JOURNEY TO 1568 Excerpts from the 400th anniversary edition of the "UUA NOW" magazine & the photography of Ivan Massar

Above image: Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch's 1896 painting depicts Rev. Dávid Ferenc (Francis David), the first Unitarian minister and the spiritual advisor to King János Zsigmond, holding forth in a debate concerning the trinity before the king, Catholic, Calvinist and Unitarian clerics, delegates of the three nations of Transylvania and Hungarian nobles.

Background

In January 1568 at the meeting of the Transylvanian Diet in Torda, a city in the Carpathian region of the Hungarian empire, King János Zsigmond Zápolya of Hungary, encouraged by his "Antitrinitarian" (precursor to Unitarian) spiritual advisor, Rev. Francis David, issued the decree, known as the Edict of Torda, also known as the Patent of Toleration.

Three months later king Zsigmond convened protestant Hungarian ministers from Hungary and Transylvania to a synod in his palace at Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) to debate the nature of the Trinity. For ten days, from March 8 - 17, the debate went on with Francis Dávid eventually gaining the upper hand for the Antitrinitarian viewpoint. Word quickly spread and upon his return to Kolozsvár (Cluj) he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds.

Ever since then, the ethnic Hungarian Unitarians of Transylvania and Hungary have marked 1568 as the official founding of their Unitarian Church.

In 1968, to honor and celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the world's earliest strain of Unitarianism, Rev. Dana McLean Greeley, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), commissioned journalist China Altman and photographer Ivan Massar to undertake a journey as tourists into Transylvania in March of 1968. Their mission ~ to capture in words and images what life might it have been like 400 years earlier when Francis David was debating for the Antitrinitarian viewpoint and for religious freedom, and what it was now like under the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's communist government of Romania.

The result was the 400th Anniversary Issue of the UUA NOW magazine published in the Summer of 1968.

Above: Cover ~ Somewhere on the vast Hungarian plains ~ as China drove their rented VW Beetle from Vienna across the breadth of Hungary towards Transylvania, Ivan captured a typical Hungarian farmstead with its characteristic well sweep slanting into a sunset sky. (copyright © 1968 UUA)

Introduction to this production

As we approach the 450th anniversary of the founding of Unitarianism in Transylvania, looking out from our position in a world now seeming to veer away from a long and hard won trajectory toward peace, love and tolerance, it seems fitting to look back almost 50 years to the 400th anniversary and how it was commemorated and celebrated by the UUA.

Here at the close of 2016, we can surely gather strength and resolve from the examples of those who have come before us. As we move into 2017 and prepare for the 450th anniversary to commemorate and celebrate our liberal faith's ancestors, may we draw strength from the seeds that they have sown, from our movement which has now spread world-wide, and from whose roots we inherit a robust heritage. May these examples help us carry on the work so desperately needed in our ever-more uncertain world.

This production honors and celebrates the work of Rev. Dana McLean Greeley, China Altman and Ivan Massar.

It does so with the digitally restored reproductions of pages from that summer 1968 issue of the UUA Now magazine, as well as many restored images from Ivan's original 35mm slides taken during his Transylvanian travels which were not included in the original article.

All of the images and text presented in this production are the result of a collaboration between Rodger Mattlage and Ivan Massar who worked together over a period of more than eight years to preserve and protect, both physically and digitally, the slides and images he took during his Transylvanian travels, as well as the resulting content from the magazine.

Content Digitization and Restoration

Rodger scanned images of the pages of Ivan's original copy of the UUA NOW magazine using a high-end flatbed scanner, and scanned Ivan's original 35mm slides on a high-end digital film scanner.

He then painstakingly restored the resulting scanned images using special-purpose image-restoration and post-production software

He extracted the texts from the restored images of the magazine's articles and its photo captions using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, and, finally, corrected the restored texts by hand. These copies of the original texts appear in the content below in italicized fonts.

Additional captions, comments and clarifications are by Rodger. They appear in the content below in plain fonts.

As an aid to Hungarian readers and their North American partners, the original article's Romanian place names have been augmented by the corresponding Hungarian equivalents and appear in the content below in plain text in parentheses.

Copyright © Information

All images of, and content from, the summer 1968 issue of the UUA Now magazine are copyright © 1968 UUA, and are used with permission.

All of Ivan's original images are copyright © 1968 by Ivan Massar, and copyright © 2010 by The Transylvanian Unitarian Church (TUC), and are used with permission. This joint copyright was effected by Ivan Massar and Gyeró David (Counselor to the TUC.) in a ceremony at the UUA Headquarters in Boston on June 17, 2010.

