Pfalz-Zweibrücken (Germany)

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Pfalz-Zweibrücken (Palatinate-Zweibrücken), a duchy in Germany covering scarcely twenty square miles, which lay for the most part in the south and west (not in one block) of the district that later became the Palatinate left of the Rhine; its principal towns were Bergzabern, Zweibrücken, Meisenheim, and Kusel. It also included lesser districts in the Rhine Province, a part of which were, however, made independent in the 16th century, and known as Veldenz. Duke Louis II, who was quite young in the early days of the Reformation, was influenced by his tutors Johann Bader and Johann Huttich in favor of the new doctrine. But he was never able to take a posi­tive position or pass decisive measures, even though he was inwardly, in spite of many doubts, favorably inclined toward the Reformation and was supported in this respect by his wife, Elisabeth of Hesse. At the time of his premature death (1532) his son Wolfgang was only six years old. Under his reign, administered by Ruprecht, the brother of the de­ceased duke, together with the widow, the Refor­mation was put through. The twelve articles drawn up in 1533 by Johann Schwebel by order of Rup­recht, regulating ecclesiastical affairs in accord with the principles of the Reformation, gradually acquired the status of a church constitution in the entire country. In the education of the young Count Palatine, Schwebel exerted a similar influence by having his countryman Caspar Glaser, who had left the services of Baden, appointed tutor of the prince. That the teachings of this man, who was with all his love of peace an outspoken defender of Protes­tantism, did not fall on infertile soil was to be shown by future events. At first Wolfgang, having assumed the regency in 1543, was hesitant; in spite of all the enticements of his father-in-law Philip of Hesse, he avoided a formal union with the Schmalkaldic League and managed the period of the Interim with a diplomatic finesse unusual in so young a ruler. But after the Treaty of Passau a church inspection of the entire country in 1553 laid the groundwork for a thorough Reformation, which was concluded by the great church constitution of 1557 by the chancellor Ulrich Sitzinger and the superintendent Cunemann Flinsbach. This consti­tution, revised by Melanchthon and Brenz, essen­tially based on the patterns established by the constitutions of Neuenburg, Württemberg, and Mecklenburg, was thoroughly Lutheran. A second inspection in 1558 and the establishment in the fol­lowing year of the Hornbach school, which was put in the charge of Immanuel Tremellius, a former tu­tor of princes, completed the work of the Reforma­tion.

The origins of the Anabaptist movement in Zweibrücken are still in the dark. It is, to be sure, known that Hans Denck was briefly in Bergzabern in 1527 and that he aroused some attention by his disputations, but it is doubtful that there was any connection between this visit and the later spread of the Anabaptist movement in the province. State­ments made on the occasion of the first church inspection in 1553 indicate that the movement came in from the outside, particularly from the region of Worms and Kreuznach. Diebold Winter, Claus Sümmerer, and Hans Grecker, who later represent­ed the Anabaptist cause in the disputation of Frankenthal, are named as the prime promoters of the movement in the region of Zweibrücken. In the Bergzabern district the villages of Barbelroth and Frankweiler are named, in the Lichtenberg district besides Achtelsbach and Baumholder, especially Flurskappel, where it is said Kaspar Schmidt was on the point of drawing half the congregation to the Anabaptist side. This wide distribution of the Anabaptists induced the Count Palatine to issue an extensive mandate, which was proclaimed on 23 April 1556 (Mandat wider die widertaufer und ihre anhenger, auch derselben verfürischen opinionen, etc. Im Fürstentumb Zwaybruck offentlich angeschlagen. Anno 1556). The mandate, which sets as the minimum penalty for the Anabaptists expulsion from the country, but reserves to the prince the right to impose penalties of life and property in ac­cordance with the imperial decrees, was then incorporated into the church constitution adopted in the following year. In addition the constitution also con­tained a "warning and command against the error of the Anabaptists," which formed a sort of theo­retical counterpart to the constitution and was in­tended to furnish the clergy with the needed tools to prevent the further spread of Anabaptism by in­struction of the "common man." The errors of the Anabaptists are classified in two categories, namely, those that pertain to external physical desires, and those concerning spiritual matters. In the first class they enumerate rejection of temporal government, courts, and punishments; refusal to render the oath; the sinfulness of possessions and demand for com­munity of goods; the right of divorce in the case of deviation in religious practice. As spiritual errors they designate denial of original sin; rejection of infant baptism; justification by works; disregard for the church offices and the sacraments; holiness of the regenerated. The application of Bible refer­ences in attacking these rather arbitrarily stated tenets of faith was generally left to the clergy; only in the defense of infant baptism are detailed refer­ences given. This constitution was to be put into practice at the next church inspection, planned for 1558. The instructions issued to the inspectors pointed out that the spread of Anabaptism was most serious in the Neukastel district, and especially the village of Frankweiler "more than any others of our towns and villages is in ill repute on this ac­count." The Strasbourg divine, Johann Marbach, who had charge of the inspection, did not neglect to explain to the clergy the Anabaptist ar­guments and their refutation. Nevertheless the movement did not decline. In 1561 the pastor of Frankweiler expressed his fears concerning the ef­fect of the adjacent Löwenstein, where a second Moravia was about to be instituted. In 1562 a re­print of the Anabaptist mandate had to be provided, and the clergy were instructed to read the text once a month from the pulpit. After the middle of the 1560's a definite decrease in the Anabaptist movement is discernible. We hear of emigrations to Moravia, which was at that time in its "golden age," and attracted many; there are also many ex­pulsions from the country. (In 1581 the mason Hans Raidel, a native of Zweibrücken, is named.) The effect of the emissaries from Moravia was rather to promote emigration to Moravia than to consolidate the brotherhood in the district. Toward the end of the century there were only isolated persons in a few regions that attracted the attention of the in­spectors.

