Scharnschlager, Leupold (d. 1563)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Leupold Scharnschlager (Leupold der Seifensieder) died 1563, an Anabaptist elder who belonged to the Brotherhood of Marpeck, a native of Tyrol, Austria, where he owned an estate at Hopfgarten near Kitzbühel. His wife Anna probably belonged to a prominent family. Her father, Konrad Honigler, stemmed from Hall on the Inn in Tyrol, her mother Margaret Rieper, from Gossenass at the southern foot of the Brenner. A brother of her mother, Dr. Johannes Rieper, was the deacon and cathedral provost in Brixen, and there were other clergymen in her relationship. Her sister Veronica was married to Hans Steger, a judge and later clerk in Kitzbühel, Anna's first husband was Gallus Steger, the brother of this judge, upon whose death she married Scharnschlager. One daughter, Ursula, is mentioned, born about 1510; it is not known whether of the first or second marriage.

About 1530 Scharnschlager united with the Anabaptists and had to leave his home with his wife and daughter. His estate was confiscated in March 1531. They fled directly to Strasbourg, probably invited by their compatriot Marpeck, who had been expelled from Tyrol in 1528. Scharnschlager lived and worked in Strasbourg in 1530-34, but his activity in the Anabaptist cause extended as far as Speyer, where he baptized a certain Kaspar Schuhmacher as early as 1530, who, however, recanted. About this matter he wrote a letter to Michael Leubel, an Anabaptist of Speyer, in 1532. The doctrinal portions of the letter, dealing with original sin and baptism, already contain the ideas found in the books he and Marpeck wrote together in 1542-48. The Anabaptists who were expelled from Speyer, Hans "the Servant" (Knecht) and Margareth "the maid," had free access to his home. At Christmas of 1532 Thomas Adolf, a citizen of Speyer, visited him and desired to be baptized by him or Pilgram Marpeck. Marpeck had, however, been expelled from the city earlier that year, and Scharnschlager had been forbidden to perform baptisms for the time being, and so Thomas Adolf had to return without having his purpose fulfilled, taking with him the letter to Michael Leubel (the original of which is in the state archives of Speyer, Fasc. 492). A confession made by Thomas Adolf before the court in Speyer on 8 January 1533, reveals that Leopold Scharnschlager is identical with Leupold der Seifensieder (the Soap-maker), whom Melchior Hoffman called an opponent in his trial on 29 May 1533 ("who was opposed to him in the principal doctrine"). Whether Scharnschlager actually practiced soap-making is not known; Thomas Adolf said he had not seen him at his work.

Scharnschlager's daughter Ursula married a clockmaker, Hans Felix, in Strasbourg, whom Scharnschlager names in his letter to Leubel; he sends greetings from "Hans Uhrmacher," who had visited him at various times in Speyer. The young couple must have gone to Moravia soon after; in 1533 the mother wrote to her brother that her daughter had married a clockmaker two years before; "they are at present in Moravia." A letter from the son-in-law dated Austerlitz, 28 or 29 October 1538, indicates that he had been converted to the Anabaptists by Scharnschlager, probably in Strasbourg.

The Strasbourg Täuferakten contain Scharnschlager's moving appeal which Scharnschlager made to the city council for freedom of religion when he was expelled in 1534. This document clearly shows that Scharnschlager was well acquainted with the major literature of the early Reformation. He brilliantly points out the inconsistencies between the early position of the Reformers and the course of the Reformation at that time. In many respects the appeal to the council reminds one of Marpeck's dealings with the council only two years before. Where Scharnschlager went from Strasbourg is not known, but no doubt both he and Marpeck lived a transient existence in the Grisons and the Augsburg area. Around 1540 Marpeck was already in Augsburg, and since he and Scharnschlager together published a revised and translated form of the Rothmann Bekentnisse in South Germany in 1542, it seems logical to assume that he lived in South Germany during this time. No evidence of a sojourn at Augsburg has been published to date.

