Pfersfelder, Elisabeth (16th century)

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Elisabeth Pfersfelder, sister of Georg Pfersfelder, married and living in the region of Bam­berg, Germany, owning lands there (according to Corp. Schwenkf. VII, 99), "a prominent widow of Wibersbach in the diocese of Bamberg." In the home of her brother, who was friendly to the Anabaptists, she became acquainted with the fanatical Anabaptist Claus Frey, who had fled from Rottenburg in 1525 leaving his wife and children behind. She then fell to the wiles of this supposed prophet and became his wife without being aware of the fact that he was already married. Her brother was evidently also ignorant of the character of his protégé; otherwise he would certainly have re­strained his sister. She followed Frey to Strasbourg as his wife. Here he was, however, rejected by the Anabaptist congregation, for his dual marriage was known there. He was arrested by the Strasbourg council and tried. His designation of himself as "the head of the church" and "fulfiller of the Scrip­tures" is evidence of an elaborate system evolved by a disordered imagination. The council sentenced Frey to death for bigamy in 1534 and had him executed by drowning. Seriously disturbed in spirit by this trial, even though she was not proved a partner to the deed, Elisabeth request­ed that the council take her life also, but she was left unmolested and at liberty, evidently remaining in Strasbourg. She came under the pas­toral care of Valentin Crautwald, a Schwenckfelder, who wrote a letter to her dated 14 November 1540. Its content is known. Elisabeth had asked Craut­wald for the correct interpretation of the pas­sages in Galatians 5:5 and Hebrews 3:14. She also corresponded with Schwenckfeld on the Incarnation of Christ. Schwenckfeld's reply, probably in the summer of 1540, is found in Corp. Schwenkf. (VII, 102 ff.). Like her brother, Elisabeth Pfersfelder found the way from the Anabaptists to the Schwenckfelders.


Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum. Leipzig, 1914: IV, 772 ff.

Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum. Leipzig, 1926: VII, 99; also the older literature there.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 359 f.

Author(s) Eberhard Teufel
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Teufel, Eberhard. "Pfersfelder, Elisabeth (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 27 Nov 2021.,_Elisabeth_(16th_century)&oldid=146002.

APA style

Teufel, Eberhard. (1959). Pfersfelder, Elisabeth (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 November 2021, from,_Elisabeth_(16th_century)&oldid=146002.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 159. All rights reserved.

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