Mändl, Hans (d. 1561)

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Hans Mändl (Korbmacher), official name Hans Reichenberger, also called "Der kleine Mändl," a Hutterite martyr, was after Blaurock, Hutter, and Amon the most important of the Hutterite leaders in Austria. A native of Albeins near Gufidaun, a basketmaker by trade, he was won for the Anabaptists by Offerus Griesinger and was baptized by him in the Weissenbach Valley near Pens in the summer of 1536. Shortly afterward, while he was attending a meeting with a number of recent converts in the Sarn Valley, at which Griesinger preached, he fell into the hands of a band of scouts sent out by the district judge Joseph Grebmer. He lay in chains for 26 weeks at Sterzing. Wearied by his long imprisonment and the continued attempts to convert him, he escaped from the tower. "God helped' him out," say the Hutterite chronicles.

Nothing is heard of his work until 1544 in connection with his second arrest. He was staying at Freiwald near Kortsch in a congregation of about 50 persons, to whom he presented Gilg Federspiel as leader. Not long afterward he was taken prisoner; after 22 weeks in chains at Landeck he escaped "with an unspotted conscience," but four years later, in November 1548, he again fell into the hands of his adversaries, and was held in prison 11 weeks in the company of Hans Gregenhofer, a Hutterite preacher of Nikolsburg. The priests of St. Lorenzen and Brixen received orders to instruct the two prisoners, but they escaped before any attempt could be made to convert them. Their jailers were surprisingly sympathetic with them; the priests raised the complaint that the prisoners were being treated with too much lenience, that they had been told that they were in prison not because of doctrine, but for disobedience, and they were given Bibles and other books according to their wish.

The escaped prisoners may have gone to Moravia, for many Anabaptists arrived there in the next year from Landeck, Schwatz, and Petersberg. In Moravia, Mändl was made a preacher in 1551, serving with vigor until his death. His particular assignment was to travel as a missionary. Thus he appeared almost year after year in Tyrol and sent one little group after another to Moravia, most of them from the Vintschgau and the Puster Valley. To be sure, some fell into the hands of scouts, but most of them reached the Canaan they longed for. All attempts to seize Mändl failed; for the people protected this emissary in spite of all the mandates. During this period of roving evangelism he wrote three epistles, which have been preserved: (1) To the brethren in the Lord who live here and there in the Adige; (2) To the zealous in the Oberland; and (3) To all the good of heart, who have a zeal for God and His truth, sent in 1554 by us brethren and followers of Christ and His divine truth, we whom you know well and request that you become Godfearing.

Since the authorities did not manage to catch Mändl, who had so often been in the country and had baptized so many and was there again now, they were ordered "that they should henceforth keep a better watch on water as well as land." The government had made the discovery that the doctrines of the Anabaptists were making inroads in the Vintschgau, at mines in Scharl, at Matray, Salurn, etc., and that the Anabaptists were selling their goods and leaving the country by day and night secretly and openly by land and on the Inn. So much the more zealously did the authorities look for Mändl. On 19 January 1560 they sent orders to Gufidaun, Steinach, and Axams to find out whether Mändl had property in Ableins, and whether he had a wife and child. They made the unhappy discovery that in Schlanders alone there were about 1,000 Anabaptists. So much the more pleasant was the news that Mändl had been captured near Rosenheim on 15 November with Jörg Rack and Eustachius Kotter.

Mändl was taken to Tyrol and imprisoned in a deep tower on the Wellenberg, the other two in the Kräuterturm in Innsbruck. The priest Jörg Schiechl, "a clever and learned" man, was given the task of examining and converting them, "found that they were attached to Anabaptist doctrine and were completely obstinate therein and not open to his Christian instruction," and that more serious and severe measures were required. Mändl was cross-examined on 2 January, Kotter on 22, 23 and 24 January, Rack on 26 and 27 January, with and without the use of the rack. Several articles were presented to them which they were required to answer point by point. To the question whether they believed that one must obey the church, they replied that "of the present church they were not able to acknowledge that it was the true one. Only these who walk consistently in faith, doctrine, and life are true Christians." Baptism is a true sacrament. They denied that the sacrament of the altar is the true body of Christ. Concerning marriage, the wife is not obliged to obey the ungodly husband. Also it is not godly to marry for money or for fleshly lust. Their faith is not a "damned sect." They refused to recant; they thanked God that they were in the true faith and would stay in it to their end. Mändl's confession of faith has been preserved. It has the title, "Glaubensbekenntniss dreier Mannspersonen mit Namen Hans Mändl, Eustachius Kotter and Jörg Rack," and is found in the manuscripts at Pressburg, Graft, and Budapest.

The trial was prolonged because of jurisdictional disputes. Hans Mändl described his situation in a letter to his fellow prisoners. "They have put me into the tower where our dear brother Jörg Liebich lay for a long time. It is probably very deep, I have heard 6 fathoms, but it has a tiny window at the top, and when the sun comes around there it shines in a while, so that it is light. When the new year was past the authorities came with a new order." He received the articles mentioned above (a total of 46), which he had to answer. "I went to the torture as unfraid as if it had been no torture. After they had dealt with me three days, they put me back in the tower. At times I hear the worms in the wall. Bats buzz around me at night, and the mice rustle around me, but God makes everything easy for me. The second time they dealt with me one day because there were only six articles." The confession given by Mändl and his fellow prisoners coincides with the Rechenschaft by Peter Riedemann, which appeared in print four years later. The death sentence—some of the judges evidently suffered qualms of conscience—was pronounced on 13 June (some sources say 10 June) and was carried out on the same day.

The chronicles record that a great multitude of people was there. On their way to execution, Dax pressed their hands, making them very happy. At the site of execution their statements and the sentence were read to the crowd. The spectators accused the judges and jury of shedding innocent blood. They explained that they had to obey the imperial commands. "O blind world," said Mändl. "Each one ought to judge according to his own heart and conscience. But you judge us according to the imperial mandates." He made a lengthy address to the witnesses; what he said was the divine truth, say the chronicles. Even when the judge said, "Hans, stop a little," he kept on talking until he was hoarse. Eustachius, "who was weak in the flesh," was first beheaded; then Jörg bowed his head to the sword; the executioner bound Hans Mändl to a ladder and threw him alive into the flames with the corpses of the other two (Codex 235, Pressburg).

Besides his epistles Mändl left four songs: "Dein Wunsch und Gab empfangen hab," 6 stanzas (Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brilder, 630); "O Gott in deinem Himmelsthron," 13 stanzas (of the year 1548; op. cit., 631 f.); "O Vater mein, ein Kindlein dein" (op. cit., 632-634); and "Gott Vater, in deinem Reich" (manuscripts 203 and 232 at Pressburg, Domkapitel). Rotter and Rack each also left three songs (manuscripts 203, 232, and 194 at Pressburg).


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Author(s) Johann Loserth
Date Published 1957

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Loserth, Johann. "Mändl, Hans (d. 1561)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 19 Oct 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%A4ndl,_Hans_(d._1561)&oldid=148905.

APA style

Loserth, Johann. (1957). Mändl, Hans (d. 1561). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 October 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%A4ndl,_Hans_(d._1561)&oldid=148905.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 454-455. All rights reserved.

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