Noviomagus (1482-1542)

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Noviomagus (Gerhard Geldenhauer) (1482-1542), a professor of theology at the University of Marburg, Germany, was at first a monk and also reader and secretary to Charles V. He became a Protestant in 1526 and lived for a time in Strasbourg, where he became acquainted with the Anabaptists. After the publication of the imperial mandate of 4 January 1528 he wrote a booklet in Latin, which was translated into German in the same year with the title, Ein sentbrief an Kayser Carol des namens den Fünften, Alzeyt merer des Reichs . . . Gerardi Noviomagi, In welcher wird gehandlet, Ob man ein ketzer mit recht moge peinlich und leyblich strafen oder nicht. Auss dent Lutein verteutscht (Nürnberg, 1528, 12 pages).

In the spring of 1529 he published another Latin booklet, which was also translated into German, with the title, Des Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam Anmerkungen zu den päpstlichen und kaiserlichen Gesetzen über die Häretiker. Einige Briefe des Gerhard Noviomagus úber die evangelische Sache und die Strafen der Haretiker an Kaiser Karl V., an die auf dem Reichstag zu Speyer versammelten Fürsten, an Karl, Herzog von Geldern, an Philipp, den Fürsten von Hessen. A second German translation followed on 1 March 1530, probably printed in Augsburg, by Hieronymus Gebweyler in Hagenau. In the introduction Noviomagus repeated the statements of Erasmus in his book against the Spanish monks, published in the previous year, which annoyed Erasmus, since it would probably lead to the conclusion that he was the author and had attacked the mandate of Charles V of 4 January 1528, which was to be presented to the Diet of Speyer for ratification. To clear himself of this suspicion Erasmus wrote a counter pamphlet with the title Briefe gegen gewisse Leute, die sich falscherweise rühmen, Evangelische zu sein (Freiburg, November 1529), declaring that although he had warned against exaggerated severity, he had not denied the right of the government to kill heretics if it was necessary to secure public tranquillity.

In 1532 Noviomagus entered the service of Hesse. He was made professor of history and in 1534 professor of theology at the University of Marburg. Here he had to deal with the Anabaptist question a number of times, and expressed his lenient attitude, especially in official opinions and at cross-examinations, in opposition to the prevalent views of theologians and jurists. In a letter to Philip of Hesse in 1535 he designated tolerance and gentleness as the most effective means of winning the Anabaptists to the Protestants. Philip heeded this counsel. In an order of early 1536 the officials were directed to have the Anabaptists instructed by the clergy; if they persisted in their belief they should be exiled, but they could keep their property. In early August Noviomagus and pastor Dietrich Fabritius began the indoctrination of the Anabaptists imprisoned in Wolkersdorf – Johannes Schnabel, Peter Lose, and Leonhard Fälber; but their efforts were in vain (see Hesse).


Franz, Günther. Urkundliche Quellen zur hessischen Reformationsgeschichte. Vierter Band, Wiedertäuferakten 1527-1626. Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1951.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 278.

Prinsen, L. Gerardus Geldenhauer Noviomagus, Bijdrage tot de kennis van zifn Leven en Werken. The Hague, 1898.

Thudichum, Fr. Die deutsche Reformation. Leipzig, 1909: II.

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1957

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Hege, Christian. "Noviomagus (1482-1542)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 2 Aug 2021.

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Hege, Christian. (1957). Noviomagus (1482-1542). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 August 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 924-925. All rights reserved.

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