Péchi, Simon°

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PÉCHI, SIMON ° (c. 1567–c. 1639), Hungarian statesman, poet, and author, leader of the Judaizing "Sabbatarian" sect. Born in Transylvania, Péchi was at first employed as tutor of A. Eössy's children; Eössy, the founder of the sect, introduced him to the court of Prince Stephen Báthory. As emissary of Báthory, Péchi set out on his political travels to Romania and Turkey and even reached Italy and Africa. There he probably acquired a knowledge of Hebrew. From 1613 he was chancellor of Transylvania under the rule of Prince Gabriel Bethlen. In 1621 he was imprisoned for reasons which are unknown but was subsequently set free. During the reign of Prince George Rákóczy, his position was so strong that he was even authorized to propagate his views in public.

In a description of the usages of the sect it is reported that in addition to the observance of the Sabbath, the wives of the members of this sect adopted the Jewish dietary laws. At the height of the sect's success about 20,000 Transylvanian Hungarians of the "Székely" tribe were among its members (1635). After a brief period and a change of political circumstances, a law was passed in Transylvania which rendered the members of the sect liable to the death penalty and confiscation of their property if they did not return to Christianity within one year. Péchi remained steadfast in his beliefs until 1638 but finally converted to Calvinism. Although death penalties were not applied, the property of the members of the sect was seized.

Péchi was a talented poet and author, and according to the opinion of S. *Kohn, historian of Hungarian Jewry and researcher on the "Sabbatarians," his works are of exceptional value. Péchi's translations from Psalms and the Jewish prayer book are of special importance, being the first in this area.


Á. Szilády (ed.), Péchi Simon Psalteriuma (1913); S. Kohn, A szombatosok (1889); M. Guttmann and S. Harmos, Péchi Simon szombatos imádságos könyve (1914).

[Baruch Yaron]