Bregenzerwald (Vorarlberg, Austria)

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Bregenzerwald region within Austria Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest), the northern region in the Vorarlberg in Austria, which lies between the valleys of the Rhine, Walser, and Mittelberg, was very early a seat of the Anabaptists. In consequence of the severe regulations passed by the Swiss cantons against the Anabaptists after 1525 and 1526 the movement was nearly eradicated in eastern Switzerland. Only in the canton of Appenzell did they maintain a precarious existence. A craftsman from Au in the Bregenzerwald, who had for some time lived in Switzerland and become acquainted with the doctrine of the Swiss Brethren, spread their doctrine at home upon his return in the region of the upper Bregenzerwald (about 1570).

The authorities made futile attempts to eradicate them again and finally issued a mandate that the Anabaptists would either have to return to the Catholic Church or leave the country. Most of them preferred the latter course. Those remaining, if caught, were penalized with heavy fines and prison sentences. A stir was created by the trial of the three Anabaptists, Hans Berwig, Jakob Seiffrit, and Hans Sailer. Archduke Ferdinand sent a severe reprimand to the officials in Feldkirch, 25 June 1579, because of their negligence in this matter, and ordered, as an edict of 16 October 1577, had already done, that those who refused to drop their faith were to be exiled and their property confiscated.

Hence in the years 1581-1583 large numbers of Anabaptists migrated to Moravia, "the land of the saints." Only scattered individuals returned, while others were preparing to emigrate. The soul of the movement was Melchior Platzer, who had once been an apothecary, and later a preacher in Moravia. In June 1583 he was arrested at Feldkirch and taken to Rankweil castle, and dragged back to Feldkirch for trial; but all attempts to make him renounce his faith were in vain. He was therefore condemned to death. He approached the place of execution (6 November 1583) singing and admonishing the spectators to repentance. Now the Anabaptists left for Moravia in large groups; in 1585 alone 37 families went, leaving property worth 1,415 guilders behind.

But even in the following decades there were considerable numbers of Anabaptists in the Vorarlberg. The success of Jakob Müller, who had been sent to the city and the diocese of Konstanz as church inspector by the bishop of Konstanz, Cardinal Marx Sitticus, induced Archduke Ferdinand to send this inspector to Bregenz; he succeeded in leading many Anabaptists back into the Catholic fold. The Jesuits who were sent to Bregenz in 1598 were even more successful.

But two decades later Anabaptism was still not extinct in the Bregenzerwald; on 24 May 1618, one of them, Jost Wilhelm, was "executed with the sword in a village on the Eck," two miles from Bregenz; he was soon followed by Christine Brünner, who had "just set out to go to Moravia, like the patriarch Abraham, to escape from the idolatrous Chaldeans." She died at the same place on 8 August. The traces of Anabaptism were not extinguished in Au until about 1630.


Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967: 283.

Bergmann, J. Die Wiedertäufer zu Au im inneren Bregenzer Walde und ihre Auswanderung nach Mähren im Jahre 1585. Sitzungsberichte der kaiserl. Akademie der Wissenschaft: v. I, 248-257.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 259.

Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol, 2 vols. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892: v. II, 220-228.

Author(s) Johann Loserth
Date Published 1953

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MLA style

Loserth, Johann. "Bregenzerwald (Vorarlberg, Austria)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 6 Mar 2021.,_Austria)&oldid=144006.

APA style

Loserth, Johann. (1953). Bregenzerwald (Vorarlberg, Austria). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 March 2021, from,_Austria)&oldid=144006.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 412-413. All rights reserved.

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