Demolition of Dwellings

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Among the suppressive measures taken by governments against the Anabaptists of the 16th century was the razing of houses in which the persecuted groups met for worship. The earliest records of such procedure come from the archbishopric of Salzburg, where ecclesiastical and secular authorities were combined in one person. Here Anabaptists were found as early as 1526. On 18 October 1527, Matthäus Lang, cardinal and archbishop of Salzburg, issued a mandate against the Anabaptists in his realm, in which he forbade their meeting for worship. A few days later, on 27 October 1527, a new mandate was passed, that extended the range of persons liable to the penalty. It says, "No one shall accept, lodge, feed, or give drink in his house to one of the brotherhood of Anabaptists, but get rid of him on penalty of having his house destroyed and the other announced penalties. Let every one guard against secret meetings, corner preaching and mobs." Even those who announced such meetings were threatened in a further edict of 18 April 1528, with losing their homes. This threat was carried out in the case of two houses in which the Anabaptists had met.  On 6 November 1527 six Anabaptists were locked into a house and burned to death in it.

The penalty of destruction of home was also applied in Lower Austria, creating difficulties with the owners, who had no idea of the meetings being held in their houses; also in Tyrol (see Oberlehen). In the Netherlands houses in which Anabaptists met were also torn down. This happened in Niedorp in 1535, and as late as about 1643 the meetinghouse at Visvliet, Groningen, was pulled down when the Mennonites began to hold meetings there. In view of such obstacles to meeting for mutual admonition and worship, there was often no other possibility of meeting than at night or in the open in outlying places.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 248.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, 101.

Loserth, Johann. "Zur Gesch. der Wiedertäufer in Salzburg," in Mitteilungen für Salzburger Landeskunde VII . Salzburg : Gesellschaft für Salzburger Landeskunde, 1912: 35-60.

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1956

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Hege, Christian. "Demolition of Dwellings." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 20 Sep 2020.

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Hege, Christian. (1956). Demolition of Dwellings. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 September 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 32. All rights reserved.

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