Chur (Kanton Graubünden, Switzerland)

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Chur, capital (pop. 1953 of 19,256, 2005 of 32,409) of the Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden), during the Reformation was made up of three independent democratic states, the Gotteshausbund (southern part, Engadin, after 1367), the Oberbund or Graubund (western part, 1395-1425, Disentis, Rhäzüns, Misox, Flumns, Rheinwald), and the Zehngerichtenbund (eastern part, 1436, Davos, Prätigau, Schanfigg, Churwalden). The legal influence of the bishop's supremacy was, however, not sharply defined; Austria also exercised jurisdiction and claimed territorial supremacy. Concerning the beginnings here of the Reformation and the Anabaptist movement connected with it, little is known, since a part of the archives as well as the protocols of the council were burned.

Nevertheless, from the chronicles of the later years and the wealth of correspondence among the leaders of the Reformation in Chur and in Zürich as well as in St. Gall, it is clear that in principles and intensity the movement paralleled that in the other cantons, and that especially two factors were decisive for the Anabaptist movement: the common assumptions, found also in other territories, expressed by the thinking and attitude of the people toward the Catholic Church, and the initial influence of the oppositional leaders of the Reformation, later on of particular Anabaptist preachers.

Salzmann (Salandronius), a teacher in the monastery at Chur, reported to Vadian in St. Gall in 1521, that the progress of the Reformation in Germany was being tensely watched, and that the pamphlets, as, for instance, the Conclusions of Karlstadt against Eck, were eagerly read, and added, "You may soon be able to see the inhabitants of Rhaetia shake off the yoke of the Babylonian captivity." In 1522 the federal authorities especially designated particularly Sargans as speaking and acting improperly toward the faith. In 1523 chaplain Brötli, who later became known in the Anabaptist circles of Zürich (1524), opposes the Catholic Church with views that offer a preview of a part of Anabaptist doctrine, even though rebaptism did not yet appear, On 13 April 1523 the Oberbund and the Zehngersichtenbund, together with Chur, draw up the first articles, which were a year later recognized and confirmed, giving the populace a voice in the filling of pastoral vacancies and obligating the clergy to serve in person the congregations from whom they obtained their benefices. Consequently the Catholic dignitaries lost the churches in Chur and had to yield the church of St. Martin to Comander (Dorfmann), who had been called by the congregation. Comander worked in constant agreement with Zwingli for him and his views, so that by the end of 1525 forty clergymen requested the council to permit a disputation with the Catholics, which took place on 8 and 9 January 1526, in Ilanz. Comander had drawn up 18 theses against the church, the first of which founded faith and the church on the pure Word of God. He had previously published his theses and distributed them among the populace. At the disputation, the report of which was written by Dr. Hofmeister of Schaffhausen (Füsslin, Beiträge I), no specifically Anabaptist views are presented beyond the common ideas from which arose the opposition to the Catholic Church (Bible, indications of the church ban, and mutual, though not communistic assistance).

The Anabaptists were not represented at the disputation, although they had previously attracted definite attention and had already appeared openly. For even if one is willing to overlook the first mention of Andreas Castelberger (in 1522 he is called a "villainous fellow"), Georg Blaurock was without doubt active before the close of 1524 or the beginning of 1525, when he made his influence felt in Zürich and Zollikon, though not as an Anabaptist before early 1525. These views may have caused less excitement in Chur because the democratic government had made some concessions to popular feeling, especially in economic matters. But the influence of the Anabaptist leaders had taken effect at least by the beginning of 1525. That Andreas Castelberger had connections in Chur and sent books there is seen from his letter to the council of Zürich (Jecklin). Blaurock too, after his expulsion from Zürich on 25 March 1525, turned to Chur. The chronicler Eichhorn reports that the Anabaptists in Grisons began to stir about this time and Salzmann writes to Zwingli (15 May 1525), that the spirit of Grebel and Manz also haunted the regions of Grisons. In July 1525 Manz was arrested there. The council of Chur reported to Zürich that he had created offense and dissension "with the rebaptism of old people and corner preaching." Manz was expelled.

