Name of Church

The official name of the Lutheran Church is the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia (Evanjelická cirkev augsburského vyznania na Slovensku).

That is why the words evanjelik and luterán refer to the same creed in Slovak. The only appropriate English translation of either of these words when discussing Slovakia is Lutheran or Protestant – not “evangelical” (evanjelikálny in Slovak), which has different connotations in English.

Past restrictions

Kezmarok Lutheran church

1717, Kežmarok

Lutheran, wooden,
yew and larch, covered outside with plaster

(UNESCO's World Heritage List)

Emperor Leopold I issued a decree in 1681 which banned conversions to Protestantism and allowed no more than two Lutheran churches per county, located only at the outskirts of a municipality, built of just wood with no metal, and without an integral bell tower. Few have survived, because the Lutherans rushed to replace them with brick churches after the ban was lifted in 1781.

Protestant ethnicity

Both the German and the Hungarian minorities in Slovakia have been predominantly Roman Catholic like the Slovaks.

The Germans in Slovakia were almost all Roman Catholics. The percentage of the Lutherans among them was only a fraction of what it was among the Slovaks. The German minority had its own Lutheran Church before most Germans were deported after World War II.

The Calvinist Church is formally called the Reformed Christian Church in Slovakia. Its members are mostly from the Hungarian minority, but it has a few Slovak members too.

Architecture

The Baroque was a result of the effort to help the Counter-Reformation by creating fanciful art to contrast with Protestant austerity.

Levoca, Holy Spirit

1755, Levoča

Roman Catholic, brick

Holy Spirit

Habsburg Hungary

royalhungary150

Habsburg "Royal Hungary" (including modern Slovakia in the north - yellow; R.H.'s capital Bratislava - red) at that time was a province of the Austrian Monarchy (beige), while today's Hungary was a province of the Turkish Ottoman Empire called Macaristan [madzharistan].

Lutheran history

Q: How did Slovaks become Lutheran?

Unlike most Slavic nations, the Slovaks have been pluralistic in their religious life.

Slovakia, religions

Self-declared religion, plurality by contemporary municipalities: yellow - Roman Catholic; blue - Lutheran; lighter brown - Greek Catholic (Byzantine); green - Calvinist; darker brown - Eastern Orthodox. Adapted from Štefan Poláčik, Atlas der Religionen [...] in der Slowakei.

1517+ Reformation

During the Reformation in the 16th century, not only Slovakia (usually called the Upper Country in the Kingdom of Hungary), but most of Central Europe became Protestant. Martin Luther’s reforms spread among the Slovaks and Germans, while the acceptance of John Calvin’s reforms was more usual among the Hungarians. A translation of Luther’s Catechism published in Bardejov, eastern Slovakia, in 1581 became the Slovaks' first printed book.

In 1613, the Roman Catholic Archbishop Pázmány sent a dispatch to the Vatican from Trnava, western Slovakia:

in Habsburg Hungary [i.e., mostly today’s Slovakia and western Hungary], hardly a tenth of the population are Catholics, the rest are of the Lutheran, or Calvinist persuasion.

1650s+ Counter-Reformation

During the Counter-Reformation, most of the parishes were made Roman Catholic. But the Kingdom of Hungary remained somewhat more tolerant of non-Catholic Christians than the rest of the Habsburg lands for a host of reasons. Essentially, the noblemen of all ranks were not restricted in their faith, and the religion of the nobleman, but also his attitude, decided about the religion of the farmers on his lands. As a result, the Protestant minority remained substantially more significant among the Slovaks than among the Czechs before they were joined in one country in 1918. (That is also why there was some influx of “political refugees” – Protestants – from among the Czechs during the early stages of the Counter-Reformation, which the Habsburgs started earlier and more forcefully outside of the Kingdom of Hungary.)

1781 Religious equality

After Emperor Joseph II lifted most restrictions on the Protestant Churches in all the Habsburg lands in 1781, dozens of Slovak Lutheran ministers from the Kingdom of Hungary embarked on missions to the Czech-speaking areas of the monarchy, aware that Protestantism had been all but eradicated there. Lutherans became the dominant group among the Slovak activists in the 19th century.

1930 census

According to the 1930 census, 16.7% of the population of Slovakia were members of a Protestant Church, including 12% Slovak Lutherans, 0.04% German Lutherans and 4.4% Calvinists (another 71.6% were Roman Catholics)

1950

Communist statistics did not register religion, except in 1950 when 12.9% said they were members of the Lutheran Church and another 3.2% of the Calvinist Church.

2011 census

The number of people who declare a religion has dropped since then. In the second post-communist census in 2011, 5.9% of the population said they were Lutherans (and 1.8% Calvinists; 62% Roman Catholics, 13.4% non-believers, 10.6% no response, 3.8% Greek Catholics — i.e., the Byzantine Church in the U.S., 0.9% Eastern Orthodox).

Geographic distribution

For historical reasons (see Counter-Reformation above), members of the largest Churches are not distributed evenly over Slovakia. Some are particularly dominant in certain areas.

There are over 300 municipalities with a Lutheran majority. 25 counties (okres) have a higher-than-average percentage of Lutherans. The former counties are given in parentheses below for historical, as well as current reference. The names, some in existence since the late Middle Ages, are still used in Slovakia to identify regions informally (similar to the use of, e.g., “New England” in the U.S.), but they were abolished as administrative units in 1920. The much smaller counties of 2001 are all named after their seats.

In Central Slovakia they include the counties of:

Liptovský Mikuláš 37% (formerly E. Liptov County)
Martin and Turčianske Teplice 25%-35% (formerly Turiec County)
Rožňava 22% (formerly N.E. Malohont County)
Zvolen 21%
Lučenec 19% (formerly Novohrad County)
Banská Bystrica 17% (formerly N. Zvolen County)
Veľký Krtíš 16% (formerly S.W. Novohrad/S.E. Hont Counties)
Rimavská Sobota 13% (formerly S.W. Malohont County), and more.

In West Slovakia the 2001 counties are:

Myjava 60%
Nové Mesto nad Váhom 23%
Bánovce nad Bebravou 15%
Púchov 13%
Senica 12%
Pezinok, Trenčín, and Bratislava’s Old Town have a marginally higher percentage of Lutherans too.

In East Slovakia the 2001 counties are:

Vranov nad Topľou 12% (formerly E. Šariš County)
Bardejov 9% (formerly N. Zemplín County)
Poprad 9% (formerly E. Spiš County)