheran clergy, Joshua Wegelin.  In 1656 a second church was built for the Slovak and Magyar Lutherans and it had a tower with bells that were both missing from the Trinity Church.


  The Peace of Vienna was a legal landmark decision and also a victory for the Hungarian nobles over the Hapsburgs.  At the same Landtag, Article 13 was passed, granting the nobles the right to settle in the German cities and own and buy land buildings.  But this would lead to a weakening of the German citizenry’s rights and freedoms.


  The Hapsburgs were determined to hinder the spread of the Reformation in all the lands that they ruled.  And they would call upon the Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555) to claim their rights as rulers to determine the religion of their subjects. To put it simply:  the religion of the ruler is the religion of those ruled.  The land belonged to the Habsburgs and for that reason all of their subjects were to be and remain Roman Catholics.  This created the future situation in which the Lutherans would find themselves.  For not only were a large portion of their subjects Lutherans, but it was especially so among the nobles who felt they had the right to carry out the Reformation on their estates and fiefdoms and appealed to the same legislation.  This ushered in the struggle that lay ahead and which would result in long years of pain and sorrow from the Church of the Reformation in Slovakia.


  With the Peace of Vienna (1606) there was a brief period of freedom for the Lutheran   Church in Slovakia.  But it was peace before the coming of a storm.  The legal ramifications of the Peace of Vienna at the Landtag in Pressburg in 1608 gave the congregations the right to unite with other congregations in a wider church fellowship and organization.  Even under Ferdinand I the Lutheran congregations had formed associations with one another, but they remained under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church and its prelates.  In the time of Leonhard Stöckel the cities of eastern Slovakia and the cities of Middle Slovakia had formed a union to present a common front against the commissioners of Ferdinand I, in order to bring about an association of all of the Lutherans as he had been forced to accept in Tranyslvania for the Saxons under the leadership of the Reformer Johannes Honter, because they knew that their situation was tenuous and a storm of persecution could break out against them overnight.  Nothing, however, became of this association.  It was the opposition of the noble families and the longstanding rights of the free cities themselves that prevented the Emperor from carrying out his planned extermination of Lutheranism in Slovakia.  The Lutherans proceeded to build up a church organization and established Seniorats (Henry’s note: Small regional synods on a County basis) in the different parts of Slovakia into which Lutheranism had spread.  The Paladin of Hungary, Count Georg Thurzo, who was the deputy of the King of Hungary called a meeting of a Synod in 1610 in Sillein.  Superintendents were elected for three of the districts in the western region of Slovakia:  Elias Lani, Samuel Melik and Isaac Abrahamides.  Inspectors, who were deputies of the Supertintendents were appointed for the German congregations around Pressburg and the German cities in Middle Slovakia, Simon Heuchlin and Paul Lenz.


  The brother of the Paladin, Christopher Thurzo made it possible to hold a Synod at Kirchdrauf in 1614.  At this Synod, Superintendents were elected for the Zips and the Scharosh districts and also the five Royal Free Cities of Bartfeld, Zeeben, Eperies, Leutschau and Kaschau.  Two superintendents were elected:  Peter Zabler and Stephen Xylander.  Lubmoirszky the Polish regent of the thirteen Zipser cities, to which he held a mortgage, forbade the participation of their representatives at the Synod.  The Lutherans in the southern district also formed a church district of their own.


  These Synods marked the final break with the Roman Catholic Church.  The Synods approved a worship agenda (Liturgy) in the form of Luther’s German Mass, set the parameters of the duties of the Superintendents, regulated the congregational relationships and committed itself to well defined church discipline.  The Synods of Sillein and Kirchdrauf lay the groundwork for the wider development of the church.  It is important to note that the Wittenberg Reformation had not developed fast rules for the outer life (public role) and organization of the church, in fact they neglected it because of their distinction between unity and uniformity.  In the totally different political reality of Carpathia there was also another church order, which from the beginning attained prominence, the Synodical-Presbyterial order that was unique to Hungary.


