It is the 17th of December 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1551.
On yesterday's show, we were in Romania amongst a Hungarian minority at the end of the Cold War. This part of Eastern Europe has long been a curious mix of Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. Facing off with either a Sultan or Soviet Premier, the church has a long history of reformations in theology and resistance in politics. How did we get here?
Hungarians don't talk about living in Hungary. They live in Magyarország, the "Land of the Magyars." These are the people who settled the Carpathian basin and remained independent until the early modern era with the Habsburgs and Ottomans' rise. Its location between Romania and Ukraine on the east and the Adriatic and Austria to its west is perhaps a key to remembering this kingdom and country that also fell between East and West in terms of culture, language, and religion.
Hungary had to decide between aligning itself between the Pope in Rome or the Eastern church. Turkish Sultans and Ottoman soldiers were also constant reminders of the need to negotiate carefully with those who saw Hungary as a critical location bridging the East and West. The early 16th century in Hungary might be best summarized in the disastrous Battle of Mohacs in 1526. Suleiman's forces routed the Hungarians, and the kingdom was divided. By 1541 the Turks had possession of the middle third of the country. The eastern third belonged to Transylvania, although they were a vassal state to the Ottomans. The western 3rd, modern Slovakia, aligned itself with the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire.
Furthermore, a Reformation tradition developed in 16th century Hungary complicating national unity even more. The story of the Hungarian state and church in the 16th century rests mostly on the man they know today as "Father György." György Martinuzzi was born to a Croatian father and Venetian mother in 1482. György's father died when the boy was eight, and Gyorgy became a page to a local Duke. By 1510 he was studying at the Monastery at St. Laurentius, and soon he joined the Hermits of St. Paul.
In 1527 King Janos of Hungary fled from King Ferdinand of Bohemia, who had just routed his men in battle. King Janos stopped to hide at the monastery at Sajolad, where Father Gyorgy was serving. Gyorgy helped the King, organized his supporters, and in 1529 King Janos bested his rival, Ferdinand. For his help, Gyorgy was appointed Bishop.
Gyorgy would find himself, like the Hungarian Kingdom, caught between rivals. Upon the death of King Janos, Gyorgy was ambivalent about Ferdinand as King. However, his adeptness at diplomacy made Ferdinand fond of Gyorgy. Gyorgy's deal to bring Transylvania back into the fold earned him a promotion from Ferdinand and a Cardinal's hat.
With the Turks planning to attack, Gyorgy helped organize a united front with Ferdinand. To keep the Turkish threat at bay for a time, Gyorgy began to pay tribute to the Sultan secretly. But a colleague did not trust Gyorgy and made the secret tribute known to Ferdinand. Fearing some form of a coup, he had Father Gyorgy put to death. A symbol of Hungary, a man caught between 16th-century factions and confessions, Gyorgy was 69 years old when he was put to death on this, the 17th of December in 1551.
The reading for today is a poem from Scott Cairns. This is his "Christmas Green."
Just now the earth recalls His stunning visitation. Now
the earth and scattered habitants attend to what is possible: that He
of a morning entered this, our meagered circumstance, and so
relit the fuse igniting life in them, igniting life in all the dim
surround. And look, the earth adopts a kindly áffect. Look,
we almost see our long estrangement from it overcome.
The air is scented with the prayer of pines, the earth is softened
for our brief embrace, the fuse continues bearing to all elements
a curative despite the grave, and here within our winter this,
the rising pulse, bears still the promise of our quickening.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 17th of December 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, a man who is Hungary for Goulash but the real kind, not glorified Beefaroni. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember… but especially you Ian, and David, and your family… that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.