Liechtenstein, Leonhard von (1482-1534)
Leonhard von Liechtenstein, lord of Nikolsburg, was a member of the Anabaptist brotherhood in southern Moravia. He was born 24 December 1482, the son of Christoph III von Liechtenstein zu Nikolsburg (d. 1506), who founded the Nikolsburg line of this famous Moravian noble house, and his wife Amalia von Starhemberg (1471-1502). On 25 July Leonhard took part in a tournament in Vienna. He was married to Katharina von Boskovitz. Like most of the Moravian nobility he was an avowed champion of the Reformation.
When Balthasar Hubmaier fled from his home it was on Leonhard's estates that he found asylum; in his own words, he found the light of evangelical clearness burning more brightly here than anywhere else on earth. There was a Lutheran congregation here in 1524; its preacher was Hans Spittelmaier of Bavaria, assisted by Oswald Glait, also of Bavaria, and supported by Martin Göschl, provost of Kanitz. Under the protection of the house of Liechtenstein Hubmaier carried on an active propaganda for the Anabaptist cause, which attracted his brethren from all sides to this haven. His extensive polemic writings were printed by Froschauer.
There can be no doubt that Leonhard von Liechtenstein was baptized in Nikolsburg "besides much people." Two of Hubmaier's polemic booklets carry Leonhard's name. The very first of them, Ein Gesprech Balthasar Hubmörs von Fridberg, doctors, auff Mayster Ulrichs Zwinglens zu Zürich Taufbüchlein von dem kindertauff, and also Ein einfeltiger unnderricht auf die wort: Das ist mein Leib in dem Nachtmahl Christi, are dedicated to him. In the preface to the latter Hubmaier says of Leonhard: "I marvel not a little that such high and powerful names are collected in one person." Leonhard was, the preface continues, a manifestation of the strength, truth, and resistance of mankind, so that even the fierce lion of this world could not terrify him; and Liechtenstein said the light had come into the world which the good love and the wicked hate. The "Stein" is the rock upon which the wise man in the Bible built his house. Nikolsburg was Nicopolis, which the cosmographers called Emmaus. This should remind the reader how Christ met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus as it became evening.
The thronging of the Anabaptists into southern Moravia and the adjacent parts of Austria evoked the sternest countermeasures on the part of Ferdinand I, especially since after the battle of Mohacs Moravia fell to the house of Hapsburg. His failure to eradicate the Anabaptists completely was due to the protection given them by the nobles. But even Liechtenstein, who had tried to mediate between Hubmaier and Hut, was unable to save Hubmaier. Ferdinand summoned Leonhard to Vienna, and Balthasar Hubmaier and his wife were at once seized and put into Kreuzenstein castle. It is probably a fact that Hubmaier's arrest in 1527 and his subsequent execution were the result of his political agitation in Waldshut, rather than his Anabaptist faith; for the persecution in Moravia did not take place until the following year (1528).
Hubmaier's death was a severe blow to the Anabaptists in Moravia, as was also the severity of the persecution that followed in Moravia and Austria. Nevertheless they were not wiped out, but rather grew, because the growing threat of Turkish invasion occupied the populace and the police. In Nikolsburg the hostility between the followers of Hut and Hubmaier on the "sword and war" and on "tax and communal living" grew more and more divisive.
Leonhard von Liechtenstein held to the party of the "Schwertler" as opposed to the "Stäbler." The Schwertler were the group who were later generally called the Swiss Brethren, and lived in several villages around Nikolsburg. The Stäbler were those who held that a Christian could not with a good conscience bear arms. Leonhard von Liechtenstein made several futile attempts to unite the brethren, and finally expelled the Stäbler from the country. To the very last he befriended them, however; when they were about to go he told them they might have stayed in Nikolsburg. They replied that their consciences had testified against his preachers. He accompanied them to Unterwisternitz, "furnished them a drink and took no toll." In Austerlitz they were received by the lords of Kaunitz.
Leonhard died in 1534. He was survived by two minor sons, Christoph IV (d. 1585) and Leonhard II.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Falke, Jakob von Geschichte des fürstlichen Hauses Liechtenstein II. Vienna, 1877.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 650-652.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 338. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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