Budapest is similar to Edinburgh in that the old and new parts of the city are divided, by the railway here and the river Danube there, and the two parts are connected by bridges. The bridge is also symbolic: it allows traffic and connects the two sides. So what are the symbolic bridges between Hungary and Scotland?

1. A historical bridge

Queen Margaret of Scotland (Mecseknádasd, Hungary, 10 June 1047 – Edinburgh, 16 November 1093,) Queen of Scots of Hungarian descent, who was III. Malcolm’s second wife and had a great influence on medieval Scotland, as well as a significant role in faith, contributing to the spread of Christianity in Scotland. Six sons and two daughters were born, and her descendants include the Scottish kings Alexander I and David I, and a daughter who became the wife of Henry I as Matild of Scotland, and thus the ancestor of every English queen. Margaret is buried in a Benedictine monastery in North Qeensferry (named after her), 20 km from Edinburgh, with her husband, who died in the battle against the English in 1097 with her son. The people of Scotland honoured Queen Margaret with grateful heart, and she built churches, monasteries and helped all the afflicted.

By practising deeds of mercy, she set herself in people’s hearts.

2. A real bridge: The biggest attraction of Budapest: The Chain Bridge

The first stone bridge over the Danube in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, was designed by William Tierney Clark, a British engineer, who designed several similar chain-type bridges (eg. in London). The bridge was built by the Edinburgh-born Scottish engineer Adam Clark, to whom the Hungarians are very grateful. One of the important squares and transport hubs of Budapest was named after him: the one between Chain Bridge and the tunnel under the hill of the Budapest castle, which was also built by him. Clark did not accept any awards, but he felt so good in Hungary that he eventually stayed there, married, and had three children. He also died in Budapest in 1866 and his body still rests there today.

God’s special ways will sometimes shape our personal lives!

3. The Mission Bridge

The Scottish Mission in Hungary was born under adventurous circumstances. When Scottish missionaries turned back on their way to Palestine in the mid-19th century after one of them fell off the camel carrying him (1841), they stopped on their way home at Pest, where they were forced to spend some time due to an illness, so they met the Protestant Archduchess Mary Dorothy. After helping the missionaries recover, she called for a mission station in Budapest where Scottish missionaries could help Protestants and build relationships with the Jewish community. Missionaries were coming from Scotland, and they ministered to the Scottish and English workers working on the Chain Bridge. Reverend John “Rabbi” Duncan was appointed First Pastor by the Edinburgh Jewish Commission. In addition to his personal testimonies, he built relationships with the Jewish community and spread Christian literature with the help of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The school of the Mission grew out of the original Sunday School where Jewish and Christian children could study together. The Scottish Mission has recently celebrated its 175th anniversary and whenever possible, employs a Scottish pastor.

The congregation is a welcoming community, so it can also be a home for expatriates in Budapest.

4. The bridge of sacrifice

Jane Haining was a teacher and martyr born in 1897 at Dunscore, Scotland. She lost her mother when she was five years old. Growing up, she worked in a spinning mill in Paisley for ten years. In 1932 she began working at the mission of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Budapest. The Scottish Mission operated a school for 400 Jewish and Christian children on Vörösmarty Street. Haining was on leave in Britain in 1939 when the war broke out, but she nevertheless returned to Budapest. She would have had the opportunity to return home in 1944, but she wrote to his sister, ‘If these children need me in the days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in the days of darkness?’ The Scottish Mission has also provided refuge for those fleeing political persecution. She was arrested on charges of espionage in April 1944 and, although there were various attempts to free her, she was abducted and was killed in Auschwitz on 17 July 1944. In Budapest, a long quay is named after her. On the 100th anniversary of her birth, her portrait is immortalized in a stained glass window at Queen’s Park Church in Glasgow and Dunscore Church.

The memory of the righteous is truly blessed. The Yad Vashem Institute gave her the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

5. Friendship Bridge

We are united – theologically – by the alliance of Calvin and Knox, who are both represented among the figures of the Geneva Monument of the Reformation. In addition to the Reformed Hungarians and Transylvanians, the Reformed Swiss and Dutch, the most important Reformed (Presbyterian) community is in Scotland. There are many connections between our churches, for example the Church of Scotland provides an opportunity for Hungarian theologians to study in Edinburgh, and many pastors have been scholarship holders at New College. We have a professor who was a doctorate here, and his book on the New Testament can also be found in the library. I have also brought in several groups of youth and theologians to visit the beauties of Scotland. We have often experienced the welcoming love of congregations and pastors.

May God bless and strengthen the relationships, bridges among us so that we can reach out to each other many times!

[from Rev András Bölcsföldi, bridge builder – pastor; chaplain at Hungarian Reformed College, Budapest] – András is spending his study leave here in Edinburgh. Emese, his wife, and András are worshipping with us until the end of January, when they will return to Budapest

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