Mandates were the laws of the Holy Roman Empire which gave instructions to the higher officials. In the German territories the regulations passed for their own domain in the 15th-18th centuries were often also called mandates. In addition the term "edict" was used for regulations meant for general knowledge, for commands as well as for prohibitions. Such laws were passed during the Middle Ages against religious brotherhoods which arose beside the Catholic Church. For the Holy Roman Empire Frederick II introduced a general church regulation in 1232, decreeing that persons condemned and delivered to the secular courts by the church must be put to death. This applied first of all to extra-church reform groups.
For the suppression of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites mandates were issued in amazingly large numbers. Persecution began in Zürich immediately after the initiation of the Anabaptist movement in 1525 with the passing of a decree that introduced a long series of mandates announcing the severest penalties. Whatever violence fanaticism could invent for the annihilation of a separatist group was precipitated into these mandates. In harshness these mandates differed very little from the heresy laws of the Middle Ages.
The organization of independent congregations was strictly prohibited by the mandates, and accordingly their preachers were denied the right to perform any official functions. Children were forcibly baptized by preachers of the established state churches; the Swiss Anabaptists were obliged to participate in state church communion services, and had to be married in the state church at a time when this regulation was not yet mandatory for the people in general. Their devotional literature was confiscated in all countries, and most of it destroyed; in some states the very buildings in which they met were torn down.
Every member of a congregation was personally hit by the ruthless stipulations of the mandates. They were thrown into prison, deprived of their property; it was made a criminal offense to shelter them, employ them, feed them; high rewards were offered for their capture; they were subjected to cruel torture; their bodies were mutilated by cutting off limbs or by branding them with hot irons on forehead or cheek, and finally those who persisted in their faith were killed by drowning, hanging, beheading, and even by burning or burying alive—not at all because they were accused of some heinous crime, but because they did not agree with all the doctrines and institutions of the established churches.
But it was not only the difference in doctrine that gave the Anabaptists occasion to separate themselves from the church, but frequently also the offensive conduct of members of those churches. This can be seen not only in the mandates on morals of the 16th century, but also by the various regulations passed against the Anabaptists, which stress these unworthy conditions, thereby trying to influence officials and clergy (Müller, 87, 116; Hege, 141; Bergmann, 53; Loserth, Communismus, 318).
A summary of the numerous mandates issued against the Anabaptists and Mennonites does not exist. Nevertheless the laws published in the collections of sources afford a dependable view of the proceedings against the movement which seized wide circles of the population and found followers in nearly all of the German territories. The following table is an attempt on the basis of available sources to give a survey of a struggle which the governing powers ruthlessly waged with secular means against spiritual forces for several centuries, without, however, obtaining their goal, which was the universal eradication of their opponents.
The dates of the mandates reveal the rapidity of the spread of the Anabaptist movement when its leaders were compelled to leave the canton of Zurich. Very soon it made itself felt in central Germany and in the Austrian Alps; for by 1527 a number of mandates had been issued threatening the severest penalty upon joining the Anabaptists. The mandate of Charles V of 4 January 1528 extended the persecution to the whole empire. It was supported by further mandates by princes, bishops, and cities. With the greatest zeal a hunt was instituted for the Anabaptists, resulting in numerous deaths. At the Augsburg session of the Swabian League which decided to send a military division of 400 horsemen to scout for Anabaptists, the Bamberg chancellor Georg Tessinger reported on 28 February 1528 that Bishop Weigand was having many Anabaptists executed, and it was said that Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria was at the same time having a large number (grosse mechtige somm) of Anabaptists put to death including two noblemen, the barons of Perwangen (Kuhn, 239). When the Diet of Speyer in 1529 assented to the imperial mandate of the previous year, persecution reached its ultimate severity. Since the populace and the judges frequently felt sympathy with the persecuted, the Diet of Speyer of 1544 made it the duty of everyone to give information of Anabaptists, and the imperial recess at Augsburg of 1551 threatened judges who tempered their judgment with mercy with deposition, fines, and imprisonment.
It is amazing that the Anabaptists were able to maintain themselves under this long continued use of violence. Without the inner security which their trust in God afforded them in hours of decision, they would certainly have been defeated by this violent attack. They were, to be sure, greatly weakened numerically in this unequal battle, but contrary to the wish of their oppressors they could not be wiped out, and proved what confidence in faith is able to achieve in suffering.
It is characteristic of the attitude of former historiographers that until the 19th century only the individual aberrations were considered as typical of Anabaptism, whereas they completely ignored the serious striving for a life of discipleship as well as the dangers and suffering the Anabaptists endured. For the history of the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement and for the history of modern civilization the mandates furnish significant source material which has hitherto received little notice.
