Müller, Gallus (16th century)

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Gallus Müller, an outstanding opponent of the Anabaptists in Tyrol, Austria, in the 1530s and 1540s, was one of the few who tried to counter the Anabaptist movement by peaceable means rather than by bloodshed and influenced the pertinent measures of the government in this direction. All that is known of his life and career is the material found in connection with the records of Anabaptist persecution.

Gallus Müller was born at Fürstenberg, studied theology, and was said to have accepted a pastorate in 1522. In 1526, when he was pastor at Tübingen and professor at the university, he was one of the theologians chosen by Ferdinand, who was then the ruler of Württemberg, to attend the religious colloquy held on 21 May 1526 at Baden in Aargau, Switzerland. There he became acquainted with Eck and Johann Faber. When the exiled Duke Ulrich returned to Württemberg and adopted a Protestant program for the University of Heidelberg, there was no longer room for Müller. He then was appointed court preacher for the government of Upper Austria in Innsbruck, and assumed the position in May 1535. Ferdinand agreed to his appointment because he was aware that other rulers sought him, and because he needed a learned clergyman for ecclesiastical negotiations. His sermons were very popular and were attended by great crowds. His first difficult assignment was to convert Jakob Hutter, who had just been brought to prison. Müller no doubt did all that lay in his power, but against a man who had made up his mind to adhere to his faith and if necessary seal it with his blood, even more eloquent speakers than Müller would have failed.

In March 1537 the pastorate of Ingolstadt was offered Gallus Müller, but he preferred to remain in Innsbruck. He now took pains to convert the Anabaptists captured at Imst and in Petersberg, especially Sebastian Hubmaier (alias Glaser), Hans Grünfelder of Lüsen, both of whom were executed, and the Hellriegel family. He was successful only with Oswald Hellriegel and N. Knaufel.

Meanwhile Matthias, Cardinal and Archbishop of Salzburg, called a meeting of the provincial synod in Salzburg. Ferdinand appointed Müller as one of the representatives, with detailed instructions on his policies. The records show that he was really in earnest about removing the offensive practices of the clergy and in the church. By meeting these just complaints on the part of the populace, by teaching, and by raising the moral standards he did more to eliminate the growth of Separatism than by the bloodiest persecution.

Persecutions were of course not lacking. In April 1538 Lienhard Lochmeier, an Anabaptist leader, was brought in, and Müller working with the suffragan of Brixen persuaded him to make a public recantation; but when they also requested that he try to convert some of his brethren, he accepted the plea of his fellow prisoner Offerus Griesinger to repent and reject the pardon offered him. There were voices that blamed this backsliding on Müller's overzealousness. The law took its course with Lochmeier. Müller was equally unsuccessful with Ursula Hellriegel and Georg Liebich, who was imprisoned in the Vellenburg. But he succeeded with two backsliding Anabaptists in June 1539.

Like Faber in Vienna, Müller was the official adviser of the government in Innsbruck, and very conscientious in formulating and in executing the mandates passed against the Anabaptists. It was he who drew up the mandate of 28 November 1539, in which the Anabaptists are called not only sacramentists, iconoclasts, and falsifiers of the Scripture, but also revolutionaries, "who think of revolt by day and night, and taking away with them their earthly goods they commit themselves to improper and unheard-of communion and brotherhood." As a measure of combating them the mandate ordered cutting off their food supply; and in those places where they were not vigorously pursued soldiers should be quartered until the heresy was wiped out. This mandate was sent out on 16 December, with orders to have it affixed to the church doors and read to the people on the following Sunday and holiday, and once a month thereafter.

Müller was now appointed by Ferdinand to the vacant parish of Tyrol-Meran, but declined on the ground that he was too old for the position. Not a popular figure with the local priests, he became a hated one, when in August 1546 he was assigned to the task of rooting out concubinage among the clergy. The authorities, temporal and ecclesiastical, were ordered to support him in the reform. The synod which met in Brixen a week later made celibacy mandatory for the clergy; Müller was one of the leaders responsible for calling this meeting.

In June 1540 Müller was honored by accompanying the Bishop of Trent to the religious colloquy which was held in Hagenau. In the next year, when Ferdinand was enraged by the offensive conduct of the clergy, he ordered a pastoral inspection; again Gallus Müller was one of the two men appointed by the bishop to make this inspection in the Inn Valley in 1542.

In 1543 the pastorate of Tyrol-Meran again fell vacant, and this time Müller accepted it. In consideration of his services in "the conversion of Anabaptists," his church tax was sharply reduced. This concession was a step in raising the clerical standards; for "the growth of the sects not only in Tyrol, but also in the entire Roman Empire is caused by the great dearth of priests, so that even on excellent benefices it was impossible to place skilled and learned priests."

In Meran Gallus Müller had to cope not only with Anabaptists, but also with Lutherans. The latter had such a large following among the people, including the nobility and the mayor, that they were able to call a preacher of their own in 1544 to preach in their homes. Though Müller tried to correct the matter, he was reproached by the government with harboring the "vagrant" priests. Müller replied in self-defense that the Lutheran preacher had so large a following among the most respected classes, that he had been threatened with physical violence, that a mob of women had treated him very roughly; he therefore asked for protection and satisfaction. The preacher was then banished, the mayor deposed from office, and the women who had led the mob put into prison on bread and water; peace was thus temporarily established. Müller, for reasons of age and health, decided to resign from his benefice at Meran and retire to Tyrol. The resignation was accepted, but Müller had to remain until a competent successor could be found. Meanwhile the authorities were ordered to see that he received adequate protection and honor, and to punish any who offended him.

A few weeks before, Charles V had written from Ghent requesting Müller's participation in a disputation to be held at Innsbruck between the Catholics and the Protestants; there is no information on his work in that colloquy nor of his death.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 176-178.

Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892.

Loserth, Johann. Zwei biographische Skizzen aus der Zeit der Wiedertäufer in Tirol.

Papers of Beck published in Zeitschrift des Ferdinandeums für Tirol und Voralberg, third series: 277-802.

Author(s) Johann Loserth
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Loserth, Johann. "Müller, Gallus (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 12 Apr 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%BCller,_Gallus_(16th_century)&oldid=145907.

APA style

Loserth, Johann. (1957). Müller, Gallus (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 April 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%BCller,_Gallus_(16th_century)&oldid=145907.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 769-770. All rights reserved.

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