Klausen (Tyrol, Austria)
Klausen (Italian, Chiusa) is an ancient village of Tyrol, Austria, which became Italian after World War I. It lies narrowly confined by the Säben Mountain and the Eisack River. Until the 10th century it was an episcopal see, which was transferred to Brixen. Towering over the town is the Säben abbey (Roman camp Sabiona) and the castle of Branzoll.
In Anabaptist history Klausen is important. It was the scene of the last labor of several Anabaptist leaders. Here Georg Blaurock, one of the founders of the movement in Zurich in 1525, was burned to death. Several years later Jakob Hutter was put into the dungeon of Branzoll, and then burned at the stake at Innsbruck. Seven Anabaptists were executed for their faith in Klausen (Beck, 278).
For a long time the Anabaptists were the only evangelicals in this area. To be sure, Andreas Karlstadt was here for a time in 1525 at the invitation of the mine owners of Villander (one mile southwest of Klausen), but he soon returned to Saxony (Loserth, 448; Pitra, 89). This invitation, however, indicates that the Klausen area was ready for evangelical teaching. The first Anabaptist preacher in the Eisack Valley was Jörg Zaunring, who later accompanied Hutter on some of his journeys. He baptized Michael Kürschner (Klesinger) in June 1528 in Veils; Kurschner later became the leader of the Anabaptist group around Klausen. In Klausen and Gufidaun (one mile east of Klausen) Kurschner was apparently especially active, since in February 1529 the government charged the officials with laxity in their suppression of the Anabaptists. On 25 April he was seized with seven others at a meeting in Kitzbühel and taken to Innsbruck, where he was condemned to death and burned at the stake across the bridge on 2 June. He himself confessed to having baptized over 100 persons (Loserth, 470 f.).
When Georg Blaurock, who had just been banished from Switzerland, heard of the desire for the Gospel in Tyrol, he was at once willing to take charge of Kurschner's orphaned congregation. In May 1529 he came to Klausen with Hans Langegger. His succcess did not remain concealed from the government. To avoid capture he went to other places to work, but in August he returned to Klausen and Gufidaun, and was betrayed to the authorities. On 14 August he and Hans Langegger fell into the hands of Hans Preu, the magistrate, and were burned 6 September 1529 at Klausen.
The effect of Blaurock's preaching was so deep that many of the members of the group followed his example and were faithful unto death. On the Breitenberg ob Leifers near Bozen several persons were surprised at a meeting and seized, among them Simon Kob of Breitenberg and his wife. The monk Gardian of Bozen tried for three weeks to persuade them to return to the church; but most of them remained steadfast and were put to death. During the night of 16 November 1529, four men and four women of Blaurock's group were seized at Vill near Neumarkt. They were also given instruction by a priest on government orders, and the steadfast were executed (Loserth, 487 and 500).
In Klausen Ulrich Müllner was beheaded on 2 October 1531, because he belonged to the Anabaptist group (Beck, 105).
Jakob Hutter was also working around Klausen during these years. A part of Blaurock's group was sent to Moravia by Hutter, after he had established connections with the Anabaptists there. After his return he worked principally in Klausen. A reward of 40 guilders was offered by an order of 8 July 1529, for reporting an Anabaptist leader. In a cave near Gufidaun he held a meeting attended by 150 persons, most of them from Teys and Villnöss (northeast of Klausen), and held a communion service. In Albeins (two miles north of Klausen) and at Prugg 50 to 60 persons met at night (Loserth, 502).
The government was seriously intent on seizing Hutter, as well as Christoph Gschöll and Hans Amon (Loserth, 507). On 13 December 1532, orders were sent to judge Flamm to try to find where the three leaders, Jakob Hutter, Hans Amon, and Offerus Griesinger, could be caught, "since now in winter they cannot live in the woods and forests." Hutter and Amon were given shelter by Peter Binder in Klausen. In January 1533 Hutter had held a meeting in Villnöss, attended by about 70 persons from the Puster Valley. The meeting was not noticed, for the episcopal councilors in Brixen rebuked the authorities of Klausen for not catching Hutter, "who was trying to mislead the community," and who was so often seen in Klausen (Loserth, 508f.). In August 1533 Hutter went to Moravia again, where as the chroniclers relate, "he put the true brotherhood in pretty good order by the help and grace of God" (Beck, 114), and in 1534 returned to Klausen. In the meantime he had married. On 25 November 1535, he and his wife and three other women were seized in the house of the former sexton Hans Steiner on the other side of the Eisack bridge, and taken to Burg Branzoll. Katharina Hutter was cross-examined on 3 November in Klausen by the city judge Lienhard Mair at Creuz, and imprisoned in Gufidaun castle, from which she made her escape (Loserth, 556 f.). Jakob Hutter died at the stake on 25 February 1536 at Innsbruck.
The Anabaptist movement in Klausen was now destroyed. Ferdinand's wish was fulfilled; he had written to the authorities at Innsbruck on 24 December 1535, "We are confident that the capture of Hutter will do much to wipe out the Anabaptist sect" (Loserth, 562). Raw force had won.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 505-507.
Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892.
Pitra, F. Klausen und Umgebung. Brixen, 1910.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923: 41, 55, 64, 118, 182.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943: 76, 89, 157, 233.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 193-194. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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