Lochmaier, Leonhard (d. 1538)

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Leonhard Lochmaier was a Hutterite martyr. After the death of Hutter it was clear that Moravia and not Tyrol was the center of the Austrian Anabaptist movement. But this does not mean that there were no men of energetic action for the Anabaptist cause left in Tyrol. One such man was Leonhard Lochmaier. He stemmed from Freising, had been a Catholic priest eight years, was baptized in 1526 by Jörg Krautschlögel, who was burned at the stake in 1527 with his wife; then he served the brotherhood in Moravia, Lower Austria, and the adjoining parts of Slovakian Hungary.

In 1538 he was in the upper valley of the Inn, in the valleys of the Oetz and Pitz at the side of Offrus Griesinger, where he gathered a congregation. But in the last days of April he with nine companions, George Übel of Lenbach near Brixen, Hans Nass of Tirdl-Meran, Ruepp Haas, Cyprian, and Veit Kuhn of Hueb, Veronika Klasen, Manhart's wife Ursula Hellriegel, Anna Mark, and Margareta Kofer, fell into the hands of Eitelhans Gienger, magistrate of St. Petersburg. Veit Kuhn declared himself to ready to recant immediately and was pardoned. The rest were taken for trial to Petersburg. Because Lochmaier was a priest, and had been seized in the bishopric of Brixen, he was turned over to the ecclesiastical court.

By this time the cantonal government of Tyrol had come to the conclusion that the barbarous methods being used were not producing the desired results, and that more could be done to convert the Anabaptists by persuasion. In Dr. Gallus Müller, court preacher in Innsbruck and city pastor in Tirol-Meran, they had a well-qualified person for this task.

The efforts of Gallus Müller and the suffragan Albrecht of Brixen were successful, for on 18 July 1538, the government was asked to pardon Lochmaier. The government, believing that pardon would make the best impression on the populace as well as on the Anabaptists, complied. Indeed the vice-governor and chancellor of Brixen announced that Lochmaier had made his recantation "sincerely and devoutly" in the local church and had given undoubted signs that he meant it, and "if he were pardoned he would do much good for the eradication of this sect." Ferdinand made the request that Lochmaier be detained in Brixen another year, so that the constancy of his character and conduct could be tested. This information was given to the councilors in Brixen with the request that they henceforth use Lochmaier for the conversion of his former companions.

But in the meantime a change had taken place in Lochmaier. When the suffragan and vicar Jörg Stemmler read him the letter from the government he replied that he had not requested Dr. Gallus Müller to trouble himself on his account with the king and would not be in a position to thank him for it. When they showed him his recantation he said "he had done this out of fear and terror foolishly, he himself didn't know how; he had repented twice as often as the number of hairs upon his head." When he was told that he should now go out and convert the Anabaptists, he replied, "he would not only not deflect them from their faith, he would stay with it himself." At the same time he attempted to make contact with Griesinger who was imprisoned there. Perhaps it was the news of the imprisonment of this Anabaptist leader that moved Lochmaier's heart so powerfully.

The government was informed about this incident on 6 September 1538. It was reported that Lochmaier made an attempt to free himself by removing his chains. Dr. Müller immediately sent a report to King Ferdinand; and the king replied that they should halt the pardoning of Lochmaier. The government wrote that since only worse things were to be feared from Griesinger and the other prisoners, they should not hesitate to take the necessary steps. The Brixen authorities wrote to Ferdinand that they knew no other course but to commit them both to the flames.

On 16 September the Brixen council discussed whether Griesinger and Lochmaier should be executed publicly or quietly. They decided that "Griesinger, who is gentle and quiet in speech, would move many of the people. Therefore we are planning to let the law take its course in all secrecy." Dr. Müller remained interested in Lochmaier to the last moment and tried again to persuade him to recant. That displeased the chancellor Han. "Good Dr. Gall is deceived by Lochmaier's hypocrisy and patience, which is not usual with the Anabaptists. In reality he is a malicious preacher, who has for nearly ten years been casting pious folk into misfortune. If he should get out again, he would do worse than Hutter, who did a great deal of damage. If he is let out again nothing else can be believed but that he will return to the Anabaptists where his pregnant wife is." To his wife Bärbel, Lochmaier had Griesinger write a letter thanking her for her love. "God has helped me again; I know that I have sadly grieved you; pardon and forgive me!" And Griesinger wrote, "Leonhard, to be sure, fell in weakness; but God be praised he is confessing the Lord again." In a second letter he said, "We were supposed to have been executed before this but something suddenly interfered."

Griesinger was put to death on 31 October 1538. In his last letter to the brotherhood in Moravia Lochmaier wrote, "Why I am so long imprisoned only God knows, I have consoled myself to die with pious Offerus, but God the Lord has denied it to me; I am waiting every day like a poor lamb. But the preachers must have their arbitrary way and take off my priestly robes and only then deliver me to the hangman."

The conclusion of the degradation was delayed; for only a bishop may perform it. On 8 October the suffragan had died and Prince-bishop Georg was outside the country. Not until Lochmaier's degradation was complete was he put to death with a sword, "several days after Offerus." The principles he defended against Dr. Gall and the other Catholic clergy were those of the Hutterian Brethren.

Lochmaier left two letters written in prison: one to his wife Bärbel, and the other to the brotherhood in Austria and Moravia. These letters reveal the location of the Bruderhofs in Moravia, "where they might serve each other without hindrance." These were at Tischnowitz (leader Brother Oswald), Rohrbach (Brother Matthes), Butschowitz (Brother Ulrich) at Austerlitz, Auspitz, Schackwitz, Rackwitz, Pilgram, Kostel, Znaim, and Popitz; in Lower Austria at Nannsgarten and Walltersdorf.

Two songs written by Lochmaier have been preserved: a devotional hymn of ten stanzas, "Lobt Gott den Herrn, ir fromme Kindt," and "Verlass mich nicht o Herr, mein Gott."


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Author(s) Johann Loserth
Date Published 1957

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Loserth, Johann. "Lochmaier, Leonhard (d. 1538)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 18 Sep 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lochmaier,_Leonhard_(d._1538)&oldid=146585.

APA style

Loserth, Johann. (1957). Lochmaier, Leonhard (d. 1538). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 September 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lochmaier,_Leonhard_(d._1538)&oldid=146585.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 381-382. All rights reserved.

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