Today In Fact, 24 June

The town of Münster in North West Germany was, in 1535 a Catholic city that was taken over by Anabaptists who attempted to create a theocracy. The expelled Prince-Bishop, Franz von Waldeck was not a happy bappy and gathered his own troops and allies to besiege the city.

The siege lasted for more than a year during which time a faction within the city took control and instituted polygamy and extreme violence against citizens and non-anabaptists.

When the city as finally taken, the leaders of the Anabaptists were place in iron cages which were mounted high on the cathedral steeple. Their rotting bodies could be seen for years and the cages are still hanging from the Cathedral.

The Münster Rebellion was a turning point for the Anabaptist movement. It never again had the opportunity of assuming political importance, the civil powers adopting stringent measures to suppress such agitation. It is difficult to trace the subsequent history of the group as a religious body, through changes in the names used and beliefs held.

The Batenburgers under Jan van Batenburg preserved the violent millennialist stream of Anabaptism seen at Münster. They were polygamous and believed force was justified against anyone not in their sect. Their movement went underground after the suppression of the Münster Rebellion, with members posing as Catholics or Lutherans as necessary.

Anabaptists are protestants who insist on rebaptizing converts from other Christian faiths. They do not recognize the validity of any baptism but their own “believers’ baptism”. Most Anabaptists are non-violent and deeply pacifist but the stream of thinking that sought to take temporal power and led to the horrors of Münster have thankfully died away.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (