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Mandates were the laws of the Holy Roman Empire which gave instructions to the higher officials. In the German territories the regulations passed for their own domain in the 15th-18th centuries were often also called mandates. In addition the term "edict" was used for regulations meant for general knowledge, for commands as well as for prohibitions. Such laws were passed during the Middle Ages against religious brotherhoods which arose beside the Catholic Church. For the Holy Roman Empire Frederick II introduced a general church regulation in 1232, decreeing that persons condemned and delivered to the secular courts by the church must be put to death. This applied first of all to extra-church reform groups.

For the suppression of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites mandates were issued in amazingly large numbers. Persecution began in Zürich immediately after the initiation of the Anabaptist movement in 1525 with the passing of a decree that introduced a long series of mandates announcing the severest penalties. Whatever violence fanaticism could invent for the annihilation of a separatist group was precipitated into these mandates. In harshness these mandates differed very little from the heresy laws of the Middle Ages.

The organization of independent congregations was strictly prohibited by the mandates, and accordingly their preachers were denied the right to perform any official functions. Children were forcibly baptized by preachers of the established state churches; the Swiss Anabaptists were obliged to participate in state church communion services, and had to be married in the state church at a time when this regulation was not yet mandatory for the people in general. Their devotional literature was confiscated in all countries, and most of it destroyed; in some states the very buildings in which they met were torn down.

Every member of a congregation was personally hit by the ruthless stipulations of the mandates. They were thrown into prison, deprived of their property; it was made a criminal offense to shelter them, employ them, feed them; high rewards were offered for their capture; they were subjected to cruel torture; their bodies were mutilated by cutting off limbs or by branding them with hot irons on forehead or cheek, and finally those who persisted in their faith were killed by drowning, hanging, beheading, and even by burning or burying alive—not at all because they were accused of some heinous crime, but because they did not agree with all the doctrines and institutions of the established churches.

But it was not only the difference in doctrine that gave the Anabaptists occasion to separate themselves from the church, but frequently also the offensive conduct of members of those churches. This can be seen not only in the mandates on morals of the 16th century, but also by the various regulations passed against the Anabaptists, which stress these unworthy conditions, thereby trying to influence officials and clergy (Müller, 87, 116; Hege, 141; Bergmann, 53; Loserth, Communismus, 318).

A summary of the numerous mandates issued against the Anabaptists and Mennonites does not exist. Nevertheless the laws published in the collections of sources afford a dependable view of the proceedings against the movement which seized wide circles of the population and found followers in nearly all of the German territories. The following table is an attempt on the basis of available sources to give a survey of a struggle which the governing powers ruthlessly waged with secular means against spiritual forces for several centuries, without, however, obtaining their goal, which was the universal eradication of their opponents.

(The Symbol * indicates that a copy of the original mandate is found in Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, IN); symbol ** indicates that the mandate is printed in Bossert, pp. 1-10.)

1525 January 18 Zurich orders unbaptized children to be baptized and expels foreign Anabaptists.
  February 1 Zurich forbids infant baptism in private homes.
  February 26 Elector John of Saxony forbids preaching and officiating at marriages, baptisms, etc., by persons not called by the church.
  March 1 Zurich forbids baptism on faith on penalty of fine and exile.
  April 26 St. Gall forbids baptism on faith.
  November 30 Grüningen (Zurich) penalizes baptism on faith with fines.
1526 March 1 Zürich threatens the death penalty for baptism on faith.
  May 20 Grisons forbids all extra-church brotherhoods on penalty of corporal and capital punishment.
  June 2 Basel forbids adult baptism on penalty of exile.
  July 14 Basel inflicts corporal punishment and confiscation of property for attendance at Anabaptist preaching services.
  November 19 Zurich announces the death penalty for listening to Anabaptist sermons.
1527 March 1 The mandate of Bishop Weigand of Bamberg.
  March 26 The Nürnberg edict against Hans Hut .
  March 31 John of Saxony extends the decree of 26 February 1525, to other districts.
  July 6 Basel orders corporal punishment and confiscation for baptism of adults, omission of infant baptism, and sheltering Anabaptists.
  July 27 Strasbourg prohibits the sheltering and feeding of Anabaptists.
  *August 14 Concordat of the cities Zurich, Bern, and St. Gall.
  August 20 General mandate of Ferdinand I against all Protestants.
  October 11 Augsburg threatens membership in an Anabaptist group with corporal and capital punishment.
  October 18 Cardinal Matthias Lang of Salzburg forbids Anabaptist preaching and orders raids to hunt them out.
  October 23 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Upper Austria.
  October 27 New mandate issued by Cardinal Lang.
  November 1 Regensburg announces severe corporal punishment for adult baptism and for sheltering Anabaptists.
  November 5 Dukes William and Louis of Bavaria require all Anabaptists to be seized.
  December 15 Margrave Philip of Baden forbids adult baptism on penalty of corporal and capital punishment.
  December 16 Zurich mandate sharpened.
  December 19 Mandate of Bishop Weigand of Bamberg renewed.
  December 23 The prince-bishop of Brixen orders the seizure of Anabaptist preachers.
  December 31 Duke George of Saxony proclaims severe punishment for adult baptism.
1528   *Mandate of Duke Christoff of Württemberg, issued at Stuttgart.
  **January 4 Mandate of Emperor Charles V (Speier).
  January 6 Margrave George of Brandenburg orders corporal and capital punishment and confiscation as a penalty for adult baptism or giving Anabaptists shelter and food.
  January 7 The mandate of Bern is extended to the canton.
  January 16 Mandate of Ferdinand for Upper Austria.
  January 17 John of Saxony orders those to be seized who function as preachers without ecclesiastical calling.
  January 22 Bern mandate sharpened.
  January 23 Mandate of the city of Biel (Switzerland).
  **January 26 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Württemberg permits execution without court procedure.
  January 28 Mandate of Dukes Ottheinrich and Philip of Pfalz-Neuburg.
  January 31 Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz forbids joining the Anabaptists on penalty of corporal punishment and confiscation, but promises pardon for those who will betray Anabaptists.
  February 4 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Lower Austria.
  February 22 The Swabian League decides to send out scouts to hunt out the Anabaptists.
  *February 24 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Austria.
  February 26 Order of regent to officials of Stuttgart, Cannstatt, etc., to watch for Anabaptists.
  February 27 Ferdinand I stipulates that rebaptized persons be put to death in spite of recantation.
  March 5 Louis V of the Palatinate decrees the dealth penalty for adult baptism.
  March 24 New general mandate of Ferdinand I orders death by fire for Anabaptist preachers and beheading for the penitent.
  March 24 Mandate of Frankfurt.
  *April 1 Ferdinand decrees a mandate for Upper Austria, promising pardon for Anabaptists who voluntarily recant, accept church penance, and betray their preachers.
  April 5 Mandate of the Bishop of Speyer.
  April 18 Cardinal Lang of Salzburg decrees the death penalty for Anabaptist preachers.
  July 28 Decree of Ferdinand I to the local courts in Lower Austria.
  August 1 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Silesia.
1529 January 26 Styria orders the seizure of Anabaptists and the burning of their houses.
  April 1 A regulation in the reformation of Basel demands that Anabaptists join the state church or be sentenced to life imprisonment, with the death penalty for apostates.
  April 7 Mandate of the Bishop of Bamberg.
  **April 22 Imperial law at Speyer.
  **April 23 Mandate of Emperor Charles V.
  May 18 Mandate of Ferdinand I for his hereditary lands decrees death by fire for the Anabaptists.
  May 24 Mandate of Ferdinand I for the Austrian possessions in Alsace.
1530 January 18 Edict of banishment by Enno I of East Friesland.
  *March 2 Mandate of Ferdinand I  ordering the officials to carry out the prescribed punishments of Anabaptists without pity.
  March 26 Zurich orders the death penalty for sheltering Anabaptists.
  April 27 Sharpened  mandate  of  Bavaria  decrees death penalty even with recantation.
  September 24 Strasbourg renews  the mandate  of 27 July 1527.
  November 17 Basel joins the concordat of 14 August 1527.
  **November 19 Imperial recess at Augsburg.
  November 23 Basel pardons the Anabaptists who recant after their first imprisonment, otherwise they are banned, and those who return are to be drowned.
1531 March 22 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Lower Austria decrees the execution of Anabaptists who do not recant and the burning of their meetinghouses.
  June 20 George of Brandenburg warns against the Anabaptists, demands that they be found, and threatens a severe penalty for arguing about or defending their doctrine.
  July 31 Bern threatens the death penalty for exiles who return.
  December Philip of Hesse deprives  the Anabaptists  of their hereditary possessions if they do not join the state church.
1532 May 7 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Carinthia.
  June 10 Decision  of  the  cities  of Lucerne,  Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Zug to abolish court procedures for Anabaptists.
