Bohemia (Czech Republic)
|Bohemia (green) in present-day Czech Republic. Moravia in blue,
Silesia in ocre. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
From a manuscript of the Benedictine monastery at Raigern in Moravia we learn why Anabaptism did not achieve the same significance in Bohemia as in the adjacent Moravia, and why Anabaptist emissaries were able to go only to the German inhabitants. They were strenuously opposed not only by Catholicism, but also by the Czech Utraquists and the Bohemian Brethren. There was probably no lack of attempts on the part of the Anabaptists to gain a footing in Bohemia.
The appearance of Thomas Müntzer at Prague in 1521, where he preached in the churches of Bethlehem and Corpus Christi in Latin and German, and excited the populace, has, to be sure, nothing to do with the Anabaptist movement; but from the documents concerning court trials of 1527 in Ansbach and in Passau of 1528 it is known that the Anabaptist movement had gained some ground in southern Bohemia. The former records reported that an Anabaptist lay in prison a year and seven weeks in Bohemia, and was released as if by a miracle; the latter reported that in addition to Hans Reichenberger another Anabaptist, Hans, called the kleine Männdel, was engaged in southern Bohemia as an Anabaptist missionary.
In the town of Krumau in Bohemia Anabaptists gathered from the congregation of Hans Hut in neighboring Austria. When they learned of Jakob Hutter's activity in Moravia, 80 of them went from Krumau to the brotherhood in Austerlitz in 1529. Of these 80, only a small number came originally from Krumau. Even Hans Amon, their leader, who was very influential in Tyrol both before and after the migration, was a native of Bavaria. After 1529 there was also an Anabaptist congregation in Krumau.
When the situation of the Anabaptists in Moravia deteriorated in consequence of the Münster affair, one after another moved to Bohemia, until finally the Diet of 1534 passed severe mandates to prevent further immigration. One of the Anabaptists seized in Passau in the following year on their way out of Moravia and tried was Hans Betz of Eger, a weaver and poet who confessed his intention of going home. He remained imprisoned in Passau "for the sake of divine truth, and fell asleep in the Lord" there.
It was doubtless as a stroke against Anabaptist propaganda in Bohemia, that the Moravian Brethren, for fear of being considered Anabaptist, formally abandoned the doctrine of rebaptism upon transfer of membership, at the Bunzlau Synod in 1534. From this time on one rarely meets an Anabaptist in Bohemia, except in Krumau. A remarkable personality among them was Klain Michel, or as he was called by his companions because of his trade, Michael Säfensieder or Seifensieder, of Wallern in Bohemia. The story of his sufferings was told in letters written by him and by his fellow sufferers. Having been sent to the brotherhood in Tyrol by Hans Amon in Moravia, he was imprisoned with two companions "in the sodomitic city of Vienna" and courageously confessed his faith. He knew the Czech language, for he wrote his wife a "Bohemian letter" from prison; his wife was Czech, and his children did not know German. He asked her, in case Brethren appear looking for work, to receive them and learn from them how to rear children. The letter indicates that the Anabaptists maintained connections with Bohemia. Michel Säfensieder and his two companions "endured death like mighty knights and lovers of God. They were burned to powder on Friday, March 31, 1536, in Vienna."
In the following year Hans Amon sent two epistles to the church in Krumau. In the first he demanded complete union with the Moravian church; in the second he sends hearty greetings to persons mentioned by name and requested the prayers of the congregation. The bearer of this letter was Peter Walpot, who was chosen as head of the entire Hutterite brotherhood in 1565. "It is our greatest joy," wrote Amon, "to hear of your prosperity, that you are of one mind and are contending for the divine truth."
In the following decades the Bohemian Anabaptists were rarely mentioned. In the brotherhood in Moravia there were occasionally persons like "Bohemian David," or "Kasper Seidelmann, named Böhm," or "Gregory the Wicked," mentioned in 1550 and 1551 in the histories of the Hutterites, who came from the German parts of Bohemia. A detailed report of 23 August 1556 about Jörg Körber from Bohemian-Aicha, has been preserved.
Among the Moravian Anabaptists there were skilled physicians. One of these, George Zobel, was called to the bedside of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague in 1581. "By the blessing of God the Emperor was raised to health through him." Eighteen years later Zobel's knowledge and help were again required by the imperial court.
When the well-known Moravian statesman, Karl von Zierotin, journeyed through Bohemia in September 1590, he found some Anabaptists near Elbogen, who were just returning to Moravia from an unsuccessful attempt at migration to Germany. We do not know whether or not they engaged in missionary work at Elbogen, as was their custom. The number of Anabaptists in Bohemia was certainly insignificant. The catastrophe which befell Protestantism after White Mountain ended their existence in Moravia and Bohemia.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 242.
Loserth, Johann. "Deutschböhmische Wiedertäufer." Mittheilungen des Vereines für Geschichte der Deutschen in Böhmen 30:4 (1891/92).
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 382-383. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Loserth, Johann. "Bohemia (Czech Republic)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B649.html.
APA style: Loserth, Johann. (1953). Bohemia (Czech Republic). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B649.html.