With few exceptions the mandates were directed against religious opinions. The early mandates frequently expressed a fear that ignoring the church doctrines might lead to political revolution. That argument had been used in all periods for the suppression of doctrines that deviated from the established church. For instance, in the edict passed by Dukes William and Louis of Bavaria on 5 March 1522, the statement was made in prohibiting Lutheran doctrine that "there is no more certain consequence than the destruction of all divine and human laws, order, and government; through it an irreparable, troublesome misunderstanding would rend the Christian faith, if anyone would take the liberty to explain the holy Gospels and Scriptures according to his own head and understanding, and thereby the unity of the Christian church would be destroyed." Many of the mandates against the Anabaptists likewise resulted from this fear, and therefore condemned separation, and designated the Anabaptists as a seducing sect and as tares that must be weeded out (Bern mandate 1527).
The intention of these severe measures against separatist religious groups in the Reformation period was, as it had been in the Middle Ages, to preserve the unity of the church. Therefore no exposition of Scripture was tolerated which did not agree with established church doctrines. Most of the mandates promised immunity upon return to the church and the recognition of its doctrines, above all of infant baptism, making it clear that it was not a question of civil transgression.
Questioning the doctrine of infant baptism was interpreted as a criminal offense (mandate of 4 January 1528). Rejection of this doctrine and the introduction of adult baptism initiated the persecution. The change in the views of the theologians on infant baptism and adult baptism in the course of centuries can be seen in the history of the church. At the fifth council of Carthage in 401 the resolution was passed: he who does not know definitely that he has been baptized shall be baptized again (Sachsse, 37); in March 413, Roman law penalized rebaptism with death. The church council of Switzerland, in spite of the fact that religious freedom had been legally established in Switzerland since 12 April 1798, favored the compulsory baptism of Mennonite children as late as 1809, and would leave it to the children to decide when they were grown whether they wished to be baptized again (Müller, 376); the church council brought it about that in the canton of Bern Mennonite children born between 1799 and 1810 were baptized in the state church on command of the government (Müller, 382).
This course of action and this concept of the law of Rome that baptism on confession of faith should be punished by death if it was preceded by infant baptism has long been outgrown. The Mennonites had to pay enormous sacrifices before this tolerant concept, for the recognition of which they had struggled for so long, became the commonly accepted idea. The Mennonites share in the credit for the fact that a free personal conception has replaced the medieval compulsion of the state church, as it is expressed once again in the mandates listed above. Thereby one of the Mennonite requirements has been fulfilled, namely, that the power of the state should not exert a determinative influence in religious questions, nor should the church mingle in politics, and that a strict separation between church and state should be maintained, which leads to the toleration of various religious brotherhoods.
In the Netherlands the execution of the mandates is not clear, because in the Reformation period the supremacy of the emperor was not everywhere established there, with the consequence that mandates issued for the entire empire were not strictly enforced in some of the provinces.
There were fourteen imperial mandates that concern the Reformation in general. They were known as "Placcaten" there, and popularly as "Bloedplaccaten" (blood-mandates). The mandate of 10 June 1535 was issued expressly against Anabaptism. Those who had preached and baptized, borne the name of prophet, apostle, or bishop, and refused to recant were to be punished by fire; those who were rebaptized or harbored a rebaptized person were to be put to death, the men by beheading, and the women by drowning. The one who revealed an Anabaptist to the authorities was to receive one third of his property; the one who failed to reveal him was to be put to death.
In addition to the imperial mandates others were issued by the regent and the stadholders; these were often repetitions of the imperial mandates in shorter form. Besides these there were also decrees that were intended only for some province, like the one issued in Friesland on 7 December 1542, against Menno Simons, which offered a reward of 100 guilders and the pardon for any crime to the one betraying him to the authorities. Schwarzenberg lists 18 further edicts issued against the Anabaptists in Friesland.
After the war of liberation against Spain when the governments of the northern Netherlands had be come almost entirely Calvinist, mandates still continued to be issued. Most of these were issued by the provincial and city governments. Thus the Frisian States forbade all Mennonite services in the province in an edict of 27 May 1598. In Groningen a severe mandate was published in 1601, which not only prohibited Mennonite services, but also disinherited all baptized children. In the same province mandates were issued against Uko Walles and his followers on 30 August 1637, and 16 March 1661. In 1722 the States of Friesland forbade all Mennonite services unless the preachers would sign a formulary of agreement with the orthodox creed. Though two mandates against Socinians, Quakers, and "Dompe- laars," published by the States of Friesland in 1622 and 1687, did not directly concern the Mennonites, they were sometimes used against Mennonite preachers, as for example in 1687 in the case of Foecke Floris. City edicts against the Mennonites contained similar penalties as late as the 18th century, though in general they were no longer strictly enforced.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Bergmann, Cornelius. Die Täuferbewegung im Kanton Zürich bis 1660. Leipzig : M. Heinsius Nachf., 1916.
