Olmütz (Czech Republic)
Olmütz (Czech, Olomouc), until 1636 the capital of Moravia, during the Reformation a bishop's see, as well as the most important fortress of the land. From this town Ferdinand issued his mandate of 21 April 1527 to the government of Tyrol, Austria, to guard against the spread of the Anabaptists, to search them out secretly, and to bring them to punishment. Of the Hutterian chronicles that have been preserved, the Codex Managetta, the Breslau Codex, and the Codex Dreller, as well as the Schad Chronicle mention executions in Olmütz and Znaim in 1528. One of these was probably in Olmütz if the total figure of four given in the martyr list of the Hutterite Chronicle is correct, for in 1538, according to the Olmütz city chronicle, three additional Anabaptist executions took place there; on 17 April 1538, three Brethren were burned at the stake, "one was a tinsmith, the other a maltster, the third a renegade monk." The records of this trial have unfortunately been lost. A special role was played in the movement in Nikolsburg by the suffragan Martin Goschl of Olmütz.
The sessions of the Landtag, meeting alternately in Olmütz and Brno, repeatedly dealt with the Anabaptist problem. Thus the Three Kings Landtag in Olmütz ordered the estates not to tolerate any Anabaptists on their lands, a resolution that was frequently renewed, as in the Reminiscere Landtag in 1546, but never carried out. In the 1570's, when the Moravian nobles levied more and more burdens on the Brethren in return for freedom of worship, Olmütz was often the scene of these decisions.
The taxation of the Anabaptists had begun at the Brno Landtag of 1570 with a property tax, to which a poll tax was soon added. This tax was increased by the Olmütz Landtag in 1576, so that for the next ten years an annual tax of five Groschen was levied on all the Anabaptists, male and female. The Brethren found themselves in a difficult position in regard to taxes; they were of course willing to help meet the needs of the country, but did not want to put their means at the disposal of the emperor for military purposes, since this was contrary to their religious principles. They therefore refused to pay any taxes that were destined for military needs, and in their place paid the equivalent in goods. The Olmütz Winter Landtag, 1582, imposed a special tax of two Groschen on every male over twenty years of age to defray necessary national expenses. In addition, the Brethren were forbidden to buy grain in the villages except on the market days. The Three Kings Landtag of 1584 assessed all Anabaptists above eighteen years of age with four Groschen per person, payable in two installments; but at the Olmütz July Landtag the tax was reduced by the magistrate Hynek von Waldstein. The Geschicht-Buch writes about it: "Therefore we thanked God not a little and took it for a dispensation and intervention of God. For the brotherhood bore much burden of their conscience and worry for a time. Which we often made known to our lords and actually told them that we could not let such a thing happen any more, but would abandon all our farms and would dare to endure a great tribulation for that reason, before we would any longer accept these taxes and let them be taken from us, as they have hitherto themselves taken and reduced the debt, because we would not pay it."
The Olmütz Landtag of 1592 again considered the prohibition of buying and selling grain through the Brethren as well as the serving and sale of wine in their houses. The former should be permitted only on market days; if they disobeyed, the grain was to be confiscated. In respect to the latter, the lords should see to it that the Brethren paid the fee determined for the sale of wine. The January Landtag of 1594 in Olmütz decided that "since the Anabaptists of this land enjoy enough and contribute little in comparison with the national demands," they were to be assessed eight guilders in addition to the twenty already imposed upon each house in which they had a kitchen. But it was left to the lords to collect this fine from their Anabaptist tenants or pay it themselves. Concerning the May Landtag at Olmütz in 1599 the Geschicht-Buch reports that since they were unable to pay this tax for conscience' sake, the lords took from them in this year oxen, grain, wine, fat hogs, cows, and sheep.
Further Landtags at Brno and Znaim increased the taxes still further. The July Landtag of 1614 assessed each Bruderhof 100 guilders, together with additional extra taxes. Again the equivalent in goods was taken, since the Brethren, who "a few years ago gave cheerfully, now refused to pay." At the June Landtag of 1618 at Olmütz the tax was raised to 150 guilders per Bruderhof in order to raise money for armies. The Anabaptists did not pay this tax "destined for a wicked war and bloodshed," and therefore "in many places cattle, grain, wine, and other wares were taken, but cheaper than we would have sold them," so that the sorely pressed Brethren, already impoverished by the quartering of soldiers, were burdened anew.
At the Olmütz Landtag of 1625 Cardinal Dietrichstein wished to have the few Anabaptists expelled who were still retained in the service of the nobles on the border of Lower Austria and Hungary. But he did not have his way this time; he therefore requested an imperial mandate to accomplish that end.
The final trace of the Anabaptists is found in the baptismal records of the parish of St. Mauritz in Olmütz, which state that several Anabaptists, probably returning from Hungary, were baptized according to Roman Catholic ritual.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Dedic, Paul. "Die Geschichte der Protestantismus in Olmutz." Jahrbuch fur die Geschichte der Protestanten im ehetnaligen Oesterreich 52-27 (1931-36).
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon., 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 300 f.
Hruby, Franticek. "Die Wiedertäufer in Mähren." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 30 (1933-34).
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. 4, p. 56-57. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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