Voices of the Churches, Voices of the Nationalities

Competing Loyalties in the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament (1867 - 1918)

by Andreea Dăncilă-Ineoan (Author) Marius Eppel (Author) Ovidiu-Emil Iudean (Author)
©2019 Monographs 260 Pages


The volume directs its focus to the House of Magnates in the Hungarian Parliament. There, the Churches were granted voices through the inclusion of higher clergymen who stood for the confessions institutionalized in Transleithania. These clergymen gave voice not only to the concerns of their particular denomination, but also to the worries of the nationalities which took cover under the spiritual shepherd’s mantle. Therefore, the political roles that they assumed as members of the Upper House entailed the handling of multiple loyalties: towards the state, their national groups, or their own Churches. The parliamentary discourses they produced provide a chronicle of the political exercise in this environment and also allow a better understanding of the modernization of Dualist Hungary.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Premises
  • Methodology
  • 1. Clergymen in the House of Magnates and the Political Life in Dualist Hungary
  • 1.1 Political Outline
  • 1.2 The 1885 Reform from a Confessional Perspective
  • 1.3 The Clergy-Magnate Group: A Collective Profile
  • 2 The Institutional Ecclesiastical Landscape of Dualist Hungary
  • 2.1 The Catholic Church
  • 2.2 The Reformed Church
  • 2.3 The Lutheran Evangelical Church
  • 2.4 The Unitarian Church
  • 2.5 The Orthodox Church
  • 2.6 The Greek Catholic Church
  • 3 The Debate on the Civil Marriage
  • 3.1 The Catholic Church versus the Liberal Hungarian Government
  • 3.2 The Catholics versus the Protestants
  • 3.3 The Orthodox Churches versus the Idea of the National Unitary Hungarian State
  • 4 The Debate on the Free Exercise of Religion
  • 4.1 The Catholic Church versus the Hungarian Liberal State
  • 4.2 The Catholic Church versus the Protestant Church
  • 4.3 The Orthodox Church versus the Hungarian Unitary State
  • 5 The Debate on the Priests’ Congrua
  • 5.1 Quid Pro Quo: The Battle for Authority
  • 5.2 Strategies of Representation: Building Legitimacy
  • 5.3 Competing Models of Priestly Qualification
  • 5.4 Educators and Spiritual Shepherds: A New Hierarchy?
  • 5.5 Church versus State in Disciplining the Clergy
  • 6 The Debate on the Trefort Law
  • 6.1 Languages of Patriotism: Speaking as a Citizen or as a Believer?
  • 6.2 The Magyarisation Attempt behind the Legislative Project
  • 6.3 Professional Incentives for Learning Hungarian
  • 6.4 Imposing State Control over the Educational Body
  • 7 The Debate on the Apponyi Law
  • 7.1 The Attack on the Ecclesiastical Autonomy versus the Reinforcement of the Hungarian National Unitary State
  • 7.2 The Premises of an Ecclesiastical Opposition against the Apponyian Project
  • 7.3 The Deconstruction of the Legislative Project in the House of Magnates
  • 7.4 Patriotism as Defined by the Ecclesiastical Elites
  • 7.5 State and Church in the Competition for Confessional Teachers
  • Final Remarks
  • Annex 1. List of Higher Clergymen in the House of Magnates (1867–1918)
  • List of Figures
  • List of Table
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Persons


←10 | 11→

As researchers dealing with the history of Dualist Hungary, from various perspectives (cultural, political, or ecclesiastical), when we embarked on the endeavour which resulted in the present volume, we were at first surprised that this topic had not yet been tackled. This was all the more surprising, as it has almost become a commonplace in Central European historiography that by employing the three concepts of Church, State, and Nation as analytical lenses, what had previously appeared as a hazy and nebulous image of the past begins to gain increasingly clearer contours. Certainly, although we are not arguing that the dynamics of modernity in this area, and in Dualist Hungary in particular, can be reduced to this conceptual “Holy Trinity”, we feel that without at least acknowledging it, only partial and disconnected narratives will emerge.

