Leoben (Steiermark, Austria)
Leoben, the "iron city" (pop. 12,000) of Styria, Austria, is in the upper Mur Valley. The first emissaries of the Anabaptists arrived here in the autumn of 1528 and at once found followers. On 18 September the magistrate Siegmund von Dietrichstein, one of the most notable names among the Lutherans in Styria, gave orders to the mayor, judge, and council of Leoben to arrest Peter Schuster, who was suspected of being an Anabaptist, with his wife and children, and to make an inventory of his property. Three days later came an order to look for other Anabaptists. On 27 September the command was issued to question him, if necessary on the rack, to learn who preached for them, who had taken part in their meetings, and in whose houses they had met. All those reported should be arrested at once. The examination apparently brought nothing important to light, for Dietrichstein gave instructions on 20 October to release Schuster and his family, and to return their property to them, but only in exchange for an oath to be on call at all times.
Schuster, however, was actually at that time an Anabaptist, for on New Year's Day of 1529 the vice-regent of Styria, Seifried von Windischgratz, issued an order to the authorities of Leoben to apprehend the fugitive brethren Grinzinger and Schuster, if they had not already done so. The importance of quick action is indicated by the thrice-repeated cito! (quickly). Meanwhile both had escaped.
On the other hand, Dietrichstein reported to the king on 7 January that his magistrate in Kammerstein had arrested an Anabaptist fugitive from Upper Austria en route via Krems to Leoben, where 30 to 40 Anabaptists, among them many peasants, had met weekly. He had the prisoner taken to Graz. In order to cope with the constantly spreading movement toward adult baptism, the Vienna government in the name of the king delegated the provost Hieronymus Wüst to take special charge of the situation in Bruck and Leoben.
Dietrichstein also asked his brother-in-law, Wolf von Stubenberg auf Kapfenberg, to see to the arrest of the "many bad fellows" who wandered secretly about Bruck and Leoben and in the Kapfenberg jurisdiction, "persuading the poor populace to Anabaptism." Two days later the king himself authorized Dietrichstein to have the Anabaptists hunted by secret spies, and to seize all who were suspect. He also informed Dietrichstein that he had asked the archbishop to send skilled and competent preachers to the regions most seriously threatened. By the end of January the council of Leoben reported that eight Anabaptists had been seized, and asked for instructions in handling both those who would recant and those who would be obstinate. Dietrichstein put the case into the hands of the provost, and commissioned him to be lenient to the penitent.
But by 18 March a new command came from Vienna to Dietrichstein to seize several citizens of Leoben, who were reported to be Anabaptists. Four weeks later an order came to deal severely with two of the captured Anabaptists, unless they were very young. The confiscation of the property of fugitive Anabaptists continued; on 21 April 1529 Ferdinand (from Speyer) sent to his councilor and chamberlain Veit Zollner the property of the two Anabaptists, Franz Intzinger and Peter Schuster, with the obligation to pay 200 guilders to Pruner, the clerk of the provincial court, who had been promised a share in such estates.
The flight of individual Anabaptists from Leoben continued; for on 3 May 1529 Dietrichstein ordered Leoben to seize the wife of Jorg Schlesinger, who had escaped to Moravia and had asked her to come to him. The report of the council that she had already gone brought severe censure upon the magistrate. Her departure could not possibly have been accomplished so secretly that no one noticed it! Let him immediately find those who knew of it! Three weeks later the magistrate of Freienstein managed to capture an Anabaptist, who was sent to Graz and imprisoned in the Schlossberg, where several of his brethren already lay. On 2 June the magistrate of Leoben was ordered by the government to ask the wife of the fugitive Anabaptist Wieser, under oath, whether she was not also "contaminated by this sect."
In 1530 Intzinger apparently returned to his home for a short time; he was recognized and pursued, but not captured. The magistrate of the Frauenburg in the upper Mur Valley reported on 20 March that he had arrived too late. Intzinger and his family had already moved on.
The Anabaptists from Leoben and other places in Upper Styria who were imprisoned in the Schlossberg at Graz lay there a long time. The new magistrate, Hans von Ungnad, who considered them "pious and simple people" and would soonest have let them go, received orders from the king on 19 July to spare the penitent, the young, and the simple, but to put to death the obstinate. It is Baron von Ungnad, of whom Antoni Erfordter said in the epistle he wrote when he left Klagenfurt (September 1538), "that he would rather give up all his honor than kill a man because of his faith"; among the nobility of the four hereditary lands there was not another who was marked by "such manly honesty, valid before God."
Until 1533 there is occasional mention of Anabaptists who were trying to gain adherents in secret. But they were no longer strong. According to the register of martyrs in the chronicles, there were none at Leoben. The Geschicht-Buch relates that in 1539 Christoph Gschal traveled from Moravia through Upper Styria, but his very dangerous work brought no results. Among the prisoners in the Falkenstein prison there was a Brother Peter Schuster, who was perhaps the fugitive from Leoben.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967
Dedic, P. Der Protestantismus in der Steiermark ini Zeitalter d. Ref. u. Gegenref. Leipzig, 1930.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 639 f.
Loserth, J. "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertaufer in der Steiermark," in Mitteilungen des hist. Fer. f. Steiermark L (1903) and Zeitschrift für historische Theologie X (1913);
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. 324-325. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Dedic, Paul. "Leoben (Steiermark, Austria)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/leoben_steiermark_austria.
APA style: Dedic, Paul. (1957). Leoben (Steiermark, Austria). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/leoben_steiermark_austria.