1533 March 2 Bern threatens steadfast Anabaptists with life imprisonment.
1534 February 12 A Dutch proclamation orders the seizure of all Anabaptist preachers.
  March 3 Strasbourg orders the installation of "Tauferherren."
  May 9 Sharpened edict of Ferdinand I proclaiming the death penalty for all who promote Anabaptism and severe punishment for lax judges.
  **June 29 Imperial law against the Anabaptists (Kadan).
  November 8 Bern orders marriages to be solemnized by the pastors and participation in communion in the churches.
  December 23 George of Saxony orders that every Anabaptist be put to death and his property confiscated.
  December The council of Muhlhausen (Thuringia) forbids joining the Anabaptists.
  December The council of Erfurt warns against the Anabaptists and demands that they be reported.
1535 March 13 Bern threatens returning Anabaptists with beheading (instead of drowning).
  April 22 In the Bishopric of Passau the sheltering of Anabaptists is prohibited.
  **April 25 Imperial recess at Worms against Münster.
  April 28 Strasbourg orders the compulsory baptism of infants.
  May 26 Repetition of the mandate of 24 May 1529, for the Austrian possessions in Alsace.
  June 11 Regensburg enforces former mandates and orders submission to church doctrine.
  June 18 Ulrich of Württemberg promises recanting Anabaptists mercy, and to backsliders the death penalty.
  August 14 New decree of the Dukes of Bavaria.
  October 23 Proscription by Duke Albrecht of Prussia.
1536 April 10 Mandate of John Frederick of Saxony in part repeating the mandate of 17 January 1528.
  July Ulrich of Württemberg promises pardon for recantation, exile for steadfastness, and death for preachers and apostates.
  October 24 Friesland threatens the death penalty for anyone who shelters Menno Simons.
1537 December Philip of Hesse threatens foreign Anabaptists with exile, and the death penalty in case of return.
1538 March 23 The Strasbourg mandate of exile: upon return four weeks in prison, upon second return fingers cut off and cheeks burned, upon third return drowning.
  July 18 Edict of Rostock.
  September 6 Bern threatens all Anabaptist leaders with death.
1539 **April 19 Anabaptists are not to be tolerated (Frankfurt).
  June 13 A sharp new mandate of Ferdinand I.
  November 18 Mandate of Ferdinand I for Tyrol orders the razing of Anabaptist meetinghouses and the quartering of troops on the villages until the Anabaptists are eradicated.
  November 27 Ferdinand I demands that Regensburg suppress the Anabaptists.
  December 2 Regensburg mandate threatens anyone joining the Anabaptists, sheltering them, or giving them food with the extreme penalty.
  December 10 The Bishop of Brixen offers a reward of 100 guilders for an Anabaptist preacher brought in alive and 50 for one brought in dead.
1540   **Generalkonstitution of Charles V.
  April 9 Sharpened Strasbourg mandate; corporal and capital punishment upon refusal to take an oath, corporal punishment and confiscation for sheltering Anabaptists.
  July 25 Edict of Heilbronn.
1541 July 24 New mandate of the Dukes of Bavaria.
1542 December 21 Command of Ferdinand I to the judges not to pronounce sentence according to their conscience,  but to proceed according to the mandates.
1543 February 12 Duke Albrecht of Prussia orders exile.
1544 **June 10 Imperial recess at Speyer.
  August 31 Edict of Charles V against Menno Simons.
  September 8 Regulation of Kempten stipulates exile or eternal punishment for Anabaptists.
  November 10 Federal decree of Switzerland.
  December 10 Sharpened mandate of Ferdinand I for the Austrian possessions in Alsace.
1548 January 25 Groningen orders the Anabaptists to leave the city on penalty of death.
  May 5 Ferdinand I orders exile of Anabaptists from Austria.
  June 15 Ferdinand I orders the exile of the Anabapists from Hungary.
1549 April 6 Countess Anna of East Friesland forbids sheltering Anabaptists.
1551 **February 14 Imperial recess at Augsburg.
  August 26 Inquisition in Venice.
1553 September 6 Mandate of Ferdinand I to find Anabaptist preachers.
1554 October 22 Edict of Ferdinand I for Tyrol against those returning from Moravia. Edict of Cologne announces strict execution of imperial laws.
1555 July 10 Renewed edict of Cologne.
  August 1 Mandate of the Wendic cities (Lübeck, Hamburg, Lüneburg, Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald) against Menno Simons.
  September 25 Imperial recess at Augsburg.
1556 April 23 Mandate of the Count Palatine Wolfgang of Pfalz-Zweibrücken.
  May 9 Mandate of Ottheinrich in Pfalz-Neuburg.
1557 July 9 Renewed order of exile from Moravia.
1558 January 25 Ottheinrich of the Palatinate forbids Anabaptist meetings of their preachers.
  *June 25 Duke Christoph of Württemberg decrees severe punishment for teaching extra-church doctrines.
  September 29 Mandate of Archbishop Michael Khünberg of Salzburg.
1561 July 5 Sharpened mandate of Ferdinand I for Austria.
  August 7 Mandate of the Prince-Bishop of Brixen.
1563 October 2 Renewed mandate of Ferdinand I for Tyrol.
1564 February 16 Bern threatens Anabaptists with penalties of property and body.
1565 January 23 Duke William of Jülich orders the razing of the meetinghouses, separatist brotherhoods, and the punishment of the steadfast.
1566 April 28 Bern orders the church to find the Anabaptists.
  May 30 Imperial recess at Augsburg (against sects and erroneous opinions).
  September 16 First mandate of Ferdinand II which does not tolerate non-Catholics.
1567 June 8 Resolution at Baden (Switzerland) stipulates drowning for those who do not recant and apostates.
  August 12 Ferdinand II renews the mandate of Ferdinand I of 5 July 1561.
1573 April 26 Expulsion of Mennonites from Danzig; they are received in the suburbs.
1578 October 28 Mandate of Ferdinand II for the Tyrol.
  October 30 Mandate of Johann Thomas, Bishop of Brixen.
  December 10 Mandate of Cologne threatening Anabaptists with death.
1579 January 8 George Frederick orders the expulsion of the Mennonites from the duchy of Prussia.
  December 30 Bern renews the threat of confiscation of goods and death.
1581 February 1 Mandate of Ferdinand II for Tyrol.
1582 August 13 Count Edzard II of East Friesland prohibits the sale of real estate to Mennonites.
1583 February 16 Edict of exile of Mennonites in the duchy of Prussia. Severe edict of Johann Kasimir for the Palatinate ordering the seizure of Anabaptists and the compulsory baptism of their children.
