It invariably comes as a surprise to most people
to discover that there were Lutherans among the
original Danube Swabians who were part of the first
Great Swabian Migration of the 18th century
into Hungary, known as the Schwabenzug.
were officially excluded from settling in the newly
won territories taken from the Turks, but in order to
secure settlers the Emperor Charles VI was not above
making concessions with regard to his religious policy
when it came to securing the kind of colonists he
wanted even if they were Protestants.
He granted special Letters Patent providing for
the freedom to practice their religion if settling in
Hungary to those coming from Hesse, Baden and Württemberg.
The vast majority of these Lutheran settlers
arrived in the 1720’s from Hesse and settled on the
Tolna estates of Count von Mercy, the Governor of the
Banat who was at the head of the colonization
was only through his intervention that these colonists
were able to organize themselves into congregations
and secure pastors and teachers, because when they
arrived in Hungary they found themselves in the middle
of the final phase of the Counter Reformation.
Letters Patent often proved ineffective, because they
were dependent upon the good graces of the Emperor,
and that could change with the times and the seasons.
There was a sixty year long struggle on the
part of the Lutherans to establish themselves and
maintain their own church life and faith identity in
the face of ongoing persecution, both by the Jesuits
and the Hapsburgs, especially during the reign of
some Mother Churches were able to survive and provided
support to the struggling orphaned and shepherd less
particular they were the congregations in Varsad (the
oldest Swabian Lutheran congregation in the Empire),
Kismányok, Gyönk and the Reformed congregation in
the Edict of Toleration in 1781 over fifty
congregations in the counties of Tolna, Baranya and
Somogy declared themselves to be Evangelical Lutherans
and were legally allowed to organize themselves and
develop their church life, but with some continuing
restrictions placed upon them.
vast majority of the congregations who continued as
“underground churches” did so through the special
ministry of individuals who were variously called
“emergency teachers” or “Levite Lehrer”.
They functioned as illegal schoolmasters, who
also led the congregations in worship and provided
some basic pastoral care including baptism and
did not celebrate Holy Communion.
This emergency office in the life of their
churches would become the norm in the future, for
those congregations without a resident pastor, who
were associated with a Mother Church in the area.
It was this model of church life that was
brought to Hrastovac and Slavonia by the Lutheran
colonists who came from the area known as Swabian
Turkey that covered the geographical area of the
counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy.
scale Lutheran and Reformed emigration into Hungary
occurred during the third Schwabenzug under Joseph II.
These settlements were confined to the future
Batschka and the Banat and they too would become part
of the Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary,
as the Lutheran Church was then known.