On the 9th of February, 1534, the Anabaptists of Münster seized the city hall and proclaimed the town the ‘New Jerusalem’ where they lived in absolute debauchery, sharing their wives and proclaiming themselves the only true believers. Their ‘kingdom’ would be destroyed within 18 months and their leaders killed- but for 18 months the city lived in utter misery thanks to the cruelty and insanity of their spiritualist leaders.
Among the leaders and followers on the peasant side in the Peasants’ war which desolated Germany in 1525, were those who held antipedobaptist views. After the war Strasburg became the center of the Anabaptists and, after 1529, when it was visited by Melchior Hoffmann, “the evil genius of the Anabaptists,” it was the center of their propaganda. Hoffmann united to the usual Anabaptist views, belief in himself as the inspired interpreter of prophecy and as inspired leader generally. He declared that he was one of the “two witnesses” of Rev. xi. 3; that Strasburg was to be the New Jerusalem, and the seat of universal dominion; and that non-resistance might be given up. These views he preached with great effect through East Friesland and the Netherlands, and his followers called themselves “Melchiorites.” After he had been thrown into prison (1533) Jan Matthys, a baker from Haarlem, appeared in Strasburg and claimed to be the other “witness” of the Apocalypse; but he altered the programme by transferring the capital of the kingdom of the saints to Münster, and advocating force in maintaining it. After sending four apostles, one of whom was the notorious John of Leyden, he came thither himself (Feb., 1535), and led a successful revolt against the magistracy and bishop of the city. In Apr., 1535 he was killed and was succeeded by John of Leyden who caused himself to be proclaimed king, and declared polygamy to be the law of the kingdom. Meanwhile the city was besieged by the expelled bishop aided by the neighboring princes and by the imperial troops. If half that is said to have gone on within the city be true (the reports come from very prejudiced sources), fanaticism was there the order of the day. Hence the defense was lax, owing to dependence on divine power to work deliverance. Nevertheless, the siege lasted many months, and treachery within rather than assaults without at last opened the gates on June 25, 1535 (see Münster, Anabaptists In). The fanatical Anabaptists were universally taken as typical, and to this day when Anabaptism is mentioned it is supposed to be the equivalent of absurd interpretation of Scripture, blasphemous assumption, and riotous indecency. Münster was, however, only the culminating point of fanaticism engendered by persecution, and Anabaptism in itself, strictly interpreted, is not responsible for it.*
Happy anarchy day (for the Anabaptists out there). Grab your neighbor’s wife and celebrate your ‘honorable’ heritage.