Also during that ceremony, Ivan donated digital copies of the images of all 458 of his Transylvania 35mm slides, as well as 378 of the original slides, to the Transylvanian Unitarian Archives of the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Cluj (Kolozsvár), Transylvania, Romania. The remaining 80 slides remain in the possession of Ivan's family.

Ivan Massar

Dedicated to the memory of Ivan Massar (1924 - 2014)

Edited and produced by Rodger A. Mattlage, December 2016

Please forward questions, comments, suggestions, corrections, etc. to Rodger at rmattlage@mac.com

Above: Page 1, the cover - copyright © 1968 UUA
Above: Table of Contents, Masthead, Editorial and Letters - (pages 2 - 3 - copyright © 1968 UUA)

Editorial

YESTERDAY becomes TOMORROW

by Dana McLean Greeley

In this issue we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Unitarian movement in Transylvania where it has had its longest existence.

Our own people, more than most groups in the religious community, should know that freedom is hard-bought; but we tend to forget. Our forefathers in times harsh and cruel were willing to commit their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause which we, in more affluent days, are likely to accept with a shrug, unmindful that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Therefore it is well to remember that there was a society not so long ago - only 16 generations back, in one way of thinking - when the most important issue of every meeting was religion; and not just religion, but the “one, true" religion - meaning the particular set of beliefs to which one gave support and which was not to be questioned. To question was to invite doubt, and to doubt the exact nature of God's will once it had been revealed was to put one's immortal soul in jeopardy. Most people of sixteenth century societies firmly believed that the freethinker, the heretic ("able to choose" ), deserved death by torture: he was clearly a disciple of the Devil, trying to lead men in to error and hell. To dare even the speculation that Jesus may have been a man and not God could bring capital punishment.

But there were some men who as they faced the Unknown admitted they could not be sure of the will of God, but who believed that God had given them reason for the purpose of working things out for themselves. These people read the Bible and made their own interpretations. They were heretics. They were persecuted. But without them, there would have been no Edict of Toleration, no Diet of Torda. And in the long run, there might not have been a United States of America, since we are heirs of all men who fought for toleration and individual Freedom. Therefore, let us examine our origins carefully.

In this light, we should attempt to understand our present character, aims and accomplishments. I doubt if many denominations have put more effort into self-examination and self-judgment than we have, despite the fact that we have not - and will not - come up with definitive answers. But self-examination and self-judgement hopefully lead to self-affirmation and even improvement.

The new UUA NOW continues in the tradition of The Christian Register dating back to 1821 and of The Christian Leader dating back to 1819. There is no break in our history, nothing that separates us from Channing or Ballou or David . But the important thing is tomorrow. Though we may both record history and utter prophesy, yesterday is past; today is in flight and tomorrow commands our attention and loyalty. Thus, in this issue we find a journalist and photographer trying to find yesterday and its relevancies for tomorrow in the distant land of our birth . We find two thoughtful writers, one a noted minister, the other an erudite layman pausing to dream about what liberal religion will be doing in the year A.D. 2000 .

We shall not realize all our dreams. Mankind never does. But without the dream, the people perish. And so I dare to hope that this special issue of our magazine, with its new name, UUA NOW, will be a keepsake among us, to remind of the long past, to make a record of the visible present and to aspire for the greater days that lie ahead.

It will be our witness as we revere - and make - history.

~ Dana McLean Greeley ~

Caption, top: Two dominant symbols of Transylvanian Unitarianism crown this church spire: the multi-pointed star and the rooster. Caption, bottom: East of Torda near Cecalaca (Csekelaka), a farmer strides across rich fields of early spring, leading us on into his land. (pages 18-19 - copyright © 1968 UUA)

JOURNEY TO 1568

Article by China Altman

Photographs by Ivan Massar

- The land once known as the kingdom of Transylvania has a strange beauty in March when hoarfrost veils the dark trees and mists rise from the hills in early morning. In these cold mists we set out to find an­other winter, 400 years ago, and the traces of a man who lived then. The man born David Henter, once a Catholic, a Lutheran bishop, a Calvinist bishop, the man who changed his very name to become David Ferenc, who founded a new religion to be called Unitarianism, who lived a life of controversy and glory and who died alone in a desolate prison: what man­ner of man was this? What manner of land was it where he walked? And what of his people? These were the questions we tried to answer in our journey to that place and time so far away and so different from our own.

Perhaps because it was winter -- season of all the great events in David's life -- it seemed a lonely land.

Above Photo: Foggy March landscape somewhere in Transylvania - image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church

The fields were black; smoke swirled from distant farm­houses and stark trees often stood singly on the grey hillsides. Often also, lone men could be seen moving in the large landscape, sometimes with horsedrawn carts, their wooden wheels sinking deep into muddy tracks of ancient roads before the horses pulled them creaking onto the numerous paved highways.

