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Muenster Anabaptists

Muenster Anabaptists

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Published by: Charles Cobalt Forsythe on Jun 22, 2010
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Krahn, Cornelius, Nanne van der Zijpp and James M. Stayer. "Münster Anabaptists." Global AnabaptistMennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 April2009http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M850.html
“Münster Anabaptists”
* 1957 Articleo Reformation of Münster o Anabaptism in Münster o After 1535o Münster in the Presso Münster in Fiction, Drama, and Arto Münster Anabaptists in the Netherlands* 1987 UpdateMünster (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)Source: Wikipedia CommonsMünster (Muenster) Anabaptists are also called "Münsterites". Münster, capital (1955 population, 150,000;2005 population, 270,176; coordinates: 51° 57′ 46.6″ N, 7° 37′ 43.3″ E) of Westphalia, Germany, has auniversity, has been a bishop's see since the 8th century, and became a member of the Hanseatic League duringthe 13th century. The buildings in the center of the city revealed its bloom during the Middle Ages until WorldWar II, when 90 per cent of them were destroyed. Most famous among its churches are the cathedral (1225), St.Ludger (1200), St. Martin (14th century), and the Gothic St. Lambert (14th century). The population of Münster is predominantly Roman Catholic.
Reformation of Münster
In 1532-1535 Münster became a center of radical Anabaptism, in which many persecuted religious and socialreformers found refuge. Peculiar economic, social, and religious conditions in the city brought this about. Thecity was ruled by a city council and the bishop, who had his own court. The fact that Münster was a member of the Hanseatic League speeded up the participation of the guilds of the city in public affairs. At the time of theReformation, the guilds participated in the government, leaving the common people in the background. WhenLuther's reformation spread, his ideas were brought into the city by merchants. The cathedral school of Münster spread Humanism. Early religious reformers were Johann Glandorp and Adolf Clarenbach. By 1524 thereligious reform movement was assuming definite forms. The Peasant Revolt of 1525 stirred the masses of Münster, who began to demand improvements in economic, social, and religious conditions. Criticism wasdirected against some monasteries which were creating strong competition for the weaving industry. By 1527Bernhard Knipperdolling had become the leader of the masses.In 1531 the religious unrest of the city received stimulation and guidance from Bernhard Rothmann, a former  priest who had visited Wittenberg and Strasbourg, and was in touch with the reformers of these centers. He preached the Lutheran message. When the authorities wanted to stop him, he was protected by the powerfulguilds of the city. During the same year he published a confession of faith which reveals no fanatic influences.This gave direction to the masses. On 18 February 1532 the Lambert church was taken over by his followers.By 10 August of that year all the churches except the cathedral were occupied by evangelical ministers: Brixiusof Norden, Henric Rol, Gottfried Stralen, P. Wertheim, and G. Nienhoven. The guilds and the common peoplewere taking over and the council and bishops were losing out. Rol and Dionysius Vinne, representatives of theWassenberg reform movement who had arrived at the end of 1532, furthered the religious activities of the city.Early in 1533 Heinrich Staprade and Johann Klopreis, also Wassenberg reformers, arrived. The reform
movement of Münster gradually divided into two major camps: the conservative Lutheran group and thedemocratic Sacramentarian wing which was ready to accept Anabaptist ideas.
Anabaptism in Münster
Melchior Hoffman, who had spread Anabaptist beliefs and practices in East Friesland and the Netherlands since1531, also secured followers in Münster. Thus far there had been severe criticism of Catholic and someLutheran practices, but with the preaching and practice of believers' baptism the representatives of the radicalreform movement of Münster introduced a new motto and symbol. On 7 and 8 August 1533, a religiousdiscussion was held between the Wassenberg representatives adhering to Anabaptist ideas and Catholic andLutheran ministers. Those favoring Anabaptist innovations were ordered by the city council to have their children baptized. Rothmann was removed from his office. On 8 November 1533 his Bekentnisse van beydenSakramenten Doepe vnde Nachtmaele . . . was published. In addition to his name, it bore the signatures of Rol,Klopreis, Vinne, Staprade, and Stralen, dated 22 October 1533. Concerning baptism this confession says it "isdipping into water, which the candidate desires and receives as a true sign that he has died to sin, been buriedwith Christ, and arises in a new life, henceforth to walk not in the lusts of the flesh, but obediently according tothe will of God" (Keller, 131). This booklet prepared the way for the practice of baptism upon confession of faith.On 5 January 1534, Bartholomeus Boeckbinder and Willem de Cuyper, representatives of Jan Matthijs of Haarlem, who had been baptized by Melchior Hoffman, appeared in Münster. They baptized Rothmann,Klopreis, Vinne, Rol, Stralen, and Staprade. Now Jan van Leyden and Gerrit Boekbinder appeared in Münster.Gradually peaceful Anabaptism grew into a caricature. Rothmann wrote Eyne Restitution .. . which appearedOctober 1534, in which he urged a restitution of the apostolic church. On 9 February 1534 the city hall wasseized, and on 23 February Bernhard Knipperdolling became mayor of Münster. On 27 February all those whorefused to be baptized were expelled from the city. Johann Lenning and Theodor Fabricius, who had been sentto Münster by Philipp of Hesse to restore the evangelical order, had to leave without accomplishing their task.Münster became the refuge of all persecuted, desperate people and the "New Jerusalem" of radical Anabaptism.Evangelists spread the news that the Lord had chosen Münster to establish His kingdom on earth. Particularlymany of the sorely oppressed Dutch Anabaptists, who were suffering severely under Catholic authorities,considered this a God-sent message. Many sailed from Amsterdam and other cities across the Zuiderzee enroute to the "New Jerusalem." Most of them were arrested and returned to their homes, or imprisoned, many being put to