This paper as a case study is an attempt at revealing some of the previously ignored, but relevant contexts related to the phenomena of reading, listening to, or assimilating early modern sermons. Due to the survival of numerous ego-documents accounting for the everyday life of an early modern individual, Mihály Cserei (1667–1756), my interp...eration provides a microhistorical reconstruction of those moments when Cserei was either listening to or reading Catholic and Protestant sermons. As he put down his reflections recording the hermeneutical experience of listening to or reading early modern Hungarian or Latin sermons, there is a possibility to decipher the cultural, confessional, and mental intentions, biases or prejudices shaping the act of understanding. Thus, Cserei became a modelreader immortalized in the microhistorical contexts of his life, revealing some of the unknown historical anthropological features of reading and understanding in the confessionally divided culture of the early modern era.
This study is an interpretive attempt to propose new arguments regarding the emergence and evolution of early modern Hungarian patriotism. I claim that first the Protestant, and later on the Calvinist martyrologies also undertook the function of advancing various behavior patterns or discourses promoting loyalty towards the “true” church, a...nd this tendency eventually evolved into a notion of patriotism, which was equally connected to the church and the nation. Furthermore, I also argue that the reinterpreted and re-evaluated Protestant culture of martyrology delineated a certain type of narrative, the so called récit martyrologique, which became the new prototype of early modern memoires. These narratives conveyed the written testimonies of their authors’ deeds, and in fact imitated the confessions of saints and martyrs. For a Calvinist, the martyr fulfilled the functions and expectations related to one particular ideal, namely, an elected individual ready to undertake the greatest sacrifice for religion, church and fatherland.
Having surveyed the early modern European culture of martyrology and its major texts, my second objective is to reflect on their contemporary Hungarian reception. Relying on three relevant authors like István Nagy Szőnyi, János Komáromi and Miklós Bethlen, I identify the specific Hungarian uses and applications of Calvinist martyrology. In the light of these results I propose the thesis that despite their small number, Hungarian martyrologies had a significant effect on contemporary Calvinist intelligentsia, contributing to the emergence and emulation of loyalty, first towards the Church, then towards the nation and/or the Fatherland. Thus, the cultural origins of nineteenth-century Hungarian national heroes seem to reach back to the early modern martyrs of the seventeenth century.
Although the construction of martyrdom has come to the forefront in recent international research on Protestantism, there are only a few Hungarian scholars who have already examined the early modern representations of different religious and national identities from this aspect. The articles collected in this volume aim at shifting the centre o...f Western research on early modern martyrdom towards the Carpathian Basin. We analyse the interconnections, patterns and differences of textual and visual representations of Protestant martyrdom, and explore how the various Western martyr traditions were interpreted and acculturated in early modern Hungary. This volume is based on a conference held in 2011 at the University of Debrecen, and organised by the Research Group for Reformation and Early Modern Cultural History, in cooperation with other scholars of several Hungarian universities. We participate in a collaborative research project, supported by OTKA and TÁMOP funds, in order to extend our understanding of early modern martyrdom.