Most know that Huldrych Zwingli began his priestly duties in Glarus and then moved to Einsiedeln. There, a strumpet, the daughter of the barber, a vixen well known around town for he ability to ‘get what she wanted’, set her sights on the new Priest.
Zwingli, unfortunately, gave in to the varlet’s overtures and immediately repented, having nothing to do with her again.
Years later word was circulating around Zurich about the affair because several of Zwingli’s opponents were attempting to block his appointment as Priest at the Grossmunster. So Zwingli wrote his friend on the 5th of December, 1518, the following (excerpted)-
One of the most learned and amiable of our friends [Oswald Myconius] has written to me that a rumor has been spread in Zurich about me, alleging that I have seduced the daughter of a high official, and that this has given offense to a number of my friends. I must answer this calumny so that you, dear friend, and others, can clear my life from these false rumors. . . First, you know that three years ago I made a firm resolution not to interfere with any female: St. Paul said it was good not to touch a woman. That did not turn out very well. . . . 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. (G.R. Potter’s translation and selection of the letter to Utinger found in Zwinglis Saemtliche Werke, Bd. VII, S. 110ff)
What’s so fascinating here is 1- the use of the Latin and Greek Fathers as saltpeter. And 2- Zwingli’s blunt admission that he had fallen a few times in Glarus and then once in Einsiedeln, employing thereafter the aforementioned saltpeter. It has to be recognized that Priests in Zwingli’s time regularly employed mistresses and many were fathers of large broods of children. This isn’t to excuse, but to contextualize. Zwingli fell a few times- but not as much as most.
Which means, doesn’t it, that he was a bit depraved, but not totally! 😉
- Debunking Zwinglian Myths (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)