Haslibacher, Hans (d. 1571)

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Hans Haslibacher, an Anabaptist preacher of Sumiswald in the Emmental, Bern, Switzerland, active as early as 1532, a participant in the great Bern disputation of 1538. He suffered severely for his faith. He was exiled and his property of 500 gulden confiscated, and upon return to his home (his son, of the Reformed faith, was fined heavily on 2 September 1571, for receiving him) was executed by beheading on 20 October 1571, in Bern as the last Anabaptist martyr in that canton.

A vivid description of Haslibacher's imprisonment and death is given in a 32-stanza poem composed, as the last verse states, in prison by another Anabaptist prisoner (not necessarily a fellow prisoner of Haslibacher in 1571). The poem reports that after torture and strong attempts by the Reformed preachers to cause him to apostatize, which were steadfastly resisted, Haslibacher dreamed that he would be beheaded, and that three divine signs would accompany his execution, namely, his severed head would jump into his hat and laugh; the sun would turn crimson like blood; and the town well would give forth blood. The poet claims that all three happened.

The Haslibacher poem was first published in pamphlet form (6 pages and title page), with the title, Ein Schön Geistlich Lied von dem Hasslibacher, wie er von dem heben zum. Tod ist hingerichtet worden. In der Melody: Warum betrübst du dich mein Hertz, etc. As such it was bound with (but not printed in) a copy of the Ausbund which was published after 1614 (it contains a hymn on the martyr Hans Landis who was executed in this year) but certainly in the early 17th century, probably soon after the dated Ausbund edition of 1622. It next appears as hymn No. 140 in the first (1742) American edition of the Ausbund at Germantown, Pennsylvania, with exactly the same title and content as the above pamphlet. It appeared in all later American editions of the Ausbund, but in no European editions. The (1748) Ephrata German edition of the Martyrs' Mirror (938 f.) tells the story of Haslibacher from the hymn and prints stanzas 21-32. The Pirmasens (1780) Martyrs' Mirror and all later German language editions follow suit, but the Elkhart (1886) English Martyrs' Mirror (and all later English editions) published the entire hymn. Nothing of Haslibacher is found in the Dutch Martyrs' Mirror of 1660 and 1685. The Swiss devotional book, Kleines Hand-Büchlein (first edition, no place of publication indicated, 1786, second edition at Basel, 1801), prints the entire hymn with the slightly revised title, Ein schön Geistlich Lied, von dem Hanss Hasslibacher, aus der Herrschaft Sumiswald, in der Schweiz zu Hasslebach, welcher von dem Leben zum Tod ist hingerichtet worden. In der Melody: Warum betrübst du dich mein Hertz, etc. The title reflects information taken from the (1780) Pirmasens Martyrs' Mirror. In modern times it has been published as follows: Mennonite Yearbook, and Almanac for 1911 (pp. 24 f.) in English translation by Governor (of Pennsylvania) Samuel W. Pennypacker (done 8 March 1904) from the Ausbund; reprinted in S. Geiser, Die Taufgesinnten Gemeinden (Karlsruhe, 1931) 185-87; Im Röseligarti, a Bernese folksong periodical, prints 12 verses with the music; C. Henry Smith states (The Story of the Mennonites, 3rd ed., Newton, Kansas, 1950, p. 116) that the Haslibacher hymn, though in the Ausbund, "is no longer sung in [Amish] religious services but, strange to say, at weddings and other festive occasions." According to the article "Eine alte interessante Bibel," published in Der Zionspilger (Langnau i.E.) VIII (1889) No. 17, pp. If., Haslibacher's Bible (Zürich, 1553), with many underlinings showing typical Anabaptist emphases, was still in 1889 in the possession of his descendants bearing the family name and living on the original homestead, though not Mennonites.


Berner Biographien I. Bern, 1887: 604 f.

Geiser, S. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden. Karlsruhe, 1931: 183-87.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 263 f.

Michiels, A. Les Anabaptists des Fosges. (Paris, 1860) contains the Haslibacher story ("Le Martyre d'Hasslibacher") told in French but taken apparently from the Pirmasens (1780) Martyrs' Mirror owned by Elder Augsburger of the Salm (Alsace) congregation.

Smith, C. Henry. The Mennonites of America. Goshen, 1909: 433-35.

Author(s) Harold S Bender
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. "Haslibacher, Hans (d. 1571)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 20 Jul 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Haslibacher,_Hans_(d._1571)&oldid=145425.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. (1956). Haslibacher, Hans (d. 1571). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 July 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Haslibacher,_Hans_(d._1571)&oldid=145425.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 675-676. All rights reserved.

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