Adige Valley (Südtirol, Austria)
Adige Valley is located in southern Tyrol, Austria (German, Etschtal). The chronicles of the Hutterian Brethren divided the martyrs of Tyrol into three groups: those in the Puster Valley, those in the Adige Valley and those in the Inn Valley. In the Adige Valley, the towns on the Eisack, namely, Brixen, Klausen, Sterzing, and Guffidaun, witnessed respectively sixteen, seven, thirty and nineteen martyrdoms (see Brixen) —an unusually high number. But the Adige Valley itself, beginning with the Malser Haide, was also the scene of an extensive Anabaptist movement, even though the number of martyrs here is not so high as along the Eisack.
The first Anabaptists whom the government dealt with were found in Mais and Glurns in 1527 and had probably been won to the faith by Swiss Brethren evangelists. The government immediately ordered Jakob Trapp, the local administrator, to stamp out the movement. In 1528 there were Anabaptist trials in Bozen and Gargazon, and the archbishop and cardinal of Salzburg were notified that Salzburg Anabaptists were moving into Tyrol. Other communities, such as Meran, Bozen, Trient, and Glurns, were informed of the distinctive marks used by the Anabaptists. In Meran there are also lawsuits against them. Here and there they were dealt with leniently. Thus on 4 April 1528, directives were sent to the authorities of Bozen to treat the Anabaptist prisoners with lenience "without injuring their honor" (without applying the Horb penalty) because of their ignorance, and to dismiss them with a suitable fine. In the same year Joerg Zaunring, Hutter's later companion and treasurer, and Kürschner (or Klesinger), who was baptized by him, were active at Leifers and Kaltem. The latter was seized 25 April 1529 in a night meeting at Kitzbühel with six companions.
In Kaltem, as the list of 1581 shows, four Anabaptists were put to death at the stake. But Kürschner was executed on 2 June 1529 at Innsbruck. At the same time the administrator of Petersberg seized five others who escaped by night. In the region of Bozen the persecution continued; already the officers were showing their aversion to the continued bloodshed, and justifying their disobedience on the ground that these were not ordinary criminals and that some of them came from regions outside their jurisdiction, as from Sarntheim and Wangen.
The Anabaptists found a relatively safe region northeast of Bozen in the many ravines and hamlets of the long Ritten mountain range, where Zaunring served as trustee of their funds. Among those captured there was Hans Gasser, who also met his death at Bozen in 1529. At the same time Georg Blaurock, having fled from Switzerland, arrived here and took over Kürschner's orphaned congregation. In the region of the Eisack and the Adige from Klausen to Neumarkt he found a fertile field. The large crowd gathering to hear him at Voels near Leifers made it inevitable that the authorities would finally find him; he and his companion Hans Langegger were seized and burned at the stake at Klausen on 6 September 1529. The congregation was then led by Benedikt, who was active in Vill and Tramin, until he too was captured and executed.
Incessant persecution drove the Anabaptists out of the northerly parts of Tyrol into the region of Trient, though they maintained themselves in many places in the Adige Valley. Early in 1530 seven were captured in the Neumarkt jurisdiction, including the two Vorsteher, Martin Nauk of Deutsch-Noffen and Benedikt Campner of Breitenberg. In the following years persecution was sharpened in the valleys of the Adige and Eisack. In Klausen Ulrich Müllner was put to death in October 1531, and in Bozen and Kaltem a number of men and women were executed during July. Nevertheless their numbers increased. In the district of Guffidaun Jakob Hutter led a meeting in which 150 persons took communion. In the days of the severest persecution they were able to find a bare living. In 1533, when persecution reached its height, they turned their eyes toward Moravia, where Jakob Hutter organized his brotherhood.
In Tyrol, however, the Anabaptist movement did not die out even after Hutter's death; Hans Amon and Offrus Griesinger continued his work, the former in Moravia and the latter in Tyrol, where they gathered in Lüsen near Brixen. Soon they were found again in Guffidaun, Terlan, and Bozen. With the execution of Griesinger the authorities thought they had given the movement its deathblow, but the Anabaptists appeared again and again in Klausen, Lüsen, Wengen, etc., at the end of 1544 in Meran, in 1554 in Kastelbell, Kortsch, and Schlanders. In Kortsch fifty persons assembled for a meeting. In Schlanders Hans Pürchner was beheaded in 1556. "They leaned his back against a post and thus beheaded him; for he was unable to kneel, so miserably had they racked and tortured him." Well-to-do persons were among the Anabaptist emigres from the Adige; on 28 March 1558 it was reported that two brothers, Remigius and Christoph Heugen, had sold their property at Eyrs and had left 12,000 guilders' worth of possessions behind to go to Moravia. Several leaders appeared repeatedly in Kastelbell, and the property of nineteen emigrants was confiscated. In the following year people from Laas followed, and on 12 November 1560, it was reported to the government that recently about one thousand Anabaptists had met in the district of Schlanders "and led many into this dangerous sect, who were also led away with wife and child and much capital."
Similar information is given in this district three years later: "In general an increase in the sect is noticeable." In 1567 there were Anabaptists in Glurns. Naturally the migration to Moravia grew stronger, as the Anabaptists there were given more freedom of movement. Frequently they simply abandoned their property and left. In 1578 two Vorsteher attracted some attention, one of them from Mals. In 1584 there were Anabaptists in Latsch near Schlanders and in Prad, Laubach, and Tschengels. Martin Gruber, who was seized on the Malser Haide on the point of leading a group to Moravia, came from Graun. The Vintschgau was the region where the apostles of that time were most occupied "with catching fish." That Anabaptism was still able to propagate itself along the Adige and in Vintschgau in the 1590s is seen in a letter sent by the government to the authorities on the Adige in 1592, as well as in the orders given three years later to Nanders and Schlanders, stating that some Anabaptists had again been noted in the Vintschgau. Not until the end of the sixteenth century did the movement become extinct in these parts of Tyrol.
Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 613.
Cite This Article
Loserth, Johann. "Adige Valley (Südtirol, Austria)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 17 Oct 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Adige_Valley_(S%C3%BCdtirol,_Austria)&oldid=130386.
Loserth, Johann. (1955). Adige Valley (Südtirol, Austria). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 October 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Adige_Valley_(S%C3%BCdtirol,_Austria)&oldid=130386.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 12-13. All rights reserved.
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