Istvan Zombori, ed. Magyarorszag es a szentszek kapcsolatanak ezer eve. Budapest: Magyar Egyhaztorteneti Enciklopedia Munkakozosseg (METEM), 1996. 337 pp. HUF 1000 (paper), ISBN 978-963-8472-17-5.
Reviewed by Pongracz Sennyey (Bradley University)
Published on HABSBURG (November, 1996)
Hungary and the Holy See during the Second Millennium
A Thousand Years of the Relationship between Hungary and the Papacy is divided into eleven chapters, each one of them covering approximately one century (there are two chapters covering the fifteenth century). The Middle Ages (from 1000 to 1526) are covered by seven chapters, the Habsburg period (1526-1918) is covered by three, and the last chapter covers the period between 1918 and 1995.
Between the 1940s and 1989 church history in Hungary was relegated to the back burner. The basic works of Hungarian church history were, in fact, written in the early decades of this century. The chapters of this book not only rely heavily upon those works, but they also incorporate the principal articles written since then. The work makes it clear that there is much room left for modern research, new methods, and a host of new issues to be addressed by future research. In light of this fact, it is perhaps unfortunate that the authors were not more active in pinpointing areas where additional research is needed, where the most contentious issues lie, and what new research methods could be explored.
The contentious issue of lay investiture is the recurring theme in the chapters covering the Middle Ages. "The Holy See and the Hungarian State in the Eleventh Century" by Jozsef Gerics and Erzsebet Ladanyi is a study of the essential difference between the attitudes of the pre-Gregorian and the post-Gregorian papacy as reflected by the primary sources relevant to Hungary. Unfortunately, the authors neglected to describe with more detail what the relationship between the papacy and the Hungarian crown was. This chapter seems to be out of place, for it neglects to describe the formation of the state and its relationship to the papacy. This is by all measures a crucial period in Hungarian history, and one during which connections with the papacy have catalyzed much dispute in Hungarian historiography.
The introduction of the second chapter, "Papal-Hungarian Contacts in the Twelfth Century" by Kornel Szovak, could have been the introduction to the entire volume. This is an excellent chapter, in which the main issues are clearly and succinctly addressed. While tensions concerning lay investiture were not in the forefront of Papal-Hungarian relations in this period, the issue of episcopal power over monasteries did lead to the exchange of numerous legates. By the middle of the century Hungary's relations with the papacy became dependent on the fortunes of Byzantine-German attempts to establish an alliance. Since Hungary would have found itself in between two giants, its foreign policy had to tread carefully. Szovak gives considerable attention to the legates sent to Hungary, offering an interesting glimpse into the nature of their missions. The author uses both primary and secondary sources for this study.
Coverage of the thirteenth century in "Papal-Hungarian Relations during the Period of Papal Hegemony--Thirteenth Century" by Laszlo Solymosi starts out by stating that the sources available to historians concerning Papal-Hungarian relations in this century are vast in comparison with the previous two centuries. Unfortunately Solymosi did not take advantage of this fact, and the resulting brief essay covers all the major issues only superficially. The chapter is devoid of scholarly apparatus, but has a brief selected bibliography.
The chapter on the fourteenth century, "The House of Anjou and the Holy See (1301-1387)" by Gyorgy Racz, is focused on the reign of Louis I the Great (1342-82). King Louis' Italian campaigns and their impact on Papal-Hungarian relations are described with detail and clarity. The chapter is based on the works of historians from the turn of the century, such as Vilmos Fraknoi and Balint Homan.
The fifteenth century is covered in two separate chapters. The first half of the century is covered in "The Papacy and the Hungarian Kingdom during the Reign of King Sigismund (1387-1437)" by Peter Erdo. The chapter concentrates on the growing influence of secular power over church matters in Hungary. Reflecting the ebbing of papal power, the Hungarian crown was now able to use, and abuse, its rights of investiture. A brief segment of the chapter is dedicated to the beginning of what would become the hallmark issue between the papacy and Hungary: the recognition of the Turkish menace and the first steps taken to counter its advance in Europe. This chapter is almost entirely built upon the work of Vilmos Fraknoi (Hungary's Religious and Political Relationship with the Roman Holy See, 3 vols.), which was written on the basis of his extensive research in the Vatican Archives nearly a century ago.