We therefore decided to direct our focus to what we regarded as the nursery of this conceptual triad, where we expected it to have made its appearance most visibly: the House of Magnates of the Hungarian Parliament during Dualism. Because we anchored our enquiry primarily in one of the three terms – the Church – we elected to explore this locus of tradition, rather than its more dynamic counterpart, the House of Representatives. It was in the House of Magnates that the Hungarian sense of permanence was safeguarded, and where the Churches were granted literal voices through the inclusion of members of the higher clergy who stood for all of the confessions institutionalised in Transleithania.1 These clergymen-Magnates on whom we focused our gaze were however rather elusive figures, giving voice not only to the concerns of their particular denomination, but also to the worries of the nationalities which took cover under the spiritual shepherd’s mantle. The third cornerstone in the triad – the State – had, in its turn, to contend with both of these forces – Churches and Nations – in its quest for what might now appear as contradictory notions: Hungarian national unity, on the one hand, and modernization following a liberal model, on the other.

Because the evolution of the kaleidoscopic configurations assumed by the triad emerged most visibly at times when one of the three concepts was put to question, we decided to focus primarily on two types of legislative endeavours, which were prone to elicit such conflictual situations: bills targeting the division ←11 | 12→between the ecclesiastical and the state spheres (the introduction of civil marriage, the control over confessional education, etc.), or projects aiming to refashion the state into a Hungarian unitary entity, which also drew out forceful reactions from the Churches of national minorities (the Trefort and Apponyi laws, etc.).

We based our enquiry primarily on the discourses produced by these clergymen-Magnates during the debates on the aforementioned pieces of legislation, but also included a necessary prosopographic dimension to our approach, in order to contour this group’s collective profile in all its relevant aspects. To this we added a bird’s-eye view of the political background of Dualist Hungary, which helped us clarify the profile of the state actors who voiced this part of the triad’s concerns, as well as an overview of the ecclesiastical framework operating in this area at the time.

While we acknowledge that the present endeavour has not exhausted either the sources or the topic at hand, we believe that by going beyond nationally focused historiographies, and by embracing the entirety of the clergy-Magnate group and of the nationalities concealed under its mantle, we have managed to shed light on a broad landscape. From this summit, many other worthwhile research pathways have become visible, while a useful point of reference has been established. Social historians of Central Europe will find particularly generous discussions of matters such as citizenship, marriage, social-professional strategies and income inequalities in the present work, which should help to clarify a number of phenomena generally explored in connected historiographic fields. What is more, although some readers may find that our focus on the Orthodox, Greek Catholic and Romanian perspectives was too great from a comparative, holistic viewpoint, we admit that while this was owed primarily to our own research background and expertise, we believe to have also shed sufficient light on the other confessions and ethnicities involved in the narrative.

Given these arguments, the scope of our analysis, and the advantages derived from its point of focus, we believe that it was therefore not only the next natural step on our research agendas, but even more, a necessary and worthwhile endeavour. We trust our readers will agree with this sentiment after having perused the volume.

The publication of this volume was possible due to the project titled “The Voices of the Churches, the Voices of the Nationalities: Competing Loyalties in the House of Magnates of the Hungarian Parliament (1867–1918)” (Vocile Bisericilor, Vocile Naționalităților. Loialități concurente în Casa Magnaților din Parlamentului Ungariei (1867–1918)), PNII-RU-TE-2014-4-1231, which was undertaken between 2015 and 2017. All of the project team members – Marius Eppel, Andreea Dăncilă-Ineoan, Ovidiu Emil Iudean, Eszter Szabó, and Renata ←12 | 13→Orbán – have helped to bring this work to fruition, in one way or another. We also express our gratitude to our colleague, Nicoleta Hegeduș, who dealt with the translation of Hungarian texts, and to Ioana Găurean, who has managed to provide us with an accurate and insightful English translation of our Romanian-language text. A word of thanks also goes to the entire editorial team at the Peter Lang Publishing Group, for their patience and diligence in seeing this manuscript brought to light.

