Kotte, Johann Clausen (1563/64-1623/24)

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Johann Clausen (Jan Claesz) Kotte (Cotte, Codt, Coodt), also called Rollwagen (Rolweghen, Rolwaghen), was a prominent leader of the Mennonites of Eiderstedt, Holstein, Germany. He was the son of the Flemish Nikolaus Peter Kotte at Oldenswort in the region of Eiderstedt, whence he was banished in 1588. Then he moved to the Netherlands. About 1590 he lived at Amsterdam as a broker and obtained citizenship there. In collaboration with Caspar Coolhaes, a progressive Reformed clergyman, and like Kotte a defender of religious freedom, he wrote in 1601 Tsamenspreeckinge van dry personen over het rigereus Placcaet van Groeningen (n.p., 1601; revised ed.; n.p., 1602), in which they attacked the mandate issued in 1601 by the States of Groningen against the Mennonites. This pamphlet by Coolhaes and Kotte (here called Rolwaghen) caused a literary conflict with the Calvinists. Rolwaghen was sharply attacked by a number of Calvinists, including a certain Wijnant Kras. He defended himself and the Mennonites in Corte Bestraffingh (n.p., 1602) and Tegenbericht (n.p., n.d.). Rolwaghen also attacked the Reformed minister Johannes Acronius.

Kotte, who during his stay in the Netherlands called himself Jan Claesz Rolwaghen, seems to have left Amsterdam soon after 1602, and settled in Tönning in Holstein, Germany. Here he was appointed as supervisor of the ocean dike by Duke Johann Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp. He composed a confession of faith in Flemish, "but in such a style that it concealed more than it revealed the Mennonite faith by using dark and ambiguous words."

In the disputation with the Anabaptists held at Tönning on 31 August 1607, he was their spokesperson. They were requested to present a clearer statement of their faith. Kotte did this on 22 July 1608. Then on 14 September 1608 a new disputation lasting three days was held in the castle at Schleswig. Very thoroughly Kotte defended the religious principles of his group against Fabricius. Kotte was in great favor with the Duke. On 1 November 1614 he achieved a moderation of the edict which had banished the Mennonites from Holstein territory.

The information concerning the origin of the name Rollwagen in the periodical Die Heimat of March and July 1934 (published by Karl Wachholtz, Neumünster) is incorrect. The question had not yet been clarified in the 1950s. In the Nordfriesisches Jahrbuch (Husum, 1934, 93-99) Albert Vlamynck published a letter written by the dike engineer C. J. Rolweghen in Tönning, 2 July 1611, in which Rolweghen encloses the plan for a dike, and refers to the dike builder Jan Claas Coott.


Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919: 193 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 553 f.

Molhuysen, P. C. and P. J. Blok. Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek. Leiden, 1911-1937: II, 1227.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Neff, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Kotte, Johann Clausen (1563/64-1623/24)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 24 Sep 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kotte,_Johann_Clausen_(1563/64-1623/24)&oldid=145625.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1957). Kotte, Johann Clausen (1563/64-1623/24). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 September 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kotte,_Johann_Clausen_(1563/64-1623/24)&oldid=145625.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 229. All rights reserved.

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