Ratheim, Gisbert von (16th century)

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Gisbert von Ratheim (Gys van Rothem) (ca. 1500-36 or after), one of the "Wassenberg preachers," was identical with Gisbert von Breberen, but not with Gillis von Aachen. The difference in their Christian names (Gisbert and Gillis, which is the equivalent of Aegidius) makes it impossible to consider them a single person. His confessions give some facts about his life, his doctrinal views, and the occasion of his journey to Münster. (Two of his confessions are found in Redlich; Cornelius published a third one, which conflicts with some of the statements of the first two.)

Gisbert was born about 1500 in or near Breberen, the son of Gys in Broich and Lyssken van den Dyck. He was a chaplain in Hoengen in the Millen district in Jülich. The records of the church inspection of 1533 show that he was still drawing some income from this position, though he was no longer there. It says of him, "Herr Gys, he also became Luther's." In February 1531 he married Gertrud Valkenbergh, a nun who had fled from the convent of Nieuwenhof in Maastricht on account of pregnancy. His marriage was performed in Wassenberg  in the home of Johann Klopreis  either by Klopreis, or by Heinrich von Tongern (see Slachtscaep) in Klopreis's presence. His wife was the sister of the Mayor Valkenbergh of Nieuwstad near Sittard, who later vainly attempted to assist Jan Revens, a sexton of Hoengen imprisoned in Maastricht, to freedom.

Under the influence of the Wassenberg preachers, of whom Dionysius Vinne and Heinrich von Tongern had been preaching in Hoengen, especially however under the influence of Klopreis, Gisbert resigned his priestly office in the year of his marriage and became the chaplain of the Stadholder Heinrich von Olmissen, called Mülstroe, at Haus Hall near Ratheim, a protector of these preachers. Here he continued to preach Protestant doctrine, served the Lord's Supper in both forms, performed marriage ceremonies, and had large audiences. In 1531 Slachtscaep preached in his home. Between them a dispute arose concerning communion, in the course of which the usually gentle Gisbert showed him the door. The ducal regulation expelling heretical preachers compelled Gisbert to leave Ratheim. For a few days he was able to stay with Junker Hermann auf der Erft (Arft). He could stay nowhere for any length of time—neither with the aged Baron von der Heyden at Tüschenbroich, nor with Junker Wilhelm von Kinsweiler at Müdersheim, nor with his wife's brother at Maastricht, nor with the Baronesses von Elssen, near Schynnen in the Valkenberg area, in Hoengen and Havert, nor in Cologne. He fled from place to place until through the mediation of the elder and younger lords of Mülstroe the magistrate (Vogt) of Heinsberg permitted him to stay in the country if he would promise to be quiet.

At the end of 1533 Gisbert lodged in his home the Münsterite agitators Jacob von Ossenbrug and Peter Schonemacher of Dremmen. They described to him the splendors of the "New Jerusalem" so convincingly that "he should not have looked at this matter." Under the leadership of Jacob and Gisbert, 40 men and women, chiefly from the region of Hückelhoven and Dremmen, met at Eschenbroich east of Heinsberg, and went to Neuss via Odenkirchen. There they boarded a boat but were stopped at Düsseldorf on 28 February 1534, and imprisoned. Gisbert was examined on 4 March. His statements concerning his doctrinal views were extremely cautious and indefinite. Concerning infant baptism he believed it to be sufficient for salvation! Concerning the office of the Mass, he thought that it was a true symbol of the body and blood of Christ if it was observed as the Lord had instituted it. When he was asked whether it was not in essence the body and blood of Christ he remarked that on this point he was still too weak but wanted to be instructed in it. He and his wife had not been re-baptized and were not going to be re-baptized. After this examination he was apparently released. Shortly after he was living in Maastricht, Dutch province of Limburg, where he conversed with the Anabaptist Ruth Ketelbueter and attended a baptismal service conducted in a home by Jan Smeitgen.

Gisbert von Ratheim as well as the other Wassenberg preachers had left the old church but, judging from his confessions, they were all, with the exception of Campanus, unclear, indefinite, and wavering in their convictions. Gisbert had no precise doctrine and is not to be reckoned with the Anabaptists. For two years he remained in the custody of the Duke of Jülich. In 1536 he was handed over to Electoral Cologne with the priest Herman Tack of Cleve and imprisoned at Kaiserswerth. At this point all trace of him is lost.


Bax, Willem. Het Protestantisme in het bisdom Luik en vooral te Maastricht 1505-1557. The Hague, 1937: 52-57.

Bockmühl, Peter. "Die Anfange der reformatorischen Bewegung in der Stadt Neuss." Monatshefte für Rheinische Kirchengeschichte (1914): 203 ff.

Cornelius, C. A. Die Geschichtsquellen des Bistums Münster II. Münster, 1853: 223.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 429 f.

Redlich, O. R. Jülich-Bergische Klrchen-politik II. Bonn, 1911: 506, 854-58.

Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899: 339 ff.

Author(s) Wilhelm Niepoth
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Niepoth, Wilhelm. "Ratheim, Gisbert von (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 Jan 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ratheim,_Gisbert_von_(16th_century)&oldid=146093.

APA style

Niepoth, Wilhelm. (1959). Ratheim, Gisbert von (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 January 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ratheim,_Gisbert_von_(16th_century)&oldid=146093.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 253-254. All rights reserved.

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