Lanzenstiel, Leonhard (d. 1565)

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Leonhard Lanzenstiel (Lantzenstiel; often called Seller, i.e., ropemaker) was a native of Bavaria, Germany. He died in 1565. Little is known of his early life and conversion. In 1529 he was with the Anabaptist congregation at Kromau with Hans Amon, and from there he went to Austerlitz in Moravia, where he was called to the ministry.

At the end of 1536, he and his companion Jörg Fasser left Austerlitz, arriving at Windorf in Lower Austria on 27 April, where they found several sisters and "some other kindhearted people," but in the inn there was a "very indecent Sodomitic group." They looked around for another inn and found it with the tollkeeper of the village. The gang from the inn followed them. "As far as we were concerned," they wrote to Hans Amon, "it was easy and slight. But when we heard them blaspheme the name of God, our hearts were greatly stirred to point out their sin and evil. Indeed, God has not without reason permitted this wicked, sinful people to be destroyed by the Turks; He will within a short time reveal Himself in a different way in grim anger."

The two were arrested and put into the local prison. On the next day they were taken to Modling and questioned on the rack before the judge and the council. "We gave testimony to the truth in such a way that they were all terrified and didn't say a single word against it."

They were imprisoned "with many ungodly, shameful people," whose company was abhorrent to them. From 8 May to 1 June they wrote Hans Amon at least six letters, to which he replied with rich comfort. The first letter says a dear brother from Vienna was with them. In the second letter they say, "The town in which we are imprisoned belongs with the government of Vienna to the terrible Babylon, and the judge is now at the Landtag, so we think he will bring us a message which will not terrify us, for we desire with our whole hearts to be dissolved." The judge and the council had visited them and told them that all would end well. "As our dear brethren have complained that they lay in a prison into which all kinds of wickedness was thrown, so it also goes with us. But we have great joy in departing from this world and joining the multitude that rests and worships."

Lanzenstiel warned the brethren in Moravia that they should be cautious, for some of their names were known to the government. With a fourth letter he sent Amon "Jakob's washcloth," apparently a possession of Hutter, concerning whose death Amon had told them. The fifth letter the prisoners thought would probably be the last; the judge and the council were urging them to desist and threatening exile and terrible torture.

In the next letter they say, "If we hadn't said that the men from Vienna were our brethren (viz., Jeronymus Küls and his companions), they would gladly have released us." But now they had to act in accord with the king's commands. An important man had been with them and had told them that if they wished to be freed they must desist from several articles; soon the priests from Vienna would be sent to them. Eight days previously (25 May) the wife of a wealthy merchant had visited them and told them of Hutter's death.

The news of the capture of two such valiant brethren caused sorrow in the brotherhood, since within a short period they had been deprived of their most capable men. Amon comforted the prisoners, "Fight to the end. For you are waiting in Paradise our beloved Jakob (Hutter) and Jeronymus (Kals) with a mighty host of the elect. Testify to the truth and warn men of the coming judgment."

In another letter Amon admonished the prisoners to remain true. "Think of dear Jakob. Did he not remain true in all torture, and was God not with him? Likewise Jeronymus, Michel, and Hansel. Think of Peter Riedemann and Hans von Lichtenfels. Are they not faithful witnesses? I might name hundreds who are an example to us for honesty, piety, and faith."

After nearly a year in prison, facing death with the courage of "young lions," they were somehow released without violating their conscience. Particulars are not known. Scarcely released, Fasser assembled a congregation at Peckstal in Austria, was seized here in 1537 and executed. His followers escaped to Moravia.

Lanzenstiel had a great future before him. He went to Trassenhofen on the Moravian border in Lower Austria and then apparently on to Tyrol. His wife Apollonia was seized in 1539 on the road toward Brixen and drowned.

In that year Lanzenstiel was chosen preacher and went to the Adige and from there to Switzerland. Although his journey had been betrayed to the authorities, spies had been posted, and notices had been issued against him, he managed to evade their pursuit.

Three years later (1542), after the death of Hans Amon, Lanzenstiel was entrusted with the leadership of the entire brotherhood. The chronicles say that he was a "pious, honorable man and faithfully looked after the church of God." His leadership began under the most favorable auspices. He had a very competent assistant in Peter Riedemann, "who helped him carry the burden of the church."

