Princebishopric Würzburg : Peasant Rebellion planned by the Piper of Niklashausen, 1476

In the tradition of the late medieval Mystics, on March 24th 1476 Hans Boeheim (Behem, Böhm) claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who charged him with calling upon people to give up sinful life and do penance, by doing pilgrimage to the altar of St. Mary at Niklashausen - where he held weekly sermons. He attracted tenthousands of followers, from the Main valley, some from as far as the Rhine, Swabia and Bavaria. He prophecied a judgment upon clergy, nobility and the princes. After having preached to large crowds for several months, he called upon his followers to arm themselves and come without wives, children and old folk the next week; Böhm - the Piper of Niklashausen - secretly had prepared an armed revolt.
The authorities, however, had been informed; Hans Böhm was arrested and incarcerated by men answering to Princebishop Rudolf. When c. 34,000 armed peasants assembled at the appointed day, they were without their charismatic leader. Many returned home; a force of c. 16,000, lead by Knight Kunz (Konrad) von Thunfeld, marched upon the city of Würzburg, demanding the release of Hans Böhm. After having been given (false) promises, they agreed to withdraw and disband. This being in process, they were attacked by the bishop's men, the leaders arrested and, together with Hans Böhm (who had recanted his prophecies and visions), tortured and executed.
The event is regarded a predecessor of the German Peasants War 1524-1526.

Friedrich Engels, The Peasants War in Germany, from Marx Engels Archive; here the German original (Klassiker des Marxismus-Leninismus)
Article Hans Böhm, from BBKL
DOCUMENTS List of Princebishops of W&uum;l;rzburg, from Regnal Chronologies, scroll down
REFERENCE Richard M. Wunderli, Peasant Fires: The Drummer of Niklashausen, 1992; click here for reviews
Arnold, Klaus: Niklashausen 1476. Quellen und Untersuchungen zur sozialreligiösen Bewegung des Hans Behem und zur Agrarstruktur eines spätmittelalterlichen Dorfes. (Saecula spiritualia 3) Baden-Baden 1980.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on April 2nd 2004, last revised on November 17th 2004

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