The second half of the fifteenth century is covered in "The Papacy, Turkey and Hungary under the Hunyadis (1337-1490)" by Peter Kovacs. As the title implies, the chapter is almost entirely dedicated to the reign of King Matthias and his relationship with the papacy. The king was favored by the papacy from the outset because of the latter's hopes for a forceful monarch who would aim to expell the Ottomans from Eastern Europe. Yet the king's policies alternated between battles against the Turks and against his Western enemies, thus ultimately dashing papal hopes for a resolution of the looming Ottoman threat. The most interesting parts of the chapter are the sections on the implication of the king's betrothal to an Italian princess for papal politics in Italy, as well as for the use of investiture rights by the king for political and financial gain, despite papal protests.
The period preceding the disaster at Mohacs is covered in "Diplomatic Contacts between the Hungarian State under the Jagellonian Kings and the Papacy (1490-1526)" by Andras Kubinyi. Kubinyi admits outright that papal-Hungarian connections for this period have already been examined in the works of Fraknoi (cited above) and Edgar Artner ("Relations between Hungary and the Apostolic Holy See in the years preceding the defeat of Mohacs (1521-1526). Therefore, he goes on to narrow the topic to the different types of papal representatives, their missions, personalities, and effects on Hungary. Though this is a work that is also based on secondary sources, it provides a valuable synthesis of the works hitherto written on the topic. The description of the nature and of the different types of papal representatives, i.e., legates, nuncios, procurators etc., would have been welcome in an introductory essay for the entire book.
The recurring themes of chapters covering the Habsburg period reflect the fact that no legates were stationed on Hungarian soil. Diplomatic contacts between Hungary and the papacy were carried out through the nunciature in Vienna, often surreptitiously.
Istvan Hiller's chapter, "The Vatican and Hungary (1526-1699)," describes the relationship between the papacy and Hungary from the Vatican's perspective. Vatican archival sources are used extensively in this chapter. The chapter describes the workings of papal diplomacy in the new era of resident diplomats. Even though Hungary had no resident diplomats after 1526, the nunciature in Vienna oversaw Hungarian church affairs and kept the papacy informed of developments there. Though well informed, the papacy had to bow to political realities and compromised its position to appease Habsburg power. Hiller's narrative of the political events in Hungary and Vienna from the perspective of the Vatican provides new insights for the study of international politics as they affected Hungary in this turbulent period. The detailed description of the diplomatic contacts between the major political players in Hungary, Austria, and the Papacy make this the most valuable chapter of the volume, despite the fact that the Thirty Years' War and the Reformation and Counter-Reformation could have been described with more detail.
In "Ecclesiastical-Political Contacts after the Expulsion of the Turks (1700-1848)," Laszlo Katus concentrates on how the Hungarian clergy struggled to overcome the limitations imposed by the fact that there was no nunciature on Hungarian territory and, with the introduction of the Josephinian reforms, the nuncio was not allowed to travel to Hungary. Between 1700 and 1848, Hungary established contact with the Vatican, bypassing Vienna only once, during the Rakoczi uprising. Though the envoy was received in secret audience, the Pope was not willing to risk his relationship with the Habsburgs for the sake of Rakoczi's uncertain odds.
In the post-Ottoman years, the Hungarian Catholic church experienced considerable growth. The author of this chapter is obviously familiar with the reports written at the nunciature about Hungarian affairs. In fact, the whole chapter is more about the relationship between Hungarian church officials and the nunciature, rather than between Hungary and the Vatican. Yet, given the fact that the Hungarian prelate was not allowed to travel to Rome, the nunciature remained the closest contact Hungary and the papacy had with each other. The latter part of the chapter deals with the process whereby the Josephinian reforms were instituted in Hungary and how these influenced the Hungarian church, as seen through the eyes of the nuncios stationed in Vienna.