  But the decisions and actions of the Synods as well as the legal basis for them were not without opposition from the Catholic side.  The Archbishop, Franz Fargach declared in one of his polemics against the Peace of Vienna that both the Peace and the actions of the Synods were illegal.  Elias Lani and Simon Heuchlein responded to the bishop’s allegations.  It was then when the Jesuit Peter Pazmany stepped into the fray.  He was the son of a Reformed nobleman, but was raised by his Catholic stepmother.  Following studies at the Jesuit school in Klausenburg he entered the Jesusit Order and went to Rome.  After returning to his homeland, he wrote his chief work, “Hegedus—Leader to the Truth”.  As the Archbishop of Hungary he played a vital role in carrying out the Counter Reformation.  Under his influence, a large portion of the nobles returned to the Roman fold and brought about the implementation of the Religious Peace of Augsburg on their estates and set the conversion of their subjects into motion, “Whatever the ruler of the land, so his subjects in all matters of religion”.


  Ten more years of peace were possible for the Church of the Reformation in northern Carpathia, after the first armed conflict under Bocskay.  But all signs pointed to a coming storm across the Hapsburg Empire.  At the Landtag at Pressburg in 1618, Ferdidnand II was elected King.  In vain, the Lutherans at the assembly attempted to apply the guarantees of 1608 for the freedom of religion to include the protection of their church buildings.  Their opposition would not even be considered.  The years of peace were ended and then the Thirty Years War broke out.

      The Inner Growth of the Church in the 16th Century 

a)      The Rise of Church Organization


  The German cities were the first to adhere to the Lutheran Reformation.  Absolutely necessary for its introduction was the consent and agreement of the city magistrates, the patrons of the church and the clergy.  Wherever this support was given the Reformation was introduced with no upsets or great difficulty.  The use of Luther’s German Mass and full use of the German language in worship and the celebration of Holy Communion in both kinds (bread and wine) were the first steps to be taken when the break with Rome was final.  As Ferdinand I sent his commissioners to the cities, the congregations bound themselves in a Seniorat, also called Arch Dekanates, which however still remained under the hegemony of the Roman Catholic bishops.  The first church orders placed a great emphasis on church discipline.


b)      The New School


  With the expansion of the Reformation, the school system was given a new impetus in northern Carpathia.  The old monastery schools, above all the Latin schools, were re-organized.  But what was more important, every large Lutheran congregation developed and built their own school.


  Teachers were called from Germany, Johann Mylius to Käsmark, Albert Grawer to Neusohl.  The Lutheran schools were the pearls in the necklace of the Lutheran Church in Slovakia up to the very last days.  The schools prepared the pupils for higher education in Germany.  The students studied at Wittenberg, later went to Jena, Leipzig, Altdorf and Breslau.  As the Jesuits established their schools, the Lutheran school system was able to withstand the spiritual confusion they caused because one generation had already been raised in the new Lutheran schools, who in the coming years and decades would bear the brunt of the sufferings and were prepared for the way of martyrdom.


c)      The Ministry


  The greatest personality of the time in the 16th century in Slovakia was Leonhard Stöckel (1510-1560).  He was born in Bartfeld, studied in Breslau and Wittenberg, where he formed a friendship with Melancthon.  He was a teacher in Eisleben at first but shortly afterwards returned to his homeland.  Here he busied himself with the building up of the school in Bartfeld and by authoring the Confession of the Five Cities, he played an important role in church life there and in all Slovakia.  In addition to his books on teaching, he also published his sermons.  Also of importance was his school drama, “Historia von Susanna”, which became the foundation for the further development of school drama in Slovakia.  The publication and printing of books by Gutgesell in Bartfeld and Breuer in Leutschau publicized the writings of the Reformation for centuries.  From among the many who sang the new songs to the honor of God are Ambrosius called Lam from Neudorf in the Zips.  He produced a hymnbook with forty-six of his own songs, and as the author of the prayer against the Turks and the Tatars.


d)      The Explanation of the New Teaching


  After the death of Luther, the legacy of Luther was carefully explained. In Slovakia this was especially true.  Through Stöckel, the influence of Melancthon was felt very deeply in Carpathia.  In spite of the rash spread of Calvinism among the Magyars, the Church of the Slovaks adhered to the Augsburg Confession, and also subscribed to the Formula of Concord, the last of the confessional writings.