It seems that in this period the Anabaptist movement was at its peak, since pathological psychic aberrations, as one finds them in periods of extreme excitement of the masses (such as the phenomena in St. Gall, are reported. Comander also complains in his letters to Zwingli about the attitude of the Anabaptists and the increasing influence of Anabaptist preaching, which caused the populace to waver and seriously hampered the progress of the Reformation. He called them Pseudobaptists, in order to give the movement a label (Zwingli W.W.N. 374, of 8 August 1525) and also mentions Castelberger as carrying on in Chur. It cannot be determined to what extent the Reformed clergy themselves contributed to this confusion by ambiguous interpretation of various statements of faith. It is certain that the question of the regulation of communion and the ban divided the leaders of Zwingli's party and created shades of opinion varying from the views of the Reformers to those of the extreme Anabaptists. The course of the chaplain Ulrich Bolt of Fläsch, who belonged to the Reformed party in 1524, and in June 1525 (Zwingli W.W.N. 372) requested Zwingli to explain the question, but later joined the Anabaptists, is only one illustration of the conditions of the time and the persons connected with it. These conditions required clarification, which was to result from the disputation at Ilanz in January 1526. For the Reformed, in spite of the unconcealed intention of the Bishop (Paulus Ziegler, 1503-1541) to discredit it, this disputation created unity. The Anabaptists were soon to feel the effect of this unity. By order of the diet of the three confederations at Chur (February 1526) the Anabaptists imprisoned at Fläsch, 18 men and 60 Hüter(?) were placed on trial at Maienfeld. Salzmann reported to Vadian that all recanted, including the leaders; they were therefore fined 25 to 120 guilders and dismissed (de Porta). But this assertion contradicts the statement by Strickler that "they did not renounce their error but were found quite obstinate; but finally after adequate promise of the Fläsch community to grant them their rights at the next diet they were released" (Strickler, Abschiede). Nevertheless Salzmann reported to Zwingli (1 April 1526) that the Anabaptists had established a nucleus (Brutnest), encouraged and strengthened by those who had just previously escaped from the tower in Zürich (Manz, Grebel, and Blaurock were imprisoned in Zürich on 18 November 1525, but escaped 21 March). Grebel fled to Maienfeld in the summer of 1526, where he had a sister living and where he died of the plague.

This agitation led to a stern order on 20 May 1526 forbidding all sects in the Bunden territory on penalty of death; following this edict conditions seem quieter. For when Zürich invited the confederations and Chur to participate in a joint session to agree on proceedings against the Anabaptists, Chur replied on 5 August 1527, that at present they had no trouble with the Anabaptists, and knew of no one connected with this sect (Strickler). It is not possible to ascertain whether this statement agrees with fact or to what degree. Nevertheless Comander had to report to Zwingli as early as 17 March 1528 that they needed all their strength against the Catabaptists (as Zwingli called them), who had again assembled among them. "There are many citizens who secretly or openly tolerated them and the cripple Andreas (Castelberger) was also active in the city and confused many." The Anabaptists also received support, or at least no particular persecution, from the abbot Theodore Schlegel, who had become an opponent of the Reformation after having been a friend, and may incorrectly have given rise to the assumption that the Anabaptists were supported by the Catholic party. This supposed favor has no factual proof. Schlegel was beheaded in 1529 on a charge of endangering the laws of the state.

For the 1530s no facts are known about the Anabaptist movement. A second disputation occasioned by Comander and authorized by the council of Chur was announced for the Monday after Easter in 1531 at Ilanz, but it is not known that it took place. Martial incidents in Italy may have prevented it. The 12 articles set up by Comander and Gallizius, which were to be defended by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments but not by the doctrinal statements of the church fathers, reveal the advantage the Reformers managed to secure for themselves. The meaning of the articles is the same as those of 1526, only in article 11 communion is added according to Zwingli's conception "as a memorial and thanksgiving after proper arrangement," which signified a retrenchment compared with the previous one and a move farther away from the Anabaptists, since in 1526 no objections could be made against the frequent repetition of communion, which was considered right by the Anabaptists, and which had at first been permitted by the Reformed. The communion and the Christian ban, which are not indicated in the first articles, were to replace the Mass. The twelfth point of 1531 is pointed directly at the Anabaptists and specifies that "rebaptism is an error and a corruption against God's Word and doctrine." It was not included in the 18 articles of 1526.

