Zell, Matthäus (1471-1541)

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Matthäus Zell, the founder of the Protestant church in Strasbourg, the most popular preacher in the city, born 21 September 1471, at Kaisersberg, Alsace, studied at the universities of Mainz and Erfurt, lived for a time in Italy, and served in the army of Maximilian I against the Swiss. In 1517 he became the rector of the University of Freiburg, and after the termination of this service became a priest at the cathedral in Strasbourg. He sided vigorously with the Reformation as a follower of Luther, and through his pious deeds and his speaking ability won great respect. He was the first to conduct the Mass in German in Strasbourg and to administer the Lord's Supper in both forms. Therefore he was subject to persecution by the Catholic authorities. In reply to the charge of heresy made against him by the Catholics he published his (originally in Latin) Christliche Verantwortung Matthes Zell von Kaysersberg . . . in 1523. He gave faithful support to the Reformers, such as Bucer, Capito, Hedio, and Pollio. In 1524 he married Katharina Schütz, and was therefore excommunicated; nevertheless he was kept in his office by the city magistrate. He was zealous in the care of the church and the school, always retaining a conciliatory mind; thus the Anabaptists, persecuted throughout the world, also found a defender in his wife (see Katharina Zell). Although Zell did not agree with the Anabaptists in all points, he opposed the use of violence in combating them. He declared from the pulpit that he was not in agreement with the regulations proposed by Bucer, Capito, and other officials and that he agreed with the principal doctrine of the Anabaptists, i.e., that the government in matters of faith was not justified in using measures of violence. Zell's doctrine of the communion also touched the Anabaptist view. According to Röhrich, he replied to Melanchthon's question on this matter, stating that he did not believe that one received the body and blood of Christ in a communion substantially, essentially, really, and naturally; the devil had brought these words from hell. He said further that Christ had simply said, This is my body, this is my blood, and he would stick to that and not believe otherwise than Christ his Lord had spoken.


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

Keller, Ludwig. Ein Apostel der Wiedertäufer. Leipzig : S. Hirzel, 1885: 167.

Röhrich, T. W. Mitteilungen aus der Geschichte der Evang. Kirche des Elsasses III. Paris, 1885: 132 f.

Stähelin, W. Elässische Lebensbilder aus dem 16. und 17. Jahrh. 1869: 239.

Author(s) Johann Loserth
Wilhelm Wiswedel
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Loserth, Johann and Wilhelm Wiswedel. "Zell, Matthäus (1471-1541)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 May 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Zell,_Matth%C3%A4us_(1471-1541)&oldid=144668.

APA style

Loserth, Johann and Wilhelm Wiswedel. (1959). Zell, Matthäus (1471-1541). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Zell,_Matth%C3%A4us_(1471-1541)&oldid=144668.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1023-1024. All rights reserved.

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