Friday, September 2, 2011

Unitarian Pilgrimages in Transylvania

Transylvania was the cradle of Unitarianism, so my recent trip with some of our high school youth was a pilgrimage. Francis David founded the first Unitarian church in Transylvania, and was apparently a very compelling preacher leading to the conversion of the King, John Sigismund, and most of the population.

The city of Kolozsvar is the center of Transylvanian Unitarianism, and it is here that Francis David is said to have stood on this rock to deliver the sermon that explained the tenets of Unitarianism and was so inspiring that it converted the whole city.


The rock is kept in the First Unitarian Church of Transylvania, in Kolozsvar.


But the King, rather than mandating that all should be Unitarians, instead issued the Edict of Torda, that declared toleration for all the churches and that people could choose what religion they wished to follow. This was during the Reformation, and this was unheard of - to say that all the churches would be tolerated side by side.

Here is an embroidered version of a famous picture of Francis David speaking before the King and the court:


Here is the Church of the Edict, subsequently reclaimed as a Catholic church again:


It all only lasted a few years, however, for King John Sigismund died young without a son, and the next King was Catholic and lead a counter-Reformation. Francis David's theology was deemed too dangerous, and he was imprisoned in the fortress of Deva, where he died. The trip up the hill to the fortress of Deva was pretty amazing, but the fortress itself is a ruin:




It wasn't exactly earth-moving to see these historical places, but I did feel a sense of deep satisfaction, for want of a better word, to journey back to the beginning, to see these old places, and to think about the remarkable struggles that occurred during that time period.

Related posts from my trip last year:


  1. I think this is incredible! What an awesome journey for you and the kids. Do you go every year? I would love to hear more about how your congregations supports these visits. If you get a chance, I can be reached at

  2. It's wonderful that you get to reconnect with the roots of the church!