Finally, we would like to thank our families for the constancy with which they have supported us throughout this endeavour.

The authors.

Cluj-Napoca, September 2017.

←13 |

1 This would occur only after 1885, when the Reform of the House of Magnates meant that the representatives of Protestant and Reformed Churches were also admitted to this forum of discussion.


For the researchers interested in the manner in which the State-Church relations were articulated in the tense context of the modern era, Dualist Hungary represents a particularly fruitful case study. The confessional and ethnic diversity characterising this state, which could hardly be encountered within the borders of any other state structure in the second half of the 19th century, was responsible for producing spectacular dialogues between the secular and ecclesiastical authorities.2 ←14 | 15→

Although the nationalist theorists have cleared the 19th century of its “confessionalism” by strongly advocating the idea that the modern nations could only be imagined within secular parameters, new directions of research on the addressed period of time seek to reintroduce confessional aspects within historical analyses.3 For the 19th century, rather than employing some Manichaeism between religion and the nation, the analyses oriented towards the hybridisation processes of synthesis and interaction of the two spheres are better suited.4

For many years, the dominant historiographical discourse was the one supporting the narrative of secularisation and modernity, leading to an inexorable decline of religiosity. However, in this volume we are joining the more recent approach, which adheres to the following conclusion: “one must recognise ←15 | 16→that Western Europe is the great exception that demands explanations, not the norm that presages developments in the rest of the world”.5

The problematic overlap between the political and the religious spheres in modern Hungary is perhaps most interestingly summarised by an expression which gained notoriety in Rome: “Episcopi Hungarici sunt magis politici quam catholici”.6 Nonetheless, one should not assume that only in the case of the Catholic Church such tensions of identity and positional crises appeared regarding the secular or ecclesiastical authority. As the present work will reveal, each and every ecclesiastical actor in Dualist Hungary was interested in initiating negotiations with the political factors in order to help preserve or gain, as the case may be, a most advantageous position.

Nonetheless, this dynamic picture involving multiple variables and unstable relations of power should be understood within the parameters of a well-established framework. The law article 44/1868, known in history as the Law of Nationalities, stated from its very first paragraph: “In accordance with the fundamental principles of the Constitution, all citizens of Hungary form – from a political point of view – a nation: the Hungarian unitary and indivisible nation, part of which is every citizen of the Hungarian homeland in an equal manner, regardless of ethnical background”.7 Thereafter, we consider the lines quoted above as setting the scene on which the Church-State relations evolved in Dualist Hungary. This law article would also create the greatest tensions in the relationship between the minorities and the central authorities, on the one hand, and the ecclesiastical and political spheres, on the other. What is more, the same legal provision was also the most visible thorn of contention in the relations between the Churches, minorities, and central authorities. The Church represented the red thread situated at the intersection between all these instances of identification and cohesion. In other words, it can be said that, throughout the period between 1867 and 1918, the dispute concerning political and ethnical loyalties would reverberate strongly in Dualist Hungary’s ecclesiastical field.

Especially after 1867, the religious denominations and the consciousness of belonging to one Church or another became the essential factors in ←16 | 17→the transformation of Hungary’s national minorities into “pre-1918 genuine nations”.8

Whereas the Hungarian nationalists saw the above-mentioned article of law as affirming the principle of a unitary and indivisible Hungarian state, the national minorities living in Hungary remembered the article for its refusal to recognise them as political nations.9

