A play about King John Sigismund, the only Unitarian king
By Jan Gartner, adapted from the story, A Unitarian King, in A Lamp in Every Corner: A Unitarian Universalist Storybook, by Janeen K Grohsmeyer.
Written as a no-rehearsal skit for middle-elementary worship or classroom use.
Our story takes place in the mid-1500's, in the country of Hungary.
(holding baby, speaking sadly)
I'm Queen Isabella of Hungary. I've just had a baby. My husband, King John, is away fighting.
Hungary is such a sad place to live right now. Everyone is fighting. My husband fights with kings from other countries. Groups of people within Hungary are fighting with other groups of people. A lot of the warring is about religion. I wish King John would stop fighting and come home to see our baby. I wish people would talk about their differences, instead of trying to kill each other over them.
Unfortunately, King John died just two weeks after the baby was born. He never saw his son. Little baby prince John Sigismund became the new King of Hungary.
All hail King John Sigismund of Hungary!
Well, King John Sigismund was obviously way too young to rule a country! Kings from other countries took most of Hungary away from John Sigismund and kept it for themselves.
I'm taking my baby to live in a small corner of the kingdom called Transylvania. I will teach him to be a wise ruler, and I will help him put an end to all of the fighting.
(Set the baby aside.)
While the young king was growing up, the wars continued. In Transylvania, the followers of different religions kept fighting with each other. Queen Isabella died when John Sigismund was nineteen years old. It was now all up to him to try to stop the wars.
KING JOHN SIGISMUND
(speaking to one of the nobles)
What should we do? How can we stop the fighting?
ONE king, ONE country, ONE religion! Just as they do in France and Spain, we must choose ONE religion for Transylvania. Everyone will have to follow it, and then we will have no more fighting.
Hmm, I don't know. You know, my dear mother taught me that people should try to solve their differences by talking. I wonder….what if I invite people from different religions to my court to talk together?
And that's just what he did. King John Sigismund invited a number of preachers to his court for a conversation about religion.
I'm a Calvinist preacher.
I'm a Catholic preacher.
I'm a Lutheran preacher.
I'm a Greek Orthodox preacher.
I'm Francis David (pronounce DAH-veed). I'm a Christian who believes that God is one, not three. Since I think God is a unity, not a trinity, some people call me a Unitarian.
(The preachers, including Francis David, should mime animated conversation while the narrator talks.)
Of course, preachers are great talkers! They talked on and on – for days. Sometimes they argued, but they didn't fight.
Wow, I'm really impressed with Francis David, the Unitarian. He makes a lot of sense to me. I think I'm going to become a Unitarian, too.
I say: One king, one country, one religion!
I say: We need not think alike to love alike!
One king, one country, one religion!
We need not think alike to love alike!
Well, I could do what the noble suggests and make everyone in Transylvania become Unitarian, like Francis David and me. But one of the things I like best about Francis David is that he says we don't need to all think alike. Hmmm…..
King John Sigismund thought hard about what to do. He was still just a young man, and he had a big decision to make. Should he demand that everyone practice the religion that he had chosen for his own, or should he let everyone choose for themselves?
I hereby issue an Edict of Religious Toleration. I proclaim that every person can follow the religion of their own choosing. No one shall be reviled for their religion by anyone else. Francis David, I invite you to remain here to be my court preacher.
This is not quite a "happily ever after" story. King John Sigismund died at age 31, following a carriage accident. After his death, Unitarians were not always tolerated. Francis David was eventually imprisoned for his ideas, and he died in a dungeon. But because of King John Sigismund and Francis David, Unitarianism took hold in Transylvania, where it remains strong today. Unitarianism began with beliefs about the unity of God, and also came to stand for religious freedom and tolerance.