Griesinger, Onophrius (d. 1538)

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Onophrius (Offrus) Griesinger (Griesstätter) was a Hutterite martyr. Until the death of Jakob Hutter (1536) Tyrol was the center of the Anabaptist movement in Austria. This ended now; opposition had become too strong in Austria. Now Moravia became the country from which year after year missionaries were sent out: to Poland and Hungary, into the provinces of Germany, and also to Tyrol, where they tried to support their old adherents and win new ones. Not until the "golden age for the brotherhood in Moravia" dawned, did their effort to establish churches in Tyrol slacken, for then as many adherents as possible came "down" to Moravia. Hutter's place was taken by Jeronymus Kils and after his imprisonment by Leonhard Seiler. When Seiler also fell into the hands of the executioners the brotherhood in Tyrol looked to Onophrius Griesinger, who was then in Moravia, and who had proved his character as an apostle of Anabaptism; he accepted the call.

Griesinger was a native of Frassdorf in Bavaria and before his entry into the Hutterite brotherhood in 1532 had been clerk of a mine in the archbishopric of Salzburg. When he came to Tyrol in 1533 he stayed in Weissenbach in the Sarn Valley, and sometimes in the Inn and Puster valleys, where he won many converts and sent them to Moravia.

Soon after being ordained he was captured and taken to Hopfgarten, but managed to make his escape. The government sent out several warrants against him. The warrant of 8 June 1533 describes him thus: "Onoffrus Griesstätter is of medium height, has no beard, wears a rough woolen coat, white trousers, and brown cloth hose. He baptized a considerable number of persons here in Tirol." The warrant of 8 October 1533 describes him thus: "He is wearing a brown tunic . . . and black trousers, and is said to be wandering about in Prixlegg." For his capture a reward of about 100 guilders is offered and the authorities of Sterzing, Gufidaun, Rodeneck, Kitzbühel, St. Petersburg, Ritten, and Linz are required to engage spies to seize him.

But Griesinger eluded his pursuers. At Christmas 1533 he even ventured to hold a large meeting in the Hagau near Rattenberg. He withdrew to Moravia, taking a group (Völklein) with him from Rattenberg, and settled in Auspitz with them. Hutter wrote to the prisoners at Hohenwarth, "Brother Offrus has also come with many other brethren and sisters. The Lord led them marvelously. Not many are left in Tyrol." After Hutter's death Griesinger continued Hutter's work and took his place at first in the Puster Valley. Amon writes about it to the prisoners in Mödling, "Offrus has come up and many are becoming Christians." During the Easter week of 1536, Christoph Ochs of St, Michaelsburg and Ulrich Gerlinger undertook an examination of the woods on Schönegg and came upon Griesinger with a number of other Anabaptists; but they escaped "because the authorities were not well enough prepared."

But now sharper measures were taken against Griesinger, and searches were instituted on Lüsen and at Greifenstein, as well as around the pass at Thurn. Amon writes to the brotherhood at Böhmisch-Kromau about this time and these conditions, "God the Lord still works daily, also in the upper country, whither our dear Brother Offrus has withdrawn through the will of God; there are many zealous people there, as Jörg (Walpot) can tell you; he can also tell you how Offrus fared in going up." The combined efforts of his enemies finally succeeded in April 1537 in seizing Griesinger with a small group of Anabaptists and taking him to Bozen. But he managed his escape again. The authorities, angry, now offered a reward of 80 guilders for his capture alive, and 40 dead. His escape evoked great joy among the brotherhood in Moravia.

But Griesinger worked on unswervingly near Imst, in the Pitz and Etz valleys and beyond the Brenner. Moving up and down the mountains he preached and baptized; he even visited prisoners, and in the summer of 1538 he observed a three-day communion service with 72 persons. But finally his decisive hour struck too. Betrayed by spies, he was seized during the night of 29 August in a hut of the jurisdiction of Schöneck and taken bound to Brixen. The authorities were warned to watch him with special care, and examine him kindly and on the rack to find out who else belonged "to their sect," and whether they were planning a new revolt. The court was pleased with Griesinger's capture. Ferdinand I kept himself informed on the course of the trial.

With Griesinger, Lienhart Lochmaier's case also came to an end. The former was executed on 31 October 1538, between 10 and 11 o'clock.

Five letters written by Griesinger, the last three in prison, have been preserved. All of them are addressed to the "Gemain Gottes" in Moravia. He also wrote a letter from prison in Lochmaier's name to Bärbel, the latter's wife in Moravia. Griesinger wrote six hymns, all of which except "Loben wollen wir den höchsten Gott" have been published in Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder (Scottdale, 1914) 77-82: (1) "Merkt auf, ihr Kinder Gottes rein" (7 stanzas); (2) "Loben wollen wir den höchsten Gott" (14 stanzas); (3) "O Herre Gott im Himmelsthron" (4 stanzas); (4) "O Vater im Himmelreich sieh darein" (9 stanzas); (5)  "O Gott, erhör mein Klagen" (8 stanzas); (6) "Merk auf, merk auf, o frommer Christ"  (11 stanzas).


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

Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, 1685: Part II, 43

Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 448. Available online at: In the Martyrs' Mirror he is called Greizinger.

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Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892.

Author(s) Johann Loserth
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Loserth, Johann. "Griesinger, Onophrius (d. 1538)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 30 May 2023.,_Onophrius_(d._1538)&oldid=145320.

APA style

Loserth, Johann. (1956). Griesinger, Onophrius (d. 1538). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 May 2023, from,_Onophrius_(d._1538)&oldid=145320.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 579-580. All rights reserved.

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