  Andreas Osiander who worked in Konigsberg beginning in 1549 found a fellow spirit and supporter in Mattias Lauterwald, the pastor in Eperies.  A delegation from the congregation in Eperies went to Wittenberg to benefit from the counsel of Melanchthon.  Through the conflict that ensued, the unity of the Lutheran Church in Slovakia was also threatened as it was in the German lands.  At the Synod of Kremenitz in 1580 the question of the Formula of Concord was first raised.  Thomas Frohlich, the rector of the school of Neusohl and an ally of Melancthon and his crypto-Calvinism, blamed Georg Melzer the pastor in Neusohl, for raising and elevating the Formula of Concord to heaven itself.  The Synod did not accept or subscribe to the Formula of Concord.  The teachers from Germany, G. Kreutzer and A. Grawer assisted in many disputations, especially in the Zips to obtain a general affirmation of the Book of Concord that was clearly accepted at the Synod of Leutschau in 1597.  The same acceptance occurred at the great Synod of Sillein in 1610.  Through this decision, the borders between Lutheranism and Calvinism were clearly drawn in northern Carpathia.


The Counter Reformation 1618-1780


  The successor of King Matthias was Ferdinand II (1619-1637).  The new king was determined to exterminate the Protestants in his lands.  “I would rather rule over a wasteland than a land in which heretics lived.”  Along with Ferdinand II the Jesuits also came to the throne after they had taken over the teaching positions, the pulpits and the confessional of the king and his household.


  At the beginning of the Thirty Years War, Slovakia was affected by the armed conflict of the new citizen’s or civil war that followed.  On the Hungarian scene it was once again a Transylvanian prince, Gabriel Bethlen who was at the head of the uprising of the dissatisfied.  His army passed through the Zips on its march westwards.  In a quick victory, he conquered all of Slovakia up to Pressburg.  In old St. Martin’s cathedral in Pressburg, openly Lutheran preaching had been heard for over a year.  Bethlen called for an assembly of the Landtag of Neusohl, and he asked for the expulsion of the Jesuits and Peter Pazmany from Slovakia.  The actions of the Synod of Sillein were confirmed.  But after Ferdinand II was successful in his campaign in Bohemia following the Battle of White Mountain  (November 8, 1620), Bethlen saw the need to conclude a peace.  In the Peace of Nikolsburg in 1621 Ferdinand II had to affirm the Peace of Vienna.  This new treaty hindered the strenuous carrying out of the Counter Reformation in Carpathia as Ferdinand II did in Bohemia after the Battle of White Mountain.  But in spite of the peace treaties, and the official law of the land, the Counter Reformation rolled on.  At first, the Jesuits directed the struggle against the Lutheran congregations that had taken over their community church buildings.


  The question now was should the use of the sword by used to protect and defend the work of Luther?  Something Luther himself had forbidden.  The victory of Ferdinand II over the Lutherans of Germany in 1629, also cast a shadow over northern Carpathia.  But until 1645 the Counter Reformation could demonstrate no real success in the Zips or Middle Slovakia’s German cities or in Pressburg.  Even though the first thrusts of the rapid expansion of Lutheranism had ended in the midst of conflict and warfare and much suffering, the oncoming incursions of Turkish invaders from the south played havoc in the life of the congregations.  Although some congregations had been decimated due to forced conversions none of them were driven out of existence.


  The Thirty Years War in the meantime had become a struggle for power in Europe and only Ferdinand III (1637-1657) could finally end it in the Peace of Westphalia 1648.  But before the peace bells could chime, the cry of battle of civil war broke out in Carpathia.  The Prince of Transylvania, Georg Rakoczy took up arms against the Hapsburgs once again.  In an alliance with Sweden, he moved into Slovakia with his army of 70,000 men.  Ferdinand III found it necessary to concede and signed the Peace of Linz on December 16, 1645, which two years later became the law of the land ratified by the Landtag.  The Peace of Linz not only guaranteed the nobles, the cities but also the peasants full religious freedom.  The confiscation of churches from the Protestants was ordered stopped.  But the Landtag, actually only gave back 90 of the confiscated 400 churches.


  Again a deathblow had been averted, but in reality it had only been diverted at a very decisive moment.  The Religious Peace of Westphalia could not hinder the carrying out of the Counter Reformation in the hereditary lands of the Habsburg lands, including Slovakia.  Of what use were laws that guaranteed the Lutherans their right to exist when the King was not prepared to obey those laws and refused to do so even though the Landtag had confirmed them.