Above Photo: On the road from Cluj (Kolozsvár) to Targu Mures (Marosvásárhely) - image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church

Now the northwest section of modern Roumania (sic), Transylvania is made up of many small and ever-changing worlds. In one valley we found a fierce blizzard whipping through a forest of giant firs and drove two hours later into sunny meadows with bud­ding willows. The past and present seem to live side by side as closely as the varied valleys. Beyond the harum-scarum telephone poles placed everywhere, we saw thatched cottages which looked as if ancestors built them. The landscape itself seemed old. Al­though the mountains were not really tall they were awesome and even a small plain seemed infinite as it stretched to its near horizons, creating a multi-dimensional space so strangely tangible that you felt you could build doors and windows in it. Altogether, a sturdy land with men to match.

In David's time "the people didn't count much," according to a modern scholar. Religion then was more a matter of nationality and politics than con­science. Those we think of now as "the people" were shuttled back and forth between churches as power shifted. How was David's vision of individual free­dom eventually to affect them? What about his peo­ple now? That was another question we would try to answer.

Caption, upper right: Some still-standing places of David's life: Far left, the Catholic church at Torda where the diets, or legislative assemblies, were held; center, part of the old wall of Koloszvar; above, the city's famous St. Mikail's (sic) Church which be­came Unitarian after his triumphs in debate. He preached there 23 years. Caption, lower right: In Torda the most famous painting of the Unitarian movement, below, hangs in a museum. Here, David debates against the trinity be[ore King John Sigismund and Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist officials. (pages 20 - 21 - copyright © 1968 UUA)

THE DISPUTE: VERY GOD OR VERY GODS

In 1566 Francis David first preached the unique person of God. Jesus is not God, he said, "Non adoramus et non invocamus." (Ed: We neither worship him nor pray to him)

This daring pronouncement made in the Latin tongue he mostly used for writing and public speaking placed him squarely in the middle of the century's central controversy, the dispute between the progressive and the orthodox then summarized as: "Very God or Very Gods." But David's ideas on the unity of God were not his only radical thoughts. His main vision was to search for more and more light in the question of dogma. Even his enemies acknowledged that but it made him a dangerous and troubling figure. For­merly a believer of three orthodox re­ligions, he gradually broke away from all and slowly arrived at the place where he changed from an anti-trinitarian to a Unitarian, the latter first used as a term of opprobrium by his opponents. He also held strongly to the revolutionary idea that his enemies and those who disagreed with him in religious beliefs should not be persecuted or killed. This was an almost unbelievable position for a man who died in far eastern Europe 97 years before the thirteen colonies of the new world were to declare their in­dependence and man's inalienable rights.

David was born of a German family in Koloszvar (sic), the old capital of Tran­sylvania and traditionally a center of learning now named in the Roumanian (sic) language, Cluj (Kolozsvár). After his victory in the great debate of March 1568, legend has it that he was met at the city wall by cheering throngs who carried him into St. Mikail's (sic) cathedral. That famous Catholic church became Unitarian over­night and remained so until 1711 when it was forcibly taken back by the Aus­trian army.

