Thessaloniki (Thessalonica, Saloniki), a city of Greece which belonged to the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire in the 16th century. Its population is mixed Greek and Macedonian (Slavic). From a hymn in the Ausbund (all editions since 1785, pp. 892-95) it has been known that contacts once existed between certain Brethren in this city and Anabaptists in Moravia. Recent research has cleared up the matter, proving that such contact was of a twofold nature, (a) Italian anti-Trinitarians around Venice had to flee from the Inquisition in that city soon after 1550; some of them went to Moravia and joined the Hutterites (see Sega, della) while others went to Thessalonica where the Moslems granted them asylum. Among the latter was Antonio Rizzetto who, however, after a time became disillusioned with his group in Thessalonica. Having received letters from Francesco della Sega saying that he had found the true church of Christ in Moravia, Rizetto went there ca. l560. Beck (Geschichts-Bücher, 211-12) gives the story in some detail, based on a letter of 1601 by Klaus Braidl who vividly remembered the event. Whether Rizzetto came alone or with a group of Brethren from Thessalonica the letter does not say.
(b) Another event involving these two groups ca. l550 is related in the Martyrs' Mirror (D 400-402, E 365-367) on the basis of an old Dutch booklet called Het Brilleken (1630). Three "Greek Brethren" had undertaken the long journey from Thessalonica to Moravia (Nikolsburg and Pausram,) to inquire about these spiritually kindred Brethren. The Hutterite communal life did not, however, appeal to them. They went to the Swiss Brethren, likewise at Pausram, whose life and thinking they liked extremely well. Conversation was carried on in the Latin language. The account of their faith given by the "Greek Brethren" was then written down in the form of a "Confession." This document was carefully preserved (in German) and was copied a number of times by later Mennonites (a copy in Mennonite Historical Library [[[Goshen (Indiana, USA)|Goshen]], IN]). This document shows, however, that the visitors came not from Thessalonica but from Larissa in Thessaly, some 120 miles to the south of Thessalonica. When the three Greeks left, one of them, a tailor, left his shears with the Swiss Brethren as a souvenir. From the records it appears unlikely that the Greeks went to other places; Mehrning in 1646 claimed (on hearsay only) that they went as far as the Netherlands.
The character of the Greek visitors is not easy to determine. Their Confession sounds like a Swiss Brethren confession. The most likely conjecture is that they were Greek-Slavic Bogomiles. They claimed to have manuscripts from the time of the apostles; but very likely these documents were of more recent origin (though centuries old, written in Old Slavonic). Nothing positive is known about the source of their information about the Anabaptists. The claim of Het Brilleken that in the 1530's the Turks had taken an Anabaptist as a prisoner from Moravia to Thessalonica where he spread the news of his Anabaptist church must be taken with much reservation. The Turks did not invade Moravia at that time. The visit of 1550 did not lead to any further contacts. The Ausbund hymn, "O Herr, thue auf die Lefzen mein," seems to be based on the story in the Martyrs' Mirror, having been composed sometime before 1695. Unfortunately it is marred by many serious inaccuracies and should not be used as an historical source.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, …, 1685. Part II: 400-402.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 365-367. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm.
DeWind, H. A. "Anabaptists in Thessalonica." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXIX (1955): 70-73.
Friedmann, Robert. "Christian Sectarians in Thessalonica and Their Relationship to the Anabaptists." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXIX (1955) 54-69.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. IV.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Thessaloniki (Central Macedonia, Greece)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 28 Aug 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Thessaloniki_(Central_Macedonia,_Greece)&oldid=93709.
Friedmann, Robert. (1959). Thessaloniki (Central Macedonia, Greece). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 August 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Thessaloniki_(Central_Macedonia,_Greece)&oldid=93709.
Herald Press website.
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