The chapter by Gabor Adrianyi, "The Hungarian Church and the Vatican (1848-1918)," covers the last decades of Habsburg rule in Hungary. Although this essay provides a rather thorough overview of the state of the Catholic church in this period, it is not, strictly speaking, about Hungary's relationship with the papacy. Given the fact that during the post-1848 years the Hungarian church became a lot freer to establish connections with the Vatican, a freedom it in fact exercised during the First Vatican Council (1869-70) in Rome, it is unfortunate that Adrianyi deviated from the main topic of the volume. The chapter is devoid of scholarly apparatus, but has a selected bibliography at the end.
The last chapter of the book is, as its author admits, a sketch of the main events that characterized relations between Hungary and the papacy since 1918. Thus, the Communist takeover, the struggles of Cardinal Mindszenty, and the 1956 uprising receive prominent roles in the chapter. The period between 1956 and Pope John Paul II's visit to Hungary in 1991 is not analyzed. Otherwise, the pontiff's visit provides the author with the material needed to finish the volume on a very positive note.
The unevenness of the chapters in this volume may be explained by the fact that the subject they address is both complex and multifaceted. The topic of each one of the chapters warrants a monograph-length manuscript. In an average of twenty pages, the authors were evidently hard-pressed to provide an overview that included in-depth original research. With this observation in mind, the chapters covering the period between 1526 and 1848 deserve special attention. In both of them the authors (Hiller and Katus) took a narrower set of sources to cover the period, and they present novel and interesting interpretations of their subject.
Since 1989 research on church history has experienced a revival in Hungary. A number of monographs and scholarly articles have appeared in print, and a few Ph.D. dissertations have been defended on a variety of topics in church history. One of the earliest participants in this "revival" has been METEM (The Society for the Encyclopedia of Church History), under whose aegis this volume was published. In addition to publishing a number of monographs, METEM has also produced a journal entitled Magyar Egyhaztorteneti Vazlatok (Essays in Hungarian Church History) since 1989. The journal appears in four issues per year, with articles in Hungarian, German, and English "dealing with events, parishes, persons, institutions, monuments, church activities, and writings as well as ... unpublished documents related to church history in Hungary." Research on the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is also bound to see considerable new work as relevant sources are published in the series Documenta res hungaricas tempore regum andegavensium illustrantia and Register of the Documents of the Times of King Sigismund, both of which deserve the attention of Habsburg historians interested in the Middle Ages. Further research in the Vatican Archives and on the nuncios' activities are bound to yield interesting results.
Finally, it is worth noting that the focus on conflict between the Holy See and Hungary has been a trait of Hungarian historiography in this century. This volume has not avoided this focus, despite the fact that the history of papal-Hungarian relations witnessed bouts of cooperation as well. Some of the most important occasions of cooperation were the formation of the Hungarian state in the eleventh century; the efforts to convert the Cumans in the thirteenth century; the Crusades against the Bogumil heretics on the Adriatic coast; and the missions to the East undertaken by Dominican friars to explore the Russian steppes in the thirteenth century. Regretably, these events receive only marginal, if any, coverage in this volume. Nonetheless this book offers a valuable overview of a thousand years of Hungary's relationship with the papacy, and it will hopefully catalyze further studies on the subject matter.
. Vilmos Fraknoi, Magyarorszag egyhazi es politikai osszekotetesei a romai szentszekkel (Budapest: Szent-Istvan Tarsulat tud. es irod. osztalya, 1901-03), v. 1-3.
. Edgar Artner, "Magyarorszag es az Apostoli szentszek viszonya a mohacsi vesz megelozo evekben (1521-1526)," in Mohacsi Emlekkonyv 1526, ed. Imre Lukinics (Budapest: Kiralyi Magyar Egyetemi Nyomda, 1926).
3. Documenta res hungaricas tempore regum andegavensium illustrantia (alternate title: Anjou-kori okleveltar), ed. Gyula Kristo (Budapest Szeged: [s.n.], 1990); Zsigmondkori okleveltar, ed. Elemer Malyusz, later Janos Varga (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1951-).
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Pongracz Sennyey. Review of Zombori, Istvan, ed., Magyarorszag es a szentszek kapcsolatanak ezer eve.
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