Fälber, Leonhard (16th century)

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Leonhard Fälber (erroneously called Poller), was an Anabaptist leader who was known by various names. It is probable that the names Lenaert van Ysenbroeck, Leonhard of Eschenbroich (Rembert, 450; Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1909, 117 f.), Leenaert van Maastricht (Hochhuth, 638), Leonhard (Lenhart) von Fritzlar (Lenz, 321), Leonhard in Geldern (Bouterwek, 56, 78), and Leenaert Munsels (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1909, 117 f.) designate the same person. Krohn (338) erroneously identifies him with Leonhard Jost of Strasbourg.

Leonhard Fälber was a native of Brackel (Brachelen), a village in the duchy of Jülich, Germany, where he left his wife behind. He was "of small stature and wore a black coat." As an apostle of the Anabaptists he was especially active in Hesse. In the duchy of Jülich in 1536-1541 he baptized at Dieteren, Born, Sittard, and Dremmen. In Brackel he organized a congregation. One of his most prominent converts was Johannes Kesselflicker in 1541. He was probably a man of some education. "He liked to speak," says Noviomagus, "of the power of the living Word that leads a man from the evil to the good and completely renews him. His sermons reveal dialectic skill and rhetorical rhythm; quite moderate in form, he did not, however, conceal his contempt for the established church and its dead word, which nowhere put an end to the sinful and contaminated life of its adherents" (Wappler, 72).

In 1536 he was seized with about 30 other Anabaptists at a meeting in an abandoned church near Gmünden on the Wohra in the district of Kassel and put into prison at Wolkersdorf and then at Marburg, where they were for a while lightly confined. They could leave their prison for weeks and preach in the community. Repeated attempts were made to change their views. The chancellor Feige had already despaired of any success and when an interview on 15 October 1538 again ended in failure, he expressed the opinion "that Fälber, if he had an opportunity, would conduct himself like the Münsterite king." Bucer was more successful when he disputed with them on 30 October and 1 November. Hochhuth (638-642) presents the conversation between Fälber and Bucer verbatim. On 9 December 1538 they presented to the Landgrave a document prepared by Peter Tasch, and signed by Fälber and eight companions, entitled "Bekenntnis oder Antwort etlicher Fragstücke oder Artikeln der gefangenen Täufer oder anderer im Lande zu Hessen." It is not a true recantation, but rather an essentially modified confession of their faith; Bucer and the Hessian clergy were not entirely satisfied with it, but nevertheless were willing to pardon them and receive them into the church (Hochhuth, 612-626). Their position on separation, the oath, and attitude toward government they surrendered. Concerning infant baptism they said they would not condemn those who baptized their children, because they thought such baptism was based on the Scripture, but neither could they yet recognize it as God's plan.

Leonhard Fälber apparently joined the Protestant Church with the others. Nothing more is heard of him.


Bouterwek, K. W. Zur Geschichte und Literatur der Wiedertäufer. Bonn, 1864.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1909): 117 ff.; (1917): 119, No. 106.

Franz, Günther. Urkundliche Quellen zur hessischen Reformationsgeschichte, IV Band: Wiedertäuferakten 1527-1626. Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1951: See Index.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 627.

Hochhuth, K. W. H. "Mitteilungen aus der protes­tantischen Sektengesch." Niedners Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie (1858): 538 ff.

Krohn, B.U. Geschichte der fanatischen und enthusiastischen Wieder­täufer vornehmlich in Niederdeutschland. Leipzig, 1758.

Lenz, Max. Briefwechsel Philipps von Hessen mit Butzer. Leipzig, 1880: I, 318 ff.

Rembert, Karl. Die “Wiedertäufer“ im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899: 450.

Wappler, Paul. Die Stellung Kursachsens und des Land­grafen Philipp von Hessen zur Täuferbeiuegung. Mün­ster, 1910.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Neff, Christian. "Fälber, Leonhard (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 18 May 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=F%C3%A4lber,_Leonhard_(16th_century)&oldid=121044.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1956). Fälber, Leonhard (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=F%C3%A4lber,_Leonhard_(16th_century)&oldid=121044.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 291. All rights reserved.

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