In order to be able to understand the relations of power in Transleithania, some distinctions that were in function in Dualist Hungary must be explained – distinctions which, as will be seen, justify the reactions of both the secular and the ecclesial institutions. In this ethnical conglomerate, the term of “nation” implied “a fully mature nationality which has reached its complete independence as a state building organism”, whereas the term “nationality” implied “a struggling national entity which under the sway of a dominant nation has not yet reached its complete independence”.10 In the Transleithanian context, Hungary represented the only constitutional and privileged nation, while the Romanian, Slovak, Serb, or Ruthenian were nationalities perceived by the dominant state as being very likely to organise themselves into or to join rival states. The only exception to this rule was Croatia, which was considered a political nation and enjoyed a large autonomy.11

Some researchers consider that the aforementioned article of law from 1868 favoured the phenomenon of separate multilingualism, given that the nationalities gained the right of setting up their own schools and of choosing the language of instruction in the classrooms.12 This is what explains the high percentage of ←17 | 18→monolinguals (77 %) in Hungary – namely those people who could speak only one language and hence were able to communicate only within the limits of their own ethnic group.13

In the attempts of the governmental authorities to consolidate the domestic Hungarian project, more often than not, the preferred discourses traced the rift between the Hungarian nation and the cohabiting nationalities.14 The authorities sought to make the non-Hungarian ethnic groups vulnerable by ignoring the existing legislation which had represented the foundation of the Dualist construct, while at the same time adopting discriminatory legislation in its stead. Under these circumstances, the Hungarian parliamentary institution became a strategic arena which had to work as efficiently as possible and not to be disturbed by the presence of the ethnic minorities’ representatives.

In Dualist Hungary, only about 6 % of the citizens had the right to vote.15 From the total number of 413 members of the Hungarian Parliament, the non-Hungarian minorities’ parties reached a maximum of 25 representatives in 1906 but had merely 8 in the last legislature before the Great War. Thus, throughout the second half of the 19th century, the ethnical parliamentary representatives were an insignificant minority in the Hungarian legislature.16 Under these conditions, in the case of the national minorities in Dualist Hungary it is difficult to assume the existence of a wide category of “professional politicians”, given the fact that only a small number of non-Hungarian individuals had access to the exercise of high policy design. Therefore, it is worthwhile to inquire who represented the Romanians, Serbs, Slovaks, or Ruthenians in the political dialogue with the Hungarian state, besides these very few party leaders who had entered the Lower House of the Hungarian Parliament with great difficulty. How could the Hungarian central authorities be made aware of the official aspirations of the other ethnic groups living in Hungary and establish negotiations with them?

←18 | 19→

Apart from the few political leaders who had to undergo the elective process in order to enter the Lower House of the Parliament, the national minorities in Hungary had a chance at representation in the Upper House of the legislature, through those who held membership by virtue of their office: the bishops. The bishops became a consecrated channel through which the ethnic minorities in Dualist Hungary gained access to the deliberative exercise of the House of Magnates. Through the voices of the bishops, the nationalities built within the parliamentary structure their platform of claims.

The modern Hungarian Parliament was bicameral. The Upper House (the equivalent of the House of Lords) was known as the House of Magnates and included ex officio the representatives of all the recognised Churches. Having a flexible number of members – before the 1885 reform reaching as many as 800 members, and being limited to only 350 in its aftermath – the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament comprised 50 to 60 high prelates (their number varying as well, depending on the vacancies of episcopal sees), metropolitans and bishops, representatives of the dioceses on the territory of Transleithania, all of them forming a genuine spiritual aristocracy.17 Once a legislative initiative obtained the assent of the House of Representatives, it had to receive a majority vote in the House of Magnates before it could become law. By definition a conservative institution during the period of Dualism, the House of Magnates tended to be a passive, non-intrusive legislative partner, with several notable exceptions, as shall be seen. In other words, it usually did not stand in the way of the projects of Hungarian liberalism.18 From 1867 to 1918, it was the House of Representatives that functioned as the main decisional body of the Hungarian Parliament, operating like a genuine legislative laboratory that reflected the dynamic pace of modernisation in society.19

Although by virtue of being “anointed by the Lord” the identitary reference for these hierarchs was primarily confessional, the political role they had to play on the benches of the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament often put them ←19 | 20→in the position of managing multiple loyalties, caught between the State, the national groups they represented, and even certain political parties. The speeches produced by this clerical elite can certainly be read within the parameters of the political exercise which was performed in Hungary over a period of time heavily marked by polemical effervescence. The political modernisation of Dualist Hungary cannot be understood without recovering the reactions, strategies, and stakes that these hierarchs with multiple agendas had.

