The 1568 Session of the Transylvanian Diet

Share on Facebook
History - Traditions

The Edict of Torda, voted on the 1568 Session of the Transylvanian Diet was the first act in the world which authorized the local communities (Hungarians, Transylvanian Saxons and Szeklers) to freely elect preachers (religious tolerance act) in the “eastern Hungarian Kingdom” of John Sigismund Zápolya. The delegates of the Three Nations of Transylvania (the Hungarians, Transylvanian Saxons and Székelys) adopted it at the request of the monarch’s Antitrinitarian court preacher, Ferenc Dávid, in Torda (Turda). The leaders gathered on Epiphany day and had sessions for a week, between the 6th and 13th of January.

Some of the Transylvanian Calvinists (Reformats) joined the so called antiunitarian teachings of the Unitarian church. The Saxon-born Ferenc Dávid (originally Franz Hertel) was bishop of the Hungarian Lutherans (Evangelists) at that time. He converted to Calvinism, later became antiunitarian and Unitarian. He was the court priest of John Sigismund Zápolya and under his influence, the Monarch himself converted to the Unitarian religion. At that time the Diet of Torda proclaimed that the four religions – Catholic, Lutheran (Evangelist), Calvinist and Unitarian – could be exercised and would be tolerated, giving every individual the possibility to chose its own religion and that he/she considered suitable. The Act includes the following: there is no state religion. Although the Monarch has power over the church, he has no right to discriminate between the churches and religions; meaning that in one settlement, under the same ruler, everyone has the right to choose the desired religion, without being discriminated or having any disadvantages. It forbids the invective of other religions, the blaspheme of priests of other religions, violence against other worshipers. This Act was respected by the Monarchs ruling after John Sigismund Zápolya.

This important and decisive moment in religion history is immortalized by a painting by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch.

The Hungarian Nation was preparing for the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian conquest. In 1894 the Minister of Religious and Public Education appealed to every local council to prepare for this celebration by painting a memorable local event. The citizens of Torda started an enthusiastic debate, finally the committee issued a call to paint the Proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom at the 1568 Session of the Transylvanian Diet.

Aladár Körösfői Kriesch (1863-1920) submitted his application to paint this historical moment. The work was finished in 1895 in a studio from Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca). In October he transported the painting to Budapest, where he made some small improvements. The paintings made for the Millennial Anniversary were exposed at the Budapest National Salon Exhibition. Körösfői Kriesch’s painting was celebrated by the public and the critics as well. Today, the painting is exhibited at the Historical Museum in Torda.

The painting is an image of Ferenc Dávid, the leader of the Transylvanian Church, standing in the center of the Diet, just a few steps away (in front) of the Monarch, with one hand on his heart and the other raised to the sky saying: “Faith is a gift from the Lord.” Everyone is attentively and astonished listening to his words. Some, filled with excitement, rising from their seats, hurry toward him. The structure of the painting is simple: in the slight left-central part of the painting is the protagonist, Ferenc Dávid, represented as old man, with white hair, but energetic, filled with faith, among the rhythmically divided group of actors, being the vertical architectonic focus of the piece.

  • 0.5 Originality

  • 0.5 Interesting

  • 0.5 Authenticity

  • 0.5 Popularity

Suggested by

Keszeg Vilmos

Ethnographer, professor