Year after year groups continued to come to Moravia from all sides. There was economic progress. Some of the later additions were weavers and developed a flourishing craft in Moravia. They seem to have imported from Hungary the wool they needed, for the Moravian estates, to protect the domestic market, issued an order in 1544 prohibiting the purchase of wool anywhere other than in the royal cities or the baronial estates. The Hutterites were all the more willing to obey, for the barons showed increasing interest in protecting them and in 1545 and 1546 granted them new households in Rackschitz, Kromau, Eibenschitz, Gobschitz, Bisentz, Bapayedl, Pawlowitz, Altenmarkt, Göding, Schaikowitz, Paraditz, Pochtisch, Bupschitz, Wesseli, Gurdau, Puslawitz, and Frätz.

This increase of Anabaptism brought great concern to the government and new tests and persecutions to the Anabaptists. In the spring of 1545 an order was issued in Prague that the Hutterites be expelled, and the estates complied to the extent that they required them to give up their communal life. Since the Landtag of this year also threatened them with expulsion, they presented a solemn protest to the barons. They give an account of their doctrines and institutions and defended themselves on all the charges raised against them. Only to serve God had they come to Moravia; for at other places they had not been able to do so. Since evil accusations were being raised against them by thoughtless people, they felt it necessary to explain that there must be governments, for they were instituted by God.

The following years of Lanzenstiel's direction are recorded in the chronicles as the time of the great persecution in Moravia, Austria, and Hungary. Repeatedly Ferdinand I requested the estates to expel them, threatening severe penalties. In addition the Bohemian revolt of 1547 and its suppression by Ferdinand gave him the opportunity he was looking for to increase the Catholic power in political as well as in religious affairs, and to carry out his intention to re-establish the religious status of 1526.

This was the beginning "of sorrow and tribulation, the time of the cross, and severe persecution" from one country to another. Fortunately the Hutterites found support in the Moravian barons, who insisted upon their right to improve their constitution according to their own custom, judgment, and conscience. The principle of imperialism did not succeed in Moravia as in Bohemia; and so better days came for the Hutterites. In 1550 and 1553 they set up three new households. And so the period of Lanzenstiel's direction also marked the beginning of the "good time of the brotherhood," which continued until his death, giving way then to a still better one, the "golden time."

Among the leaders of the brotherhood Lanzenstiel was not outstanding for his talents. The chronicles, however, say of him that he gave his brethren many wholesome teachings, comforting epistles, and explanations of the Holy Scriptures. To his credit is also the fact that he permitted a man to work beside him who far surpassed him in intellectual gifts, Peter Riedemann. His special field seems to have been economic organization. The Vaterlied credits him with many beneficent regulations. Unfortunately, most of these have been lost, for the oldest regulations that have been preserved stem from the time of Klaus Braidl. Only the regulation for shoemakers dates back to Lanzenstiel (1561).

At any rate, under Lanzenstiel's careful guidance the brotherhood prospered; old Bruderhofs were provided for, new ones established, and missionary work carried on with vigor. New members were added and groups which had split off joined the brotherhood again. Their songs also commemorate the growth of the brotherhood under Lanzenstiel's guidance.

After a life rich in difficulty and endeavor Lanzenstiel died on 3 March 1565, at Klein-Nembschitz in Moravia. Of his writings there have come down to us the six letters which he wrote with Jörg Fasser in prison in Modling, and his "Schusterordnung." The "Rechenschaft," which was written by Peter Riedemann, may also be in part a result of his influence.


Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967: 216 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 619-621.

Loserth, Johann. "Der Communismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer im 16. and 17. Jahrhundert: Beiträge zu ihrer Lehre, Geschichte and Verfassung." Archiv für österreichische Geschichte 81, 1 (1895).

Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943: 164 et passim.

Author(s) Johann Loserth
Date Published 1957

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Loserth, Johann. "Lanzenstiel, Leonhard (d. 1565)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 29 Sep 2023.,_Leonhard_(d._1565)&oldid=145679.

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Loserth, Johann. (1957). Lanzenstiel, Leonhard (d. 1565). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 September 2023, from,_Leonhard_(d._1565)&oldid=145679.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 292-294. All rights reserved.

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