Zedo, Nikolaus (16th century)

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Nikolaus Zedo, of Bümplitz near Bern, Switzerland, was, after the execution of Wälti Gerber, next to Hans Haslibacher the most important preacher of the Bernese Anabaptists. He is described as a man of about 30 years of age with a "pointed black little beard," a crippled hand, and usually dressed in gray trousers. In the Turmbücher he is often named as an Anabaptist preacher. According to his own statements, he came to the faith through Wälti Gerber. Even in his youth he was active as preacher and pastor. Cathrin Wenger confessed in December 1566 that she had been married in a field near Schorren (near Thun) by Nikli Zedo. Hans Tschanz made the same confession in 1567. Zedo held meetings in the forest near Röthenbach in the Upper Emmental, in Schliern near Köniz, at Seftigen, where Zedo preached and read from the book of Ezra. Zedo's influence extended as far as the canton of Solothurn. He is expressly described as the successor of Wälti Gerber. Almost always he held his meetings during the night for reasons of safety. Under torture Verena Schöni confessed in 1569 that she and her husband had been married two years previously by Nikolaus Zedo "at night time" in a woods along the Aar River near Kresen. He had admonished them out of the Scriptures and had joined their hands "in the name of the Holy Trinity." Near Eggiwil in the Emmental Zedo also "passed out the Lord's Supper" in a forest. Furthermore Zedo confessed later before the court that he had held a meeting and baptized near Steffisburg in Eriz, and also likewise at Seftigen and between Stettlen and Bolligen. Later he had also baptized several persons in the Upper Emmental at the Schallenberg.

Such missionary activity and official acts of an Anabaptist like Zedo, who worked in wide circles and also in the neighborhood of the city of Bern, could not remain concealed from the council. The council finally found and arrested the "stiff-necked disobedient Anabaptist" in the region of Oberdiessbach near Thun c1575. Apparently some of the patricians in authority were shocked by this kind of bloody justice; for the Baron of Diessbach was fined 50 pounds for releasing Zedo from imprisonment. The sum of 100 pounds was now set upon the recapture of Zedo. Four men from the region of Steffisburg and Thun earned this money by taking him to Steffisburg; from there the bailiff took him to Bern, accompanied by two men. On 14 November 1580 he was cross-examined on three points: (1) whether he would desist from preaching and baptizing and adapt himself to the Christian church; (2) whether he would be obedient to the Christian divinely ordained and established government; (3) at what places he had held meetings and preached, who had attended, and whom he had baptized.

After Zedo's confession he was declared guilty of disobedience to the Christian regulations and of having shown himself as a mobster and the leader of a seditious party and a false doctrine. He was therefore, on the basis of the Anabaptist mandates, condemned to death by beheading.

But this sentence was not carried out (presumably because of the opposition of some of the members of the council, or perhaps also because of public opinion), as is shown by this entry: on 29 November 1580, his life was granted to him "out of grace and mercy by my gracious lords, councilors, and citizens in the hope of improvement; but he shall give a recantation at those places where he is cited and pay 200 pounds of fine and all the costs." On December 4th Zedo was placed before the congregation in the cathedral at Bern. The court secretary read the record of recantation. Then Zedo was taken to the island, to be taken to Steffisburg on the next day to make his recantation before the congregation there and at other places. In that same night, however, Zedo escaped from the island. Beat Neuenschwander, who helped him escape, was fined 50 pounds. Nothing more is known about Zedo except that he "thereafter still did much harm."


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. IV, 586-587.

Geiser, Samuel. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden: eine Kurzgefasste Darstellung der wichtigsten Ereignisse des Täufertums. Karlsruhe : H. Schneider, [1931].

Author(s) Samuel Geiser
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Geiser, Samuel. "Zedo, Nikolaus (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 6 Mar 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Zedo,_Nikolaus_(16th_century)&oldid=144625.

APA style

Geiser, Samuel. (1959). Zedo, Nikolaus (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 March 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Zedo,_Nikolaus_(16th_century)&oldid=144625.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1019-1020. All rights reserved.

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