  The reign of Leopold I (1657-1705) was the greatest time of suffering for the church of the Reformation in Carpathia.  The work that the Jesuits had begun under Ferdinand II, to all intents and purposes was carried out under Leopold I.  Leopold I came to the throne after the death of his father’s brother.  Leopold had been raised by the Jesuits and had been prepared for the priesthood. He wanted to rule his empire from Vienna in a centralized fashion because all the resources of the land needed to be assembled for the struggle against the Turks.  In 1683 the Turks were at the gates of Vienna…and were then consequently totally destroyed.  The concept of centralization of government for Leopold I also meant to leave the Roman Catholic priesthood a free hand in their struggle against the Lutherans.  The rights of the Lutheran Church had been guaranteed in law in 1608 and again in 1647.  But the nobles who had returned to the fold of Rome expelled the Lutheran pastors from their land holdings and estates, took away their churches and schools, and returned their peasant subjects back into the bosom of the Roman Catholic church.  In the region of Neutra, the noble, Franz Nadasdy re-Catholicized some 40,000 of his Lutheran subjects.  The Csaky nobles did the same in the Zips.  In spite of all the legal sanctions to protect the Lutherans, the battle against them intensified.  The Lutheran members of the Landtag in an attempt to redress themselves against these attacks asked for legal support from the assembly at Odenburg (Sopron) in 1662.  But the king let them know that they had no right to present “private affairs” for inclusion in the agenda of the Landtag.  But a Lutheran delegate retorted, “Is the confiscation of churches, the expulsion of pastors by the nobles, and the struggle that the Roman Catholic clergy had instituted against the existing Law of the land, all simply just constitute “private matters and concerns”?


  The battle between the nobles and the king, which was a constant during this period of Hungarian history as it had been in the past centuries, now faced a new impetus as Leopold I attempted to rule the empire in a centralist fashion.  This struggle between the nobles and the king led to the Wesselenyi’s Conspiracy that attempted to overthrow   Habsburg rule in Hungary.   The leaders of the conspiracy were the leading Roman Catholic nobles.  The conspiracy was brought to light and the guilty, Franz Nadasdy, Peter Zrinyi, Franz Frangepan and Wesselenyi the Paladin of Hungary were condemned and put to death in Vienna in 1671.  The political opposition to Leopold I had been removed and been put down.  But now the Roman Catholic clergy saw in the wink of any eye, the opportunity to move against and liquidate the Protestants.  As a pretext, they used the false accusation that Lutheran and Reformed pastors were also involved in the conspiracy and plot against the Habsburgs.


  The struggle for the survival of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Hungary and Slovakia now began.  The Jesuits traveled through the land with military escorts and assistance and dispossessed the Lutheran congregations of their churches and schools and drove out and expelled their pastors and teachers.  For a full ten years there were no Lutheran worship services held in the entire land.  Opposition was impossible.  Only one single congregation after months of courageous opposition was able to keep their churches and schools.  This exception was Pressburg.  This was only done, because Leopold did not want to offend his allies in his war against the Turks and a public persecution of the Protestants in this major trading center would have raised protests throughout Western Europe.


  So as usual, political issues were best served by religious persecution for political ends.  The Hapsburgs used the conspiracy of the Catholic magnates to destroy Protestantism in Hungary.  Szelepczenyi and Kollonics the chief prelates blamed the Protestant clergy for having participated in the Wesselenyi conspiracy, while only one or two Protestant nobles had anything to do with it.  But as far as the government officials in Pressburg were concerned these charges against the Protestants could not be dismissed.


  The city of Pressburg had always been loyal to the Hapsburg emperors, even in the struggles against the princes of Transylvania.  As a result the Pressburg Lutherans attempted to hold on to their churches and schools on the basis of their legal rights granted to them, and they were prepared to do so by intimidation and threat if necessary to achieve their goal.  On February 1st 1672, the acknowledged leader of the Lutherans in the city, one of the city council members, Bürgher was thrown into prison.  On February 3rd, Archbishop Szelepcsenyi, representing the Emperor demanded the keys of the churches and schools from the city magistrates.  The city officials claimed that the Lutheran townspeople had taken the keys.  As a result Szelepcsenyi ordered the Lutheran pastors Titius and Reiser to appear before him, but neither betrayed the location of the keys.  The city council was called to appear at the town hall and they were asked to deliver the church keys.  The Lutherans refused.


  Four of the Lutherans were sent to Vienna with the hope of successfully begging Leopold I to relent in order to save their churches.  They were given an audience and sent home without an answer.  In the meanwhile the townspeople stood guard around their churches and schools day and night.  Even the Lutheran women took part in the sentry duty.  On March 18th the newly appointed and totally Catholic town council which the Archbishop had set up, sent a representative who entered the Lutheran school and took it over in the name of the King and was promptly thrown out of the front door by the women posted in the school.


  In order to break the staunch opposition of the townspeople Szelepcsenyi had to call on the military for help.  On April 10th, while the Lutherans were worshipping, he had the city gates opened and six companies of troops occupied the city.  But not even this could help, so the Archbishop invited three hundred and twenty Lutheran and Catholic citizens to a judicial hearing in Tyrnau.  The Roman Catholic townspeople and five of the Lutherans declared they were willing to turn over their churches to the Royal Deputy and were allowed to return to Pressburg.  The others all refused and resisted.  After numerous attempts to get the Lutherans from Pressburg to give in, the court declared on June 13th that all Lutheran citizens in Pressburg were to be deprived of their property and possessions and to deliver them up to the Court.  This procedure was carried out on the basis of the fact that the church had been built in 1635 without the permission of the King on crown land. 


  Of course the pastors were not spared.  Titius was cast into a small stinking cell in Tyrnau prison, and was finally released on September 12th with the condition that he return to his Silesian homeland without being able to return to Pressburg on his way there.  The same thing happened to the other pastors:  Anton Reiser, who later became the chief pastor in Hamburg in 1678, Sutorious and Pikinger (who had been born in Pressburg), Archbishop Kollonics had placed in chains.  They were chained together and on August 4th they had to leave all behind including their families and were driven out of Pressburg.  But the Lutherans were still prepared to offer resistance and would not voluntarily surrender their churches.  As a result Archbishop Kollonics had no other alternative than to do so by military force.  These actions of the Hapsburgs and their clerical cronies raised a hue and cry throughout Western Europe.  It was even raised as an issue during the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire at Regensburg, but to no effect.


  The economic decline, an outbreak of the plague and the continual warfare sharply decimated the total population of Slovakia, especially in the German communities.  Now they were also robbed of their pastoral leadership.  With the carrying out of the Counter Reformation in the Zips, the de-Germanizing of the area was closely tied to it.  The powers behind the Counter Reformation in the Zips were the Csaky nobles and the Propst Georg Barsony.  In the Zipser cities in Poland the Counter Reformation there was carried out with the assistance of Piarist Order.


  The Lutheran churches were confiscated.  The pastors were expelled.  But they remained in the land.  As a result they too, like the nobles who had participated in the conspiracy were ordered to appear before a “special court” that was moved from Tyrnau to Pressburg.  In 1673, thirty-two Lutheran and Reformed pastors from Middle Slovakia (Turz, Sohl, Liptau) were called to appear before the special court in Pressburg.  They were charged with offences against the crown, working with the rebels in the uprising and were guilty of stomping on the host with their feet.  Their lawyers, Hausler and Rossler demonstrated their innocence of the charges in vain.  The men charged were ordered to sign a declaration in which they promised to give up their ministry or go into exile and banishment.  Only one weakened and “became” a Roman Catholic, he was named Suhajda and his brothers in the ministry changed it to Ah Judas!  The others gave up their ministry or chose to leave their homeland.


  In the Zips, forty-one Lutheran pastors were brought before the special court at Kirchdrauf in 1674 and accused of being participants in the conspiracy.  A few were able to remain in their homeland.  For many years they were housed in caves and in isolated regions.  That is how the pastor of Hunsdorf, Simon Bielek lived for five years in a cave in the high Tatra Mountains, and from Durelsdorf, Melchior Gunther lived in a gloomy hole by Kirchdrauf where he became blind.  In the forests and haylofts, the persecuted gathered together to worship.  The congregations, to all intents and purposes ceased to exist.  The structure and organization of the church was broken to pieces.  But the blood of martyrs became the seed of the church, as a new beginning occurred as the time of persecution came to an end…


  After the exposure of the Wesselenyi Conspiracy, the emperor Leopold I laid aside the constitution of the nation.  The time of “the special courts” raised the level of discontent and dissatisfaction throughout the land, and the Hungarian nobles took up the struggle against the Hapsburgs once more.  At the head of the Hungarian nobles in revolt stood the twenty-one year old Count Emmerich Thököly of Käsmark. (1678).  He had already received support from the Turks to lead a political struggle, but he also stepped in to bring about freedom of religion.  Soon he had occupied all of Slovakia and Leopold I saw himself forced to call another Landtag at Ödenburg (Sopron) in 1681.  The Lutherans and Reformed presented eight petitions to the king listing all of their grievances and identifying the horrors visited upon them in the past ten years.  The congregations had been robbed of their churches and property, their pastors and teachers had been run out of the county, the districts had been plundered, the children had not been baptized and the dieing were forced to take the host in their mouths using physical violence if necessary.  A total of 888 churches had been taken away and confiscated by the Roman Catholic officials.


