Evangelical Lutheran
Theological Faculty
Comenius University in Bratislava

History

History of the Faculty

 

Beginnings, 1918-1948

Following the First World War and the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian dual monarchy, a common Czechoslovak state was established in 1918.

This newly established state reorganized its educational system and Comenius University was founded in 1919. For the first time in its history, Slovak students were able to receive education to the highest degree in their native language, representing a time of heightened cultural, scientific, and educational development in Slovakia.

The first President of the Czechoslovak Republic, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, supported the efforts of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession to found a state supported theological institution. A theological school in Bratislava was re-organized and named the Slovak Evangelical (Lutheran) Academy.

Its first academic year began on the 20th of October, 1919, on Konventa Street 13 in the building of the former Evangelical Lyceum. This date marks the official founding of the current Theological Faculty.

In 1921 the Academy was renamed the Theological College of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Czechoslovak Republic, in order to avoid confusion with academies which were secondary schools.

In 1934 the College became a state institution, although not within the structure of Comenius University, and renamed the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Czechoslovakia. The state secured funding for the activities of the faculty, as the church continued to finance the teaching staff who often remained active as congregational pastors. At this time, separate departments of Philosophy, the Old Testament, the New Testament, History of the Church and Dogma, Systematic, and Practical Theology were established. 

In 1939 after the destruction of the united Czechoslovak Republic by Hitler’s Germany, the school was again renamed the Slovak Evangelical Theological Faculty, and retained this name even after the restoration of the Czechoslovak Republic after the Second World War.

 

Period of State Control, 1948-1989

Following the assumption of power by the communists in 1948, the faculty was severely restricted by administrative regulations and practices of the communist authorities.

In 1950, under authority of the Ministry of Culture, the Department of Philosophy became the Department of Philosophical Religion and later the Department of the Theory of Religion. At the insistence of the communist state authorities, a Department of Social Science was established to teach Marxist-Leninism and its instructors sought to convince students to accept the "confession" of the officially atheistic state. This department was abolished in 1989.

From 1950 until 1992, habilitation of docents or professors did not take place. The faculty was limited to five instructors and in 1954, facing pressure from the state and the public, the faculty and its dormitory were moved 30km outside of the capital city to the building of a former Lutheran orphanage in the town of Modra, where it resided until the end of 1961.

When it returned to Bratislava in 1963, it had to use facilities of a Bratislava congregation on Konventna Street. Students were housed in another nearby building on Panenska Street that previously housed the pastors of the German Lutherans in Bratislava. Later some facilities in another parish house on Legionarska Street were also used to provide housing for students; however the student body was small. Between 1971 and 1991 the number of graduates fluctuated between 4, in 1979, and 16 in 1975, and averaged about 9 per year. As the state provides funding based on the number of incoming students, the small student body created financial limitations for the development of the faculty. 


 

Transitions and Today, 1989-present

Following the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989 and dissolution of the communist state, the faculty experienced rapid and significant changes.

In 1990 it was legally incorporated into Comenius University, the oldest Slovak university, and was renamed, for the last time, the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava, a name it retains to this day. It thus became a part of the network of state schools, introducing new legitimating and accreditation standards, specifically pedagogical and academic preparation and scholarly productivity.

Due to the increasing size of the faculty, the faculty moved once again in 1991 to new premises on Svoradova.

It receives state support for basic operational activities but it is inadequate to meet the responsibilities of educating a much larger number of students. Whereas during the 1960s and 70s the student body normally did not exceed two dozen students, the five year program currently enrolls almost ten times as many with about 200 students from five countries studying at the faculty. Since 1995 an average of 36 individuals complete their studies each year.

This rapid increase in the number of students put extreme pressures upon the budget of the institution, upon the teaching and administrative staff of the faculty, and taxed to the limits the facility on Svoradova Street where the faculty was temporarily housed.

The first step was to address the personnel problem of the faculty, as new instructors joined the staff. In addition to utilizing professors from other countries (including visiting professors from the United States and Germany), doctoral studies were encouraged and doctorate students encouraged to take pedagogical roles. Our current doctoral students enjoy teaching and research positions, as well as the opportunity to participate in a Summer Institute of Theology, begun in 2001.

The second step was to realize the dream, expressed by Professor Ján Jamnický, Dean of the Faculty in 1934, that the faculty would have its own facility. In 1994 the Church agreed to construct a new building on a site purchased from the state, located on Bartokova 8, Bratislava Machnáč.

With some funding from the state, the church, and local congregations, the Faculty is also indebted to the Lutheran World Federation, Synods, churches, and individual donors from across Europe and North America. Construction began in 1996, and on the 3rd of October, 1999 the building of the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Comenius University was consecrated into the service of the church.

A third challenge facing the faculty is the continued investment into developing and improving the quality of theological education. A major focus is to continue expanding the faculty’s access to standard reference resources and literature, as acquisitions during the second half of the twentieth century were virtually halted. Technological resources and electronic materials are also being regularly added to the collection.

Finally, in accordance with university regulations, the faculty has begun introducing a system of instruction based upon credit courses that will not only promote mobility within the university and abroad but will also encourage curricular reform that will be able to more effectively respond to the challenges of theological education in the twenty-first century. In addition to theology, the faculty trains students for social diaconia work and religious pedagogy for primary and secondary schools.

Today the faculty is looking to increase its presence on the public stage and strengthen its practical value and core theological tradition. This includes responding to the challenge of internationalization, and opening its doors to the potential of international academic exchange and instruction in the English language.