Which nevertheless doesn’t prohibit the many men in her life from also being tarred with the same title. After all, promiscuity takes two. But what am I talking about, you ask… I’m talking about the woman of Einsiedeln who was a ‘friend’ of Zwingli (and many other men in town). Her ‘attachment’ to Zwingli came to the attention of the Committee of the Great Minster in Zurich which was considering calling Zwingli to be its Pastor. What happens next is legendary. Zwingli wrote, on 5 December, 1518, to Heinrich Utinger-
A 16th c. varlet plying her trade
As to the charge of seduction I needn’t take long in dealing with that. They make it out to concern the daughter of an important citizen. I don’t deny that she is the daughter of an important person: anyone who could touch the emperor’s beard is important — barber forsooth! No one doubts that the lady concerned is the barber’s daughter except possibly the barber himself who has often accused his wife, the girl’s mother, a supposedly true and faithful wife, of adultery, blatant but not true. At any rate he has turned the girl, about whom all this fuss is being made, out from his house and for two years has given her neither board nor lodging. So what is the daughter of such a man to me? . . .
With intense zeal day and night even at the cost of harm to his body, [I] study the Greek and Latin philosophers and theologians, and this hard work takes the heat out of such sensual desires even if it does not entirely eliminate them. Further, feelings of shame have so far restrained me that when I was still in Glarus and let myself fall into temptation in this regard a little, I did so so quietly that even my friends hardly knew about it.
And now we will come to the matter before us and I will cast off what they call the last anchor taking no account of public opinion which takes a poor view of open resort to loose women. In this instance it was a case of maiden by day, matron by night, and not so much of the maiden by day but everybody in Einsiedeln knew about her . . . no one in Einsiedeln thought I had corrupted a maiden.
All the girl’s relations knew that she had been caught long before I came to Einsiedeln, so that I was not in any way concerned. . . . To close: I have written a good deal of facetious chatter, but these people don’t understand anything else. You can say whatever you think suitable to anyone who is concerned.*
In sum, Zwingli admits to the dalliance with the Einsiedeln strumpet and a few earlier on in Glarus. The cure for his ‘wander-lust’ was, it seems, intensive study (and later, marriage).
So Zwingli was a bit depraved. But just a bit. And never with anyone who wasn’t more depraved…
*G.R. Potter’s translation and selection of the letter to Utinger found in Zwinglis Saemtliche Werke, Bd. VII, S. 110ff.