Komander, Johann (1484-1557)

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Johann Komander (Comander, Dorfmann), the reformer of the canton of the Grisons, Switzerland, studied with his friend Zwingli under Wittenbach in Basel, and in 1524 became pastor of St. Michael’s in Chur. Komander achieved prominence as Protestant spokesperson at the disputation in Ilanz, 7-9 January 1526, for which he had drawn up 18 theses, which clearly betray Zwingli’s influence in form and content. The adherents of the old faith, the abbot of St. Lucius and Theodor Schlegel, tried to sabotage the disputation, but Komander persisted unshakably in defending the Protestant doctrine so effectively that soon after the disputation at Ilanz the Reformation took great forward strides in the Grisons.

Beginning in 1525 the activities of the Swiss Brethren leaders, Blaurock, Manz, Grebel, and Castelberger, made themselves felt in the Grisons, especially in Chur. The success of these men not only caused Komander great concern; he thought the progress of the Reformation threatened, since the Anabaptists were being actually supported by the Catholics. The struggle was particularly difficult for Komander for the reason that the Swiss Brethren as a matter of principle based their doctrine on the authority of the Holy Scriptures.

In his distress Komander wrote to Zwingli on 8 August 1525, lamenting (free translation): "In the first place I inform you that the Anabaptists fill us with care and sorrow. People in the Grisons no longer want to hear the pure Gospel. They draw to their sect many of the best-instructed in the Bible, so that they no longer attend our services. Innumerable accusations are made against me. Those citizens who have not signed themselves away to the Anabaptists are waiting in indecision and amazement. The Gospel seems to many to be vain babbling, indeed as something repugnant. As the third party that has the advantage when the other two are engaged in conflict, the Papists rejoice in the schism. They pour oil onto the fire and feed it to a mighty flame. The abbot of St. Lucius, for instance, supports our city scribe, whose wife is an Anabaptist and was therefore banished from the city, with word and deed, procures books and other aid for him, and in general promotes the spread of the sect, in order to give the misled ones over to mockery as soon as I am brought to a fall. The city scribe is preparing for a disputation, which is to try me severely, and he is boasting in advance of victory. Then, of course, everything will take a most splendid course: the exiles will return to the family circle, will feel comfortable at home, and I shall have a heavy burden in the turn of events. But as God will. In Zürich the Anabaptists have been defeated, and as long as they are not successful there, other victories will do them no good. I am opposed to a disputation in our town. But if the council should decide in favor of one, then I demand that it be conducted in writing, so that our arguments, the scribe’s and mine, can be proved at leisure. Help me, faithful Zwingli, in distress, that the Gospel may not be smothered in Grisons."

In the meantime the struggle against the Anabaptists had become a federal affair. The burgomaster and the council sided against the Anabaptists. To what extent this step was due to Komander’s influence is not clear. In connection with a federal diet in Chur, a considerable number of "Anabaptists, iconoclasts, and other disobedient obstinate ones" were seized and tried. At the Davos Diet in May 1526, the Catholic and Zwinglian creeds were accepted as equally valid, but Anabaptist teaching was forever prohibited.

In the spring of 1528, Komander complained again about the difficulty of his position. He told Zwingli that he had to use all his strength to combat the "Catabaptists."  They had their meetings in Chur, and there were many among the citizens who secretly or openly adhered to them. Castelberger was also carrying on his propaganda in the city; many citizens were being confused by him. Komander had to work and worry more about these people than if twice the number of Papists attacked him. Some had been seized, and now people were crying that the pastor was to blame; that it was he who urged expulsion and that he thirsted for innocent blood. Indeed, their death did not please him at all. But he was sorry that they did not stop misleading the people.

For the disputation planned for the day after Easter in 1531, Komander had formulated 12 theses, the last of which stated, "Anabaptism is an error and an enticement against God’s Word and doctrine."

In the long dispute and wearisome negotiations with Camillo Renato, the leader of the radical movement in northern Italy, Komander was also involved; but he refused to decide the issue, referring them to Zürich and Basel, "where there are learned men, who are better qualified to mediate between them."

Komander carried on a regular correspondence with Bullinger. In 1550 he fell ill of the plague. His co-worker Johann Blasius was taken by death, but he recovered, though he probably did not regain his vitality. He died in 1557. His successor was Johann Fabricius Montanus of Zürich.


Camenisch, Emil. Bündnerische Reformationsgeschichte. Chur: 1920.

Füsslin, Johann Conrad. Beyträge zur Erläuterung der Kirchen-Reformations-Geschichten des Schweitzerlandes. Zürich: 1741: I.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 525 f.

Herzog, J. J. and Albert Hauck, Realencyclopedie für Protestantische Theologie and Kirche, 24 vols. 3. ed. Leipzig: J. H. Hinrichs, 1896-1913. (“Komander” and “Camillo Renato.”)

Stumpf, J. Chronika vom Leben und Wirken des Ulrich Zwingli. Zürich, 1932: 76.

Zwingl’s Werke. Leipzig, 1914: VIII, 341 f.

Author(s) Samuel Geiser
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Geiser, Samuel. "Komander, Johann (1484-1557)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 5 Feb 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Komander,_Johann_(1484-1557)&oldid=145610.

APA style

Geiser, Samuel. (1957). Komander, Johann (1484-1557). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 February 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Komander,_Johann_(1484-1557)&oldid=145610.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 216-217. All rights reserved.

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