Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (Alsace, France)

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Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (German, Markirch), an Alsatian town in the Leber Valley (Department Haut-Rhin), near the junction of three departments, Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, and Vosges. There were Anabaptists in the Markirch Valley in the early years of the movement, as is indicated in a complaint made by the mining association to Count Egenolph III on 29 May 1561. It is directed against the "Anabaptists, Schwenckfelders, and divisions of these: Bilgerer (from Pilgram Marpeck?), Gabrielites, Sattlerites, and the like." This would indicate that the first Anabaptists here came from Strasbourg. They were quite numerous and lived on remote farms as well as near the town. They were possessed of a strong missionary zeal; the document mentioned above complains that "they creep into the houses everywhere, teach and preach without a calling, surround the common people with their subtleties." It points out the danger to which they expose the country by opposing military service.

But the count was not to be moved to expel them, not even when the chancellery at Ensisheim on 5 July 1562 ordered him in rather rude terms finally to take serious steps to get rid of Anabaptists, Sattlerites, and the like. This period of calm lasted until the Thirty Years' War. In the terror of 1635-1636, the population was nearly wiped out by hostile attacks, hunger, and plagues. The survivors moved to quieter regions, so that the country lay desolate. Traces of these refugees are found in the Münster Valley and in Strasbourg. The records of the church convention of 9 December 1640 mention a Jakob Mangold, an "Anabaptist Schwenckfelder, who has recently come from Markirch, where this sect has long had its synagogue." Does this mean that the Anabaptists in Markirch had built a church? Other records state that they met in a forest between Markirch and Schlettstadt. Tradition confirms this; the spot is still known.

By 1643 there were again Anabaptists in Markirch, this time Swiss Brethren refugees from Switzerland. Parson Jean le Bachelles reported that 12 families had settled there, who had elders come from Switzerland to serve them for communion, baptism, and weddings. Toward the end of the century the Swiss also brought with them their divisions. Jakob Ammann went to Markirch in person to put his way through. A meeting for the purpose of reaching an agreement with the followers of Hans Reist was held at Markirch on 9 November 1697; here Ammann also wrote the letter to his opponents in Switzerland in 1700, confessing that he had grievously erred. He also worked vigorously to acquire for his brethren the privilege of exemption from military service and the oath.

These privileges and the prosperity soon achieved by the Brethren aroused the envy of the people. Complaints reached the court at Paris. In 1712 Louis XIV ordered the expulsion of all Anabaptists from Alsace. Count Christian II of Birkenfeld, who had married the last heiress of Rappoltstein, was an officer and a favorite of the king; hence he was compelled to execute the king's orders, however reluctant he might be. He gave the exiles certificates showing that they had lived honorably, been industrious, lived in peace and harmony with their neighbors, and had been forced to emigrate solely on account of their religion. Thus 500-600 persons emigrated from Markirch to Montbéliard and Lorraine, which were not under French dominion at that time.

Very soon the disastrous consequences of this withdrawal became apparent. Many fields lay waste and the count's revenues declined. An appeal was made by several noblemen of Alsace to permit a limited number of Mennonites to settle in the valley, which was granted. Because the number was limited, most of their children had to leave the country when they were grown. Nevertheless the congregation remained rather large. Jacob Goldschmidt was its elder for a long period, until about 1804. In 1789, at the election and ordination of an elder by the elders of Montbéliard, Colmar, and Salm, a total of 128 votes was reported. During the 19th century there was a steady decline. Many joined the Reformed and Lutheran groups, largely because they had to emigrate from the community. Immigration also took place to the interior of France, where many were lost to Catholicism, and also the immigration to America depleted the congregation.

Meetings were held in the homes of the members. In the 20th century few remained; they met in the Weiler Valley. In 1938 they met in Chatenois (Kestenholz). The congregation was served by outside ministers. It has now completely died out. The nearest living Mennonite congregation in the 1950s was Le Hang.


Gratz, Delbert L. Bernese Anabaptists and their American descendants. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1953. Reprinted Elverson, PA: Old Springfield Shoppe, 1994.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 41 f.

Author(s) Pierre Sommer
Date Published 1957

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Sommer, Pierre. "Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (Alsace, France)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 11 Dec 2023.,_France)&oldid=144579.

APA style

Sommer, Pierre. (1957). Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (Alsace, France). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 11 December 2023, from,_France)&oldid=144579.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 489. All rights reserved.

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