Hans Hansmann, a purse maker of Basel, therefore usually called Seckler, was one of the first Anabaptists of Switzerland and filled a place of leadership among them, which was, however, of short duration, for he was one of the first Anabaptists to suffer a martyr's death in Bern. At first he worked in Basel, but the mandates issued in 1526 against the Anabaptists by the Basel government apparently caused him to leave. In 1527 he settled in Bern with Jakob Hochrütiner (the son of Lorenz Hochrütiner of Zürich). With the other leaders of the Bern Swiss Brethren he was arrested in the spring of 1527 and cross-examined. (The protocol is still in the state archives at Bern; see Quervain, 120.) The council favored expulsion, and the clergy undertook public attempts to convert them. A confession of faith discovered in the search of a house was sent by Berchtold Haller to Zwingli on April 25; by April 28 Zwingli had already presented a refutation of Anabaptist doctrine. Hansmann and Hochrütiner could, however, not be deflected from their faith. Since they did not render an oath they were put in neck-irons and on 1 May 1527 expelled from the canton. The other prisoners recanted to escape expulsion (Quervain, 121; Müller, 25).
Hansmann returned to Bern for the great disputation (see Mennonitisches Lexikon I: 17 f.) of 7-26 January 1528, which was to be decisive in the Reformation of Bern. With him came seven other brethren, including Georg Blaurock. They were, however, not admitted to the proceedings, but were interned for the duration. Shortly before the close of the session they were called to the Rathaus, where five theologians, including Zwingli and Conrad Schmid, publicly disputed with them. The speakers on the Anabaptist side were Hansmann, Blaurock, and Hans Pfistermeyer. The council declared that the learned doctors had adequately convinced the Anabaptists of their error with the Holy Scriptures; but since they persisted in their opinion they were to be expelled from the canton, and if they were ever seen there again, to be "drowned without mercy in that very hour." The safe conduct to the border guaranteed to them was granted (Müller, 29f.).
Concerning this disputation one of the four presidents at the disputation, Conrad Schmid, published a booklet entitled, Die predigen so vonn den frömbden Predicanten, die allenthalb här, zu Bemn uff dem Gespräch oder Disputation gewesen, beschehen sind, (with) Verwerfen der articklenn und stucken, so die Widertöuffer uff dem gespräch zu Bernn, vor ersamem grossem Radt jürgewendt habend (Zürich, Christlicher Froschauer, 1528, copy in Goshen College Library). This first book on the Bern Anabaptists can make no claim of reliability. "The booklet," says Ernst Müller, "not only swarms with epithets from the animal world, but also with distortions and misconstructions" (p. 46). Rather remarkable, however, is the reproach made by the theologians of Zürich and Bern, that the Anabaptists refused to repeat the Ave Maria, since the Reformed Church later took the same position on this point.
Where Hansmann went from Bern is not certain. In the spring of 1529 he was again imprisoned with Hans Dreier and examined on the rack on several points: infant baptism, whether a Christian can hold a magistrate's office, the oath, community of goods, tithes and interest, community of wives, and separation from the church. Hansmann (here called Seckler) was tried first. The record states that he said, "Infant baptism is a principle of the pope and because it is not done away with there can be no Christian Church, for it is not instituted of God." Then Hans Dreier was examined. On the question of baptism he said briefly, "I stay with baptism like Seckler." Concerning separation, he said he would not attend church because he was separated from those who do not confess Christ. The confessions made by Seckler and Dreier were signed by them. On 24 May 1529, several other persons were tried before the prebendary on the same points. First came the hatter Heini Seiler of Aarau. His answer was like that of the other two, and he "would leave his life for it and testify to it with his blood. . . . He had not gone to church for a long time nor to any other preaching, for one must be taught alone by God."
A letter of self-vindication written by an Anabaptist, which Fluri found in the state archives in Bern and identified as Seckler's, gives his belief clearly. He says that in the old covenant God had removed the temple of Solomon; in the new one the believers are the temple of the living God, wherefore no one could compel him to enter the temple (the church). Further he testifies that he had held no secret meetings, but when anyone requested the reason for his faith, "I revealed my faith to him through the Scripture." Infant baptism has no foundation in the Word of God, and was "instituted without the Word of God," and must be regarded as a plant, according to Matthew 15, "which my heavenly Father did not plant," and which should therefore be uprooted. "But those who commit themselves by baptism into the death of Christ are my fellow members, of which body Christ is the head." The government, in which a Christian might participate, should be obeyed; not by compulsion, however, but voluntarily. The oath is contrary to the word of Christ; whatever the government required he would perform as long as it was not contrary to God's Word. He did not reject private possession of property; in the first church all things were common, but there was no command. "Tithes and all fees imposed by the government a Christian will pay as far as it concerns body and goods; but a Christian will not take them." This was also his idea on the taking of interest. Separation from the church was due to idols; he had no objection to the teaching of the preachers whom God calls and who point out much that is right (Müller, 42 f.). He had baptized only seven persons in the town of Bern; may the Lord preserve these souls in their faith to His praise to the end. A Verantwortung by Hansmann was also discovered in the archives of Bern by Adolf Fluri (Quervain, 151).
After these trials the clergy informed the council that the Anabaptists intended to adhere to their belief and testify to it with their blood. On 8 June the council decreed that the three (Hansmann, Dreier, and Seiler) should be drowned if they still persisted in their Anabaptism after another attempt to convert them (Ratsmanual 222/153). The sentence was executed above the present railroad bridge at the "blood tower"; they were cast into the Aare in mid-July 1529. They were the first victims of the Anabaptist persecution in Bern.
Fluri, A. "Täuferhinrichtungen in Bern im 16. Jahrhundert." In Berner Heim 1896.
Hege, Christian and Neff, Christian. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 251 f.
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 24 ff. (p. 42 gives the record of the trial).
Quervain, Theodor de. Kirchliche und sociale Zustände in Bern unmittelbar nach der Einführumr der Reformation. Bern, 1900.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Hansmann, Hans (d. 1529)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 26 Mar 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hansmann,_Hans_(d._1529)&oldid=95100.
Hege, Christian. (1956). Hansmann, Hans (d. 1529). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 March 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hansmann,_Hans_(d._1529)&oldid=95100.
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