  In this series of petitions, one noted:  “The dead can only be buried in cemeteries by the payment of special taxes.  Lutheran pastors and teachers are robbed of all they own and are imprisoned and dragged off in chains out of the land, all on the basis of all kinds of false pretexts raised by prelates, magnates, cathedral deans, priests, Jesuits and foreign soldiers.  Some of our teachers and pastors were nailed to the wall of our churches and schools or to the earth with iron spikes at their front doors.  Some were sold as slaves to the Turks and only freed after the payment of a ransom, while others were sent to the galleys.  Many died and one was unsuccessfully hung by the hangman three times and then burned alive…”


  The Landtag of Ödenburg dealt with the grievances with its 25th Article:


1.      The Peace of Vienna of 1606 was put back into force.

2.      The banned pastors and teachers were allowed to return to their homeland.


  Article 26 stated:


  “Churches built by Lutheran and Reformed congregations and not yet consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church were to be returned to the Protestants.  Where the Protestants did not possess a church, two building sites are to be provided in each County for this purpose.  In the Zips, that would be in Butzdorf and Topportz, in Pressburg County in Modern and Puszta Fodemes.  Of the 888 confiscated churches, the Lutherans only recovered fifty.  The new churches constructed on the basis of this law were called the Artikular Churches.  As a result of the article, several Royal free cities also qualified to have an Evangelical Lutheran church building, including Pressburg and Käsmark.


  It was no longer possible to think of a total destruction of the Churches of the Reformation, because the Landtag at Ödenburg had to stand behind the decrees and declarations.  But the time of persecution and oppression were still far from ended.


  Once more, Thököly took up arms in 1682.  But his success was very unsteady.  In league with the Turks he had to abandon the land after the Turkish defeat at Vienna in 1683 that was followed by their retreat throughout Hungary.


  After the dispersal of the Turks, Leopold I was the undisputed power in the land.  How he now led his government is best expressed in the Bloody Assizes at Eperies.


  A public raising of funds by the Lutherans of Eperies and the surrounding vicinity for the purpose of re-establishing the Lutheran school in the city, which had been confiscated during the persecution, became a case in point.  An official denunciation was made that the fund raising had a political motive and General Anton Karaffa was appointed to investigate the charges.  A contemporary citizen of Eperies writes, “And the same theatrical drama we have seen acted out in the past by the Roman Catholic Church was again presented:  The government, with all of the might of the state, was afraid of the small band of Christians, who had no power on their side or at their disposal, except for the Gospel, and threatened them and attacked them with all its might. The General, who was of Italian origin, suspected that the people who gathered and donated the funds were engaged in a conspiracy to lead an uprising against the Emperor.  In order to demonstrate and prove the accuracy of his suspicions to the judges and witnesses he provided the necessary trumped up evidence through the use of his personal power.  This evidence was precisely what he wanted it to be.


  The first step was the arrest of four prominent citizens of Eperies:  Sigmund Zimmermann, Andreas Keczer, Kaspar Rauscher, and Franz Baranyai.  Before his interrogators Zimmermann declared, “I cannot acknowledge any guilt in this matter.  Those who falsely accuse me are utterly godless.”  Because all forms of spoken persuasion were unsuccessful, Zimmermann was led to the torture chamber.  Here four of the executioners undressed him and laid him on the torture rack, a well-known instrument of the Spanish Inquisition and for four long hours they tormented and maimed him.  They stretched his body to its full length, pulled out the nails of his fingers and toes, laid heavy weights on his chest and put the “Spanish Boot” on his feet, which broke all of the bones of his feet.  They reached their goal.  Zimmermann stammered that he had been in league with the enemies of the Emperor, in fact with Helen Zrinyi who was at Munkatsch, the last fortress held by the forces of her husband, Thököly.


  The same treatment was also meted out to Andreas Keczer.  And yet in spite of the most gruesome torture they could not extort anything from him.  On medical advice the torture was suspended after six hours.  His tormentors and judges left him lying there half dead.  Only the wife of the executioner tried to minister to his needs.  This unbelievable martyr opened his eyes and sighed, “Don’t trouble yourself…good woman.  Nothing hurts me any more!”


