Pfersfelder, Georg (16th century)

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Georg Pfersfelder (actually Georg Gross), a baron living and owning property at Weilersburg in the district of Bamberg, Germany, in the service of the city of Nürnberg, was in close contact with Caspar Schwenckfeld from 1530 on. The latter com­plained in a letter of May 1533, that he had received no reply to his letters (Corp. Schwenckf., IV, 772 ff.). This letter clearly indicates Pfersfelder's for­mer connections with the Anabaptists, and warns him in regard to them. Schornbaum's Quellen of­fer conclusive evidence of Pfersfelder's violent and dramatic interference in an Anabaptist trial in Bran­denburg-Ansbach in 1531. Anton Schad, the mar­grave's Protestant pastor in Uttenreuth near Erlangen, in April 1531 had read from his pulpit a man­date of his sovereign against the "fanatics," and had one of his auditors, Anton Schmied, arrested by Hans von Seckendorf, the bailiff of Baiersdorf, for publicly contradicting him. Thereupon Pfersfelder without ceremony arrested the parson and threatened him. After his release Schad accused Pfersfelder to the Ansbach authorities, calling upon them for pro­tection (Schornbaum, 235 f.). As a voluntary coun­sel for the Anabaptists Pfersfelder wrote a defiant letter to the bailiff, an excerpt from which is found in Schornbaum (231 ff.), and also in Wiswedel (II, 45 ff.). The letter shows Pfersfelder to have been a well-trained opponent of Luther and friend of the Anabaptists, as well as a religiously alert layman who knew how to handle words. A few coarse expressions can be pardoned in that crude century, and especially by Luther's example. Upon the com­plaint of the chancellor of the margraviate the council of Nürnberg imposed city arrest upon him pending the outcome of the dispute. Meanwhile the Uttenreuth "dreamers" were tried in Baiersdorf and questioned on the rack concerning their contacts with Pfersfelder. Recalling the Peasants' War the authorities suspected social revolutionary inten­tions. Indeed, as recently as 1527 the Nürnberg parson Vogel of Eltersdorf had after a brief trial been beheaded as an Anabaptist and as an alleged revolutionary (see Wolfgang Vogel; also Bilder I, 152 ff.). It was not possible to prove such charges against Pfersfelder. Nor were the authorities of the margrave more successful in fastening a charge of disturbance of the peace upon him for his arrest of the Uttenreuth parson. Pfersfelder was, of course, not successful in saving Hans Schmied, whom he had so warmly defended. After weeks of torture on the rack the latter was beheaded on 10 July 1531, on a charge of "setting up a forbidden, illegal, and fundamentally seditious sect and rabble, on account of seductive visionary dreams and ghosts and on account of the dissolving of his marriage." That in the case of Schmied and the other visionaries it was merely a matter of pathological hallucination, medical science was not yet ready to understand. In the Bavarian national archives of Nürnberg (Religionsakten XXXIX, 428-39) there is a letter written by Pfersfelder in June 1531, to the "dreamers" im­prisoned in Baiersdorf. Its content has not yet been published (Corp. Schwenckf. VII, 100). But Pfersfelder's letter of self-vindication written to the mar­grave on 23 June 1531, is published (in abstract) in Schornbaum (281). In June of that year Andreas Osiander, the leading theologian of Nürn­berg, was commissioned together with Wenzeslaus Linck and several of the Nürnberg councillors, to talk with Pfersfelder concerning his "Anabaptist er­rors." Pfersfelder did not appear, but presented a statement of his beliefs, a copy of which was taken from an Anabaptist seized in Uffenheim in 1532. A letter written by Pfersfelder to Osiander on 8 June 1531, now in the national archives at Nürnberg in the volume mentioned above (p. 428), has not yet been published, but is mentioned by Schornbaum (p. 332, lines 25 f and note 5). A colloquy between Osiander and Pfersfelder in 1532 was also fruitless. After the bloody suppression of the Anabaptists in Franconia Pfersfelder transferred to the Schwenckfelders, as did also his sister Elisabeth Pfersfelder.


Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum (Leipzig, 1914): v. IV.

Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum (Leipzig, 1926): v. VI.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 360.

Jörg, J. Deutschland in der Revolutionsperiode von 1522 bis 1526 (Freiburg i.B., 1885).

Religionsakten XXXIX: 428-39.

Schornbaum, Karl. Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer II. Band, Markgraftum Brandenburg. (Bayern I. Abteilung). Leipzig: M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1934: v. I.

Wiswedel, Wilhelm. Bilder and Führergestalten aus dem Täufertum. 3 v. Kassel: J.G. Oncken Verlag, 1928-1952: v. I, 152 ff.; v. II, 45 ff.

Author(s) Eberhard Teufel
Date Published 1959

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Teufel, Eberhard. "Pfersfelder, Georg (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 9 Aug 2022.,_Georg_(16th_century)&oldid=145915.

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Teufel, Eberhard. (1959). Pfersfelder, Georg (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 August 2022, from,_Georg_(16th_century)&oldid=145915.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 159-160. All rights reserved.

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