Heilbronn (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)

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Heilbronn, a city (population 45,000 in 1955; 120,000 in 2006) of Württemberg, Germany, until 1802 a free city, is charmingly situated on the Neckar, 27 miles (44 km) north of Stuttgart, and is an important manufacturing and trade city.

The Reformation was introduced here by Johann Lachmann, a son of the famed bell-caster Bernhard Lachmann, with strong support from the people and the guilds. In March 1526 are found the first Anabaptists trying to gain adherents in Heilbronn; they had come from Esslingen. Their high moral standards made a deep impression. In 1530 Wertz, Besserer, and Mettel Endris met at Anabaptist meetings. Wertz, who had been won to the movement by his cousin Gertrud, the daughter of Marx Hecker of Eppingen, preached to the people in vineyards and huts, sang psalms with them, and took a very hostile attitude toward Johann Lachmann. Their meetings were attended by 30 or 40 persons, some worthy and some unworthy. A Claus N. of Esslingen preached them a sermon, but was then banished from the city. Near Heilbronn a Frau von Neipperg favored the Anabaptists and permitted them to hold meetings. Wertz and Besserer were arrested and cross-examined. Because they refused to swear that they would desist, both were expelled from the city, but were soon readmitted, upon the intervention of neighboring nobles and upon their recantation.

From the court records on the prisoners in Passau (see Hohenlohe) these facts are known: (1) A widow Margarete of Heilbronn was baptized in 1529 by a Hans N., who died after recanting; (2) Judith, the wife of Hans Kimmich of Morsbach near Künzelsau, was baptized in 1532 by Wolf of Gritzingen (Grötzingen), who was executed in Bretten; (3) Anna, the wife of Bernhard Schrot, had been baptized by Hans of Pibrach (Biberach, Heilbronn district); (4) Dietrich of Heilbronn, baptized by Andreas N., soon recanted. In 1533 all those suspected of Anabaptism were summoned before a committee consisting of Lachmann, Menrad Molter, and the councilor Heinrich Zünderer. They denied being Anabaptists; but the shoemaker Jobs Fritz offered to "overthrow" the new preacher with the Word of God. He was warned to avoid the Anabaptist sect, to desist from arguing and preaching, or interrupting the sermons of the preachers, and to stop sheltering other Anabaptists on penalty of severe punishment.

In 1536 it was said in Strasbourg that there were about 40 Anabaptists in the vicinity of Heilbronn, who assembled in a forest. Their leader was Adam Siegel. Schuckhans of Landshausen was baptized in Heilbronn by Blasius Kuhn (Hulshof, 168). In the frequent cases occurring until 1540 the following  characterizing  points  may  be  observed:

  1. The impulse toward sectarianism almost al¬ways comes from persons coming from the out¬side, seeking a following.
  2. All that deviates from orthodox Protestantism is Anabaptist unless it is Catholic; hence the opposition to Protestant preachers in other points than baptism, such as neglecting church services, refusal to render an oath; indeed, according to the confession of an imprisoned Anabaptist they were accused not only of religious errors, but also of revolution and common criminal views.
  3. It is characteristic that members of the shoemakers' guild are found among the sectarians (1533, 1540).

An unusually favorable soil for Anabaptism was found in Neckargartach in 1534, where the imperial knights refused to tolerate any Protestant preacher; likewise in Flein because of the resistance of the Heiliggeist Spital in Wimpfen against the Reformation.

The council repeatedly issued sharp mandates against the sectarians and against the reception and shelter of outside Anabaptists, and had its countermands sometimes read from the pulpit. Suspects were summoned, examined, and if found guilty expelled. Those who submitted and recanted could easily receive pardon and re-admittance. There were two formulas of recantation, which expressed the promises that: (1) They would adhere to "the first infant baptism," which was held by the apostles and the Christian church. (2) They would believe the Gospel as it was taught at Heilbronn. (3) They would receive the Lord's Supper properly according to the teaching and institution of Christ and Paul in the Christian church. (4) We are not pure and without sin; therefore we pray with the apostles, as Christ taught us, Forgive us our sins. The more wordy of the two formulas was drawn up by Menrad Molter.

In 1545-1557 there was quiet. In 1557 the council again issued an edict against sheltering outside Anabaptists. In 1558 and 1564 Duke Christian of Württemberg reported to the council that Anabaptists were holding meetings in a small forest near Gruppenbach, in which inhabitants of Heilbronn and Böckingen participated. The council offered to investigate and take necessary steps. Soon all traces of the Anabaptist movement disappeared. In 1609 the Anabaptists met every three weeks in the Spitalwald of Heilbronn; there were subjects of Württemberg, from Grossgartach, among them. For the modern Heilbronn Mennonite congregation see Heilbronn Mennonite Church.


Beschreibung des Oberamts Heilbronn, Part I. 1901: 124 ff.

Bossert, Gustav. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer I. Band, Herzogtum Württemberg. Leipzig: M. Heinsius, 1930: 814, Note 29.

Court records of Passau in the Reichsarchiv in Munich.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 275 ff.

Hulshof, A. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg. Amsterdam, 1905.

Jäger, Carl. Mitteilungen zur schwäbischen und fränkischen Reformation Geschichte. 1828: I, 248 ff.

Urkundenbuch der Stadt Heilbronn: Von 1525 bis zum Nürnberger Religionsfrieden im Jahr 1532. Stuttgart : Kohlhammer, 1922: IV.

Württembergische Geschichtsquellen. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1887-1956: XX.


Map:Heilbronn (Germany)

Author(s) Gustav, Sr Bossert
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Bossert, Gustav, Sr. "Heilbronn (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 23 Nov 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Heilbronn_(Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg,_Germany)&oldid=145444.

APA style

Bossert, Gustav, Sr. (1956). Heilbronn (Baden-Württemberg, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 November 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Heilbronn_(Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg,_Germany)&oldid=145444.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 691-692. All rights reserved.

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