Hans Felix in his letter of 1538 twice said that his parents-in-law were living "oben," whence he himself had come to Moravia, but they could not stay there either. It is possible that he meant Strasbourg (Schiess thinks it means Tyrol, and ten Doornkaat-Koolman, South Germany in general). In the ensuing years at any rate Scharnschlager was no doubt close to Marpeck, who was living in Augsburg. Here they worked at the Vermanung, which was published in 1542. The book names as its authors "the believing comrades of the covenant and of the suffering that is in Christ." Pilgram Marpeck is regarded as the principal composer; Caspar Schwenckfeld, however, speaks at one place of two "scribenten," doubtless referring to Scharnschlager in addition to Pilgram Marpeck. At another place Schwenckfeld says that he had less to do with Leupold than with Pilgram. Scharnschlager is also named as the second of the coauthors of the Verantwortung, the first part of which was completed in 1544 and the second in 1546. The striking similarity of doctrine concerning baptism and original sin in this book and in Scharnschlager's letter of 1532 indicates that he took a major part in drafting the work. It is in the first place the teaching, also accepted by Luther, that in baptism the inner cannot be separated from the outer, and in the second place the specifically Anabaptist idea that children "before the use of reason have no sin but the inherited weakness, which does not endanger their salvation until it breaks out into actual sin. Therefore baptism was not instituted for them." In the Verantwortung this teaching is based on an otherwise unknown point of doctrine held by the Brethren of Moravia, which Scharnschlager may have learned from his son-in-law. It is not definitely known whether Scharnschlager stayed in Moravia for a time.

From 1546 on Scharnschlager and his wife were at Ilanz in Grisons. They were probably compelled to flee from Bavaria, where, according to a note left by his wife, they had to pay a fine of 40 guilders. For nearly two decades they were able to live unmolested in Ilanz. Scharnschlager turned his knowledge to account by teaching the youth of Ilanz, and his wife restored contact with her home in Tyrol and tried to regain her former property. On occasion their son-in-law visited them; during his stay Scharnschlager repaired the village clock and "bietzte," as a witness of that time testified. They renewed their connections with Moravia and Upper Germany, and Scharnschlager again placed his energy at the disposal of the brethren. From a letter of reply written by Valentin Werner, one of the younger coauthors of the Verantwortung, dated Augsburg, 26 August 1559, it is known that Scharnschlager was at that time the leader of an Anabaptist congregation in Grisons. Werner's letter, which has been preserved attached to the Zürich copy of the manuscript of the Verantwortung, acknowledges the "manifold trouble and work" Scharnschlager had in making a copy of the Verantwortung, and also mentions another of Scharnschlager's writings, "Vom gericht," for which the brethren in Augsburg sent their "cotestimony" (mitzeugnus); "please accept them in the love of Christ, for which love may you continue to serve us in one thing and another, and lead us as a father with the treasure and riches entrusted to you by the Lord where need requires it and love constrains you, though to put too heavy a burden on your old age is not our intention."

The regard of the brethren for Scharnschlager throughout his life and beyond is revealed by a letter written by Wernhard Riepl from Klein-Teschau on 15 February 1571, which has been preserved in the Olomuce manuscript of the Verantwortung. In this letter Riepl tells of dissension among the brethren Adam and Uhrmacher and others "on account of the Holy Scripture and the dead letter, through which spirit and life come." To settle the question Riepl called a number of the brethren together and presented to them an explanation of the matter in one of Scharnschlager's writings, known as the Unterscheid. It may have been the well-known Testamenterleutterung , , . zu dienst und fürderung ains Klaren urteils von wegen unterscheid Alts und News Testaments.

Recent studies in South German Anabaptism (Kiwiet, Bergsten, Herbert Klassen, William Klassen) indicate that Scharnschlager must be given a place of greater importance in the total movement. The discovery of the Kunstbuch has shown that he was regarded as an elder (so he often signs his letters, while Marpeck never uses the term to refer to himself) and that he had an important place in the brotherhood. Of the 42 epistles and tracts in the Kunstbuch, six were written by Scharnschlager, while one was written by Marpeck to him (#27, dated 1545, "Concerning the Inheritance of Sin"). Of these six, two deal specifically with questions of church order, one (#19) being a brief church order divided into seven articles dealing with (1) the importance of continuing to meet as a church, (2) the place of leadership in the church, (3) the care of the poor, (4) the support of the ministry, (5) the true community of goods (he rejects the enforced communism of the Hutterites, and advocates a common fund), (6) church discipline, (7) doctrine, baptism, and the Lord's Supper, in which apostolic practice and Christ's order is to be observed. This church order, unfortunately, is without a date, but its polemic against enforced community of goods indicates that it was written after 1535. While there are some similarities to the church order of Leonhard Schiemer, they are not so striking as to indicate direct borrowing.

