Freistadt (Oberösterreich, Austria)

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Freistadt, a city in Upper Austria. Concerning the Anabaptist congregation in this city we have relatively more information than about many other places of Austria, mainly because of its well-kept city archives with the many Anabaptist records. The origin of the congregation is not known but it seems unlikely that it was founded by Hans Hut, even though this Anabaptist apostle was temporarily active also in Freistadt in June 1527, baptizing several citizens there. It is more likely that the congregation goes back to Hans Schlaffer, who in 1526 was staying in the nearby castle of Weinberg, which then belonged to the Baron of Zelking. An indication of Schlaffer's influence is the tract Am anfang ains cristlichen lebens, which upon the personal command of King Ferdinand was deposited together with the confessions of six Anabaptists who had been imprisoned in Freistadt 12 August 1527. This tract is divided into two parts: the first part is an enlargement of the earlier tract by Hans Schlaffer, Bericht und leer eines recht christlichen lebens (Müller, 94 ff.), which in turn is dependent on Hans Hut's pamphlet, Vom geheimnus der tauff (Müller, 12 ff.). The second part is an independent new piece. This tract, as found in the archives of Freistadt, was signed by six Anabaptists, Jörg Schoferl, Heinrich Panreiter, Hans Egkhart, Hans Tischler, Paul Goldschmid, and Wolfgang Pirchenfelder (Tuchscherer; see Nicoladoni, 250 ff.). These six men confessed in their statement that they had received the "sign" (of rebirth), baptism, but they denied having heard teachings concerning baptism from any human being, neither from Hans Hut, nor from Luther nor from Zwingli, as the imperial mandate asserted. They rather claimed to have depended alone on the testimony of the Scriptures. King Ferdinand agreed on 25 October 1527 that Master Wolfgang Künigl, who at that time was occupied with the cross-examination of Anabaptists in the city of Steyr (also in Upper Austria), should function as prosecutor also in Freistadt. Thus Künigl went to this city in the middle of November, and the examination was set for 27 November 1527. Jörg Schoferl apparently recanted at once. When the punishment of Horb and Rottenburg" (see Mennonitisches Lexikon II, 347) was imposed upon him, he asked for moderation of this severe stipulation; there is no record, however, that this request was granted. The trial was then interrupted, but resumed in February 1528. It ended with the recantation of all the imprisoned Anabaptists, who now had to make a public "church penitence" on a certain Sunday.

In addition to these six men there were other Anabaptists in the city at that time. We hear of meetings and also of a "terrible, offensive, and revolutionary booklet" of these Anabaptists (Nicoladoni, 269). The magistrate arrested three more men and two women in May 1528, while other Anabaptists fled to some other places. Apparently no death sentence was pronounced at that time. All the records indicate that the sympathies of the council were on the side of the accused. An inner revulsion against imposing the severe penalties decreed by the authorities in Vienna is noticeable in the writings of the mayor of Freistadt. The willingness of the council to protect its fellow citizens is also shown by the trial (dragged out over several years) of the imperial "gate-keeper" Gilg Kurtz, to whom King Ferdinand had assigned as a gift the house and fortune of the Anabaptist Thomas Tänzer, who had fled from Freistadt. By 1530 the Anabaptist movement in Freistadt seems to have been extinguished; the city later became almost entirely Lutheran. -- Loserth, GM

While the city archives apparently show no records whatever concerning death sentences against Anabaptists, the chronicles of the Hutterites quite definitely state that martyrdom was by no means unknown in or around this city. The great "Catalogue of Martyrs" (Beck, 280; Wolkan, 182; Zieglschmid, 232), inserted in the Geschicht-Buch at the year 1542, lists for "Freynstat" not less than ten victims of ruthless persecution. Likewise the Codex "Kremser" (in Beck listed as codex "N"), formerly of Bratislava, expressly mentions three martyrs at this place: Hans Weinberger from Freistadt, Madlen Frelich from the city of Enns, and another Madlen from Steyr (all in Upper Austria). No execution date is given. -- RF


Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 699 f.

Nicoladoni, Alexander. Johannes Bünderlin von Linz und die oberösterreichischen Täufergemeinden in den Jahren 1525-1531. Berlin: R. Gaertner, Hermann Heyfelder, 1893.

Müller, Lydia, ed. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer, III. Band: Glaubenszeugnisse oberdeutscher Taufgesinnter I. Quellen und Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte XX. Band. Leipzig, 1938.

Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923.

Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943.


Map:Freistadt (Austria)

Author(s) Johann, Grete Mecenseffy Loserth
Robert Friedmann
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Loserth, Johann, Grete Mecenseffy and Robert Friedmann. "Freistadt (Oberösterreich, Austria)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 4 Aug 2021.,_Austria)&oldid=146433.

APA style

Loserth, Johann, Grete Mecenseffy and Robert Friedmann. (1956). Freistadt (Oberösterreich, Austria). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 August 2021, from,_Austria)&oldid=146433.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 391. All rights reserved.

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