Lasco, John á (1499-1560)

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John á Lasco (Jan Łaski (Laski)), an important Reformation leader, was born at Lask, Poland (hence the name). He studied in Rome 1514-1517 and in Basel in 1524, where he was a student of Erasmus and bought the latter's library. In 1527 he became priest at Gnesen. In 1538 he went to Holland, where he joined the Reformation. In 1542, at the request of Countess Anna, ruler of East Friesland, he went to Emden and assumed the leadership of the church in that territory, using the Calvinist pattern. In 1548 he was compelled to give up his post because of the Interim and went to London, where he became the pastor of the Walloon congregation there. In 1553 he and his congregation were forced to flee to escape the persecution of "Bloody Mary," the new Catholic queen. He came to Warnemünde, but forced by Lutheran pressure from here as well as Rostock, Lübeck, and Hamburg, finally went to Frankfurt. In 1556 he returned to Poland, where he was active in the leadership of the Evangelical Reformation until his death on 8 January 1560.

Lasco's relationship to the Anabaptist movement and particularly to Menno Simons deserves attention, especially during his stay in Emden 1542-1548. Until 1544 the Anabaptists had been tolerated by Countess Anna, but now as a result of imperial pressure, they were to be expelled. Lasco reports (in a letter of 26 July 1544 to Hardenberg, Opera II, 574) that the church was to be cleansed, not on God's account, but on the emperor's, and so harshly, the innocent along with the guilty, that he felt compelled to request the Countess not to expel all foreigners but only those who could be proved to be heretics after an examination by Lasco and his assistants. He probably hoped, like Calvin in Strasbourg, to win the Anabaptists to his side. Menno Simons and David Joris gladly accepted the invitation to a disputation, hoping thereby to win toleration, but with no thought of joining Lasco's church.

The disputation between Menno and Lasco, which took place at Emden 28-31 January 1544 in the former Franciscan monastery, dealt with the following five points: (1) the incarnation of Christ,  (2) infant baptism, (3) original sin, (4) sanctification, and (5) the calling of preachers. Menno reports (Menno's Opera, 519) that he was treated in a friendly manner and was allowed to leave the city in peace, even though no agreement was reached on points (1), (2), and (5).


In accord with a promise which he had made, Menno delivered to Lasco three months later a written statement of faith covering points (1) and (5) and promised to send him later a treatise on point (2), of which the latter apparently never was done. The confession of faith bears the title: Een Korte ende klare belydinge ende schriftelycke aenwysinge, Ten eersten: Van der Menschwerdinge onses lieven Heeren Jesu Christi; Ten tweeden: Hoe dat beyde de Leeraers ende Gemeynte Christi, nae Schrifts vermeldinge sullen ende moeten geaert zijn; Geschreven aen de Edele ende Hooghgelarde Heeren, H. Johan a Lasco, met t'samen sijne Mede-hulperen binnen Emden, Anno 1544. Door Menno Symons, Joan. 8, 31; I. Cor. 3, 11. (Opera, 517-42.) The confession was printed by Lasco and used as evidence against Menno and not for him, as Menno had expected. Menno denied Lasco's charge that he had first distributed the confession among his followers, saying that he had shown it only to a certain W. H. G., a burgomaster (Menno's Opera, 365a and 365b).

Lasco was disappointed in his hope of winning over the Anabaptists. With all his tolerance, he certainly did not intend to permit an Anabaptist church to exist beside his own. This is evident from an edict of the Countess Anna of 1545 (Kirchen- und Polizeiordnung) which Lasco certainly helped to draft. According to this edict, the "Davidian and Batenburger sects" were not to be examined by the superintendent (Lasco) but to be "executed by the neck" if they did not leave the country. The "Mennists," however, were to be examined first and then expelled from the country if they did not accept instruction from the Scriptures  (Müller, 24 f)

Soon after delivering the confession to Lasco, Menno left East Friesland, for Lasco says in the above-mentioned letter to Hardenberg, "I know that at present Menno is living mostly in the bishopric of Cologne and has led many astray there." Lasco did not let Menno rest, however, even in foreign parts. Although Menno had accepted invitations to disputations at Bonn and Wesel, Lasco and Hardenberg prevented him from attending, by means of charges which, though not mentioning Menno specifically, deeply offended him. The Wesel authorities wrote Menno that they would let the executioner debate with him (Menno's Opera, 515b, 235a). During Menno's residence in the Rhineland Lasco twice visited his friend Hardenberg as well as Hermann von Wied, the Archbishop of Cologne, who was friendly to the Reformation. It is possible that on these occasions he used his influence against Menno.

Lasco's polemical booklet against Menno's confession of faith was published at Bonn in 1545 under the title: Defensio verae semperque in ecclesia receptae doctrinae de Christi Domini incarnatione, adversus Mennonem Simonis (a Lasco, Opera, 1-60). It was not until 1553, after Menno had been reminded of Lasco as a result of the latter's arrival there on his flight from London, that he replied to Lasco's Defensio. Lasco with his several shiploads of refugees (his London congregation) was stuck in the ice in Wismar harbor. The Anabaptists of Wismar, under Menno's leadership, rendered brotherly assistance to the Lasco refugees. Menno's reply of 1554 bears the title: Een klare onwederspreekelyke Bekentenisse en Aenwysinge, . . . dat de geheele Christus Jesus, Godt en Mensche, Mensche en Godt, Gods eengeboren en Eerstgeboren eygen Sone is, niet gedeylt noch gestucht, maer een eenig ongedeylt Persoon, Soon ende Christus, Godts Woord in dertijd vleesch geworden. Met een grondelijke Confutation . . . van Johanne a Lasco . . . Door Menno Symons (Opera, 350-82). The unpleasant personal attacks which so often appear in the polemics of this time are absent in this booklet, since Menno's chief concern was to present once more before his death, which he expected soon, his doctrine of the incarnation.


Dalton, H. Johannes a Lasco. Gotha, 1881.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. . Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967, II, 621 f.

Hein, K. Die Sakramentslehre des Johannes a Lasko. Berlin, 1904.

Johannis a Lasco, Opera tarn edita, quarn inedita rec, ed. A. Kuyper. Amsterdam, 1866.

Krahn, Cornelius. Menno Simons. Karlsruhe, 1936.

Menno Simons, Opera Omnia. Amsterdam, 1681.

Müller, J. P. Die Mennoniten in Ostfriesland. Amsterdam, 1887.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Lasco, John á (1499-1560)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 29 Sep 2023.,_John_%C3%A1_(1499-1560)&oldid=95728.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1957). Lasco, John á (1499-1560). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 September 2023, from,_John_%C3%A1_(1499-1560)&oldid=95728.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 296-297. All rights reserved.

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