  In this same gruesome way the interrogations of all four men were carried out.  The verdict of death was pronounced and on March 3rd, 1687 at the large town hall square, it was announced to the townspeople of Eperies.  The condemned were led out of prison barefoot and naked and made to stand in the square.  From the balcony of the town hall the court pronounced the verdict in the presence of General Karaffa (in German which he did not understand).  The accused protested their innocence, but their words could not be heard due to the clatter of the drum rolls that followed the verdict.


  As the condemned men were returned to the prison, the Jesuits attempted to persuade them to convert to the Church of Rome.  They were successful with one of the condemned.  Zimmermann hoped to save his life in this way.  Kreczer prayed publicly before his death, “Be gracious to my soul, O Father do not look upon the greatness of my sins, but upon the open compassion and kindness of Your grace for all sinners.  As a gift grant me a place in Your “many mansions” for the sake of my Lord Jesus Christ in Whom I have placed my trust.  You will, I hope, hear my confession and You will not keep me out of Your Presence because of my many sins that have earned me Hell, because I now come to You and only Your grace alone in the wounds of my Jesus will give me eternal life.”  To the people he said, “You, who now hear me speak for the last time in my life, you will be my witnesses on the Day of Judgment and all of its terrors that I am innocent…”


  The condemned men came to the scaffold on March 5th, 1687, all arranged by Karaffa himself.  The scaffold was erected on the north side of the Lutheran school.  At ten o’clock the bells tolled and the streets and town square were filled with a mass of people.  Between the spears of the soldiers, the condemned men walked to the place of execution.  Thirty hangmen and executioners took their place on the scaffold.  The condemned first had their right arm severed and then they were beheaded.  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me”, and such other words from the Psalms, were to be the last calls of the dieing.  Karaffa stood at the window of his house and made sure that the execution was carried out properly as he had ordered it and it would be spread throughout the land that he had done a righteous thing.  But history has made another verdict.


  But these gruesome activities were still not enough.  The corpses were cut into quarters by the executioners and nailed to the town gates as a warning and example.  The heads of the condemned were hung from a gibbet and for six weeks were kept under guard by the soldiers of Karaffa.


  Other executions took place in the following months.  Only when Johann Roth, who had been condemned to death, was freed by the payment of a ten thousand Thaler ransom which his friends raised, would Leopold I recall Karaffa as a result of pressure from the Landtag.  But he received the Order of the Golden Fleece personally from the Emperor for his magnificent fete.  In all, twelve of the citizens of Eperies were tortured and executed in the same way as the first four victims, including the Lutheran pastor of the city.


  In the year of the “Bloody Assizes” in Eperies, the Landtag met in Pressburg, Leopold declared that he gave his consent to the laws established at the Landtag of Ödenburg (1681) but only did so out of grace that he could withhold if he so desired.  As a result the authority and position of the Law, and the authority of the rights of the King, were somehow up for grabs in the decisions of the King.  The Lutherans were unable to enjoy the rights guaranteed to them in the Landtag of Ödenburg and it looked as if the struggle between Rome and Wittenberg would never end.  In 1691 Leopold gave an “explanation” to the Laws of the Ödenburg Articles called “Explanatio Leopoldina”.  The explanation stated that Articles 25 and 26 were declared null and void.  The Church of the Reformation was reduced to the Artikular congregations and its pastors were denied any ministry beyond that.  The Protestants were duty bound to serve the Catholic Church and to observe all of its feasts.  Another regulation and set of laws, and still there was no freedom or peace.  Why did the Emperor allow the “special courts”?  Why did he not support putting an end to the persecutions?  Why on one hand did he affirm the rights of the Protestants and with the other hand remove them?  It was simply because, he saw the congregations where the Gospel was preached and the sacraments administered according to the Gospel was somehow a threat to the state and Habsburg dynasty.


  But once again the spark of civil war was lit and it broke out throughout Carpathia.  Once again it was a battle between the Hungarian nobles and the Hapsburgs.  Francis Rakoczy II of Transylvania, although a Roman Catholic, he began an uprising with the rallying call for the guarantee of freedom of religion for the Protestants (1703).  In the meanwhile, Leopold I died and his son Joseph I (1705-1711) succeeded him.  The civil war rampaged on, so that churches and schools changed hands.  The German towns suffered greatly from the conflict.  In the regions occupied by Rackoczy, representatives of the Lutheran congregations organized a new church structure at the Synod of Rosenberg, in 1707.


