Valangin (Neuchâtel, Switzerland)
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Valangin, a village in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, 5 miles north of the town of Neuchâtel, situated on the cantonal highway to La Chaux de Fonds (coordinates: 47° 1′ 0″ N, 6° 54′ 0″ E). It is today an ordinary village. Of historical interest is its castle that belonged to the French Counts of Nemours. This family, descended from the house of Savoy, died out in 1659. Duchess Maria Johanna Baptista, the widow of the last Duke of Savoy, inherited the castle as well as the duchy of Valangin. After her death, the graviate passed to the principality of Neuchâtel and in 1707 it became a Prussian province under Friedrich I.
At this point Valangin touches the history of the Mennonites of Bern. The continued oppression by the Bernese government, especially in the mandates of 1693, 1695, 1707, and 1709, caused many Mennonite families to flee from the Jura, which was a prince-bishopric of Basel, to the neighboring Neuchâtel (Neuenburg). The Amnesty Proclamation of the Bernese government, 11 February 1711, which permitted the Mennonites to leave with all their possessions, induced many to emigrate. By 1724 seventeen Bernese Mennonite families with 71 persons had settled in the graviate of Valangin, which then belonged to Neuchâtel. Since Neuchâtel and Valangin had made certain agreements with Bern, the mayor of Valangin complained to Bern about this settlement and about the increasing penetration of "sectarians and Anabaptists" from the canton of Bern, on the ground that the religious unity of the canton was threatened; in 1707 Protestantism was made the only legal religion. Bern supported the request of the mayor of Valangin, and both he and the Council of Bern wrote letters to that effect to Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia on 17 April, 26 April, 27 May, and 6 July 1734, and 4 June 1735. The king replied, "These good people must be tolerated as before, both on account of the good testimonial you give them and also because I consider it wrong to persecute for their religion those who otherwise live as good citizens of their rulers." . . . "All persecution is abhorrent to me, and I do not see why these poor people should be driven from the country, since they do no harm to anyone and commit no acts that could disturb the peace of the state. They seem to me deserving of sympathy, and it would always be more valuable to draw them with kindness and evangelical love besides a good example than to deprive them of a home that they have sought in your land. Therefore it is my will that they should be tolerated until I find it good and necessary to command otherwise."
Unfortunately the king found it good in 1735 to command other wise. On 16 July he ordered that those sectarians who had immigrated into Neuchâtel and Valangin after 1724 should leave the land, but all the others should be tolerated as heretofore. He was obviously politically motivated to take this step, for he wished to win the favor of Neuchâtel and Valangin. But Bern continued to support the mayor of Valangin in trying to have the Swiss Brethren expelled. The governor of Valangin, however, refused point-blank to interfere, because the expulsion was based on private interests rather than religious motivations; indeed, sincere thanks were due the Mennonites in view of their industry and good characteristics. In 1739 the agitation against the Brethren set in anew, with the support of Bern. Apparently none were expelled from Valangin.
Brons, Anna. Ursprung, Entwickelung und Schicksale der . . . Mennoniten. Emden, 1912: 251.
Geiser, Samuel. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden. Karlsruhe, 1931.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: IV.
Hübner, Johann. Conversations-Lexikon. Leipzig, 1715.
Müller, Ernst. Berner Täufer, Frauenfeld, 1895: 329-33.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 796-797. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Neff, Christian and Samuel Geiser. "Valangin (Neuchâtel, Switzerland)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/valangin_neuchatel_switzerland.
APA style: Neff, Christian and Samuel Geiser. (1959). Valangin (Neuchâtel, Switzerland). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/valangin_neuchatel_switzerland.