Jülich, a territory between the Meuse and the Lower Rhine, including a part of what is now the Dutch province of Limburg, was in the 14th century united with the territory of Berg east of the Rhine and the smaller and more remote territory of Ravensberg (the area of Bielefeld) and in the early 16th century also with that of Cleves, which had been since the 14th century united with that of the Mark (more to the east). The united territories—large and influential in Northwest Germany—were governed by the dukes John III (1511/1521-1539), William V the Wealthy (1539-1592), and John William (1592-1609). From 1614, Cleves-Mark-Ravensberg belonged to the Elector of Brandenburg, Jülich-Berg to branches of the Palatine Wittelsbachs. Jülich itself was divided into 29 districts (Aemter), whose bailiffs were called "Amtmann" or "Drost," and besides included a number of small subordinate territories (Unterherrschaften). These magistrates as well as the owners of these small subordinate territories belonged to the hereditary nobility and were rather independent, especially in church affairs, often combining legal jurisdiction and church patronage. Ecclesiastically the duchy of Jülich-Berg-Cleves belonged in the 16th century to the Catholic bishoprics of Cologne and Liége.
Exiled preachers or adherents of non-tolerated churches could easily find shelter here. This fact was of benefit to the Anabaptists, who had come here very early. As useful workers and craftsmen as well as competent farmers they often found protection from persecution on the estates of the nobles. Especially in the north and west of the country there were many of these nobles. Among them Werner von Pallant, bailiff of Wassenberg, is prominent, who sheltered the Wassenberg preachers (Predikanten).
Also the indecision of Duke John III favored the rise of non-Catholic tendencies. He tried to preserve the unity of the church by way of individual regulations. After publishing the Kirchenordnung of 1532 he called a meeting of the councillors of his territories. Here it was explained to him that it was necessary to have the help of the temporal sword to put an end to the "abuses that plunge the country into insurrection"; to that end a church inspection should be ordered. This inspection, held the following year, revealed that Anabaptism had numerous followers in the country. Three tracts of Anabaptist origin were confiscated: a treatise on communion and baptism, a letter of consolation, and an open epistle (Rembert, Wiedertäufer). Sometimes the councillors argued with those who did not attend church services. But finally with ruthless severity the authorities began the work of eliminating them. The prisons were filled.
Jülich became a mission field for the Münsterites. They were in 1535 planning to "let the banner fly" at four places in Holland, Friesland, Limburg, and Jülich (here at Eschenbroich near Wassenberg) at once. But after the suppression of the kingdom of the Anabaptists in Münster in the same year 1535 a general Anabaptist persecution flared up in the duchies of Jülich, Berg, and Cleves. Without regard for religious or social position the victims were committed to the executioner; until the middle of 1536 he carried out his bloody office in the various districts. "Justified" is the laconic comment at the edge of a long list of names. In Born 30 persons, mostly men, were executed after September 1534. In Bergheim the case was similar. In 1537 (not 1532, the date given in the Martyrs' Mirror) Veit tho Pilgrims was executed in Gladbach. The Martyrs' Mirror records executions at Born, Linnich, and Sittard in 1550-1552.
"The mandate of Speyer was applied in its full severity: the obstinate were burned, the recanters killed with the sword" (Rembert, 422). But church inspections of 1550 and 1559-1560 showed that the movement persisted through all the storms of persecution. When certain places and districts were declared free of Anabaptists, they had increased in others, as in Dremmen, Hückelhoven, Susteren, and Millen. Lambrecht Krener (called Lembgen) and Hermes of Aachen were now their leading preachers. (As to the duchy of Cleves, an edict of Duke William issued to the officials of Cleves and Mark on 9 March 1560, ordered that Anabaptists should be taught by orthodox clergymen to bring them back to the church. The obstinate should be brought to trial and await sentence by the duke. The old local and imperial laws were to be renewed and enforced; offenders were to be expelled from the country. On 10 July 1560, Duke William issued further orders that all pictures and books held for sale which represent the party of Anabaptists or the Sacramentists should be confiscated. This edict was repeated on 25 February 1562. On 23 January 1565, a sharp decree was issued against Anabaptists, Sacramentists, Davidjorists, etc.) The magistrate of Brüggen and Tegelen was severely reprimanded in 1567 for tolerating Anabaptists and giving them shelter. In 1574 the abbot of Gladbach lamented that the Anabaptists numbered no less than 150 families. (As to the duchy of Cleves: On 30 August 1577, objection was made to a proposed church inspection by the representatives of all the towns of Cleves meeting at Rees; the group, however, admitted that the secular government must see to it that false sects would not slip into the country; but the present inspection seemed to them to have the character of an Inquisition, especially since it was managed by such as seemed questionable to the adherents of the true and blessed doctrine. The Landtag decided on 26 September 1577, that the inspection should be dropped except against obvious Anabaptists. A list of 1622 shows 151 families; a list of 1654, 38 families; it may be assumed that they numbered 500-600 souls.) The Concept of Cologne (1591) was signed by Theunis Comes as the representative of the church at Gladbach, Diderich Verwer for all congregations in the country of Millen and at the Meuse (i.e., country of Born), Franz of Rheinbach for the congregation at Flamerse (Flamersheim), and by several other representatives of churches on the Lower Rhine. In 1611 the preachers of the church at Gladbach wrote a letter to Holland (Catalogus Amst., No. 536).
For a time the Anabaptists enjoyed a certain degree of toleration. An edict of Count Palatine Wolfgang in 1610 to the magistrate of Sittard ordered him henceforth not to molest them for their faith. The situation was reversed when Count Palatine Wolfgang William, who had turned Catholic, came into power in 1614. On 19 February 1619, Anabaptist meetings were prohibited. (As to the duchy of Berg: On 19 April, an edict was sent to the magistrate of Lowenburg to arrest all the Anabaptists who attended their forbidden meetings. On 1 Septeember 1622, followed a strict command to all magistrates and the clergy, not to allow any Mennonites to live in the country; their schools or churches should be torn down and their property confiscated. A further edict of 20 February 1624, softened some of the provisions; nevertheless negligent officials were reminded of their duty, and the Mennonite meetinghouses continued to be razed.)
The Mennonites, who made their living mostly by weaving, spinning, the linen trade, selling thread, making spinning wheels, and the like, had excessive levies made on them, frequently amounting to one fourth of their income. Their expulsion from Rheydt in 1694 evoked much adverse comment. In spite of patriotic love of their country, a sense of duty, and willingness to sacrifice they were not tolerated; they decreased in number and finally the churches became extinct. Most of the refugees settled in cities like Krefeld and Dutch towns like Maastricht and particularly Nijmegen. A large number of weavers from Jülich, most of whom had formerly come from Gladbach, were allowed to settle in Nijmegen in 1642-1657. For the Mennonites of Jülich the Dutch Mennonite Committee for Foreign Needs organized some collections. In 1694 William III of Orange, stadholder of the Netherlands and king of England, at the instance of the Dutch Mennonites wrote a letter of intercession to John William, Elector of the Palatinate and Duke of Jülich, requesting full toleration for the persecuted Mennonites in Jülich, but not until the beginning of the 18th century were the few remnants in Jülich given recognition.
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Cite This Article
Neff, Christian and Ernst Crous. "Jülich (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 30 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=J%C3%BClich_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=121173.
Neff, Christian and Ernst Crous. (1957). Jülich (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=J%C3%BClich_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=121173.
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