Caption: In the long agricultural valley between Blaj (Balázsfalva) and Medias (Medgyes), timeless scenes of the country and its people: men and cattle at Tapu (Csicsóholdvilag), left above, with the village’s old town hall beyond the low houses and slanting pumps; above right, the journey to market on a horsedrawn wagon of hay. Below left, blue walls of a typical farm glow through the early mists. In old times the law ordered all serfs and those who were not free to paint their houses in blue, now used simply as a well-loved color, made by mixing natural dye into whitewash. Below right, furhatted men and wooden cart wheels echo another century on the snowy road to Tirgu Mures (Marosvásárhely). (pages 22 - 23 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Caption, upper left: Towers of Unitarian churches – there are 100 in Transylvania – rise above the landscape. Left to right, these are at Moldovenesti (Várfalva), Santulu Christulu (??) and Mihail Viteazul (Szentmihalyfalva). Below, a scene in the organ loft during Sunday services at Arcus (Árkos). The woman custodian builds the fires, times the bell-ringing and then vigorously pumps the organ during the service, while the gifted organist leads in the singing. The wooden hanging is typical of the handmade objects found in most churches. Caption, center right: Above, the Rev. Nemes Denes of Calnic (Kálnok) stands before the carved Sekler gate so typical of many Transylvanian homes and churches. Reached only after driving on remote and winding earth roads, the Calnic church is also known for its separate wooden bell tower and vividly painted frescoes. Below left, Rev. Goncz Mihaly and his church at Mihail Viteazul (Szentmihalyfalva); right, Rev. Fulop Arpad outside the beautiful walled church which stands on a lonely hill above the town of Hoghiz (Olthévíz), on the road to Sigisoara (Segesvár). (pages 24 - 25 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Caption: Rich colors and displays of local art forms are part of the joy of Unitarian churches in Roumania (sic). Above, a hand-sewn cloth on the communion table at Arcus (Árkos); right, an autumn bell made from wheat and here photographed from beneath; center, Hungarian words below the bell tower at Arcus proclaim a hard-won rallying cry: “There are no gods but one (Nincs több Isten csak egy).” Right, a crocheted cloth at Santulu Cristulu (??). Far right, the golden light of a wooden chandelier illuminates the ceiling of Calnic’s (Kálnok) famous church with all its inside walls covered with folk frescoes. Some parts of the church date to 1674. (pages 26 - 27 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Caption: In the villages, faces and traditional costumes seem to evoke another time. At Satu Mare (Máréfalva), left, a young girl watches over the fence of her home, and above, secrets and anecdotes of life are the eternal topics for friends meeting at market or in the streets, as here in Cluj (Kolozsvár). Often news of David’s time must have been told in this way. (pages 28 - 29 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Caption: The ominous fortress of Deva (Déva) crowns a small steep mountain isolated in a huge plain far south of David’s home in Cluj (Kolozsvár). Up these steep steps, he was taken to be imprisoned when he was 69 and died alone five months later in his cell, right. Overleaf, the Deva fortress seen through far mists as it may have first loomed into his view when he was carried there. (pages 30 - 31 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Caption: The Deva fortress seen through far mists as it may have first loomed into his view when he was carried there. (pages 32 - 33 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Caption: Still, bells ring on in David's land. In the tall tower of Arcus' (Árkos) church the bell ringer sounds the call to worship for modern descendants of the man who died so long ago in Deva's fortress. (pages 34 - 35 - copyright © 1968 UUA)

A PEOPLE STRONG AND PROUD

AN ANCIENT LAND WHERE ROMANS WALKED

In the city once known as Kolozsvar, now Cluj, the search for the descendants of Francis David begins logically at the Square of St. Mikail's (sic) Cathedral. Lined now on all sides with shops, coffee houses, hotels and restaurants, this square forms the heart of the historic city. It's a meeting place and traditional area for the evening promenade so loved by east­ern Europeans.

Just off-center in the square itself is the large golden-grey cathedral which was David's church during his great years. It has been crowded now for a long time with the characteristic articles of the Catholic faith, the Austrian Army having restored it to that religion in 1711.

Above Photo: Saint Michaels Cathedral in Cluj (Kolozsvár) The Unitarian church tower can be seen in the right distance, the rightmost tower behind the twin domes facing the square. (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

Large and imposing, St. Mikail's (sic) cannot in all honesty be called a beautiful building. But there is a certain loveliness about it, especially at certain hours such as in the dawn when we saw isolated fur-hatted men striding across the wide streets. On a path near the church a farm woman in her black shawl and long skirt walked slowly, carrying a large basket of eggs. In scenes like these, when timeless fig­ures appear and mist partly hides the commercial street signs, the church can almost be imagined as it was 400 years ago.

But by daylight, the square is crowded with an extraordinarily diversified people: mini-skirted young girls, country folk in sheepskin jackets, businessmen with trou­sers cut just slightly too wide for fashion, old women in long flowered skirts, work­men in grey coveralls and teenagers on bicycles. The city has many hundreds of college students, but they appear more mature and more soberly dressed than their western equivalents.

To find the present-day Unitarian church, one walks away from the square on a street named for Lenin. This church, finished in 1796, has the lyrical simplicity one comes to associate with Unitarianism in Transylvania. The beautiful all-white pulpit on the right side wall is in a style of simplified baroque and beneath it are the special pews for dignitaries. Of these there are a great many in Cluj, foremost among them the well-loved Bishop Alex­ander Kiss, just turning 80. As he and other officials stood to sing during the March third service this year their faces were resolute, strong and full of solemn joy. They could easily be imagined as the descendants of David and those men who dared to think differently so long ago in this land whose name means "beyond the forest."

