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Window to the wide world

The study trips of the former students of the Reformed College to faraway towns of Europe were in the focus of the conference titled “Four Windows,” organised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Debrecen.

The title is a reference to the large stained glass windows installed in the Aula of the Main Building of the University in 1938, the work of Miksa Róth, stained glass and mosaic artist, which depict the important stations of the “peregrination” of the students from Debrecen: Zurich, Utrecht, Wittenberg and Geneva, along with the names of the four traditional university faculties: Jurisprudentia, Philosophia, Medicina, and Theologia.

The conference was held on 27 September, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Reformation, with Károly Fekete, bishop of the Trans-Tisza Reformed Church District, as well as the ambassadors of the countries concerned – Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany – giving lectures on the shared traditions going back several centuries, as well as the cross-border educational links.

“Former students of the College visited these countries on several occasions in the 17th and 18th centuries in order to broaden their horizons, just as their contemporary counterparts do, who now enrich their knowledge, both in Hungary and – similarly to their ancestors – abroad, as students of the University of Debrecen, the higher education institution offering the widest range of educational programmes,” said Elek Bartha, vice rector for education, in his opening address.

“The past is part of the shared memories, and it is these shared traditions that we celebrate today together, in the Aula of the university, in the spirit of scholarship, and on the occasion of the five century anniversary celebration of Reformation. As we evoke the past, our task is to carry forward the traditions into the future, cherishing them as Hungarians, Germans, Europeans alike, in the interest of our shared future,” said in his presentation Volkmar Wenzel, ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany.

“For a long time, history was more gracious with the Netherlands that with Hungary, but this does not change the fact that we are friends to each other,” emphasised René van Hell. The Ambassador-Designate of the Netherlands also highlighted the importance of Dutch-Hungarian cultural relationships, adding that the two countries have a strong alliance in the European Union, in NATO and in the United Nations.

“The basis of the Reformation is the freedom that unites all people, believers and non-believers alike. The long-lasting effect of Reformation still manifests itself in the fields of the freedom of conscience, the right to education, as well as the equal opportunity for genders. This is why it is possible to celebrate beyond church congregations,” pointed out Peter Burkhard, the ambassador of Switzerland.

In his lecture titled “The Effects of Reformation on the History of Education in Debrecen,” Károly Fekete, bishop of the Trans-Tisza Reformed Church District, emphasised the efforts of the Reformed College in the foundation of the Hungarian Royal University of Debrecen, the legal predecessor of the University of Debrecen. He discussed the effects of Reformation over the course of educational history, evoking the contributions of the most outstanding personalities of the past centuries, whose names are commemorated carved in stone in the Ceremonial Hall of the Main Building.

After the conference, an exhibition was opened showcasing a few of the most cherished treasures of the Great Library of the Reformed College. Some of the volumes displayed came to Debrecen centuries ago through the efforts of former itinerant students.

Press Office