The second writing dealing with church order is entitled "General Admonition and Reminder to the Edification of the Body of Christ" (#20). It is also without date, and no destination is given. The tone of this epistle indicates the fervor with which Scharnschlager worked for the Anabaptist church. It deals first of all with the lukewarmness creeping into many Anabaptist congregations where man and wife have actually joined the church, but take little interest in the affairs of the church. Related to this is his criticism of many of the Brethren who were more concerned about getting rich and leaving a large inheritance for their children than about taking the cross of Christ seriously. Next Scharnschlager deals with the attitude of those who refuse to submit to brotherly admonition, hiding behind the excuse that everyone has faults. He rejects this, saying that all submit to brotherly admonition according to the Scriptures. Finally he deals with the problems of marriage. Many are marrying because of the desire to be rich; others marry "outsiders" and then do not remain true to the Anabaptist cause. Some even justify their marriage because they desire to be strengthened in their faith by their partner, but Scharnschlager insists that marriage must remain on a Pauline basis. This epistle is one of the clearest indications that Anabaptism was moving from its early days to the second generation when the dynamic thrust of the early movement had to be consolidated into living and continuing congregations.

Another short tract by Scharnschlager bears the title "Whether a Christian May Be a Government Official," and it too is without date or destination. It covers only two leaves, and is clearly written as a reply to questions about Scharnschlager's position. He replies that the important thing is whether one is living according to the will of Christ, and that a distinction be made between the realm of Christ and that of the world. In supporting his argument he appeals to the booklet by Michael Sattler, whom he mentions by name, and then quotes the article from the Schleitheim Confession which deals with this subject. This quotation by a prominent South German elder of a Schleitheim article indicates that it is risky to drive a wedge between the Anabaptists who drew up the Schleitheim articles (calling them the Swiss Brethren) and the South Germans. There is no evidence that the Marpeck Brotherhood was critical of Schleitheim at any time, even though there were tensions between the Marpeck Brotherhood and some "Swiss Brethren."

Another epistle, dated 24 May 1544, is an epistle of comfort, directed to Martin Blaichner when he was driven out of Chur by persecution. He acknowledges Martin's letter and then comforts the recipients of the letter in their affliction. Tribulation is the very nature of the Christian faith and is a test of being a true son of God. He supports this with a number of quotations from the Bible and one from the book of Judith. He asks them to read this epistle to the church, especially to the sisters, and to preserve this epistle for him, since he failed to make a copy of it.

Another epistle dealing with the same theme (#30) has no date or destination. It deals with the strong temptation to yield a little here and there and in that way to avoid persecution. This temptation must be rejected, says Scharnschlager, and he admonishes his readers to remain faithful, comparing their persecutions with those that the earlier Anabaptists had to endure. In this letter he mentions the epistle written to Martin Blaichner, hence it must have been written after 24 May 1544.

While the above writings all deal with church order or intend to strengthen the brotherhood for tribulation, Scharnschlager's only extant theological treatise bears the title, "A Report on True Faith and Common Salvation in Christ" (#32). It is the longest of all his writings in the Kunstbuch, extending from folio 254a to 263b. This epistle (according to a marginal note) was directed to the Anabaptists in Alsace, but is without date or place of composition. Its contents include also an admonition to remain faithful in assembling and a discussion of the two types of nourishment that Christians need, physical and spiritual bread. The heart of this epistle deals with the nature and importance of faith. It is through faith that we live, says Scharnschlager (quoting Romans), and not through external works, as certain of the Swiss (Anabaptists) insist. This reference to "certain of the Swiss" is the only indication in all the writings of Scharnschlager of a critical attitude to some Swiss Anabaptists. Apparently he did not disagree with them to the same extent as Marpeck. Faith consists basically of two things: (1) faith in the death of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, which results in forgiveness and the appeasement of the wrath of God; (2) faith in the future kingdom of God with its heavenly essence and glory. External works can spring up only from this faith, which is a living active work and which only Christ can give. This faith is not a dead, historic (historisch) faith, but rather a living union with Christ, as James saw clearly when he wrote his epistle. It is apparent that Scharnschlager is here in conversation with both Schwenckfeld, who accused the Anabaptists of being tied to a "historisch" faith, and the Lutheran group which had little use for James. After a definition of faith, Scharnschlager defines the result of such a faith. These results are atonement and a clearer perspective on this world, since it gives one an inner eye to see beyond the earthly to the heavenly essence. This separates one from the love for creatures, and results in the true "Gelassenheit of which also the Theologia Deutsch and the Imitation of Christ write." This reference to the booklet about the Nachfolge Christi indicates again that Scharnschlager was well read, and it may be that he supplied the references to the Theologia Deutsch in the Verantwortung. In the rest of the epistle he deals with the themes of love, good works, and the strength of this kind of faith. It was to help his readers to withstand the Papists, Lutherans, Zwinglians, and even the false Anabaptists. The epistle closes with an admonition to be obedient to the elders and to support the "Vorsteher" so that the latter would not have any lack or need to spend their time trying to earn a living to the neglect of the cause of the church.