In many of the faces there was a trace, almost like a fading memory, of oriental ancestors. This is not surprising since many kinds of men found their way through the centuries to the land beyond the forest. In the first century after Christ, Transylvania was home for a primitive people known as the Dacians, conquered and ruled by the Romans until 274 when there was a Dacian uprising and the be­ginning of barbarian invasions. In the fifth century Attila led his Huns from territory near the Caspian Sea into what is now western Hungary. Crowned king in 428, he died in 454 and his followers fled back to their original land. As Uni­tarian historian Earl Morse Wilbur says, "immemorial tradition" has it that thou­sands of the Huns became separated and stranded against the mountains of eastern Transylvania where they formed perma­nent settlements and became known eventually as the Szeklers. They were considered a kind of nobility since they were freeholders, free men owning their own land and exempted from taxation because they held them from invasion. (ed: while still a favorite myth, this theory is no longer believed, lacking any historical evidence supporting it)

The next great wave of people came in 895 when Arpad and his nomadic Magyars, speaking the language of the Huns, rode out of the Urals in southeastern Russia and conquered Hungary. They swept on into western Europe but even­tually were driven back to settle on the other side of Vienna and spread eastward into Transylvania.

In the 12th century a great population arrived peacefully when King Geza of Hungary appealed to the Germans to colonize the lands laid waste by barbarian invasions. Many of the common people who had been oppressed by noblemen in Germany came to settle, eventually to be­come known as the Saxons.

Consistent invaders were the Turks. But in 1543 the land of Transylvania de­clared itself an independent kingdom, with Isabella as Queen. It became a Turkish protectorate, serving as a buffer state between east and west. For 148 years it was to be an independent king­dom with the right to choose its own rulers. In 1541 Isabella's son John Sigis­mund was elected king to become his­tory's first and last Unitarian monarch.

Many of the 20th century Unitarians proudly identified themselves to us as Szeklers. Traditionally the Szeklers are people of the land and often in Transyl­vania we saw men walking on the hills with a noble bearing that seemed to indi­cate primeval ownership.

Above Photo: A Unitarian Székely man whom Ivan encountered in a village somewhere in Transylvania (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

Whatever their heritage, the Transylvanians all greeted us in their homes with the seemingly impossible combination of great-hearted friendliness and exquisite formality. When we arrived for high tea at the apartment of Bishop Kiss, he greeted me with a kiss on the hand and photographer Ivan with a mammoth hug. As more guests arrived we formed a circle around the table found in the center of every Transylvanian living room. Mrs. Kiss was beautiful and serene in her Chinese kimona of blue and golden silk. In reply to our praise for the beauty of his country, beaming Bishop Kiss said with a sweeping wave of his arms, "Everywhere in the world is beautiful."

After listening carefully to stories of villages where there would be no restau­rants, no hotels and perhaps no heat, we checked our storm clothing, bought a knife and two spoons (for bread and yoghurt) and set out for Torda. On that city's main square stands the ancient Catholic church which served as a meeting place for the lawmakers of the old king­dom and also as the site for some of David's famous debates and speeches.

Above Photo: The Torda Catholic church (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

In January of 1568 the diet at Torda had recognized Unitarianism as one of the four acknowledged religions, along with Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism. It had also reaffirmed an earlier edict of toleration which held that no man should be persecuted or killed for his religious beliefs, since "faith is a gift of God." The old church, still Catholic, stands to- ... continued

Caption: The revolutionary words of 400 years ago, "'Egy Az lsten" or "God is One'" are seen now in stone, in metal, even in wheat pods in the country where it was once worth a man's life to speak them. They appear throughout Rou­mania (sic) and Hungary, often with the well-loved "Legy hiv mindhalalig" Be true to the end. (pages 36 - 37 - copyright © 1968 UUA)

continuing ... -day on a virtual traffic island as buses, cars and motorcycles careen around both sides of it. Down a nearby side street stands the Unitarian church of Torda, a small white church with a simple tower.

South of Torda we found a medieval fortified Calvinist church at Aiud (Nagyenyed). A massive construction of pale orange stones with sturdy square towers and wrought-iron markings, this church-fortress made up the town nucleus, with little shops and homes built into its ancient walls. It gave a palpable sense of the stern and righteous Calvinists of David's time.

Later, in weather grown cold and fog­gy, we arrived at the modern industrial city of Deva (Déva), lying at the foot of the ominous old fortress hill also called Deva (Déva).

Above Photo: The Deva (Déva) fortress (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

Reached only by a steep footpath, the fortress is made from thousands of flat stones placed to form high walls.

Above Photo: China ascending the steps up to the Deva (Déva) fortress. The main street of the city can be seen in the lower left. (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

The day was cold and a light snow was fall­ing; there was a magnificent view toward the distant mountains. It was strange to think of men in old times going up that hill with hope and fear in their hearts, seizing it as a natural fortress and stacking stone on stone to build the walls that would make them safe. It was also strange to think of the enemies who stormed that sinister hill and died as fearful men above hurled down medieval destruction.

But it gave a sense of stunning loneli­ness to think that in the summer of 1579 a frail man of 69 was lugged up the steep rocky path and thrown into a dungeon.

Above Photo: A Deva (Déva) dungeon (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

Obscuring the last months of his life is a mist as impenetrable as those of damp midnights on the Transylvanian hills. It is not known, for instance, whether he could look out on the mountains.

Above Photo: Hills and mountains around the Deva (Déva) fortress. (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

More than likely his cell opened only onto the central yard with its tall opposite walls blocking any view of the landscape. This would have meant he could look only up into the sky and out into the area where his guards were. It is not known whether they were kind; probably most of them feared him since he was said to be a false prophet, a dangerous blasphemer and a man against God.

All the cells had floors of earth and walls of stones; no one knows whether there was straw for a bed or even a rock for a chair. Almost certainly he had no writing materials and no books; visitors were forbidden. He was ailing, crippled, alone and declared out of law.

Did any guard give him a blanket or coat as the first cold days came? No one knows. He had lived five months in the harsh prison but as winter deepened in the land and the first snows of November came, he died.

It could be that a soldier who stamped through new snow to build the morning fire in the fortress yard peered into the dark cell and found him dead. They secretly buried him in an unmarked grave which has never been found.

Above Photo: The ruins of the Deva (Déva) fortress (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

The Deva fortress was last defended in the revolution of 1848. Now as men have flown into the sky, they have also had to burrow into holes for safety. The once almost impenetrable hill of Deva became a conspicuous target, a place where it was easy to kill a man. Now it is a picnic area in summer and a historical site year round with its posted legend telling of famous battles. A monument in his stone-damp cell tells of David.

Above Photo: The memorial plaque in the Deva Dungeon (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

There are now 120 Unitarian churches in Roumania, with an estimated 100,000 members. In Hungary there are twenty to thirty thousand Unitarians, with 11 con­gregations and a number of fellowships. The church of Deputy Bishop Imre Filep, one of three in Budapest, has a congrega­tion composed mainly of intellectuals, poets and writers.

Before and after David's death, the new religion had a rocky history. Liberal young King Sigismund died just three years after the great events of 1568 and the rule of the kingdom passed to a Catholic. David's troubles increased as he sought more for light and truth.

Even some of his old Unitarian friends felt he may have gone too far and his radical stands led eventually to his trial, and the cruel imprisonment and death. The Unitarian church was organized on more orthodox grounds and for two centuries the true Unitarian thinking of David was pushed aside because of fear and per­secution. But his ideas were to survive.

"He was a great man of that age," said a modern scholar in Budapest. "Leading him, so to say, into eternity is the fact that he understood the problems, weak­nesses, troubles and desires of his own time, of his century."

After Deva we searched more to find the traces of David in present life.

At Sebes (Szászsebes) a blond boy of about ten ap­peared at the car window when we were asking directions. In perfect schoolboy English he informed us that his home had rooms for tourists and offered to take us there. "I am German," he announced with pride. Thinking him perhaps the son of a foreign engineer in this industri­al town, we asked where his father was born. "Here," said the boy and as we appeared bewildered, he continued: "But we are Germans. We came here almost 900 years ago." Our first evidence of the Saxons from King Geza's time! The boy's parents proved to speak German and Roumanian; his home proved to be large, well-heated with beautiful porce­lain stoves and well-furnished with rooms full of comfortable beds and giant eider-downs.

We drove through roads of deep mud to find one of the most beautiful churches of Roumania, in the little village of Hoghiz (Olthévíz). After abandoning our rented Volkswagen at the bottom of an impassable muddy incline we trudged through the muck to find the local minister, the Rev. Fülöp Arpád and stumbled in foot-deep mud up the hill to the church which crowned it.

Above Photo: Rev. Fülöp Arpád of Hoghiz (Olthévíz) - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church

With the one step which took us from the muddy road, to the mosaic pebble path leading to the church door we seemed in another world. The sculp­tural simplicity of the white church brought to mind the singing forms of Le Corbusier while the starkness of the landscape, with the church's weathered white stone walls, seemed reminiscent of Greece. There was a single tree, carved wooden gravemarkers and a chill wind blowing across the long fields beyond the hill. After showing us through the chapel and the graveyard, the Rev. Fülöp Arpád, named for the legendary king of the Magyars, took us down the hill, to the warm kitchen of his home. There we thawed out near the wood-burning stove while Mrs. Fülöp gave us delicious home­made liqueurs with little cakes and the minister painstakingly translated through his Hungarian and English Bibles the words: "Man does not live by bread alone."

There is a well-ordered and engrossing routine on Sunday morning at the Uni­tarian Church of Arcus (Árkos), north of Brasov (Brassó).

