The Liberation of 26 Hungarian Reformed Ministers

30 June 2010 by Wes Bredenhof

I’m currently reading Spiritual Desertion by Gisbertus Voetius and Johannes Hoornbeeck.  This seventeenth-century work  includes a helpful historical introduction by M. Eugene Oosterhaven.  In this introduction is a fascinating story that I’ve never heard of before, related to the picture above.  To set the context, Oosterhaven has another picture that includes this caption:

Among the theological students of Voetius and Hoornbeeck were scores of Hungarians who pondered the possibility of their kin and country being abandoned by God.  Muslim Turks had occupied Hungary since 1526.  Their cruelty and exploitation of the people shocked all of Europe.  However, Jesuits and Hapsburg rulers, in the service of Rome, were the cause of even greater suffering.

Then this is the caption that goes with the picture I’ve included above:

The liberation of Hungarian ministers at Naples by Admiral de Ruyter, 1676.  The men pictured had been sold to a Spanish fleet to serve as galley slaves.  Chained to oars day and night for nine months, some had struggled with the fear of abandonment by God as well as their fellow believers.  The twenty-six survivors sang Psalms 46, 114, and 125 as they were being transferred to a Dutch ship on February 11, 1676.  When the transfer was complete, they knelt on the deck in their rags and emaciated condition and sang Psalm 116.  The Dutch seamen, who seldom shed tears, wept openly.

How did the Dutch know that the Hungarians (who spoke no Dutch) were singing Psalms 46, 114, 125 and 116?  Because they were singing them in Hungarian on the Genevan tunes.  The Psalms are still being sung in Hungary in this fashion.

8 responses to “The Liberation of 26 Hungarian Reformed Ministers”

  1. That’s a great Psalm tune setting on the Hungarian website… Great variation on the Genevan tunes. Wish there were more, but I can’t find them online!

  2. Liberation of Hungarian Ministers and Psalm Singing…

    Wes Bredenhof has the story. What a marvelous thing to read, to have that kind of unity with men that don’t speak your language and seen in singing the Psalms. It is a true crime against God that the Psalms do not unite the Reformed churches arou…

  3. We are a young church plant, actually a new Reformed denomination in Germany, and we sing them (not exclusively, but primarily!). Old Geneva tunes.

  4. Stephen says:

    Yes, I would say this is an inidividual interpretation. If you go to a Hungarian Reformed Church, you will hear the standard Genevan tunes, with organ backing.

  5. When Hungary celebrated the 325 anniversary of these men, we published a news article on that subject in English. If you ever visit Debreczen, Hungary, be certain to take a picture of the monument which acknowledges Admiral De Ruyter’s action on behalf of persecuted Christians.
    We too must pray for those persecuted Christians today and actively speak out on their behalf.
    See more on the Hungarian anniversary at

    You can find more about this subject online. The 26 were part of an effort to silence about 800 Hungarians ministers in all. Those who were released, became refugees in the Netherlands.

Leave a Reply