1584 September 20 Duke William of Bavaria gives a reward of 40 or 50 guilders for information concerning an Anabaptist passing through. Renewal of the edict of exile against the Mennonites of Prussia.
1585 July 1 Mandate of Ferdinand II for the Tyrol and part of Austria.
  September 3 Bern threatens the Anabaptists with expulsion and with death in case of return.
1586 November 12 Renewal of the edict of exile against the Mennonites of Prussia.
1587 February 28 Duke William V of Bavaria rewards the capture of an Anabaptist with 25 to 100 guilders.
1591 January Johann Kasimir of the Palatinate prohibits the employment of Mennonites.
  July 20 New mandate of Ferdinand II for Tyrol.
1592 April 15 Mandate of Bern against the migration of Anabaptists to Moravia.
1593 July 1 Archbishop Wolf Dietrich.of Salzburg orders the execution of every Anabaptist without previous inquisition, by fire and sword and confiscation of property.
1595   Renewed mandate of the council of Cologne.
  June 11 Basel orders confiscation of property of all expelled Mennonites.
1596 June 11 The bishop of Basel orders the expulsion of the Anabaptists in the Münstertal.
1597 February 10 Bern mandate of 3 September 1585 renewed.
1598 May 27 The Frisian States forbid Mennonite worship services.
1599 March 10 Bern declares confiscated Mennonite property to be a state possession.
1601   Groningen forbids Mennonite church services and excludes unbaptized children from inheritance.
  March 23 Mandate of exile of Rudolf II for Lower Austria.
  April 30 Cologne order of expulsion on penalty of death.
1612 December 30 Zurich imposes a fine for nonattendance at state church services and orders the imprisonment of Mennonite preachers.
1613 November 24 Count Enno III of East Friesland forbids Mennonite religious services on penalty of a fine of 5,000 Reichstaler and  the loss of the meetinghouse.
1614 September 9 Mandate of expulsion by the city of Aachen.
1619 February 19 Jülich forbids Mennonite religious services.
  September 1 Jülich mandate of expulsion.
1620   Prohibition of meeting in Deventer on penalty of expulsion.
1622 September 17 Mandate of expulsion by Ferdinand II for Moravia.
  September 25 Count Enno III of East Friesland orders the seizure of attendants at Mennonite service.
  September 28 Order of expulsion by Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein against the Hutterian Brethren in Moravia.
1624 February 11 Bern demands marriage in the state church on penalty of imprisonment.
1625 March 3 Mandate of Ferdinand II for Lower Austria.
1628 December 4 Ferdinand II requires Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein to impose fines on the Moravian nobles who do not expel the Hutterites.
1637   Zurich decides on expulsion of Anabaptists who will not join the state church and orders confiscation.
  September 12 Count Palatine Wolfgang Wilhelm commands the expulsion of Mennonites from Jiilich, Cleves, and Berg.
1641 March 10 Ulrich II of East Friesland revokes the rights of the Mennonites, but they are restored in 1647.
1644 April 11 Bern orders the imprisonment of Anabaptists who do not join the state church.
  December 26 Renewal of the Bern mandates of 3 September 1585 and 10 February 1597.
1648 January 10 Bern decides to send Anabaptists to the galleys.
1650 November The diet of Brno orders the expulsion of the Anabaptists who are still in the employ of the nobles.
1652 November 30 Mandate of Wolfgang Wilhelm of Jülich that induces the Mennonites to emigrate.
1658 December 20 Mandate of Bern orders the expulsion of Anabaptists who do not join the state church and seizure of their preachers.
1659 January 4 The appointment of a committee for Anabaptist affairs in Bern.
  August 9 Bern commands expulsion of the Anabaptists with whipping and branding.
1669 February 1 Bern offers a reward of 30 Kr. for the arrest of an Anabaptist.
1670 September 8 Bern imposes heavy fines for sheltering Anabaptists and offering them meals.
1671 January 7 Bern requires an oath of allegiance in order to discover the Mennonites.
  August 24 Bern demands 2 or 3 hostages from localities that are lax in expelling the Mennonites.
1690 March 6 Bern disinherits children of marriages not solemnized in the state church.
1691 March 16 Bern mandate of expulsion for refusing the oath and military training.
1693 March 10 Mandate of expulsion by Bishop Johann Konrad of Basel.
  April 6 Bern offers a reward of 25 to 50 thalers for the arrest of a Mennonite preacher.
  May 31 Bern forbids the sale of "Taufer Testamente."
  July 10 Reprint of the Bern mandate of 9 August 1659.
1694 April 25 Bern forbids the employment of any who do not have papers from officials or pastors.
1695 February 22 Bern declares all legal business of Mennonites as invalid, prohibits the burial of Mennonites in the cemeteries, pays 100 Reichstaler for a Mennonite preacher, threatens young women with expulsion, older women with life imprisonment if they do not join the state church.
  March 28 Bern threatens to arrest all who do not take part in communion at Easter.
1699 May 19 Institution of "Tauferjager" (Anabaptist hunters) in Bern.
1707 June 7 Bern orders that persons who do not take communion be reported to the Tauferkammer.
1709 April 26 Bern renews its prohibition against giving Mennonites a room for meeting.
  December 28 Bern offers 30 Kr. for reporting the return of an expelled Mennonite.
1711 February 11 Bern permits the Mennonites to leave for Holland and Prussia.
  September 30 Bern renews its former mandates against the Mennonites.
  December 11 Mennonites remaining or returning to Bern are threatened with life imprisonment if they do not join the state church.
1712 August 13 Louis IV orders the expulsion of Mennonites from France.
1714 May 23 Bern again threatens to send Mennonite preachers to the galleys.
1718 August 29 New Bern mandate.
1720 March 12 Bern threatens Mennonites who return with whipping and branding.
1731 February 5 Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad of Basel again commands the expulsion of the Mennonites.
1733   Hungarian mandate orders the Hutterian Brethren to have their newborn children baptized by CatJiolic priests.
1734 July 10 Bern imposes a fine of 50 to 100 Thaler for furnishing the Mennonites a room for meeting.
1743 December 4 Bern dissolves the Tauferkammer, whose duty it was to excute the mandates.
1761 January 8 The Hutterian Brethren in Hungary are placed under the local priests, their preachers are removed, and their books confiscated.