Bossert, Gustav. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer I. Band, Herzogtum Württemberg. Leipzig: M. Heinsius, 1930.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde 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, …, 1685. Part II: 35 f., 64, 104, 163-165, 802 f. 806-808.
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: 442 f., 466, 501, 551-553, 1102 f., 1105 f.. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm.
Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919: 19, 20, 60, 101.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 63-70, 142 f., 312 f.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland. 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: I, 285-87; II, 32 ff., 167-184.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1870): 22.
Egli, Emil. Actensammlung zur Geschichte der Zürcher Reformation in den Jahren 1519-1533 / mit Unterstützung der Behörden von Canton und Stadt Zürich. Zurich, 1879.
Fluri, Adolf. Beiträge zur Geschichte der bernischen Täufer. Bern: G. Grunau, 1912.
Geiser, Samuel. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden : eine Kurzgefasste Darstellung der wichtigsten Ereignisse des Täufertums. Karlsruhe: H. Schneider, .
Hege, Christian. Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz: ein Beitrag zur badisch-pfälzischen Reformationsgeschichte. Frankfurt am Main : Kommissionsverlag von H. Minjon, 1908.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 4-11.
Hoog, Isäac Marius Jacob. De martelaren der Hervorming in Nederland tot 1566. Schiedam: H. A. M. Roelants, 1885: 67-86.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. 2 v. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, Nos. 19, 26, 35, 38, 59, 130, 136, 164, 231, 299 f., 308, 316 f, 327, 335 f., 339, 341, 366, 381, 398, 405 f., 414, 419 f., 444, 446, 448, 450 f.
Kühn, Johannes. Deutsche Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V. Leipzig, 1935.
Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892.
Loserth, Johann. "Der Communismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer im 16. and 17. Jahrhundert: Beiträge zu ihrer Lehre, Geschichte and Verfassung." Archiv für österreichische Geschichte 81, 1 (1895).
Meyer, Christian. "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertaufer in Oberschwaben." Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg 1 (1874).
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972.
Muralt, Leonhard von and Walter Schmid. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer in der Schweiz. Erster Band Zürich. Zürich: S. Hirzel, 1952.
Nestler, Hermann. Die Wiedertäuferbewegung in Regensburg: ein Ausschnitt aus der Regensburger Reformationsgeschichte. Regensburg: Josef Habbel, 1926.
Nicoladoni, Alexander. Johannes Bünderlin von Linz und die oberösterreichischen Täufergemeinden in den Jahren 1525-1531. Berlin: R. Gaertner, Hermann Heyfelder, 1893.
Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899.
Rohrich, T. W. "Zur Geschichte der strassburgischen Wiedertaufer." Zeitschrift für historische Theologie 31 (1860).
Sachsse, Carl. D. Balthasar Hubmaier als Theologe. Berlin: Trowitzsch & Sohn, 1914. Reprinted Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1973.
Schornbaum, Karl. Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer II. Band, Markgraftum Brandenburg. (Bayern I. Abteilung). Leipzig: M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1934.
Schottenloher, Karl. Die Buchdruckertätigkeit Georg Erlingers in Bamberg: von 1522 bis 1541 ; ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Reformationszeit. Leipzig: Haupt, 1907.
Schreiber, Wilhelm. Geschichte Bayerns in Verbindung mit der deutschen Geschichte. Freiburg i. Brg., 1889: I, 476.
Staehelin, Ernst. Das Buch der Basler Reformation: zu ihrem vierhunder jährigen Jubiläum im Namen der evangelischen Kirchen von Stadt und Landschaft Basel. Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1929.
Strickler, Joh. Actensammlung zur schweizerischen Reformationsgeschichte in den Jahren 1521-1532 im Anschluss an die gleichzeitigen eidgenössischen Abschiede. Zürich: In Commission bei Meyer & Zeller, 1878-1884: IV.
Tester, Richard. "Die Religionsmandate des Markgrafen Philipp von Baden 1522-1533." Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte (1890): 307-329.
Theologische Studien und Kritiken 61 (1888): 503 f.
Wappler, Paul. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1913.
Wappler, Paul. Inquisition und Ketzerprozesse in Zwickau zur Reformationszeit: Dargestellt im Zusammenhang mit der Entwicklung der Ansichten Luthers und Melanchthons über Glaubens- und Gewissensfreiheit. Leipzig: M. Heinsius, 1908.
Wappler, Paul. Die Stellung Kursachsens und des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen zur Täuferbewegung. Münster i. W.: Druck und Verlag der Aschendorffschen Buchh., 1910.
Winter, Vitus Anton. Geschichte der baierischen Wiedertäufer im sechszehnten Jahrhundert. Munich, 1809.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923.
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. 3, pp. 446-453. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Mandates." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M3537.html.
APA style: Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1957). Mandates. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M3537.html.