Lang von Wellenberg, Matthaus (1468-1540)

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Matthaus Lang von Wellenberg, Cardinal and Archbishop of Salzburg, was the son of poor Augsburg citizens, a Humanist, recipient of a Master's degree from Tübingen in 1490, privy secretary of the imperial chancellor Berthold von Henneberg, who was the secretary of Emperor Maximilian II, and who won the emperor's highest favor. As archbishop of Salzburg he was unpopular because of his dictatorial, sometimes violent nature; nevertheless the country owed its increased prosperity to his rule.

Against the Anabaptists Lang was all harsh severity. Since he, as a temporal prince in Salzburg, combined the supreme temporal authority with the spiritual, he was able to conduct his struggle with Anabaptists with all his force. As early as 1523, before the Anabaptists had appeared, he charged his inspection commissioners to pay special attention to heretical maneuvers. There is no specific evidence of the presence of Anabaptists in Salzburg; the beginning of the movement here seems to have been Hans Hut's brief preaching. Hut had come from Linz, and when he departed from Salzburg he left behind him as apostles two men whom he had baptized in Steyer, namely, Hieronymus of Mansee, a former monk from the abbey Ranshofen, and Eucharius Binder, a cabinetmaker from Koburg. In Augsburg Hut kept up his connections with the Salzburg Anabaptists, who were at both places called "Gärtnerbrüder" (gardener brothers, but the real word was "Gartbrüder" from "gartenn" – wander).

In July 1527 Lang complained about the rapid growth of the movement in his territory and ordered his officials to proceed against them with all severity. A polemic leaflet appearing in 1528, the Newe Zeytung, gave information about the doctrines of the Anabaptists in Salzburg and comments that they assembled in homes or solitary places, that the members gave their money and possessions to the leaders and promised never again to enter the "temples of stone,” that they would consider the sacrament nothing but bread and wine. Naturally the slander was heard, that if there were a sufficient number of them, they would establish themselves by violent means.

On 18 October 1527 Lang issued the first mandate against the Salzburg Anabaptists, forbidding their meetings and their doctrine in general, and ordering the pastors to bring the erring ones back into the church by indoctrination, but at the same time also ordering the officials to scout for Anabaptists, and report on the number they seized. Especially in his Tyrol domain of Kitzbühel  they were causing him trouble; on 28 November 1527 the Austrian government reminded the cardinal to be on the lookout there and to commission his administrator Hans Finsterwalder to conduct the persecution. As evidence of their spread the government sent him on 12 December the statements made by Leonhard Schiemer, who was a prisoner in Rattenberg.

A few days after the mandate was issued, five armed men managed to arrest a group of 32 Anabaptists in Salzburg, certainly including Hieronymus of Mansee and Carius Binder. Since none of them would desist, these two together with Wolfgang Winter, a tailor of Mistelbach, were burned at the stake on the Fornhof in Salzburg on 22 October 1527. Then they beheaded five brethren "who had acknowledged their error" before committing their bodies to the flames. A woman and a beautiful girl of 16, the daughter of the goldsmith Georg Steiner, a friend of Hans Hut, who remained steadfast, were sentenced to death by drowning. When the executioner carried the girl to the watering trough in which her life was to end, she laughed at the water. . . . Both corpses were burned, as were also four others of persons beheaded, one of whom was the judge, one a nobleman, and one a boxmaker of Salzburg. A lacemaker and girdlemaker who would not recant were burned alive. "They lived a long time during the execution, and cried much to God, so that it was pitiful to listen to." In November Lang also sent the court records of ten Anabaptists to Augsburg, most of whom had been put to death; all but two confessed that they had been baptized by Hans Hut.

In the meantime Lang's police arrested  a meeting of 11 women and 16 men, whose leader was a former priest. On 5 November 1527 ten women and one man recanted and were expelled from the country. Six remained firm, including the preacher, the city scribe, and a girdlemaker, "a handsome fellow." These three and a locksmith were taken to his house near the park, in which they had held their meetings, and since they remained steadfast, they were burned together with the house. Two other houses which had served the same purpose were also reduced to ashes. In 1528, 41 Anabaptists lay in prison in Salzburg. The martyr list of the Hutterite chronicles lists 38 persons executed in Salzburg, two in Loser, one in Abtenau, and three in the Kucheltal, besides a few in the region now belonging to Bavaria.

In order to block the movement, Lang on 14 November 1527 issued a charge to the priests at Hallein, Radstadt, Laufen, and Tittmoning, to win the erring ones back with convincing sermons, but to report obstinate ones at once. Several formularies were issued for the procedure in the cross-examinations. The questions asked were whether the accused had baptized adults, or had merely been recently baptized, whether voluntarily or through persuasion or force, what they thought of community of goods, of the government, the sacrament, of the deity of Christ, where they had held their meetings, how many persons had attended them, and who, etc.

In order to prevent any addition from without, Lang directed his magistrate in Salzburg to pay close attention to travelers to and through the city. On 24 January 1528, a new police order was issued, which prohibited the employment of strangers in the trades; in the inns no conversations were permitted, especially with strangers, about Luther or the Anabaptists. To the administrator of Passau, Lang gave instructions for combating the Anabaptists. For his archdiocese he issued a severe "instruction" on 18 April 1528, defining the procedure from this time on: preachers, leaders, instigators, and propagators of Anabaptist doctrines, if they remained steadfast, were to be burned alive; if they recanted, they should be beheaded and their corpses burned. Misled ones and those who had sheltered Anabaptists should be drowned if they remained steadfast. The less guilty and the fellow travelers were to be punished with prison and whippings, particularly the servants and the young. To these punishments, which were already employed, there were added for the treasurers and the "announcers," the razing of their homes, fines, and exile. This procedure became a pattern for many a neighboring region. In 1529, for example, Scheurl recommended it to Nürnberg.

Under the pressure of this severe persecution the Anabaptist movement in Salzburg died relatively rapidly, many adherents emigrating to Tyrol. Here Lang pursued them doggedly in his Kitzbühel domain; but since he confiscated the possessions of the victims into his own hands, he came in conflict with the Innsbruck chamberlains, who demanded them for King Ferdinand as the ruler of Tyrol. In accord with the customary practice they wanted to grant Lang only as much of the property of the victims as was required to cover the costs of the trial and execution. Ferdinand ordered the Austrian government at Innsbruck on 27 November 1530 to mediate between Lang and the councilors. The latter were annoyed because the church prince had already confiscated numerous estates without first coming to an agreement with them; the covetous cardinal insisted that since the territory was his possession and not a pledge, he was within his rights, comparing it to his practice in Salzburg. The dispute ran on for years; on 8 February 1532 the council still held to its view (records in the archives of the court in Vienna, section court finance).

Nevertheless in June 1533 the king made a new appeal to the cardinal to take earnest steps against the Anabaptists in Kitzbühel, Kufstein, and Rattenberg. At the provincial synod held in Salzburg in May 1537, in preparation for the Council of Mantua, the pastors of Tyrol complained again about the increase of the Anabaptists, whereas one hears nothing of the sort concerning Salzburg. Konrad Siebenbürger, who was charged two years later in St. Johann in the Pinzgau with Anabaptist sympathies, was declared innocent.


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Author(s) Paul Dedic
Date Published 1957

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Dedic, Paul. "Lang von Wellenberg, Matthaus (1468-1540)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 21 Sep 2021.,_Matthaus_(1468-1540)&oldid=145689.

APA style

Dedic, Paul. (1957). Lang von Wellenberg, Matthaus (1468-1540). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 September 2021, from,_Matthaus_(1468-1540)&oldid=145689.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 286-287. All rights reserved.

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