The dates of the mandates reveal the rapidity of the spread of the Anabaptist movement when its leaders were compelled to leave the canton of Zurich. Very soon it made itself felt in central Germany and in the Austrian Alps; for by 1527 a number of mandates had been issued threatening the severest penalty upon joining the Anabaptists. The mandate of Charles V of 4 January 1528 extended the persecution to the whole empire. It was supported by further mandates by princes, bishops, and cities. With the greatest zeal a hunt was instituted for the Anabaptists, resulting in numerous deaths. At the Augsburg session of the Swabian League which decided to send a military division of 400 horsemen to scout for Anabaptists, the Bamberg chancellor Georg Tessinger reported on 28 February 1528 that Bishop Weigand was having many Anabaptists executed, and it was said that Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria was at the same time having a large number (grosse mechtige somm) of Anabaptists put to death including two noblemen, the barons of Perwangen (Kuhn, 239). When the Diet of Speyer in 1529 assented to the imperial mandate of the previous year, persecution reached its ultimate severity. Since the populace and the judges frequently felt sympathy with the persecuted, the Diet of Speyer of 1544 made it the duty of everyone to give information of Anabaptists, and the imperial recess at Augsburg of 1551 threatened judges who tempered their judgment with mercy with deposition, fines, and imprisonment.