death. Others were prevented by the magistrate from leaving their home communities. Nevertheless, large numbers succeeded in reaching Münster.Meanwhile, Bishop Franz of Waldeck, the ruler of the territory, had begun the siege of the city. Already beforethis event the original Anabaptist principle of nonresistance had been weakened through the fanatical view thatthe "children of Jacob" would be actively engaged in helping God punish and annihilate the "children of Esau,"at the time of the establishment of the kingdom of God. On 4 April 1534 Jan Matthijs, a fanatical representativeof this view, was suddenly seized by a foolhardy inspiration to go outside the city walls with a few followers todisperse the besieging army, as in the days of Israel. He fell in this attempt. Jan van Leyden took his place in thecity, cleverly exploiting the situation. He appointed 12 elders and gave them authority in the city. Early in 1534he published a tract entitled Bekentones des globens und lebens der gemein Criste zu Münster (Confession of Faith and Life of the Church of Christ at Münster), which was sent to Philipp of Hesse. In December 1534Rothmann published an appeal to take up arms in revenge and in defense of the church of Christ at Münster (Eyn gantz troestlick bericht van der Wrake unde straffe des Babilonischen gruwels . . .). A unique episode inthe drama of Münster was Hille Feicken who sacrificed herself in an attempt to kill the bishop as Judith had beheaded Holofernes in Israel. She was captured and put to death.In addition to armed resistance, two new characteristics were soon promoted by Jan van Leyden. One of them,not entirely unknown in Anabaptist history, was the principle of community of goods. Marxian writers like K.Kautsky (Vorläufer des neueren Sozialismus, 3rd ed., Berlin, 1947), and scholars like Hans van Schubert have
investigated and presented the basis and the purpose of this institution of community of goods. Schubert (Der Kommunismus der Wiedertäufer in Münster und seine Quellen, Heidelberg, 1919) attempted to trace the idea of the community of goods back to early Christian writers and Plato. One has the feeling that it is hard to establishan unbroken line of this principle from Plato to the Münsterites. The Bible-reading Anabaptists, interested in therestitution of the early Christian church, found enough information and inspiration in the Jerusalem church, inwhich community of goods was practiced. In their attempt to establish a "New Jerusalem" they simply imitatedthe pattern before them.More complicated is the reason for introducing polygamy. Jan van Leyden introduced it against the judgment of some of the more serious ministers such as Rothmann, Rol, and Klopreis. It probably was originally an impulseof the "king of the new Zion." On the other hand, in the "New Jerusalem," the capital of the "New Israel" inwhich the children of light were fighting the children of darkness, according to the pattern of Israel in the OldTestament, "King David" could with the same justification introduce this Old Testament practice. In addition tothis, it served at the same time as a social welfare practice since the number of men continued to decreaseduring the siege of the city. One of Jan van Leyden's wives was "Queen" Divara, the widow of Jan Matthijs;another wife was the daughter of Bernhard Knipperdolling.The New Testament beliefs of the Anabaptist movement of Swiss background were transplanted to Strasbourg,where the Lutheran lay evangelist Melchior Hoffman became superficially acquainted with them. In Münster they were transformed through the fanaticism of Jan Matthijs and Jan van Leyden into a carnal Old Testament-oriented earthly "kingdom of God." Not much of the early vision, spirit, and essence of Anabaptism wereretained. Naturally it is hard to distribute a proper balance of the blame for this development. The ruthless persecution which Anabaptists underwent in the Low Countries could produce only fanaticism among peoplewithout true leadership, seeing no way out.Jan van Leyden found some opposition. Rol and some others who did not agree with Jan van Leyden had leftMünster in the spring of 1534. A revolt led by Heinrich Mollenhecke was brutally suppressed. On 31 August1534 a second powerful attack of the besiegers was repulsed after which Jan van Leyden was proclaimed "kingof the New Zion" by Johann Dusentschuer (Jeremiah 23:2-6; Ezekiel 37:21). Jan had a throne erected at themarket square where he held court. Anybody who opposed the dictator was crushed. One of Jan van Leyden'sambassadors was Jan van Geelen, who traveled through the Netherlands recruiting followers for the "NewJerusalem" at Münster, distributing Rothmann's latest book, Van der Wrake (Concerning Revenge), and tryingto create "Zions" in the Netherlands at Amsterdam and Bolsward. Jan van Leyden sent out 27 apostles,including Vinne, Klopreis, Stralen, and Slachtscaep, most of whom were put to death. The expected help fromthe Netherlands could not reach Münster, although individuals succeeded in getting into the city. Jan vanLeyden with a small male population managed to keep the enemy outside the walls. The aged and ill were sentoutside the city in order to preserve the meager supplies. Finally on 25 June 1535 the bishop's army gainedentrance through betrayal from within. Heinrich Gresbeck led a group through a gate into the city. Jan vanLeyden, Bernhard Knipperdolling, and Bernhard Krechting were cruelly tortured, displayed in various parts of the country, and put to death on 23 January 1536. Their corpses were hung on the tower of St. Lambert'schurch. The cages are still hanging on the same tower. Most of the male population were put to death; only afew, e.g., Hinrich Krechting managed to escape. Rothmann evidently also escaped, although no trace of himwas ever found.After 1535Scholars do not agree what the future religious affiliation of Münster would have been if the Anabaptistcatastrophe had not occurred. The Catholic writer Tücking states that without the will of the bishop theReformation would not have succeeded in Münster nor any other place. Ludwig Keller, on the other hand, statesthat if it had not been for the Anabaptists, the city of Münster would have remained evangelical like some of theneighboring cities. Brune says that it is a tragedy that Hermann von Wied, Duke of Cleve, and Franz vonWaldeck, who later favored the Reformation, prevented it at this time. Although it is true that Protestantism was

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