Leupold, Hans (d. 1528)
Hans Leupold (Hans Schneider, i.e., tailor) was one of the first Anabaptist martyrs in South Germany, not to be confused with Hans Seibold. He came from Kleinaitlingen near Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany, and early in the summer of 1527 he joined the Anabaptists there. He was baptized by Jakob Dachser and served as a deacon. He took part in the Martyrs' Synod on 20 August 1527. In those days Urban Rhegius wrote his book, Wider den neuen Tauforden, notwendige Warnung an die Christgläubige, dated 6 September 1527. At the same time a systematic persecution of the Anabaptists in Augsburg began. On 28 August several members were arrested and tortured, among them the preacher Jakob Dachser. On 15 September 1527 others were arrested, including Hans Hut and Jakob Gross; and soon afterwards Eitelhans Langenmantel and Siegmund Salminger were seized. Now all the Anabaptist preachers in Augsburg lay in prison; the plan was to make them recant together with a considerable number of the Anabaptists of the city, after instruction by the city parsons.
One of those arrested was Hans Leupold. He refused to confess that the doctrine of the Anabaptists was erroneous and was therefore, with eight others, expelled from the city on 1 October 1527, on the pledge never to return. On the following days further exiles followed. The preachers, however, remained under arrest, since they would not recant. The congregation, robbed of its preachers, at once chose Hans Leupold to be their leader at Bobingen near Augsburg. Fearlessly he proclaimed the Gospel, strengthened and consoled the harassed brethren and made contacts among the South German Anabaptist groups. For several weeks he preached in Esslingen, and with a letter from the Esslingen Anabaptists he visited the Worms congregation; with a letter of consolation from Worms to the brethren at Esslingen, he returned to the vicinity of Augsburg. The members of the Augsburg congregation who had not yet been discovered had been visited by preachers traveling through, especially by Leonhard Dorfbrunner, who baptized about 100 persons in Augsburg in 1527.
On the evening of 26 March Hans Leupold managed to reach Augsburg undetected. On 2 April he assembled about 60 persons in a narrow cellar to observe communion and to choose leaders for the growing congregation. The choice fell on Claus Schleiffer of Vienna and Peter Ringmacher. The latter was at once sent to Regensburg to preach for the Anabaptist brotherhood. Under the leadership of Hans Leupold and Jorg of Passau, the Augsburg brethren met on Easter (12 April) morning in the home of the sculptor Adolf Doucher. Some of the members, seeing armed guards near by, had become suspicious and returned to their homes; those at the service were restless and fearful of an attack. Leupold invited the timid to leave while there was still time, and some escaped. But the remaining 88 were seized and expelled from the city, some having holes burned through their cheeks.
Leupold was questioned with and without the rack. He confessed whom and where he had baptized, and added that he was always glad when someone was converted. He declared that the Anabaptists were not planning an attack, as some seemed to fear. At their meetings they considered God's Word, principally the Gospels and the Prophets, which had recently been translated into German by Hans Denck, who had likewise been baptized in Augsburg, and Ludwig Haetzer. The brotherhood, Leupold continued, was very watchful to keep out false doctrine, and if a member erred he was instructed. Nor did they wish to have all things in common; they did not want anybody to be deprived of his possessions by violence. But aid should be voluntarily given the needy, regardless of whether or not he belonged to the brotherhood. He taught that one should acknowledge God, live according to His commands, and strive to attain the truth. Members who did not live a proper life, and did not show a deep interest in love and the truth, were warned several times and then put out of the brotherhood if the warning was fruitless. He had taught repentance and that the end time was at hand, without indicating when it would begin or end (Roth, 60-65).
Although the trial of the 88 prisoners (Roth, 71 f.) revealed no unchristian attitude or doctrine, Hans Leupold was condemned to die. The sentence was based on the mandate of 11 October 1527, which prohibited on penalty of death, imprisonment, or fine, joining the Anabaptists, withholding baptism from infants, feeding their preachers, or taking part in any mob (Meyer, 251). He had secretly come to the city, had held meetings in pits, cellars, and other unsuitable places at suspicious times in the city and its vicinity, rejected infant baptism, preached adult baptism and other evil doctrines under the guise of the good, had also baptized a number of persons within and without the city, and also carried letters for the Anabaptists. He was beheaded on April 25 at Augsburg. Leupold was survived by his wife and two children, the youngest of whom was five months old.
When the verdict that he was to be sentenced from life to death was read to him from the Rathaus, he cried out, "No indeed, gentlemen of Augsburg, but from death to life!" causing great amazement among the spectators (Beck, 37). This mood also pervades the song, "Mein Gott Dich will ich loben," which he wrote in prison shortly before his execution. It reveals the "singleness" of his mind and the genuineness of a faith that he not only taught, but also lived. He admonishes his brethren to trust in God, and prays for his persecutors. This hymn is the only written record left by him. It was printed in the Ausbund and by Wackernagel in his collection, Das deutsche Kirchenlied (III, 478).
For the Augsburg Anabaptist brotherhood Leupold's death was a devastating blow; their surviving leaders (Dachser, Gross, and Salminger) were in prison or expelled from the city. But the spirit permeating them lived on.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Hege, Christian. Ein Rückblick auf 400 Jahre mennonitischer Geschichte. Karlsruhe, 1935.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 642 f.
Meyer, Christian. "Die Anfange des Wiedertaufertums in Augsburg." Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg I (1874): 207-253.
Roth, Friedrich. "Der Hohepunkt der wiedertauferischen Bewegung in Augsburg und ihr Niedergang im Jahre 1528." Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg 28 (1901): 1-154.
Roth, Friedrich. Augsburgs Reformationsgeschichte. Augsburg, 1901.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 328-329. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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