It is amazing that the Anabaptists were able to maintain themselves under this long continued use of violence. Without the inner security which their trust in God afforded them in hours of decision, they would certainly have been defeated by this violent attack. They were, to be sure, greatly weakened numerically in this unequal battle, but contrary to the wish of their oppressors they could not be wiped out, and proved what confidence in faith is able to achieve in suffering.

It is characteristic of the attitude of former historiographers that until the 19th century only the individual aberrations were considered as typical of Anabaptism, whereas they completely ignored the serious striving for a life of discipleship as well as the dangers and suffering the Anabaptists endured. For the history of the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement and for the history of modern civilization the mandates furnish significant source material which has hitherto received little notice.

With few exceptions the mandates were directed against religious opinions. The early mandates frequently expressed a fear that ignoring the church doctrines might lead to political revolution. That argument had been used in all periods for the suppression of doctrines that deviated from the established church. For instance, in the edict passed by Dukes William and Louis of Bavaria on 5 March 1522, the statement was made in prohibiting Lutheran doctrine that "there is no more certain consequence than the destruction of all divine and human laws, order, and government; through it an irreparable, troublesome misunderstanding would rend the Christian faith, if anyone would take the liberty to explain the holy Gospels and Scriptures according to his own head and understanding, and thereby the unity of the Christian church would be destroyed." Many of the mandates against the Anabaptists likewise resulted from this fear, and therefore condemned separation, and designated the Anabaptists as a seducing sect and as tares that must be weeded out (Bern mandate 1527).

