A Bit More, On Zwingli’s Birth

A full account of the event:


HULDREICH ZWINGLI, the Reformer of German Switzerland, was born on Thursday, January 1, 1484, in a house which still stands in well-nigh perfect preservation. It is in the hamlet called Lysighaus, i. e., Elizabeth house, ten minutes’ walk from the parish church of Wildhaus, or, as it was then called, Wildenhaus, a village in the Toggenburg Valley, in Switzerland, at its highest point, 3600 feet above sea-level, and about forty miles east by south of Zurich. It is perhaps twenty-five feet deep by thirty feet wide, and, like many other Swiss peasant houses, has a peaked roof and overhanging eaves. It is two stories high, has a hall running through the ground floor, and the large room on the right as you enter is shown as that in which the great event occurred.

Zwingli was not born in poverty, as his future fellow Reformer Luther had been seven weeks before, at Eisleben, twenty-five miles west of Halle, in Saxony; nor of common people, nor was he raised in the school of adversity.

On the contrary, the family were in comfortable circumstances, and were prominent in their community. The carved rafters in their living-room bear silent testimony to this fact, as the poorer people did not have them. But we are not left to that sort of evidence. Zwingli’s father was, as his father’s father had been, the Ammann, i. e., chief magistrate, or bailiff, of the village, and his father’s brother was the village priest; while his mother’s brother Johann became abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Fischingen; and a near relative was abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Old St. John’s, only two miles west from Wildhaus.

Further proof that Zwingli’s parents were well-to-do or could command money is the fact that Zwingli received about as good an education as the times afforded, and yet there is no evidence that his father or other relatives had to pinch themselves to bring this about.

Zwingli’s father was a farmer and raiser of flocks and herds. Three of Zwingli’s younger brothers and two of his older followed his father in these pursuits, but Zwingli himself left home too young to have had any practical acquaintance with the life, except perhaps for a few months.

The allusions he makes to his childhood are interesting, and it were good if they were more numerous. Thus he says: “We recognise the profound compassion of God in that He was willing to have His Son, in the tenderness of His youth, suffer poverty for our sakes, so that we, instructed by our parents from our earliest years, might bear even with joyfulness our evil things and deprivation itself.”

Again he says: “My grandmother has often told me a story about the way Peter and the Lord conducted themselves toward one another. It seems that they used to sleep in the same bed. But Peter was on the outside, and every morning the woman of the house would waken him by pulling his hair.”

Again: “When I was a child, if any one said a word against our Fatherland, I bristled up instantly.”

Again: “From boyhood I have shown so great and eager and sincere a love for an honourable Confederacy that I trained myself diligently in every art and discipline for this end.”*

Happy birthday, Huldrych!
S. M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531), pp. 49-51.