Plener, Philipp (16th century)
Philipp Plener (also called Blauärmel, blue sleeves being the sign of the dyers' craft, or Weber, that is, weaver for his profession), the leader of an early Anabaptist group in 1527-35. His birthplace is not known; in some records he is called Philipp of Strasbourg, in others "of Bruchsal," indicating, however, the places of early activity rather than his birthplace. Gustav Bossert Jr. assumes that he comes from Zaisersweiher near Bruchsal, Baden, Germany, and that his real name was Loyer, Layer, or Löwe (TA, 52). W.Wiswedel follows this conjecture; but it is hard to see how Plener and Loyer could coincide. In any case, he was won for Anabaptism by 1526 or early 1527, most likely in Strasbourg. He then concentrated his work in and around Bruchsal in the Kraichgau, where he won and baptized Blasius [or Blasy] Kuhn, who later became his most loyal and effective co-worker, Hans Gentner, who later was an important link with the Hutterites, and a great number of others. In 1530/1 the Bruchsal congregation was said to have numbered about 500, Julius Lober being their minister for a time. Plener moved on. For two months in 1527 he lived in Augsburg in the home of the widow of Hans Leupold, the martyred Anabaptist leader; he worked in and around Augsburg with Jörg Schachner of Munich. Persecution drove him on to Moravia, where he at first worked hand in hand with Gabriel Ascherham at Rossitz (1527). As the group grew by newly arriving Anabaptists from the Palatinate, Hesse, Swabia, and Baden, all seeking a safe refuge in Moravia, Plener moved on to Auspitz on grounds belonging to the Abbess of Maria Saal (Brno). In 1529 the principle of community of goods was established, most likely at first for economic reasons rather than Christian principles. From now on the brethren lived in Bruderhof communities. In 1531 Blasy Kuhn brought the remnants of the Bruchsal congregation also to Moravia, swelling the Auspitz group to (allegedly) a total of 2,000 souls.
There were now three Anabaptist groups in Moravia practicing community of goods: the Gabrielites (mostly Silesians) in Rossitz, led by Gabriel Ascherham and his assistant Peter Hueter, who in 1537 joined the Hutterite group; the Philippites (mostly Southwest Germans from Swabia, Baden, and the Palatinate) in Auspitz with Philipp Plener as leader and Blasy Kuhn as his assistant; and third the Tyroleans, also in Auspitz, under the leadership of Sigmund Schützinger, and later Jakob Hutter. In 1531 these three groups loosely fused, with Ascherham as their bishop. To be sure there were other Anabaptist groups in Moravia, living on private property; they were collectively called the "Swiss Brethren." When, in 1533, Jakob Hutter came to Moravia, rivalries soon developed. It appears that no principles of Christian living were involved; it was rather a question of leadership, perhaps one could better say of "charismatic leadership." No doubt Hutter was spiritually superior to all the others involved, a true leader in the prophetic sense of the word. Since, however, neither Schützinger, Ascherham, nor Plener was willing to step back, sad and unpleasant conflicts arose. Schützinger was eliminated from the Tyrolean group, which thus became "Hutterite" in the later sense of the term. Ascherham became the exclusive leader of the Gabrielites at Rossitz; after his death in Silesia most of them united with the Hutterites. Plener now became the leader of the Philippite Brethren in Auspitz - supposedly a total of 400—at least for the short yet significant years 1533-35.
Then in 1535 intermittent persecutions began also in Moravia. Ascherham and his group immigrated to Silesia. The Hutterites tried to stay on, in spite of great privations and misery (Jakob Hutter returned to Tirol and was martyred there in 1536; Hans Amon became the new bishop). Concerning the Philippites the only information extant is what the Hutterite chronicles report, understandably in not too sympathetic terms. The Abbess had driven them away from Auspitz, and they camped somewhere in the open, deeply discouraged. Plener and his assistant Blasy Kuhn went on horseback hither and thither to find other places to settle. As they were unable to find anything, they told the crowd (Wolkan, Geschicht-Buch, 109) that everyone should look out for himself as best as he could.
With these few remarks both Plener and Kuhn disappear from the records; that is, the Hutterites had no further information about them. Certain Philippite Brethren stayed on and later joined the Hutterites (1538/9); the majority, however, returned to Germany; for their history, see Philippites. Since the later trial records of this group contain no complaints concerning Plener's behavior, it is apparent that he did not really abandon his flock, even though no document reveals his later fate. Since there were Philippite Brethren in many parts of western Germany until the mid 1540s, it may be rightly conjectured that Plener returned to Württemberg (or Baden) with a group, but that he died or was martyred soon afterward. In 1539 Peter Riedemann had talks with these brethren in Heilbronn, but nothing was recorded about Plener.
Concerning his teachings and spiritual leadership the chief source is Hege's report on the early days of Bruchsal. To be sure, some main ideas of the brotherhood are known, but it cannot be said with certainty whether they were ideas of Plener himself or of some of his co-workers at Auspitz. In any case, the principle of community of goods was observed by the Philippites both in Moravia and in Upper Austria, but was abandoned by the west German groups. Thus it was not too hard for the two first-named groups to join the Hutterites several years later, while the others, the southwest German groups, being leaderless, joined the Swiss Brethren in their respective areas in the 1540s.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Bossert, Gustav. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer I. Band, Herzogtum Württemberg. Leipzig: M. Heinsius, 1930: 52.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 378.
Hege, Christian. Täufer in der Kurpfalz. Frankfurt, 1908: 60 ff.
Wiswedel, Wilhelm. Bilder and Führergestalten aus dem Täufertum. 3 v. Kassel: J.G. Oncken Verlag, 1928-1952: III, 146-49.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923: 109.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 192-193. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Friedmann, Robert. "Plener, Philipp (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/plener_philipp_16th_century.
APA style: Friedmann, Robert. (1959). Plener, Philipp (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/plener_philipp_16th_century.