Historie – Otázky – Problémy

The Life of František Barkóczy – a Hungarian Church Dignitary on the Path from the Baroque towards the Enlightenment


Abstract: The paper follows the ecclesiastical and political career of Ferenc Barkóczy, Bishop of Eger (1744–1761) and Archbishop of Esztergom (1761–1765), as well as an important patron of arts, schools and education. As the Bishop of Eger, he markedly contributed to the renewal of the diocese after its destruction by the Ottoman army. In Eger he founded a printing office and a bishop´s library and supported the editing of books. The higher bishops school which he established in Eger was the first higher Catholic educational institution in Hungary which was not administrated by members of a religious order.
F. Barkóczy was the leading person in the fight against the influence of Jesuits in the fields of schools and education. In the year 1760, according to his order, the administration of the seminary in Košice was removed from the Jesuits, and in 1761 he decided on the transfer of Pazmaneum from Vienna to Trnava and its merger with the seminaries there. He was aware of the competencies of the bishop and he wanted to utilize them fairly over the Catholic institutions in the territory of his diocese, even at the expense of state power or religious orders. In spite of obvious disputes in opinion on the role of state and church in society, F. Barkóczy enjoyed the support of the Viennese court until the beginning of the Bratislava diet in 1764. The Hungarian diet in the years 1764 and1765 is considered as the breaking point where the Hungarian bishops in favor of reform, including F. Barkóczy, left the position of the Catholic Reform and became opponents of the Enlightenment. The Hungarian bishops thereafter became the leaders of opposition, headed by the Archbishop of Esztergom, against the reform measures proposed by Maria Theresa.
Ferenc Barkóczy belonged to the group of Central European ecclesiastical dignitaries who understood the need for change in the church, under the influence of the new ideas, and helped to realize these changes according to the possibilities and circumstances on offer. By these reforms they made the first step to the new age under the influence of the Enlightenment, secularization and rationalization thus preparing the basis for the later ecclesiastical reforms. At the same time, they held onto the combative era of the Counter-Reformation and the Baroque, which in the case of F. Barkóczy was expressed in the form of his personal piety, widespread among believers, as an irreconcilable attitude to Protestants.

Key words: Hungary; Ferenc Barkóczy; Enlightenment; Reform Catholicism