Above Photo: Sunday morning, waiting for the minister outside the fortified walls of the Arcus (Árkos) Unitarian church (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

The routine revolves around the rosy-cheeked woman custodian of this large fortified church with its whitewashed walls and a dove painted above the gate. In heavy long skirts, woolen jacket and peasant kerchief she was sweeping the church yard as we arrived. After greeting us and learning that we would attend the service she took us on her rounds, which consisted of building fires in the two stoves, dusting the pews, checking on the organ loft and keeping tabs on the time with an old-fashioned pocket watch she had wrapped carefully in a thick cloth. Counting off, the last few seconds, she stepped into the yard and waved to the bell tower. Through an open tower window the bell ringer's arm could be seen rising and falling as the peals rang out over the village houses. Slowly doors opened and dark figures began moving down the narrow streets. Inside, the woman custodian knelt in prayer on a front pew in the empty church.

After a crowd had slowly assembled at the church gate, the Rev. Kökösi Kálmán and his wife walked ceremoniously from the nearby parsonage to bow and greet the congregation.

Above Photo: The Arcus (Árkos) Unitarian minister Rev. Kökösi Kálmán and his wife coming from their parish house to the Sunday service. (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

Men and women walked in to sit in separate sections. The minister in his black robe left his black hat on the pale blue wooden benches be­low the pulpit and ascended.

Above Photo: The Arcus (Árkos) Sunday service. (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

As the first song began I was astonished to hear what can only be described as a voice almost too beautiful to come from a human person. Searching through the congrega­tion I could not find the source. Later, Ivan told of how he sat quietly with a camera in the ancient organ loft and watched an uncanny sight.

Above Photo: Pumping the organ bellows and playing the organ in the Arcus (Árkos) Choir Loft (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

The woman custodian intently manned the pumps while the organist threw back his head and sang in a beautiful tenor with the unabashed joy of a reprieved angel.

The Rev. Kökösi preached, as tradi­tion demands, without notes and after the service gave his customary talk to the men of the congregation as they stood together outside the door. Later at a lunch of chicken gulas (sic) the minister told us of how he had a good life because he was a minister and a farmer. He had grown and made everything we ate, in­cluding the wine and the characteristic "hand-woven palinka," that formidable Hungarian brandy made from apricots or plums. His parsonage yard was typical of all those we saw in Transylvania with its vineyard, garden plots, a small orchard, chickens and small farm houses.

However, in the sophisticated city of Brasov (Brassó) where an international light music festival was in progress, we saw an en­tirely different-looking church and a strange but wonderful ceremony. The Unitarian Church at Brasov (Brassó) is modern, attached to an apartment building. In the social hall the congregation was meet­ing for its annual corn supper, an occa­sion seven Sundays before Easter when they gather to eat a mixture of rum, sug­ar, bouillon and hominy. This "soup" was eaten with great relish by those who packed the hall after they sat attentively through two hours of recitations, songs, compositions, declarations and poems --many of them original -- by other mem­bers of the congregation, including a five-minute poem recited in frantic haste by a golden-haired girl of three who stood on a chair.

From the strange festivity of a corn ... continued

Caption: Unusual wooden sculptures (ed: kopjafa) mark graves in the Unitarian churchyard at Hoghiz (Olthévíz). The markers are still in cur­rent use, both dated in this century. (page 38 - copyright © 1968 UUA)

continued . . . supper at Brasov (Brassó) and the orderly joy of Sunday morning at Arcus, (Árkos) we went down a remote road and into the lonely Monday morning of the minister at Calnic (Kálnok). Re­ceiving no answer from the silent parson­age, we went slowly from door to door until we were knocking at the kitchen. The wooden door opened to reveal a slender man who had just risen from a bare kitchen table set with a single bowl of clear soup and a piece of black bread. Steam was rising from the bowl in the cold kitchen. To the question of where we could find the Unitarian minister he replied laughingly, "I am he." Our an­nouncement that we were Unitarians from America brought hugs, kisses and laugh­ter; we found ourselves doing a three-person dance around the cold room.

The Rev. Nemes Dénes then rushed us into his living room, explained that his wife was away, built up a fire and hurried off to find his own version of hand-woven palinka. He danced in and out with trays of black bread, salami and palinka, stop­ping for great outbursts of Hungarian which one could almost understand solely through his intense projection.

Using my small Hungarian vocabulary, our dictionaries and the art of desperate invention, we talked for hours. Rev. Nemes told how he deals very little in money, swapping produce from his garden and palinka from his vineyard for neces­sities he cannot make with his hands. As we talked, the morning darkened and winds shook the house which was un­heated except for the room where he built a fire after our arrival. On a tour he hur­ried us through the cold rooms, dancing ahead with his radiant face. In one dark room a green and golden world was cre­ated by a jungle of plants clustered around the only window. The vibrant red-on-white embroidery traditional in Hungary and Transylvania splashed through the rooms on pillows, curtains and coverlets.

