Christianity Knowledge Base

Hungary is a country in Europe. It is mostly Roman Catholic (54.5%), with 15.9% Calvinists and 3% Lutheran.


In the past[]

The majority of Hungarian people became Christian in the 10th century. Hungary's first king, Saint Stephen, took up Western Christianity, although his mother, Sarolt, was baptized in the eastern rite. Hungary remained predominantly Catholic until the 16th century, when the Reformation took place and, as a result, first Lutheranism, then soon afterwards Calvinism became the religion of almost the entire population. In the second half of the 16th century, however, Jesuits led a successful campaign of counterreformation among the Hungarians. Jesuits founded educational institutions, including the oldest university that still exists in Hungary (Péter Pázmány), but they organized so-called missions too in order to promote popular piety. By the 17th century, once again, Hungary became predominantly Catholic. The eastern parts of the country, however, especially around Debrecen ("the Calvinist Vatican") and Transylvania (except the majority of the Székelys), remained predominantly Protestant.

Orthodox Christianity in Hungary has been the religion mainly of some national minorities in the country, notably, Romanians, Rusyns and Ukrainians, Serbs.

Hungary has been the home of a sizable Armenian community as well. They still worship according to the Armenian liturgical rite, but they have reunited with the Church of Rome (Armenian Catholics) under the primacy of the Pope. According to the same pattern, a significant number of Byzantine Rite Christians became re-united with the rest of the Catholic world (Greek Catholics).

Hungary has been the home of a significant number of Jews since the Early Middle Ages, in fact, the largest synagogue in Europe is in Budapest. However, even Hungarian Jews did not escape the Holocaust during World War II, and hundreds of thousands of them were either deported to concentration camps or simply executed.


According to the last official census (2001), about three quarters of the citizens of Hungary (74.6%) claimed to belong to a particular religious denomination.[1] Most of the Hungarians professed to be Catholics (54.5%), whereas among the numerous Protestant confessions Calvinism (15.9%) and Lutheranism (3%) are the most populous. It is remarkable, however, the number of those who did not wish to give a straight answer regarding religious affiliation (10.1%). This phenomenon goes back probably to the turbulent religious history of the country, when citizens were persecuted on basis of their religious background, notably, the substantial Jewish community during World War II., and also the faithful Christians during communism.

The number of non-religious people in Hungary is 14.5%, which corresponds, approximately, to the proportion of non-religious people in other European countries. This does not mean, however, that the rest of the population consists of frequent churchgoers. Frequent religious attendance, that is to say, going to the church at least once a week, is about 12% in Hungary, which is, again, very much the European average.


The history of Hungary begins with the pagan Magyars, led by Árpád, who crossed the Carpathian Mountains in 895, and defeated the Bavarian army in 907. They began a series of raids in France, Germany and Italy until defeated by Holy Roman Emperor Otto I on August 10, 955. The Magyars continued to raid in the Balkan peninsula until defeated by the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes. The Byzantine Empire allied with the Holy Roman Empire in 972, and the Magyars were contained.

In 985, Géza of Hungary, prince of the Magyars, was baptized by Bruno of Querfurt. Geza continued to worship the old false gods along with the true God. Hungary was established as a Christian kingdom by Geza's son, Saint Stephen I of Hungary, on December 25, 1000, as recognized by Pope Sylvester II. Stephen died in 1038 and was canonized in 1083. During the Great Schism of 1054, most Christians in Hungary sided with the Roman Catholics.

Hungary remained independent, but internal power struggles weakened the nation during the time of the Mongul invasions. Hungary was defeated by the Mongols on April 11, 1241. The Monguls retreated in 1242 after the death of the Mongul leader, Ögedei Khan. King Bela IV began a long period of resconstruction. The Arpad line ended in 1301 with the death of King Andrew III, and Hungary fell into anarchy.

Starting in 1308, Hungary was ruled by a series of foreign rulers, the Angevin dynasty, who traced their lineage back to the Anjou province of France. King Charles I, whose grandmother was Hungarian, was the first ruler of the dynasty. His son Louis I reigned over Croatia, Dalmatia and Poland as well as Hungary.

The Angevin dynasty ruled until 1490, when the Jagiellon dynasty (originally from Lithuania) took over. The Jagiellons ruled until 1526. Hungary was then defeated by Suleyman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire (officially Muslim). Protected from Rome, Protestant missionaries established churches in Ottoman-controled Romania, especially in the region of Transylvania. In 1568, the Edict of Turda declared Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism and Unitarianism as accepted, while the Eastern Orthodox Church was tolerated. The region of Transylvania regained autonomy as a principality under Ottoman rule in 1571. The Habsburg dynasty of the empire of Austria claimed some of the eastern regions of Hungary, known as Royal Hungary.

In 1699, the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the Great Turkish war, and the Austrian Habsburgs claimed those regions of Hungary that had been under Ottoman rule. On March 15, 1848, revolution broke out in Hungary, but the rebels were defeated by Austria and Russia. In 1867, the "dual monarchy" federation of Austria-Hungary was created. Austria-Hungary was dissolved in 1918.

The independent nation of Hungary was a democracy (ruled by the "Whites") but the Communists (the "reds") ruled briefly from March 21 until August 6, 1919; under Communist rule, Hungary became a satelite republic of the Soviet Union. Under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920, Hungary lost about 2/3 of its land area. Hungary drifted to the right and was an ally of Germany during World War II. The Soviet army occupied Hungary and set up a communist regime, the People's Republic of Hungary, in 1949. In 1956, Hungary revolted against communist rule, was invaded by the Soviet Union, and remained a communist nation until 1988. On May 2, 1989, Hungary dismantled 150 miles of barbed wire fencing (the "iron curtain,"), thus opening its border to Western Europe. In May 1990]], Hungary held its first free, democratic elections since before World War I.

Patron Saints[]

  • Astricus
  • Gerard Segrado
  • Our Lady of Hungary
  • Stephen of Hungary
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