This is, in fact, the goal of this volume: to examine the way in which the representatives of the Churches in Dualist Hungary took part in the political exercise, given the fact that for the non-Hungarian minority groups the role assumed by their bishops in the House of Magnates was of utmost importance for ensuring national resilience.

According to the 1900 census, 51.5 % of the population of Hungary declared itself to be Roman Catholic, 9.6 % Greek Catholic, 12.7 % belonged to the Reformed Church, 14.6 % to the Orthodox Church, 6.7 % to the Lutheran Church, 0.3 % to the Unitarian Church, and 4.4 % adhered to the Jewish faith.20 A three-phase system of religious cults obtained in Hungary. The first category comprised the Churches recognised by the state, which also received governmental subsidies and enjoyed full freedom and autonomy. Those were the Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, Unitarian, Greek Catholic, and Orthodox Churches. The highest representatives of these Churches were ex officio members of the House of Magnates.21 From 1895, Judaism joined this privileged group, although it would gain representation in the legislature only in the interwar period. The second category included denominations recognised by the state, which had the right to freely exercise their religious rituals, but did not receive governmental subsidies. This category included the Baptists and Muslims. The final group included the denominations that were not recognised by the state, or at best were tacitly tolerated, as well as those not entitled to lawfully operate according to the regulations of the right of association.22

The first category makes the subject of this volume. Apart from identifying the bishops present in the House of Magnates in a data-base manner, this study sought to create a group portrait of these high level clergymen, as well as analyse ←20 | 21→the discursive positions they adopted during the debates in the Upper House. Within the dynamic landscape of Dualist Hungary, the socio-professional category analysed by this study appears to be a special case in the manner they negotiated conflicting positions of authority. Moreover, these hierarchs, through the networks they coordinated and which they were obliged to represent, can be considered a significant elite segment of Dualist Hungary.

This intersection of competences assumed by the hierarchs present at the parliamentary sessions, sometimes in a more visible manner, while other times more discretely, was responsible for some rather unusual reactions when legislative projects considered sensitive for both the State and the non-Hungarian minorities were under debate. This attributional overlap was also shaped by the specificity of each clergyman’s ecclesial structure.

Although one could assume these ecclesiastical actors to be politically innocent, or as working towards goals of a rather celestial nature, incompatible with the mundane of the Hungarian Parliament, their presence in the House of Magnates obliged them to play the part of political actors. Hence, this meant that the ecclesiastical leaders grew willing to resort to all the strategies implied by political negotiation.

The challenges of the Hungarian society in the second half of the 19th century have plenty to offer to the researcher interested in analysing the impact of modernisation on a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural environment, where the dominant Hungarian nation was permanently involved in debates with the other nationalities. What did the politicisation of ethnicity – the principle on which the modernisation of politics is based 23 – mean for this region?


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
House of Magnates Dualist Hungary Parliamentary discourse Church National minorities Ecclesiastical elite
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warsawa, Wien, 2019, 260 p., 2 ill. color, 2 tab. b/w

Biographical notes

Andreea Dăncilă-Ineoan (Author) Marius Eppel (Author) Ovidiu-Emil Iudean (Author)

Andreea Dăncilă-Ineoan, Marius Eppel, and Ovidiu Emil Iudean are researchers at the Centre for Population Studies of the Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca (Romania). Their research focuses on the political, cultural and ecclesiastical history of Dualist Hungary.


Title: Voices of the Churches, Voices of the Nationalities
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261 pages