Founded in 1538, the Reformed College has provided primary, secondary and higher education from the beginning. As the mother institution of hundreds of smaller affiliated schools, the College became a nationwide centre of gifted and talented education. Due to its impressive foreign contacts and high academic standards, the college also became the cradle of the state university that evolved from the school’s academic sections in the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the College’s prominent professors were György Maróthi, the founder of the first Hungarian four-part choir called Kántus, which still exists today; the polyhistor István Hatvani and the historian Ézsaiás Budai. Several eminent figures of Hungarian culture went to the College, such as the poets Mihály Vitéz Csokonai, Ferenc Kölcsey, János Arany and Endre Ady; the natural scientists János Irinyi and Endre Hőgyes; the politicians Kálmán Tisza and István Tisza. Zsigmond Móricz’s classic young adult novel entitled Be Faithful Unto Death is also set in the College.
The closed quadrangular shape of the College building evolved by the end of the 17th century, when, fleeing from the Turks, the students and professors of the Várad Reformed College found shelter in Debrecen. The southern, neoclassical front of the present-day building was constructed in 1803-1816 according to the plans of Mihály Péchy, while the further wings designed by Alajos Vasél were completed by 1875. Today the building houses the Debrecen Reformed Theological University, the Great Library, which holds 600. 000 volumes, and the Museum of School History and Ecclesiastical Art. The dormitories of the Reformed College can be found in the Hunyadi street wing of the complex.
In 2013, the College was pronounced a Site of the Hungarian National Memory, due to the fact that in the first months of 1849 the Hungarian National Assembly held sessions in its Oratory. On 13 April, proposed by Governor Lajos Kossuth, the Assembly adopted the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed the dethronement of the Habsburgs.
On the façade of the building and under the ground floor arcades you can see reliefs of prominent teachers and students of the institution, along with those of the two Swiss reformers, Calvin and Zwingli.
The Oratory, the Great Library and the exhibitions are open on Mon – Sat, 10 a. m – 4 p.m.