The intention of these severe measures against separatist religious groups in the Reformation period was, as it had been in the Middle Ages, to preserve the unity of the church. Therefore no exposition of Scripture was tolerated which did not agree with established church doctrines. Most of the mandates promised immunity upon return to the church and the recognition of its doctrines, above all of infant baptism, making it clear that it was not a question of civil transgression.

Questioning the doctrine of infant baptism was interpreted as a criminal offense (mandate of 4 January 1528). Rejection of this doctrine and the introduction of adult baptism initiated the persecution. The change in the views of the theologians on infant baptism and adult baptism in the course of centuries can be seen in the history of the church. At the fifth council of Carthage in 401 the resolution was passed: he who does not know definitely that he has been baptized shall be baptized again (Sachsse, 37); in March 413, Roman law penalized rebaptism with death. The church council of Switzerland, in spite of the fact that religious freedom had been legally established in Switzerland since 12 April 1798, favored the compulsory baptism of Mennonite children as late as 1809, and would leave it to the children to decide when they were grown whether they wished to be baptized again (Müller, 376); the church council brought it about that in the canton of Bern Mennonite children born between 1799 and 1810 were baptized in the state church on command of the government (Müller, 382).

This course of action and this concept of the law of Rome that baptism on confession of faith should be punished by death if it was preceded by infant baptism has long been outgrown. The Mennonites had to pay enormous sacrifices before this tolerant concept, for the recognition of which they had struggled for so long, became the commonly accepted idea. The Mennonites share in the credit for the fact that a free personal conception has replaced the medieval compulsion of the state church, as it is expressed once again in the mandates listed above. Thereby one of the Mennonite requirements has been fulfilled, namely, that the power of the state should not exert a determinative influence in religious questions, nor should the church mingle in politics, and that a strict separation between church and state should be maintained, which leads to the toleration of various religious brotherhoods.

In the Netherlands the execution of the mandates is not clear, because in the Reformation period the supremacy of the emperor was not everywhere established there, with the consequence that mandates issued for the entire empire were not strictly enforced in some of the provinces.

There were fourteen imperial mandates that concern the Reformation in general. They were known as "Placcaten" there, and popularly as "Bloedplaccaten" (blood-mandates). The mandate of 10 June 1535 was issued expressly against Anabaptism. Those who had preached and baptized, borne the name of prophet, apostle, or bishop, and refused to recant were to be punished by fire; those who were rebaptized or harbored a rebaptized person were to be put to death, the men by beheading, and the women by drowning. The one who revealed an Anabaptist to the authorities was to receive one third of his property; the one who failed to reveal him was to be put to death.

In addition to the imperial mandates others were issued by the regent and the stadholders; these were often repetitions of the imperial mandates in shorter form. Besides these there were also decrees that were intended only for some province, like the one issued in Friesland on 7 December 1542, against Menno Simons, which offered a reward of 100 guilders and the pardon for any crime to the one betraying him to the authorities. Schwarzenberg lists 18 further edicts issued against the Anabaptists in Friesland.

After the war of liberation against Spain when the governments of the northern Netherlands had be come almost entirely Calvinist, mandates still continued to be issued. Most of these were issued by the provincial and city governments. Thus the Frisian States forbade all Mennonite services in the province in an edict of 27 May 1598. In Groningen a severe mandate was published in 1601, which not only prohibited Mennonite services, but also disinherited all baptized children. In the same province mandates were issued against Uko Walles and his followers on 30 August 1637, and 16 March 1661. In 1722 the States of Friesland forbade all Mennonite services unless the preachers would sign a formulary of agreement with the orthodox creed. Though two mandates against Socinians, Quakers, and "Dompe- laars," published by the States of Friesland in 1622 and 1687, did not directly concern the Mennonites, they were sometimes used against Mennonite preachers, as for example in 1687 in the case of Foecke Floris. City edicts against the Mennonites contained similar penalties as late as the 18th century, though in general they were no longer strictly enforced.


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Author(s) Christian Hege
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

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Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Mandates." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 29 Sep 2023.

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Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1957). Mandates. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 September 2023, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 446-453. All rights reserved.

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