There is a group of members and friends starting to plan for the furnishings and finishing’s for the Fellowship sanctuary, social hall and the Sunday School Building. If you would like to part of the team that will be ordering items, decorating of the fellowship building, sprucing up children’s furniture, painting and decorating the children’s rooms with themes, and organizing rooms, we would love to have you join us. Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 603-254-5559.
This month I will start a seven-part series of our UU History and how we came to be. There are many more stories to be told that may become part of our UU history in the future as well as possibly other principles added to our original seven. Let us begin:
A Unitarian King: The Edict of Torda – 1568 By: Janeen K. Grohsmeyer
Long ago, far across the sea in the country of Poland, a land of wind-swept plains and great flowing rivers, there lives a king, named King Sigismund, and a queen, named Queen Bona. King Sigismund and Queen Bona Sforza They had a daughter, whose name was Princess Isabella. As Isabella grew, the king and the queen taught her to be a good and wise ruler over all of the people in the land. When Princess Isabella was grown, a king from a neighboring country asked for her hand in marriage, and her parents said yes. Isabella was excited to be marrying King John of Hungary, until she realized that she would have to leave home.
“I shall miss you, Mother,” Isabella said, suddenly wishing that she did not have to go. “And I shall miss you,” her mother replied. “But some of your friends are going with you, and if you ever have need, I will send my good friend Dr. Biandrata to you. He will watch over you if you are ill, and he will give you counsel when you are well.”
Her father kissed her on the forehead, and her mother kissed her on the cheek, saying, “Go with God, my daughter, and be a good wife to your new husband, and a wise queen of your new land, as we have taught you to be.”
And so, with her parents’ blessing and with her friend by her side, Isabella set out with a glad heart and a strong will, determined to be a good wife to her new husband, and a wise queen of her new land.
The wedding was glorious, and Princess Isabella of Poland became Queen Isabella of Hungary. And soon, Isabella had another title, for she gave birth to a little boy, and she became a mother as well as a queen. They named the little boy John Sigismund, after his father, King John of Hungry, and after his grandfather, King Sigismund of Poland.
Isabella wanted to be a wise and good queen, and to help all of the people, but the land of Hungary was torn by great wars. The king fought with other kings. The nobles fought with each other. This group of people fought with that group of people, and those people fought with these. Everywhere, people complained about taxes, they argued about religion, and they fought about land. Sometimes they fought about simply getting enough to eat. They fought and they fought and they fought, and many people died.
Isabella’s husband was away fighting when their baby was born. “Come home,” she wrote to him. “Come home and see our son.” But King John became sick and died when their baby was only two weeks old, and he never saw his son.
The nobles elected the baby prince as their new king and cried, “All hail King John Sigismund of Hungary!” But young King John was much too young to rule a country torn by war. Other kings from other countries took most of Hungary away from John and kept it for themselves. Isabella and young John ended up living in a small eastern corner of the kingdom, a place beyond the forests, a grassy plain surrounded by high mountains and watered by quick, rushing streams, a land called Transylvania.
And there, in the only corner of the kingdom that was left to them, Isabella lived with her son, John, and with her mother’s friend Dr. Biandrata. As John grew, Isabella and Dr. Biandrata taught him, as Isabella’s parents had taught her, to be a good and wise ruler over all of the people in the land.
But the wars didn’t stop while John was growing up. The people were still fighting, sometimes with other countries, sometimes with each other. They still complained about taxes, and they still argued about religion. Different people followed different religions in Transylvania, and none of them seemed to get along. The Catholics were arguing with the Lutherans, the Lutherans were arguing with the Greek Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox were arguing with the Calvinists, the Calvinists were arguing with the Catholics. . .it just went on and on and on.
In 1557, Queen Isabella issued a new law in the name of her son the king. The law said that people could talk about and discuss religion, but they must not argue – and certainly never fight – about religion anymore.
Two years later, Isabella died. John was nineteen. Now he had to rule by himself. He wanted to be a wise and good king, and to help all the people, just as his mother had tried to do, but the people were still arguing about religion.
“What should we do?” young King John asked one of his advisors, a gray-bearded old noble with a cane. “How can we stop the fighting?”
“One king, one country!” the advisor declared, stomping his cane on the ground. “Just as they do in France and Spain! One king, one country, one religion! We must choose one religion for Transylvania. Everyone will follow it, and then we will have no more fighting.”
King John didn’t think that would work, but something obviously had to be done. Talking was better than arguing, and so, as his mother and Dr. Biandrata had suggested, King John invited preachers from different religions to come to his court and talk about religion, and they came. Dr. Biandrata invited his friend Francis Dávid (pronounced DA-veed), and he came. The preachers talked. . . and talked and talked and talked. Sometimes, they gave up talking to argue with each other, and sometimes they argued so much that King John was afraid they would give up arguing to start sighting, maybe even with swords!
But the talks went on, day after day, and no one was hurt. One man talked very well, and he convinced people in every discussion that he had. That man was Francis Dávid, Dr. Biandrata’s friend. Nowadays, we would call Francis Dávid’s religion Unitarianism, because he said that God was one being instead of three. He said God was a Unity, not a Trinity. King John decided he liked Francis Dávid and he liked the religion too. He decided to become a Unitarian, and in the year 1569, he did.
“One king, one country, one religion!” the old noble had said, but, “We need not think alike to love alike,” Francis Dávid said, and King John agreed. He wanted to be a good and wise ruler over all of the people in the land. At a meeting in the town of Torda, he issued the Edict of Torda, a special law. The law said that no one shall be reviled for their religion by anyone,” and he allowed the people of Transylvania to choose the religion they thought was best for them.
On the fourteenth of January, 1571, King John Sigismund, the first and only Unitarian king in history, declared that Unitarianism was one of the official religions of his realm in Transylvania, and that people could worship as they chose. And even today, in that place beyond the forests called Transylvania, which is now part of the country of Romania, there are Unitarian churches, the oldest Unitarian churches in the world. Unitarians have lived there for over four hundred years, and Unitarians live there still.
More About the Edict of Torda Adapted by Sarah Sutherland
Queen Isabella died in 1559. In 1568, King John issued an Edict of Torda that confirmed and strengthened the edict the Queen established in 1557 and is sometimes referred to as “The Edict of Religious Toleration.” He and most of his court converted to Unitarianism in 1569. On January 14, 1571, John declared Unitarianism a “received” [official] religion on his realm, along with Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism. The next day he was hurt in a carriage accident. He died from his injuries a few months later, at age thirty-one.
King John Sigismund (1540-1571) The only Unitarian king in history, King John of Transylvania signed the historic “Edict of Torda” granting religious toleration in the country and allowing people of different faiths to worship.
After King John’s death, Unitarianism was sometimes tolerated, sometimes persecuted. Francis Dávid was convicted of heretical innovations to the Unitarian religion and died in the dungeon at Deva. Today, there are eighty thousand Unitarians in Romania.
Note: The Edict of Torda was a decree that authorized local communities to freely elect their preachers in the eastern Hungarian Kingdom of King John Sigismund Zápolya. This decree was an unprecedented act of religious tolerance. The delegates of the Three Nations of Transylvania – the Hungarian nobles, Transylvanian Saxons, and Szekelys – adopted it at the request of the monarch’s Antitrinitarian court preacher, Ferenc Dávid in Torda. There is much more to read on your own if you choose to do so on the Edict of Torda.
Next week I will be bringing you the story: John Murray Comes to America 1770 The Wind of Change.
Take care and be well,