It happened on 11 October, 1531. And it happened like this- once more- by Bullinger’s account:
On the battlefield, not far from the line of attack, Mr. Ulrich Zwingli lay under the dead and wounded. While men were looting . . . he was still alive, lying on his back, with his hands together as if he was praying, and his eyes looking upwards to heaven. So some approached who did not know him and asked him, since he was so weak and close to death (for he had fallen in combat and was stricken with a mortal wound), whether a priest should be fetched to hear his confession. Thereat Zwingli shook his head, said nothing and looked up to heaven. Later they told him that if he was no longer able to speak or confess he should yet have the mother of God in his heart and call on the beloved saints to plead to God for grace on his behalf. Again Zwingli shook his head and continued gazing straight up to heaven. At this the Catholics grew impatient, cursed him and said that he was one of the obstinate cantankerous heretics and should get what he deserved. Then Captain Fuckinger of Unterwalden appeared and in exasperation drew his sword and gave Zwingli a thrust from which he at once died. So the renowned Mr. Ulrich Zwingli, true minister and servant of the churches of Zurich, was found wounded on the battlefield along with his flock (with whom he remained until his death). There, because of his confession of the true faith in Christ, our only savior, the mediator and advocate of all believers, he was killed by a captain who was a pensioner, one of those against whom he had always preached so eloquently. . . .
The crowd then [Oct. 12] spread it abroad throughout the camp that anyone who wanted to denounce Zwingli as a heretic and betrayer of a pious confederation should come onto the battlefield. There, with great contempt, they set up a court of injustice on Zwingli which decided that his body should be quartered and the portions burned. All this was carried into effect by the executioner from Lucerne with abundance of abuse; among other things he said that although some had asserted that Zwingli was a sick man he had in fact never seen a more healthy-looking body.
They threw into the fire the entrails of some pigs that had been slaughtered the previous night and then they turned over the embers so that the pigs’ offal was mixed with Zwingli’s ashes. This was done close to the high road to Scheuren.
Verdicts on Zwingli from scholars and ignorant alike were varied. All those who knew him were constant in their praises. Even so there were still more who were critical either because they really did not know him or, if they had known him a little, were determined to show their resentment and spoke ill of him. (Janz, A Reformation reader : Primary texts with introductions.)
Because of his importance this passage is read each year in Zurich on the anniversary of his passing-
Schau herab vom Himmel und sieh herab von der Wohnung deiner Heiligkeit und deiner Herrlichkeit! Wo sind dein Eifer und deine Kraft? Das Aufwallen deiner Gefühle und dein Erbarmen – mir hast du es nicht gezeigt. Du bist doch unser Vater! Abraham hat nichts von uns gewusst, und Israel kennt uns nicht. Du, HERR, bist unser Vater, Unser-Erlöser-seit-uralten-Zeiten ist dein Name.
Warum, HERR, lässt du uns umherirren, fern von deinen Wegen, verhärtest unser Herz, so dass wir dich nicht fürchten? Kehre zurück um deiner Diener, um der Stämme deines Erbbesitzes willen. Für eine kurze Zeit haben sie dein heiliges Volk enteignet, dein Heiligtum haben unsere Feinde zertreten. Wir sind wie die geworden, über die du nie geherrscht hast, über denen dein Name nicht ausgerufen wurde. Hättest du doch schon den Himmel zerrissen, wärst schon herabgestiegen, so dass die Berge vor dir erbebt wären, (Isa 63:15-19 ZUR)
October 11 is the darkest day of the year; a day of mourning. So don’t expect much chipperness from me today.