Kolozsvár and the Anti-Trinitarians

Only one town in Transylvania, Kolozsvár, managed to escape stagnation. Having ceased long before to be part of the Saxon community, Kolozsvár had a predominantly Hungarian-speaking population by the beginning of the 1500s. By the end of the century, the town, with its 8000 inhabitants, was rivalling Brassó in population. It was home to thirty active guilds and over sixty different crafts. Kolozsvár's exceptionally rapid development can be attributed in the main to three factors. The first two have to do with economic geography. Northern Transylvania's urban network was less dense as that of the Szászföld, and thus Kolozsvár enjoyed a greater home market than did its rivals in the south. Moreover, the town was situated at the junction of the roads from Várad and Kassa, the principal trade routes between the principality and the West. Although {1-671.} that trade was in decline, the town nevertheless derived significant benefit from its strategic location.

The third factor was rooted in politics. In 1558, Kolozsvár was granted staple rights by Queen Isabella. This predominantly Hungarian town's support for the Szapolyai cause probably helped to earn the privilege. Thus trade with the West came largely under the control of Kolozsvár's burghers. The town's astute merchants also managed to take advantage of the appearance in Transylvania of Balkan traders — the same people who provoked the ire of Saxon. Kolozsvár helped these traders to get around the staple rights of Szeben, Brassó, and Beszterce, and this naturally induced the foreigners to conduct business in the city.

Thus Kolozsvár enjoyed a stronger and more sustained economic revival than that of the Saxon towns, and this was reflected in its physical transformation. Wealthy patricians raised palatial residences in the inner city. The town also benefited from the fact that the prince's court often took up residence within its walls, or at nearby Kolozsmonostor and Gyalu; the buildings erected for this purpose served as models and training ground for the town's architects, whose designs would come to display distinctive, local motifs.

The evolution of public tastes is visible even today in such splendid edifices as the Wolphard-Kakas house and in internal furnishings that, like those in the Saxon region, were gaining in elegance. Kolozsvár's goldsmiths also began to rival their Saxon counterparts.

Predictably, the flowering of material culture spurred a new dynamism in the realm of ideas. The first winds of the Reformation reached bilingual Kolozsvár not long after Honterus's return to Transylvania. In 1544, one of the town's parishes was taken over by Kaspar Helth, a Saxon and enthusiastic disciple of Luther. He married within the year, and soon succeeded in attracting many of the townsfolk to the new faith. Since the majority of his congregation {1-672.} was Hungarian, Helth delivered most of his sermons in Hungarian. His works were published exclusively in that language, and he even Magyarized his name, to Gáspár Heltai.

Two smaller, nearby towns, Torda and Dés, soon followed Kolozsvár's lead in welcoming the Reformation. Saxon and Hungarian towns were so powerfully affected by the Reformation that, in May 1548, the diet at Torda enacted a bill confirming the right of all Transylvanians to freely chose their religion, be it Roman Catholic or Lutheran. That was, in the context of contemporary Europe, an uncommonly tolerant edict, and one that gave new impetus to religious reform among Hungarians as well as Saxons. In 1550, Heltai, assisted by the printer György Hoffgreff, established a printing press in Kolozsvár — the third in the principality, and the first to produce books in the Hungarian language. He published numerous important books on religious reform, including his own writings. His biggest project, a Hungarian translation of the Bible, drew many young and enthusiastic pastors to this clergyman. A notable disciple, though not one of the Bible translators, was a young preacher, also of German origin, who also wrote and preached mostly in Hungarian: Franz Hertel, or, by his Hungarian name, Ferenc Dávid.

One milestone in this religious revival came in 1554, when Hungarian Lutherans established a separate Church. Its first superintendent was a onetime monk named Tamás, but two years later he was succeeded as bishop by Ferenc Dávid. The Reformation made slower progress among Hungarians than among Saxons. At Kolozsvár, the Franciscans' monastery was still in operation in 1556, and many of the townsfolk remained true Roman Catholics. However, while, in 1553, the Saxon Universitas had opted definitively for Lutheranism, the Hungarian citizens of Kolozsvár followed with growing interest the successive waves of the Reformation.

{1-673.} By the time Ferenc Dávid was chosen bishop, the 'Sacramentarians', followers of Calvin and Zwingli, had appeared in Transylvania. For a few years, Dávid ardently defended his Lutheran convictions. Then, in the course of a heated debate with Péter Melius Juhász, a leading Sacramentarian who had made many converts in the region east of the Tisza, Dávid had a change of heart; in 1559, he resigned as superintendent and joined the Calvinists. Always receptive to new religious ideas, Kolozsvár's Hungarians soon followed the example of their favourite preacher. Heltai, too, joined the Sacramentarians, and in 1564, at Nagyenyed, the synod of Transylvania's Hungarian preachers once again elected Dávid as bishop.

Motivated partly by a personal interest in religious matters, and partly by the importance he attached to the Transylvanian Hungarians' church, the 'elected king' John Sigismund appointed Dávid, the Hungarian Bishop of Kolozsvár, as his court chaplain. It was at the royal court that Dávid made the acquaintance of John Sigismund's physician, Giorgio Blandrata (Biandrata). The latter was an exponent of the latest manifestation of religious innovation: in emulation of Miguel Servet, a Spanish natural scientist, and his followers, Blandrata denied that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were consubstantial. The Anti-Trinitarians were also distinguished by a strong disposition to use scientific tools — logic and the critical analysis of texts — in their study of the Bible.

His debates with Blandrata had a profound influence on Dávid's religious outlook. In around 1568, he came to deny that Jesus was God's equal, and soon the people of Kolozsvár followed suit, as did John Sigismund. Transylvania became a gathering ground, and Kolozsvár, a key stronghold of this newest sect. Prominent Anti-Trinitarians from across Europe would make the journey to the town, notably the Germans Johannes Sommer and Christian Francken, and the Greek Jacobus Palaeologus.

{1-674.} Thus Kolozsvár emerged as one of Europe's cultural centres. Heltai's publishing activities reached a high level by the end of the 1550s. When Hoffgreff died in 1559, he took sole charge of the uniquely productive press; until 1565, he would continue to publish (along with other religious works) translated fragments of the Bible, although unfortunately the project was not completed. Most of Ferenc Dávid's theoretical and polemical works, which also had some literary merits, were published by Heltai. Meanwhile, secular literature was also being published, winning a growing readership. Heltai printed some of Sebestyén Tinódi's poems, as well as the Hungarian translation of Werbőczy's Tripartitum, which had been published earlier in Debrecen. He himself wrote some secular works, notably Száz fabula [A Hundred Fables]; 1566, which counts as the first major piece of narrative prose published in Hungarian. Heltai's last work, Chronica, published posthumously in 1574, is the first true work of history in Hungarian. One of the earliest examples of Hungarian drama also dates from the emergence of Anti-Trinitarianism in Transylvania: Válaszúti komédia [A Comedy at the Crossroads], a literary pearl, inspired by religious debates, and suffused with the spirit of Ferenc Dávid.

By the 1560s, the effervescence in the Hungarian towns contrasted sharply with the stagnation that prevailed in Saxon towns. However, Kolozsvár's remarkable revival was soon dampened by economic and social factors. The troubles started during the reign of Stephen Báthori, a Catholic, when measures were taken against the Anti-Trinitarians. In the 1580s, Kolozsvár began to turn inward, much like Szeben, Brassó, and the other Saxon towns had done two or three decades earlier. The economy slowed, then was dealt a devastating blow by the 'long war' that began in 1593. Those events were the prelude of another era.