Soon he led us into the church

Above Photo: The Calnic (Kálnok) Unitarian Church's entry gate. (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

where he sang some Hungarian hymns in the slow chanting fashion of Unitarians here. As I sang “The Parliament of Man" in return, Ivan continued to build his photo­graphic essay by focusing on the beautiful ceiling

Above Photo: The painted ceiling in the Calnic (Kálnok) Unitarian church (image scanned and restored from one of Ivan Massar's original 35mm slides - copyright © 1968 Ivan Massar, copyright © 2010 Transylvanian Unitarian Church)

and the smiling face of Rev. Nemes seemed to focus on the glowing happi­ness he held against the freezing day.

His church has the famous blue folk frescoes and extraordinary chandeliers of golden wood. The village is small and there are only 10 to 15 people in the congregation on an average Sunday, he said. But he seemed of indomitable spirit. As we left, a whirling snow storm slowly covered his black suit but he stood smiling and waving until we disappeared.

On our last day in Transylvania a sparkling spring arrived as if it were the morning of the world. With a Unitarian friend from Cluj (Kolozsvár), we set out to visit the district of the Rev. Nagy Béla of Cornesti (Sinfalva). Within his living room the dean offered the palinka of his house and traditional toasts. There was no deferring to the hour of the morning and he taught us a new toast: "Istén Eltesse" or "God Give You Life," a Szekler toast once corrupted by a foreigner to "Istén Istén" or “God God" and now used that way by those who know the story.

The Rev. Nagy decided to join us in a Pied Piper journey to ministers in the dis­trict. As we rolled into the village of Moldovenesti (Várfalva), a joyous bell was sounding and we learned it was a traditional greet­ing for a visit from the dean. Who needs to be a king when one can be a district dean in Transylvania? "Oh, you'll see," said Rev. Nagy, "You won't be able to resist the hospitality of this house." As we walked through the parsonage yard where spring lambs were gamboling, the Rev. and Mrs. Nagy Domokos and their nephew, the Rev. Nagy Odon rushed for­ward to greet us. There ensued a cere­monial gathering around the central table and three hours of delicate feasting and toasting, songs and csardas (czardas) dancing, dis­cussions and stories. “This house is truly famous for its hospitality," Rev. Nagy Béla reiterated as Mrs. Nagy Domokos appeared with successive waves of dainty sandwiches, cheese sticks, liqueurs, wines, fruit, cakes, cookies, nuts, punch, candies and coffee, interspersing all with bouts at the piano. In a house such as this, said one minister, "We have a saying that we will not go until the host beats us away. And if he still will not have us go, we will carry the house away with us!"

The spirit and friendliness of these ministers causes one to wonder whether it might not be a good idea if certain west­ern ministers also decided to become celebrants of life, in addition to their pursuit of theology, morality, philoso­phy, psychology, sociology and politics.

In our journey to March of 1568 dur­ing March of 1968 we had walked on the roads of David's life, found most of the known landmarks and talked with many men who could be counted spiritual de­scendants. A last trace was to be found in his home city of Cluj-Kolozsvar in the Unitarian Church built more than two centuries after his death. There a young minister was preaching in the presence of Unitarian officialdom before leaving to take up the historic church in Torda. Dark and Magyar looking, he spoke in ringing flights of rhetoric. An older Transylvanian translated his words:

"He preached of faith, of how God created man and gave him feet to walk, hands to work and create and finally a brain to think. But man was not satisfied and he kept returning to God for more. So his hands were made longer with tools; his feet were made longer with wheels; his brain was made larger with writing and books. But still man was not satisfied and he returned to ask God for still more. So God gave him faith ....

Faith is the reality of hoped-for things." After his sermon the older ministers embraced him. Here in the late winter of 1968 there had been eloquence worthy of David!

Who will say that the footprints of a man cannot be found in the mists of winter after 400 years?

~ ~ ~

page 39 - copyright © 1968 UUA
Above Photos: Bishop Rev. Alex Kiss (Hungarian: Kiss Elek - inset), and the Unitarian church in Cluj (Kolozsvár) taken from the tower of Saint Michael's church (page 47 - copyright © 1968 UUA)
Above: back cover - faces of Transylvania. - copyright © 1968 UUA

~

Edited and produced by Rodger A. Mattlage, December 2016

Please forward questions, comments, suggestions, corrections, etc.to rmattlage@mac.com

Created By
Rodger Mattlage
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