Frankfurt am Main (Hesse, Germany)

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1956 Article

Frankfurt am Main, a city (1950 pop. 523,923; 2008 pop. 670,000) in Hesse, Germany, until 1866 a free city, was one of the few cities of South Germany in which the Anabaptist movement did not take root, though it seems to have found brief entry in the person of Dr. Westerburg.  Westerburg was influential in bringing the Reformation into the city, and at that time was in sympathy with the Anabaptist movement, later being for a short time a member. Shortly before his arrival in Frankfurt in early October 1524, he sought to make contacts with the "Brethren" in Zürich, who three months later, 25 January 1525, performed the first adult baptism. The Swiss Brethren, however, grew distrustful when they learned that he was maintaining connections with the revolutionary masses, and thus their ways parted (Rembert, 39).

The Protestant movement in Frankfurt, having lost the support of the defeated imperial knights, was threatened with collapse. Westerburg saved the cause, and helped to give it permanence in the city (Steitz, 95). But because the council considered him the leader of the revolt in Frankfurt he was banished 17 May 1525.

The position of the Lutheran preachers was now so secure that the council was entirely on their side and suppressed any religious groups they did not like. Especially the Anabaptists felt their power. Available facts on the subject are few. A day laborer who had preached Anabaptist doctrine in Bornheim was expelled (Dechent, 125). There is evidence that the Anabaptist movement had reached some proportions, for at the instigation of the preachers Bernhard Algesheimer (Johann von Hohenstein) and Dionysius Melander the council issued an edict on 23 March 1528 forbidding the citizens to lodge Anabaptists (Jung, 116). This measure effectively suppressed the movement here; the law passed by the Diet of Speyer on 23 April 1529 (see Punishment), actively supported the measures of the council.

This imperial law which imposed the death penalty on rebaptism also occupied the Reichstag at Frankfurt in 1531. The ruthlessness which resulted from this law shocked the citizenry; hence Brandenburg and Nürnberg on 6 June 1531, proposed changes in the law. But the majority favored the retention of the law as it was (Winkelmann II, 49 f.). The estates hoped to subdue the general excitement by admitting in a decree in 1531 that the edict of Speyer had been passed "somewhat too quickly," and by giving the deed another name, explaining that "such persons are punished not for their faith, but for their offense." Milder punishments should be applied only in exceptional cases, when the interpretation of the regulations was not clear. In such cases the council could request the opinion of learned theologians and other honorable persons and perhaps render a more lenient verdict (Neudecker, 188). The law itself was not altered. It was still in force at the opening of the Thirty Years' War.

In 1704, when Mennonites expelled from Switzerland wanted to settle in Frankfurt, they were refused after giving a statement of their faith. At Frankfurt the plan for the settling of Germantown was originated, which was carried out by Krefeld Mennonites. (See Frankfurt Land Company.)

The census reports state that in 1858 there were two Mennonites in Frankfurt; in 1880, eight; in 1885, 29; in 1890, 27; in 1895, 24; in 1900, 23; in 1905, 30; and in 1925, 25.

On 16 May 1897 the traveling preacher (Reiseprediger) G. van der Smissen conducted the first services of the Mennonite congregation in the city. Since 1913 the ministers of the South German Conference have been serving here. Services in 1956 were held every two weeks in the Mennonite Central Committee center, Eysseneckstrasse 54. In 1952 the number of baptized members was 125. The congregation was organized in 1948, and though it is independent of conference affiliation, Richard Wagner, an elder in the Badischer Verband, served as elder and pastor.

Frankfurt was the seat of the MCC administrative headquarters after 1950, and after 1952 for all Europe. -- Christian Hege

1959 Supplemental article

On 27 August 1527, Dionysius Melander, Evangelical pastor at Frankfurt (1525-35), reported to the city council that Anabaptists were selling books there. In a letter to Capito at Strasbourg in early 1528 Melander confirmed the presence of Anabaptists in the city. Hans Duck, an Anabaptist, was expelled from the city. On 14 April 1534, the Anabaptist Johann Mettlinger was threatened with expulsion. The Frankfurt book fair was for decades a favorite meeting place of Anabaptists from far and near. In 1544, for example, Endres Nef was sent from Cannstadt "to Frankfurt to the Anabaptists." About 1565 Guido de Brez, the noted Calvinist leader from the Southern Netherlands, claimed to have disputed with the Anabaptists at Frankfurt. -- Harold S. Bender


Dechent, H. Kirchengeschichte von Frankfurt a.M. seit der Reformation. Leipzig and Frankfurt, 1913.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 678.

Hein, G. "Anabaptists in Frankfort on the Main." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXXIII (1959): 69-72.

Jung, R. Frankfurter Chroniken und annalistische Aufzeichnungen der Reformationszeit: Nebst einer Darstellung der Frankfurter Belagerung von 1552. Frankfurt, 1888.

Neudecker, C. G. Urkunden aus der Reformationszeit. Kassel, 1836.

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

Steitz, G. E. "Dr. Gerhard Westerburg." Archiv für Frankfurts Geschichte und Kunst, n.S„ (1872).

Winkelmann, Otto. Politische Korrespondenz der Stadt Strassburg im Zeitalter der Reformation. 1887.


Map:Frankfurt am Main (Germany)

Author(s) Christian Hege
Harold S. Bender
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hege, Christian and Harold S. Bender. "Frankfurt am Main (Hesse, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 13 Jul 2024.,_Germany)&oldid=145062.

APA style

Hege, Christian and Harold S. Bender. (1959). Frankfurt am Main (Hesse, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 July 2024, from,_Germany)&oldid=145062.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 375-376; vol. 4, p. 1085. All rights reserved.

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