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Personalities & Contemporary Witnesses

THE REVOLUTIONARY:
Thomas Müntzer

1489-1525

Thomas Müntzer

Thomas Müntzer was born 1489 in the town of Stolberg in the Harz Mountains. Prior to moving to Leipzig to attend the University in 1506 and to Frankfurt (Oder) after that, he lived in Quedlinburg. Müntzer was ordained a Catholic priest in the diocese of Halberstadt and would go on to serve at the Church of St. Michael in Brunswick. Subsequently, he took up the office of prefect in a community of canonesses near Aschersleben. There, he founded a private school where the sons of well-to-do burgesses were instructed. In 1520, he left Aschersleben and would visit Prague, Jena, Erfurt, Weimar and Halle. Shortly before Easter of 1523, Müntzer was made pastor of St. John’s Church in Allstedt. There he would marry Ottilie von Gersen from the House of Heygendorf, an escaped nun. During this period, Müntzer worked on reforming the Liturgy. His goal was to make German the language of mass. Simultaneously, he was the leader of the "Allstedt League", a federation of armed peasants, miners and artisans.

Müntzer lost his post in Allstedt after delivering the so-called Sermon to the Princes ("Fürstenpredigt") to the Elector, John the Steadfast, and to his sohn John Frederick I. In it, he not only called upon the German princes to cease their resistence to the Reformation but was harshly critical of the social evils of the time. The people of Mühlhausen elected Müntzer to be pastor of the local church of St. Mary’s. He joined on the side of the peasants and emerged as one of the leading figures of the German Peasants’ War in Thuringia. Initially, Müntzer had been a follower of Luther. His resistance was not just aimed at ecclesiastical authorities however; it took the secular order into its vizier as well. It was this revolutionary endeavour which led Luther to distance himself from Müntzer when the Peasants’ War broke out.

After the Battle of Frankenhausen, he was captured and brought to the fortification at Heldrungen. There Müntzer was tortured on the orders of Ernest II, Count von Mansfeld-Vorderort. Incarcerated in the Tower of Heldrungen, he composed a letter to the rebels, pleading with them to cease the fighting in order to prevent any further bloodshed. Thomas Müntzer was publicly decapitated near Mühlhausen on 27 May 1525, his body and head mounted on stakes as a warning to all.

Overview

Born around 1489 in Stolberg
Died on 27 May 1525 at Mühlhausen
Dedicated follower and admirer of Martin Luther

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