Pázmány Péter (1570-1637)

Born in Várad, 4th October 1570.

PMagyar irodalmi arcképcsarnokéter Pázmány was the son of Calvinist nobility. His father was Miklós Bihar Pázmány, his mother Margit Massai.

In 1580 he started his education in Várad. In 1582 his widowed father married the Catholic Borbála Toldy. In 1583, due to the influence of his stepmother and István Szántó, the first Hungarian Jesuit, he became a Catholic and from 1583 to 1587 was a student of the Jesuit Grammar School in Kolozsvár (today Cluj, Romania). In 1587/88 he completed the first year of philosophy and entered the Jesuit order. From 1588 to 1590 he was in the novitiate in Krakow, with half a year spent in Jaroslaw.

From the autumn of 1590 to the spring of 1593, he studied philosophy in Vienna. Because of his excellent abilities, his superiors sent him to Rome. In the period 1593-97 he was a student of theology at the Collegio Romano, in the last year completing his third probationary year. In 1597, after a total of ten years systematic learning, he was awarded a Ph.D. degree and was ordained a priest.

From 1597 to 1600 he taught philosophy in Graz, writing five dissertations in Latin. In 1598 he was appointed to lead the Department of Humanities at the University. He taught St. Thomas Aquinas’ Aristotelian system (dialectics, physics, metaphysics).

On 15th October 1600, he was sent to Vágsellye (Šaľa in present-day Slovakia) as a Hungarian confessor, then in February 1601 to Kassa (Košice in present-day Slovakia).

In the summer of 1602, with his Response to István Magyari’s book On the Causes of the Great Ruination of Countries (Trnava, 1603) he started his series of polemics.

Between 1603 and 1607, he again taught in Graz, this time theology. He wrote his Prayer Book (Graz, 1606). Its popularity is shown by the fact that three more editions appeared during the life of the author (1610, 1625, 1631).
On November 4, 1606 he became a Doctor of Theology.

In November 1607 he returned to Hungary permanently, and together with Ferenc Forgách, Archbishop of Esztergom, became the leader of the emerging Catholic renewal. In 1608, at the Parliament in Bratislava, he objected to the decision to exile the Jesuits. He reconverted many noble families back to Catholicism.
In 1609 he attacked Péter Alvinci in an ironic pamphlet (Five Beautiful Letters, p. 1609). In the same year he retorted to Alvinci’s quick response (A Scrutiny of Alvinci’s Response, Bratislava, 1609).

Another pamphlet, The God of the Great Credo of John Calvin (Trnava, 1609) so outraged the Protestants that they demanded his prosecution.

Drawing lessons from his beliefs, Pázmány finally compiled his main work, the great synthesis of the defence of the Catholic faith, Kalauz – A Guide to Divine Truth (Bratislava, 1613). His subsequent polemical writings defend the theses of Kalauz (The Calvinist preachers [...] mirror of perfection, Vienna, 1614; Csepregi’s Trade, ibid. 1614, under the nom de plume Miklós Szyl; Csepregi’s religion of shame, Prague, 1616).

In Rome, between 15th December 1614 and 24th January 1615, Pázmány defended himself against accusations of an alleged libertine lifestyle and Protestant connections. Superior General of the Jesuits, Claudio Aquaviva, dissuaded him from joining the Carthusians.

After the death of Archbishop Forgách on 16th October 1615, both the Viennese court and the Hungarian Catholic Church saw in him the only likely successor. The pope dispensed him from his Jesuit vows and he was proclaimed provost of Turóc. In 1616 he was appointed Archbishop of Esztergom. He also became Chancellor of Hungary and played a major role in the royal council. Pázmány supported the election of Ferdinand II to the Hungarian throne and crowned him king on 1st July 1618.

During Bethlen’s campaigns, he resided mostly in Vienna and was a participant in the peace talks.
He founded a Hungarian seminary, the Pázmáneum, in Vienna in 1623. He translated Thomas à Kempis’ work Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis’ Four Books, Vienna, 1624). In his dedication to this work, he formulated one of the age’s characteristic principles of translation: for him, equally important requirements were “an explanation of the meaning” and “the kindly way of speaking”, that is, contentual precision and the elegant Hungarian style.

In opposition to Fridericus Balvinus, a theological professor from Wittenberg who had responded to his Kalauz in Latin (1626), Pázmány wrote in Hungarian The Leader of the Lutherans who Hides behind the Dark Star of Morning (Pozsony, 1627), emphasizing his deliberate choice of Hungarian over Latin: “And though I know Latin, since I wrote Kalauz for Hungarians in Hungarian, for the spiritual healing of my nation, I also want to write in its defence in Hungarian. I know nobody is in opposition to this. For if someone else is allowed to respond to a Hungarian book in Latin, it cannot be forbidden for me to respond to a Latin book in Hungarian.”
On 19th November 1629, Pope Urban VIII made him a cardinal.

In the spring of 1632 in Rome he acted as the envoy of Ferdinand II. He was unable to fulfil his mission as he failed to persuade the Pope to embrace the interests of the Habsburg dynasty.

In 1635 he founded a university in Trnava, initially just with a faculty of theology, entrusting its leadership to the Jesuits.

In 1636 he successfully mediated between Prince György Rákóczi I and István Bethlen in the fight for the throne of Transylvania. He had already emphasized the need for a strong Transylvania, independent of the Habsburgs: “Protestant Transylvania is a guarantee of Hungarian freedom, and Catholic Hungary is a guarantee that the heart of Hungary remains Catholic.”

In Bratislava, he published a collection of around a hundred of his sermons, the result of 40 years activity as a preacher.

He preached for the last time at Christmas in 1636.

He died on 19th March 1637, in Bratislava. He was buried there, according to his will, in the crypt of St. Martin’s Cathedral.