The letters of the reformers only rarely refer to the Anabaptist movement in this period filled with unrest. As in the other cantons the movement seems to have been halted. After the death of the bishop of Chur in 1541, the congregations of the Gotteshausbund and Chur ruled that in the future the bishops to be chosen had to swear to six articles which determined the rights and limitations of the bishop's power and assured equality of rights among the various religious views. Through this imperial capitulation the progress of the Reformed Church was greatly forwarded (Mayer, Campell). When in 1544 the federal diet at Chur granted residence in Grisons to all who had been exiled from their homes for their faith, on condition that they adhere to the true doctrine and not undertake anything against the state, Grisons opened its doors to the influx and influence of various religious views.

Of importance to Chur was a movement in the 1560s led by Gantner, the second parson in Chur, which possibly arose from the influence of the more liberal Italian ideas, but even more from the recognition of the close connection of the church with the state and with the closely related suppression of Anabaptist views. The part played by personal antipathy toward Egli, the disciple of Bullinger, who had been made first pastor in Chur at Bullinger's instigation, in sharpening the friction can have no bearing on the factual side of the affair. The dispute was centered on the question of the right of the authorities to proceed against the Anabaptists and whether one could compel them to believe contrary to their conscience. The quarrel was brought about by the book dealer Frell in Chur, who had already previously been called to account by Fabricius (then deceased) for the sale of Anabaptist books. He is described as a quiet, religiously thoughtful man, seems to have belonged to a religiously purified Anabaptist congregation, and was nonetheless to be expelled in 1570. Gantner interceded for him against Egli's demands and based his opinion on the equality of rights of dissenters on Matthew 13, that Christ had permitted tares to grow, that the apostles punished no one except by the ban, and that this ban was necessary to the church; he also rejected the binding character of the Old Testament on disciples of the New, also the oath, demanding recognition of yea and nay; faith is to be determined freely as a pure gift of God and not by force; his position on baptism is not expressed. Bullinger became greatly agitated by this dispute, and called the article on the oath, the valuation of the Old Testament and the ban "seditious Anabaptist" articles and supported Egli through numerous letters in refuting the debated points. The recognition of one of these articles sufficed for Bullinger to imagine "Anabaptist terrors," among whom he also reckoned Servetus, although he was never an Anabaptist. (Bullinger claimed Servetus to be an Anabaptist, and proved it several times.) On Bullinger's recommendation Gantner was expelled, but found refuge in Schanfigg. This congregation had obtained permission to call him as their pastor, evidence of the sympathy his views had found. Egli's officiousness and several tactical errors may also have contributed to Gantner's popularity.

It is not easy to determine whether the views of Frell and Gantner are directly Anabaptist or rather those of an enlightened Christian spirit. Other influences, especially Schwenckfeldian, seem to have made themselves felt; yet their disparagement of infant baptism and the teachings of the older Zwingli in this connection, as well as their opposition to military service definitely indicate Anabaptist origin and agreement of opinion. But these few known representatives are not conclusive evidence of the existence of quiet, settled Anabaptist congregations. Neither is Bullinger's supposition that every deviating opinion carried the germ of Anabaptist heresy sound. There is no information on the further development of the Anabaptist movement in Chur. The Anabaptist congregation at Ilanz in Grisons maintained itself, unknown to the government, until the late 1560s under the leadership of Leupold Scharnschlager (d. 1563). The strife and disturbances which broke out in the last quarter of the 16th century and occupied the church of Chur were Arian in nature and were more concerned with the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ.


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Map:Chur (Switzerland)

Author(s) Cornelius Bergmann
Date Published 1953

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Bergmann, Cornelius. "Chur (Kanton Graubünden, Switzerland)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 25 Jul 2024.,_Switzerland)&oldid=117942.

APA style

Bergmann, Cornelius. (1953). Chur (Kanton Graubünden, Switzerland). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from,_Switzerland)&oldid=117942.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 591-594. All rights reserved.

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