Erfordter, Antoni (d. 1541)
Antoni Erfordter was the most outstanding of the Anabaptists in Carinthia. Nothing is known of his youth, nor how or when he was won to the Anabaptist movement. In 1538 he was in Klagenfurt, where he owned a house. There he wrote his Urlaubsbrief, viz., a severe sermon against the immorality and lack of faith of his contemporaries, especially the rich and those clergymen “who practice idolatry and lie on cushions.” He aims his blows at the followers of the pope as well as those of Luther, and in plainness of language he surpasses even Luther. His censure is meant for a clergy that praises the Law of God with lofty words, but never in the least translates it into action; for rulers and subjects “who know the rascality of the clergy, and yet roar with them.” They all continue to sin against God’s mercy “and remain in their old shoes.” King Ferdinand fares very badly, “who persecute Christ in His members. Today your mandates are proclaimed that one may no longer speak, write, nor sing the name of Jesus.” Concerning governments he says, “If they are no good, how can the subjects be good?” The gentlemen on the council and court fare equally badly.
It is a type of eloquence that the common man understood. It is not different from the speeches of the Estates in the Carinthian diets. Klagenfurt had an unusually bad reputation: “A pigeon could carry all the Christians away on its back,” he wrote. Erfordter then attacked the superstitions of the time, citing some striking examples which offer a good picture of moral conditions. In such company he did not care to live. He adhered to the Anabaptists Donner and Brandl. Thrown into prison for this he was “so violently threatened by his ruffian jailors to wall him up alive, that he was compelled to call the confession of faith of the two men of God a sect and a seduction.” This declaration now grieved him, and so “he wanted to retract it now, and loudly confess that the teaching of these men is the real truth.” To his fellow citizens he said, “Do not be surprised that there are here in Klagenfurt, Villach, St. Veit, and Völkermarkt, indeed perhaps in all Carinthia scarcely one or two pious Christians to be found; and there you have the reason for my departure from you.”
Erfordter went to Moravia and was there ordained as a preacher (Diener des Wortes). When the Anabaptist meeting at Steinabrunn, Lower Austria, December 1539, was surprised and 136 members taken prisoner to the castle at Falkenstein, he wrote them (in 1540) an epistle and a moving poem of consolation. “Would to God,” he wrote, “that I could serve you and die for you.”
Erfordter was one of the best poets among the Brethren. He is the author of several fine songs, which praise the deeds of the Hutterite martyrs and describe the sorrows of the prisoners. The song “Ach Gott, wem soll ichs klagen?” pictures their suffering under constant persecution. His most famous song is “Ich armes Brüderlein klag mich sehr,” which describes his own distress. It was written at the time when he bade farewell to his wife and his people in Klagenfurt. Two other songs should also be mentioned. “Susanne war in Aengsten gross,” and “Wol auf, wol auf, von hinnen, im Kampf, ihr Brüder wert.”
Erfordter died in 1541 on the Bruderhof either of Pausram or of Schackwitz (near Austerlitz), where the largest Hutterite settlements were located. His songs are published in Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder (Scottdale, 1914) 107-15, and Wolkan, Lieder, 173-78 and 248.
The Urlaubsbrief is printed in extenso in J. v. Beck, “Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Kärnten,” Archiv des Historisches Vereins f. Kärnten XI (1867) and in excerpts in L. Müller, Glaubenszeugnisse der oberdeutschen Taufgesinnten (1938) 258-62. An English translation of large parts of this letter is found in Loserth’s article in Mennonite Quarterly Review.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 605 f.
Loserth, Johann. “The Anabaptists in Carinthia in the 16th Century.” Mennonite Quarterly Review XXI (1947): 235-47.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 242-243. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Loserth, Johann. "Erfordter, Antoni (d. 1541)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/erfordter_antoni_d._1541.
APA style: Loserth, Johann. (1956). Erfordter, Antoni (d. 1541). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/erfordter_antoni_d._1541.