  In 1711 the rebels put down their arms and the King was duty bound to rule according to the laws of the land in signing the Peace of Szatmar in 1711.  The times of civil war were now ended.  The power politics of the times often bound the Hungarian nobles and the Princes of Transylvania who were the avowed enemies of the Hapsburgs, and allies of the Turks, France and Sweden.  But it must never be forgotten that the uprisings included the struggle for the freedom of religion for the Protestants.


  After the death of Joseph I, his brother Karl VI (Charles) (1711-1740) the last of the Hapsburgs came to the throne.  In his coronation speech he promised to rule according to the laws of the land.  He affirmed the “Explanatio” of Leopold I and its restrictions as binding on the Protestants.  For that reason, Karl declared the actions of the Synod of Rosenberg as illegal and for the future forbade any such Protestant church assemblies.  Beginning in 1720, the importation of all foreign books was under the discretion of the Jesuits, who acted as the censors for the State, and five years later study at foreign universities was curtailed and the conditions were so stringent that very few could qualify.  And as always the Protestants came to the king and the Landtags with grievances and petitions, informing Karl that since the beginning of his reign 140 of their churches had been confiscated.  As a result, both the King and the Landtag set up a commission to look into the complaints of the Protestants.


  In 1731 the King released a decree…Resolutio Carolina…that essentially re-affirmed Leopold’s “Explanatio” of 1691.  It stated, “Protestant preachers could only hold services in the Articular Churches, but in the other congregations they had to accept the services of Roman Catholic priests and acknowledge their right to do so.  The Catholic Church hierarchy had the right to supervise and also have jurisdiction over the Lutheran and Reformed clergy, and the conversion of Catholics to Protestantism would be punishable by law.  A further Edict of the King, a second Resolutio in 1734 permitted the division of the Lutheran Church into four districts, with a Superintendent at the head of each.  This decree of Karl VI had the purpose of anchoring in law the results of the Council of Trent and the Counter Reformation.  Since it was no longer possible to completely destroy the Lutheran and Reformed Churches, it was possible to at least limit their freedoms under which they lived and confine their activities to the Articular Churches and congregations and shut them out of public life.  So states the first resolution:  Protestant artisans and tradesmen must participate in religious processions and all officials must swear the oath of office to the Virgin Mary.  There was no possibility for anyone to convert to the Protestant Churches and all mixed marriages had to be performed by a priest.


  On the grounds of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1723, in which the Landtag promised to acknowledge the female line in the Hapsburg succession, Maria Theresia came to the throne (1740-1780).  The brave young queen had her hands full.  The wars she was forced to fight to inherit the Hapsburg domains, left her no alternative but to rule by law and order on all internal matters, especially in Hungary.  In 1772 the Zipser cities that had been mortgaged to Poland in the 15th century were returned to Hungary.  The Resolutio Carolina was in effect during her reign, if not even with more restrictions.  A decree in 1749 forbade the Royal free cities to provide financial assistance to their independently organized Lutheran congregations, even if the entire population were Lutherans.  In 1760, the queen forbade the public collection of funds to support churches and schools operated by Lutherans.  In spite of that the Lutherans continued to attempt to better their lot by forwarding petitions to the Queen, but the constant attacks and assaults of the Catholic clergy just never seemed to end.  The Superintendents could not visit their congregations.  Systematic searches of houses for Protestant books, bibles and literature and their confiscation and public burning were common place everywhere.


  The life of the Church of the Reformation in northern Carpathia during the reigns of Karl VI and Maria Theresia can be compared with, “life in prison,” as one contemporary put it.  The State used all of its power to keep the Lutheran Church in fetters, while at the same time it supported the Catholic Church on all fronts to help it to become victorious over all of its enemies.


  For almost two hundred years the Lutherans of Slovakia went the way of martyrdom under the yoke of the Counter Reformation.  The Turkish raids in the south, the many civil wars, the expulsion of pastors and teachers, the plague and the aftermath of wars, all resulted in a decline of the population of the German cities and villages.  In the Schutinsel alone, 95 communities were totally destroyed.  A total of 358 of the Lutheran inhabitants of Dobschau were carried off into slavery by the Turks.   German Lutheranism in Slovakia went into a decline in the seventeenth century in terms of numbers, but still a vibrant tested and committed church would survive.

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