Bader, Augustin (d. 1530)
Augustin Bader was in many histories erroneously called Wiedertäuferkönig, as in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie). Bader belonged to the Anabaptists only a short time. He had been a member of the Augsburg congregation, baptized by Jakob Gross, who had come to Augsburg in the last quarter of 1526. When persecution of Anabaptists in Augsburg set in, he was captured on 15 September 1527 and was released on 19 October upon recanting. His wife, however, who refused to recant, was expelled. He returned to the congregation, accepted the office of leader (Vorsteher), and preached and baptized in Augsburg and vicinity.
At the end of February he was appointed to visit the recently established Anabaptist congregation in Kaufbeuren, which had requested a preacher. He was accompanied by Gall Fischer, his truly devoted friend, in whose house most of the services in Augsburg had been held. They gave the new church a constitution, and helped them elect two leaders and two deacons. But the intervention of the city council brought the organization to a sudden end. Bader and Fischer returned to Augsburg, and the new church was wiped out. The two leaders, the two deacons, and the citizen who had lodged the visitors were beheaded on 13 June 1528; the other members, 30 men and women, were burned through the cheeks or whipped out of the city.
The last meeting in Augsburg attended by Bader was probably the election of leaders on 2 April 1528. He made a radical break with them at the Swiss Anabaptist conference in Teuften because they did not accept his fantastic apocalyptic ideas (see Krüsi, Johannes). During Passion Week he left the city to visit outside members. On 9 April he held communion services at Stadtbergen, in which Bernhard Zirkendorfer took part, who was executed with Eitelhans Langenmantel. On the day when the council struck the annihilating blow against the Augsburg congregation, Bader seems to have been in Mindelheim, probably conducting Easter services in that congregation.
Bader’s unstable emotional balance was apparently destroyed by the cruel persecutions which broke in upon the Anabaptists. He saw his fellow preachers die under the executioner’s sword, and fellow believers subjected to terrible torture, and was threatened by the same fate. Unstable and fugitive he wandered over the countryside, believing himself to have been called as a prophet. In an arbitrary interpretation of the Book of Ezra he proclaimed a great judgment about to break upon the world at Easter 1530, and the rise of a new kingdom of God on earth, which would be entirely spiritual, dispensing with all earthly instruments, such as baptism, confession, and communion, abolishing images and altars and temporal as well as spiritual government. This would be brought about by the threatening Turkish invasion. He made no revolutionary demands. In the new kingdom, Christ’s spirit would reign alone, and Bader considered himself His organ.
Bader’s confused ideas had found no response among the Anabaptist congregations he had visited, whether in Moravia, Swabia, Nürnberg, Strasbourg, or Switzerland. Only four men were attracted to his doctrine—Gall Fischer, Oswald Leber, an elderly man who had before the Peasants’ War been a preacher in Herbolzheim in the region of Mosbach in Baden and was now filled with hope for the imminent millennium proclaimed by Bader, Hans Koller, a young tailor, and Gastel N., a miller from Bavaria.
In October 1529 the miller rented a shed to Bader at Läutern near Blaubeuren, eight miles (13 km) west of Ulm, where his four followers settled with their families. After pooling their cash, they had 389 florins in the common fund. Bader informed them of his further revelations; he designated his youngest son, only a few weeks old, as the Messiah and king of the approaching kingdom of God, and himself as his son’s representative. The aged Gall Fischer, completely possessed by Bader’s hallucinations, imagined one evening that the roof of the shed opened and a golden scepter, a golden crown, a golden sword, and a golden dagger were lowered just in front of Bader. Though the others saw none of this, they were nevertheless convinced that Bader was called to be king. So now they went about procuring royal ornamentation. Koller, a tailor, was to make robes of splendor, and the golden insignia, the sword, chain, crown, dagger, scepter, and ring, were secured from Christoph Gangolf, a goldsmith in Ulm. Bader hoped by means of these insignia to have a magic effect on the converts his four associates were to make.
The farce lasted only a short time. The miller at Lauteren became suspicious and called the village bailiff’s attention to the mysterious guests. By an order of the regent at Stuttgart the entire company— five men, three women, and eight children—were arrested at night on 15 January 1530. Officers took possession of the royal insignia. Bader was taken to Stuttgart, Leber and Gastel to Tübingen, Fischer and Koller to Nürtingen. The bailiffs subjected them to several hearings on the rack in the presence of four theologians, including the Tübingen professors, Dr. Gall Müller and Balthasar Käuffelin, to discover Bader’s plans. The captives answered willingly. But the government was possessed by a secret fear that Duke Ulrich might have connections with Bader; they hoped to find clues of a secret far-flung conspiracy to throw off Austrian rule. They even supposed that Johann of Saxony, Georg of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and Philipp of Hesse were backing Bader. Margrave George denied these suspicions when rumors reached him in March 1530. Bader’s ideas were considered so dangerous that even the Reichstag of Augsburg dealt with them. (The Confessio Augustana, Art. XVIII, as well as the Confutatio contain an unmistakable condemnation of Bader.)
Although the government should have been convinced by the first hearings that they were dealing with a harmless psychopath, King Ferdinand ordered the cross-examination to be most rigorously continued. Though Leber’s arms were torn by the torture applied to force further confessions, no seditious plans could be discovered. All requisites to a plot like that feared by the government were lacking, such as a large following of politically powerful persons, or of such as were inclined to disturbance, as well as the financial resources. None of the captives, with the exception of the youthful Koller, could be persuaded to return to the Catholic Church. On 30 March 1530 Bader was executed at Stuttgart with his own sword after pieces of flesh had been torn from his body with glowing irons.
The executions apparently roused public opinion. To justify the procedure of the government, the Swabian League had the confessions of the victims published by Melchior Ramminger in Augsburg. But they apparently did not have the desired result. Dionysius Dreytwein questioned the justice of the execution, when he wrote in the Esslinger Chronik. (1548-64), "Gott ways, ob es ist recht gewesen oder nyt, denn er ist der streng recht richter, der alle Dinge wayst." But the most peculiar ideas were spread by contemporaries. Thus Vadian wrote that Bader had been crowned by the Anabaptists in a village near Tübingen early in April, but that the scheme had failed and the king had been executed. The information given by contemporary historians is of no greater value; they identify the dream-king of Lauteren with the Anabaptists. But it has been demonstrated by recent investigation that this childish play with royal insignia cannot be laid to the charge of the Anabaptists of South Germany.
Wolfgang Capito, the Strasbourg reformer, wanted to marry Bader’s widow, Sabina. He desired, as his friend Martin Bucer wrote to Ambrosius Blaurer (19 January 1532), a lowly person as his life-companion, but followed Blaurer’s advice and married the widow of Oecolampadius who had died on 24 November 1531.
Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 56 vols. Leipzig, 1875-1912: v. 1, 760.
Beiträge zur bayerischen Kirchengeschichte 20 (1914): 233.
Bossert, G. Sr. "Augustin Bader von Augsburg, der Prophet und König, und seine Genossen nach den Prozessakten von 1530." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte (1913): 117-175, 209-241, 297-349; (1914): 19-64, 103-133, 176-199.
Roth, Friedrich. Augsburgs Reformationsgeschichte. 2. vollständig umgearbeitete Aufl. München: T. Ackermann, 1901-1911: I, 236.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 107-109.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 209-210. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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