Crautwald, Valentin (1465-1545)

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1953 Article

Valentin Crautwald (1465-1545), canon and lector of theology at Liegnitz in Silesia, Germany. He was not an Anabaptist (as Keller erroneously supposed), but was a close friend of Schwenckfeld, as well as his teacher of Greek and theological counselor. He is the source of the systematic presentation and foundation of the Schwenckfeldian doctrine of communion, which involved both of them in conflict with Luther. Of Crautwald's work, mention should be made of Von bereytunge zum sterben (Breslau, 1524) and Der neue Mensch (1543). -- Neff

1987 Article

Valentin Crautwald (1465-1545): Silesian humanist and admirer of Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) and Erasmus, colleague of Caspar Schwenckfeld (described by some scholars as Schwenckfeld's "Melanchthon"), canon and lector in the cathedral seminary in Liegnitz, Silesia, from 1524-1537. With Schwenckfeld, Crautwald promoted a unique "spiritualist" ideal of radical religion that minimized the role of external observances. Crautwald's 16th-century biographer noted that Crautwald "fled as much as possible a famous reputation and the glory of men," preferring the quiet of his study. Not surprisingly, Crautwald's actual significance for Silesian Schwenckfeldianism has only recently been appreciated.

Born of peasant parents in the region of Neisse, Silesia, Crautwald's family derived its name from the region of Krautenwalde in Austria-Silesia. Scholars dispute the exact year of his birth, although Sudermann's suggestion of 1465 seems right (Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum [=CS], vol. 6, 193-94). He joined a host of young Silesians in pursuing studies at the University of Cracow, encountering humanist teaching there and becoming a follower of Reuchlin the Hebraist. Crautwald returned to Neisse to teach and soon gained a reputation in Silesia for his gifts in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. His abilities brought him to the attention of the bishop of Breslau, who appointed him personal secretary and protonotary in 1514.

Under the influence of Erasmus, Karlstadt, and Melanchthon, by 1522 Crautwald was caught up in efforts for church reform. In a dramatic personal gesture, and possibly in imitation of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (1455-1536), and Erasmus, he burned all of his previous literary endeavors in philosophy, prose, and poetry, and committed himself to the study and teaching of Scripture. He was given an opportunity to carry out this resolve when in December 1523 Duke Friedrich II of Liegnitz invited him to fill the post of lector in the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre in Liegnitz.

For the next 14 years Crautwald fulfilled his duties in Liegnitz as Lector, instructing the public and younger clergy in the Scriptures. He began with the Pauline epistles, teaching them "according to their evangelical meaning."

His association with Schwenckfeld, the influential Silesian nobleman, soon inspired him to write in behalf of a unique program of radical spiritualist religion. Convinced in 1525, by a "revelation" from Christ, that Catholic and Lutheran notions of Christ's real eucharistic presence were in error, Crautwald advocated a temporary suspension of sacramental observances, and diligent catechizing according to the model of Augustine and other early church fathers. Crautwald went on to elaborate distinctively "Schwenckfeldian" doctrines of Christ's noncreaturely origin and deified flesh, of which believers could partake simply by faith. For Crautwald, as with Erasmus, the essence of renewal lay in creation of the "new man" through promoting the true knowledge of Christ. Crautwald sought a via regia (royal way) between the Catholic and Lutheran parties of his (lay, hoping for their eventual reconciliation.

Schwenckfeld's early reliance on Crautwald and his writings for theological guidance and exegetical help, soon became a pattern that characterized their future reform efforts. The evidence suggests that Crautwald should be recognized as the theological formulator of Silesian spiritualism and Schwenckfeld as essentially the popular proponent of Crautwaldian theology.

In April 1526 Martin Luther addressed a letter to Crautwald, pleading with him to forsake his teaching, or to "leave off calling us brothers." The Strasbourg reformers accused Crautwald of the Eutychian "one-nature" (monophysite) heresy, along with Melchior Hoffman, whose view of Christ was inspired by Schwenckfeld and Crautwald. However, unlike Hoffman, Crautwald always held to Mary's part in Christ's conception, and recognized in Christ two distinct natures, without confusion or division, consciously following the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon (451), Augustine (354-430), and Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444). Crautwald's view is best understood as an original effort to push the Christology of Chalcedon and Augustine in an Alexandrian direction. He did this to explain how a real partaking of Christ could take place apart from the eucharistic elements.

Crautwald lived out his last years in Liegnitz, devoting himself to study of the scriptures and the church fathers. He never married.


Many of Crautwald's works were preserved in manuscript books by the efforts of Adam Reissner (1496-1582) and Daniel Sudermann (1550-1631). These are now housed at Munich in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (clm 718) and at Wolfenbüttel in the Herzog August Bibliothek (Cod. Aug. 45.9.2). Crautwald was reluctant to publish, thus only a few of his many works that circulated in manuscript saw publication and these mainly at the hand of Schwenckfeld.

Crautwald works published by Schwenckfeld are contained in early volumes of the Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum and listed in CS, vol. 17, 698, 722-23. Crautwald's key works include De Cognition Christi (clm 718, fol. 423-58) and Novus Homo (CS, 8:46-72).

See also:

Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. 56v. Leipzig, 1875-1912: IV, 570.

Erb, Peter C. "Valentin Crautwald." Bibliotheca Dissidentium, vol. 6, ed. André Séguenny. Baden-Baden: Koerner, 1985.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 381.

Keller, Ludwig. Die Waldenser und die deutschen Bibelübersetzungen. Leipzig, 1886: 30.

Salig, C. A. Vollständige Historie der Augsburgischen Confession. 1734: III.

Shantz, Douglas H. "Cognitio et Communicatio Christi Interna: The Contribution of V al entine Crautwald to 16th century Schwenckfeldian Spiritualism." PhD thesis, University of Waterloo, 1986.

Weigelt, Horst. The Schwenkfelders in Silesia, trans. Peter C. Erb. Pennsburg, PA: Schwenkfelder Library, 1985.

Weigelt, Horst. "Valentin Krautwald: Der führende Theologe des frühen Schwenckfeldertums." Bibliotheca Dissidentium, Scripta et Studia, No. 1. Baden-Baden: Koerner, 1983: 175-190.

Various articles in Schwenckfeld and Early Schwenkfeldianism, ed. Peter C. Erb. Pennsburg, PA: Schwenkfelder Library, 1986.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Douglas H. Shantz
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Neff, Christian and Douglas H. Shantz. "Crautwald, Valentin (1465-1545)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 27 Sep 2022.,_Valentin_(1465-1545)&oldid=144063.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Douglas H. Shantz. (1987). Crautwald, Valentin (1465-1545). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 September 2022, from,_Valentin_(1465-1545)&oldid=144063.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 732-733; vol. 5, pp. 209-210. All rights reserved.

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