Reformators : Huldrych Zwingli

A radical group of reformers, valled the ANABAPTISTS, manifested themselves in the early 1520es. Demagogic preachers such as MELCHIOR HOFMANN, THOMAS MUENTZER and others rejected infant baptism, stating that only adults could conciously accept baptism. They demanded that every christian should learn to read and write, and, by himself, interpret the holy scripture; hence they rejected any church organization, even priesthood. Based on the Old Testament, some anabaptist groups even practised POLYGAMY. An early document of Anabaptist thought is the SCHLEITHEIM CONFESSION of 1527.
Anabaptist preachers found an audience among both peasants and among the artisans of towns. The preachers combined teaching their new, simple religious doctrine with a social agenda - the equality of men. WHEN ADAM DUG AND EVE SPUN, WHERE WAS THEN THE NOBLEMAN ? This was the motto of the GERMAN PEASANTS' WAR, in which Thomas Muentzer was one of the main agitators. At many locations, Anabaptist preachers stirred up and led iconoclastic mobs.
No wonder the authorities reacted with violent suppression; even Martin Luther spoke out against 'the murderous rabble of peasants'. Anabaptists were persecuted, and if arrested, tortured and executed.
In 1534 a group of Dutch Anabaptists, fleeing the Inquisition in the Netherlands, was accepted into the North German city of MUENSTER. After a short time, they took over the government of the city, elected one of them, JAN VAN LEIDEN, king, declared the end of the world to have come, doomsday just around the corner. They sent messengers - the 12 "apostles" to nearby cities, asking the people there to follow their lead - these "apostles" all were executed. In Muenster, all property was proclaimed public property - and that included the women.
The city's lord - the bishop of Muenster - collected an army and laid siege to his city; it fell after a year and the leaders of the anabaptists were executed.
Having met such violent suppression, the surviving groups of Anabaptists (in Switzerland, the Palatine, Friesland) adopted strict non-violence : THOU SHALL NOT KILL. In Friesland, preacher MENNO SIMONS had many followers, the MENNONITES; like the Amish, Anabaptist emigrants from Palatine, they reject modern inventions as work of the devil, and they refuse to serve in the army. The introduction of mandatory military service caused entire Mennonite communities to emigrate, from Germany to Russia, from Russia to the US, from the US to Mexico. These communities live rather isolated from the surrounding world; Mennonite communities in Mexici still speak an 18th century German, hardly use modern appliances, and refise to carry weapons. They usually have large families (8-10 children are not rare) and they are very diligent farmers.

Article Melchior Hofmann, from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 edition
Biography of Menno Simons, from
History of the Mennonites, from infoplease, from, from
Tal Howard, Charisma and History: The Case of Munster, Westphalia, 1534-1535, from Essays in History
DOCUMENTS Schleitheim Confession, from; also from
Thomas Muentzer, Sermon to the Princes

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on December 25th 2002


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