It is apparent from this that Scharnschlager must be considered as an important South German leader. He was much more than merely an assistant to Marpeck; they were no doubt equals in every sense of the word. The epistle which Marpeck wrote to Scharnschlager (Kunstbuch #27) indicates clearly the intimate relationship between them, and there is no evidence of friction. In this letter Marpeck mentions a previous letter he had written to Leupold, and discourses at length about the many false servants of Christ abroad. The reason he does so is that the brethren in Moravia have written him about the divisions and deceptions taking place there. May the Lord protect us, he adds.

If an attempt must be made to say what is distinctively Scharnschlager's in the literature of the Marpeck Brotherhood, a comparison must be made on the basis of Scharnschlager's letters in the Kunstbuch with the other writings. This would reveal that Scharnschlager's insistence on the union of the inner and outer (a powerful weapon against spiritualism), whether it be in baptism or in his view of the Word of God, no doubt helped Marpeck's Brotherhood to overcome the arguments of Schwenckfeld. Any attempt to analyze differences between Marpeck and Scharnschlager is, however, futile, because in their writings we have what Horst Quiring first called a type of "Gemeindetheologie." In this type of thought individualism is replaced by a corporate search for truth, especially as this truth is revealed in God's Word.

The Ausbund (No. 57) preserves a hymn by Scharnschlager. It is a song in praise of love (I Corinthians 13) and has seven stanzas (printed in Wackernagel III, No. 519).

Scharnschlager died in Ilanz in 1563. His wife lived a few years longer, but was in poor health and sent a messenger for her daughter, who, after the death of Uhrmacher, had married a weaver named Stoffel Krieger, and requested her to come with her husband to care for her and to receive the inheritance. But she did not see her daughter again, for she died in that year. The daughter also died soon afterwards in Moravia. The inheritance, probably considerable, was given to grandsons of Scharnschlager in March 1566 by the court of Ilanz. We owe many a bit of information about Scharnschlager to the lawsuit caused by the false claims made on the estate by a carpenter.


Bergsten, Torsten. "Pilgram Marbeck und seine Auseinandersetzung mit Caspar Schwenckfeld." Kyrhohistorisk Arsshrift (Uppsala 1957 and 1958).

Fast, Hienold. "Pilgram Marbeck und das süddeutsche Täufertum." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte (1956): 212-42.

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

Hein, G. "Täufer in Speyer." Festschrift für D. Christian Neff. 1938.

Kiwiet, J. J. Pilgram Marbeck. Kassel, 1957.

Klassen, Herbert. "Some Aspects of Hans Hut's Teachings." M.A. Diss., Univ. of British Columbia, 1958.

Klassen, William. "The Hermeneutics of Pilgram Marpeck." Th.D. Diss., Princeton Theological Seminary, 1959.

Krebs, Manfred. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer. IV. Band, Baden and Pfalz. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1951: 419-24.

"Leupold Scharnschlager, ein Mitarbeiter Pilgram Marbecks." Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter 4 (1939): 6-12.

"Leupold Scharnschlager, 1563, Anabaptist Elder and Hymn Writer." Mennonite Quarterly Review 17 (1943): 47-52.

"Two Letters by Leupold Scharnschlager." Mennonite Quarterly Review 17 (1943): 165-68.

Loserth, Johann. Der Anabaptismus in Tirol. Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1892.

Röhrich, T. W. Zeitschrift für historische Theologie (1860): 71.

Schiess, T. "Aus dem Leben eines Ilanzer Schulmeisters." Beiträge zur Geschichte St. Gallens in der Ostschweiz. St. Gall, 1932: 229-45.

ten Doornkaat-Koolman, J. "Leupold Scharnschlager und die verborgene Täufergemeinde in Graubünden." Zwingliana 4 (1926): 329-37.

Wackernagel, Philipp. Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit bis zu An fang des XVII. Jahrhunderts, 5 vols. Leipzig, 1864-1877. Reprinted Hildesheim : G. Olms, 1964: v. 3.

Author(s) Gerhard Hein
William Klassen
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hein, Gerhard and William Klassen. "Scharnschlager, Leupold (d. 1563)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 May 2024.,_Leupold_(d._1563)&oldid=166260.

APA style

Hein, Gerhard and William Klassen. (1959). Scharnschlager, Leupold (d. 1563). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2024, from,_Leupold_(d._1563)&oldid=166260.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 443-446, 1148. All rights reserved.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.