Graz is a city (1950 pop. 226,721; 2008 pop. 290,000) in Styria (Steiermark), Austria (also called Bairisch-Grätz to distinguish it from Windischgrätz, as in the Anabaptist chronicles).It was the capital of the three territories of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, all possessions of Archduke Charles of Hapsburg, the youngest son of Emperor Ferdinand I. It enters into Anabaptist history in the 1530s and 1540s, not because it was an Anabaptist center, but because the Anabaptists seized at other places were usually tried and executed there. In the second half of the 16th century the local authorities were more intent than the national or church authorities in keeping Anabaptists out of the country. The famous "Pacification" concluded between these three reluctant duchies and Archduke Karl III at Brück on the Mur in 1578 granted toleration to the Lutherans, but obligated them not to tolerate "any bookdealer who . . . distributes all kinds of sectarian tracts and books."
In the 1530s and 1540s the great Anabaptist movement came from Upper Austria, chiefly Linz, to Styria; the thorough church inspection of 1528 revealed that the country was no longer free of Anabaptists. There were already some Anabaptists in Graz; one of them, from Upper Austria, was cross-examined. It was learned that they met in the house of a painter named Kaspar above the new parsonage. The house was ordered to be razed; but the painter's wife appealed to the authorities that the house was her inheritance from her father, and she herself was not an Anabaptist. The judges and the council reported on 22 August 1530 that one baptism had taken place in the house. The artist himself had been baptized there two years before by a priest named Bernhardin. The house was destroyed.
Seven Anabaptists in the Kapfenberg district were seized there and transferred to Graz. But the cross-examinations did not yield the results desired by the government; therefore Hans Ungnad requested Stubenberger on 26 January 1526 to send him the statements of these Anabaptists and the books in their possession. These Anabaptists were then kept imprisoned in Graz three full years. They refused to be converted, and stressed some of their most important doctrines. The governor, as Michel Meixner wrote to the Cardinal-Bishop Bernhard of Trent, 24 January 1534, "had them taken to the castle . . . and had a preacher preach to them, but none of them would be converted. They stopped before the door and said they would not enter a house of idols; nor did they listen to the sermon, but talked to each other, and comforted and strengthened each other." "The governor then requested the clergymen assigned to the task by the Archbishop of Salzburg to deal with them; he wanted to have nothing more to do with them; he calls them pious, simple people." "Now the provost of Pöllau and the other clergy worked with them two days. If one tries to instruct them in the pure Word of God and convince them of their error, they say they do not need it, for they have been convinced by God. If one says they should call upon God to be enlightened by Him, they do not need that either, for they are already enlightened; in short, one accomplishes nothing with them. If one wishes to apply a serious penalty, it is best to let them go and to expel them from the country."
In another letter—it is the supplement to a report of 21 January 1534—Meixner also states that "no punishments are inflicted on the Anabaptists." It is a burden to him that he must deal with the governor concerning them, who always thought they were simple and pious people. "Recently the Anabaptists who have been so long in prison, have been taken out and preached to. None of them wanted to enter the chapel and when they were admonished and the officers tried to correct them they spoke sacrilegious words against the holy sacrament." Meixner advised that if they were not to be punished, they should at least be expelled, to rid the ruler of the expense.
Unfortunately they were very severely dealt with. The Geschichts-Bücher say, "In 1534 Brother Daniel Kropf was one of three seized in Graz in Styria and executed with the sword. At this time four sisters were executed for the sake of divine truth. All seven of them bravely testified to the divine truth." "Of this Daniel there are still some letters in the brotherhood, concerning baptism and other points, also four Christian songs that he wrote."
Beck mentions one of these writings, the "Confession of faith that he . . . presented to the council at Graz, 1534, . . . why we, having left wife or husband, children, possessions, house and home, were imprisoned as criminals by you, and have now been long imprisoned and tortured." Kropf rejects water baptism and infant baptism. Communion is not "physical but spiritual." In water baptism he sees only a symbol of the covenant God has made with man through Christ. He does not believe that salvation lies in it. Salvation lies in faith in Him whom God sent. Ungnad's letter shows that he was a statesman and friendly to the Reformation; indeed, two decades later he lost his position for the sake of it.
From this time on there is no mention of Anabaptists in Graz except when they are taken through the city, as when the prisoners of Falkenstein are dragged from Falkenstein in Lower Austria to the sea, having been condemned to die as galley slaves. Only occasionally does one remember an Anabaptist who still lies in Graz in prison, like Brother Andre Keller, of whom the letter of Amon to the brethren at Falkenstein is mindful.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967: 115, 116, 278.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 161 f.
Loserth, Johann. "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Steiermark." Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins für Steiermark XLII and L, and Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Steiermark X.
Loserth, Johann. Veröffentlichungen der Historischen Landeskommission VI, 22.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923: 48, 158, 182.
Cite This Article
Loserth, Johann. "Graz (Steiermark, Austria)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 30 Apr 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Graz_(Steiermark,_Austria)&oldid=94926.
Loserth, Johann. (1956). Graz (Steiermark, Austria). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 April 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Graz_(Steiermark,_Austria)&oldid=94926.
Herald Press website.
©1996-2016 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.