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Mennonite anniversary reminds us of Münster rebellion

Today's almanac listing mentions the anniversary of the Mennonites arriving in Pennsylvania on this day in 1683, where they established Germantown, now a neighborhood of Philadelphia, and a personal reminder to me that my father had classes in German in his north Philly public school in the 1930s.

The Mennonites were part of the fringe radical Anabaptists who for over a hundred years before buying some space for themselves in PA had been stealing land and causing havoc in the Holy Roman Empire, notably a rebellion in Münster in 1534-35 which was quashed by an odd alliance of Lutherans and Catholics to oust them from the city.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Münster_rebellion

We here in the USA usually think of Mennonites as the slightly more liberal version of the Amish, who also settled nearby in Lancaster County, PA, but in the European context they were reformers who were less horrible than most Protestants in the sense that they were relatively egalitarian, which of course Lutherans had no patience for. There was no shortage of anti-Catholic sentiment in Germany and the Low Countries at that time, but the Anabaptist precursors of the Mennonites who took over Münster were much too anti-authoritarian for most Lutherans' tastes, and they were besieged and violently removed by the bishop's army.
At the end of the siege, the leaders 485 years ago were tortured and executed and their bodies displayed in cages at St. Lambert's Church.

What are other highlights of violent religious activity in the Münster area that we can check out as visitors (eventually)?

Posted by
1253 posts

Some of my Ancestors were followers of William Penn and were charged with establishing new Quaker Communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. After reading historical documents; in my own opinion, they sought "religious freedom" so they could more importantly succeed in business. The Quakers were always looking for land deals. They made a lot of land transactions after bailing out people who had overextended or had no practical ideas on what to do with their land by taking it for payment. They did make land purchases from Tribal people, too.

Posted by
3172 posts

We didn’t know this historical connection between Münster and the colony in PA prior to our living near Münster in 1990. It was very sobering to learn about the siege of Münster and walk by the impressive St. Lambert’s church and look up on the steeple above the clock and see the 3 cages hanging there to this day where the leader’s bodies were put on display.

“After lengthy resistance, the city was taken by the besiegers on June 24, 1535 and John of Leiden and several other prominent Anabaptist leaders were captured and imprisoned. In January 1536 John of Leiden, Bernhard Knipperdolling and one more prominent follower, Bernhard Krechting, were tortured and executed in the marketplace of Münster. Their bodies were exhibited in cages which hung from the steeple of St. Lambert's Church. The bones were removed later, but the cages hang there still.”

Posted by
8172 posts

My understanding of Germantown is different - William Penn came to Frankfurt in 1677, to raise money for his colony in the New World. The Frankfurt Land Company was formed and they raised enough money to buy 15,000 acres in what is today, Philidelphia. This area is called Germantown, but almost got named Germanopolis.

Posted by
1953 posts

Very interesting, Ms. Jo -- here are some local links to check out:

https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/historic-germantown-new-knowledge-in-a-very-old-neighborhood-2/

https://www.germantownhistory.org/museum.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Daniel_Pastorius

The listing on Pastorius seems to largely agree with your understanding, Ms. Jo
but as with most things it gets polished over time and has all its rough edges removed.

Posted by
1814 posts

in the European context they were reformers who were less horrible than most Protestants in the sense that they were relatively egalitarian

That's certainly true for the beginnings of the Münster Anabaptist movement. But from 1534 onwards it developed into a radical dictatorship, and all those of other faiths were expelled from the city and their property either confiscated or destroyed. The head of the movement, Jan van Leyden, established a radical communism and polygamy and finally appointed himself king John I. At its end, the "Münster Anbaptist Empire" had surpassed by far all the cruelties that had been known up to then from the side of both Catholics and Lutherans.

What are other highlights of violent religious activity in the Münster area that we can check out as visitors (eventually)?

The biggest highlight of religious activity associated with Münster has nothing to do with violence but with peace. In the town hall there was signed the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 (by the Catholic party, while the Protestants signed it in Osnabrück), which ended the Thirty Years' War. The hall is open to the public.

Posted by
1253 posts

Thanks avirosemail for supplying the links about Germantown. I am just now educating myself via Ancestry as to my genealogy. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, my more recent ancestors who arrived here, with the Building of the Transcontinental Railroads, were looking to the Future so didn't really keep track of anything before the Civil War. Most were English Colonists in the 1600s, until the mid 1800s, when my Catholic Germans from Saarland immigrated to avoid being recruited into another French-German War. They married the English with whom they tried Farming in Wisconsin and the Muellers founded Millerville, Minnesota now pop 104, with 20 of mine in the cemetery. Eventually, more opportunities were available in Spokane, Washington. WWII, my Dad joined the Navy and my Mom moved to Seattle to work for Boeing.

Posted by
1953 posts

In recognition of this thread for lunch today I am wrapping some sliced Muenster around some franks and squeezing brown mustard over them :-)

Posted by
1953 posts

I'm working so I will pretend that I'm drinking a spezi with these dogs...