Himmelberg, Anthoni (d. 1660)
Anthoni Himmelberg (Anthoni Hinnelberg in van Braght's Martyrs' Mirror, also called Anthi Wäber), was a Swiss Mennonite preacher who in spite of 27 months of imprisonment remained true to his faith. He was a native of Wattenwyl in the Seftigen district of Bern. Because he was a zealous defender of Anabaptist principles he was imprisoned in the Bern penitentiary and orphanage on 24 June 1658. He had been in this notorious prison over a year with several other brethren, when the Dutch Mennonites began to intervene for their release (see Bern). On 9 October 1659, Abraham Heidanus, professor of theology at the University of Leiden, at the request of the Mennonites of Holland, wrote to Prof. Christof Luthard, a member of the recent Täuferkommission in Bern, which had charge of the orphanage, requesting lenience toward the Swiss Mennonites. On 24 October Hans Flamingh also wrote him a long letter, lamenting reports from the Palatinate and Alsace that the Bern government was imprisoning the Mennonites, naming Anthoni Himmelberg among others.
These letters may have been the reason why on 20 January 1660, several of the Mennonite prisoners were cross-examined. The court records of these trials are found in the Bern archives (De Anabaptistis Varia. Kirchenwesen II, 131, No. 16). The questions covered 16 points. The first to be tried was Rudolf Wirtz of Kulm; the second was Himmelberg. "He will do nothing at all or adapt himself in any way, but remains absolutely by his faith. Beyond this he requests pity, but he wants to have patience for whatever God wants to do with them." His reply to point eight, "whether the Anabaptists would have their marriages blessed by the church," and to point nine, "whether for the furtherance of truth in high, important matters, an oath or pledge could be given," was this: "He would do neither the one nor the other." He also refused to name the other preachers or lay members.
The outcome was that the Mennonites had to return to prison. The committee then debated whether they should proceed by banishing the prisoners or holding them in prison (Ratszedel of 13 February 1660). They decided on the latter course on the following considerations: (1) It would be like approval of their sect to send them where their doctrine is openly preached; (2) Those who remained would be strengthened by those who left; (3) Thereby more would be led into error; (4) Exile to their brethren would be too lenient a punishment to deter their spread; (5) Imprisonment is more frightening and also makes it possible to continue efforts to convert them.
In the meantime intervention had been made by the States-General of Holland, and the cities Amsterdam and Rotterdam; the Dutch ambassador de Vreede was permitted to visit the imprisoned Mennonites. The question of exile was again opened, and the Mennonites questioned again. All remained steadfast. When Himmelberg was asked whether he would deny his faith or rather leave the canton, never to return, he replied that on account of physical weakness he begged for mercy, but that he would remain true to his faith and would willingly leave the canton.
When the council saw that their efforts at conversion were of no avail, they decided on 28 August 1660 to expel all the prisoners except Himmelberg, who was too ill. On 10 September 1660 they were taken by boat to Brugg, and from there to the border, where de Vreede presumably received them. The directors of the orphanage were asked to give "Anthoni Himmelberg something more in food and drink for the close of his life" (Ratsmanual 139, 323). Broken by his long imprisonment and apparently by malnutrition, he died 25 October 1660 at the orphanage.
One stanza of the "Dürsrüttilied" commemorates his death.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doops-gesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, Y, 1685: II, 826.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 1124. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm
Court records of the Bern Staatsarchiv as follows: De Anabaptistis Varia. Kirchenwesen: II, 131, especially Nos. 14, 16, 33, 37.
Fluri, Adolf. Beiträge zur Geschichte der bernischen Täufer. Bern: G. Grunau, 1912: No. 2, p. 17.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 316 f.
Mandatenbuch 8: 189 f.
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 173-191.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 743-744. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Geiser, Samuel. "Himmelberg, Anthoni (d. 1660)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/himmelberg_anthoni_d._1660.
APA style: Geiser, Samuel. (1956). Himmelberg, Anthoni (d. 1660). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/himmelberg_anthoni_d._1660.