According to an old document the "congregation of the duchy of Zweibrücken" was founded in 1713. In 1732 there were here 27 Mennonite families and in 1769 the membership numbered 94. The Dutch [[Naamlijst der tegenwoordig in dienst zijnde predikanten der Mennoniten in de Vereenigde Nederlanden|Naamlijst]] of 1765 lists two congregations in this duchy — Schurburg(?) with preacher Johannes Schönig (Schöny), elder from 1738 (probably 1749), and Zweibrücken with Christian Lohman (Lehmann), elder since 1740. The Naamlijst of 1766 lists only one congregation, Zweibrücken-Schurburg, with Johannes Schönig as elder. The Naamlijst of the following years mentions a congregation of Freudenberg, Hornbach, and Kirchheimerhof (pre­viously called Zweibrücken) with the elders Johan­nes Schönig, Joseph Schnebely from 1767 (should be 1762) and the preachers Joh. Lehmann from 1745, Rudolf Schmidt from 1755, and Peter Boer (Böhm, ME I, 245, is an error) from 1755; Christian Wels became a preacher in 1774 and an elder in 1781; the Naamlijst of 1793 still names Joseph Schnebele as elder and Georg Finger and Ulrich Lehmann as preachers, both from 1783.

Not until the 18th century did the Anabaptist movement find entry into the duchy through the influx of Alsatian Amish Mennonites. Besides Zwei­brücken and Ernstweiler, Mennonites were found as renters on the Deutschhof in the Barbel­roth district, the Neudorferhof in the Meisenheim district, and the Kohlhof (Limbach parish close to the former Prussian border). The Ernst­weiler and the Amish Ixheim congre­gations in this area merged in 1937 to form the Zweibrücken congregation.


Gümbel, Th. Die Geschichte der protestantischen Kirche der Pfalz. Kaiserslautern, 1885.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 356 f.

Krebs, Manfred. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer. IV. Band, Baden and Pfalz. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1951.

Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (formerly Christlicher Gemeinde-Kalender) (1939): 71.

Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter (1955): 23, 24.

Ney, Julius. Pfalzgraf Wolfgang, Herzog von Zweibrücken und Neuburg. Leipzig, 1912.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 1433, 1438, 1471 f.

Author(s) Manfred Krebs
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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Krebs, Manfred and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Pfalz-Zweibrücken (Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 22 Jun 2021.

APA style

Krebs, Manfred and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1959). Pfalz-Zweibrücken (Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 June 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 156-157. All rights reserved.

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