Die im Rahmen einer Eidgenössischen Tagsatzung vom 19. Mai bis 8. Juni 1526 im aargauischen Baden in deutscher Sprache abgehaltene Disputation war ein Grossereignis der Reformationszeit, vergleichbar der Leipziger Disputation 1519 und dem Reichstag zu Worms 1521, und von entscheidender Bedeutung für den weiteren Verlauf der Schweizer Geschichte. Sie war der mit der österreichischen Regierung und dem Bischof von Konstanz abgestimmte Versuch der damals noch mehrheitlich altgläubigen schweizerischen Orte, Zwingli zum Schweigen zu bringen und Zürich zurückzugewinnen. Über Realpräsenz, Messopfer, Heiligenverehrung, Bilder und Fegfeuer stritten Johannes Eck auf katholischer und (anstelle Zwinglis) Johannes Oekolampad und andere auf reformierter Seite.
Jetzt liegt erstmals ein kritisch edierter Text vor – samt Sprach- und Sachkommentar, einer historischen sowie einer philologischen Einleitung und einem bio-bibliografischen Verzeichnis von ca. 60 der namentlich bekannten rund 200 Teilnehmer: eine erstrangige Quelle für Historiker, Theologen und Germanisten.
The disputation which took place at Baden was extremely important for the development of the Reformation in Switzerland. As Philip Schaff notes
The disputation was opened in the Catholic city of Baden, in Aargau, May 21, 1526, and lasted eighteen days, till the 8th of June. The cantons and four bishops sent deputies, and many foreign divines were present. The Protestants were a mere handful, and despised as “a beggarly, miserable rabble.” Zwingli, who foresaw the political aim and result of the disputation, was prevented by the Council of Zurich from leaving home, because his life was threatened; but he influenced the proceedings by daily correspondence and secret messengers. No one could doubt his courage, which he showed more than once in the face of greater danger, as when he went to Marburg through hostile territory, and to the battlefield at Cappel. But several of his friends were sadly disappointed at his absence. He would have equalled Eck in debate and excelled him in biblical learning. Erasmus was invited, but politely declined on account of sickness.
The arrangements for the disputation and the local sympathies were in favor of the papal party. Mass was said every morning at five, and a sermon preached; the pomp of ritualism was displayed in solemn processions. The presiding officers and leading secretaries were Romanists; nobody besides them was permitted to take notes.1 The disputation turned on the real presence, the sacrifice of the mass, the invocation of the Virgin Mary and of saints, on images, purgatory, and original sin. Dr. Eck was the champion of the Roman faith, and behaved with the same polemical dexterity and overbearing and insolent manner as at Leipzig: robed in damask and silk, decorated with a golden ring, chain and cross; surrounded by patristic and scholastic folios, abounding in quotations and arguments, treating his opponents with proud contempt, and silencing them with his stentorian voice and final appeals to the authority of Rome. Occasionally he uttered an oath, “Potz Marter.” A contemporary poet, Nicolas Manuel, thus described his conduct:—
“Eck stamps with his feet, and claps his hands,
He raves, he swears, he scolds;
‘I do,’ cries he, ‘what the Pope commands,
And teach whatever he holds.’ ”
Oecolampadius of Basle and Haller of Berne, both plain and modest, but able, learned and earnest men, defended the Reformed opinions. Oecolampadius declared at the outset that he recognized no other rule of judgment than the Word of God. He was a match for Eck in patristic learning, and in solid arguments. His friends said, “Oecolampadius is vanquished, not by argument, but by vociferation.”1 Even one of the Romanists remarked, “If only this pale man were on our side!” His host judged that he must be a very pious heretic, because he saw him constantly engaged in study and prayer; while Eck was enjoying rich dinners and good wines, which occasioned the remark, “Eck is bathing in Baden, but in wine.”
The papal party boasted of a complete victory. All innovations were forbidden; Zwingli was excommunicated; and Basle was called upon to depose Oecolampadius from the pastoral office. Faber, not satisfied with the burning of heretical books, advocated even the burning of the Protestant versions of the Bible. Thomas Murner, a Franciscan monk and satirical poet, who was present at Baden, heaped upon Zwingli and his adherents such epithets as tyrants, liars, adulterers, church robbers, fit only for the gallows! He had formerly (1512) chastised the vices of priests and monks, but turned violently against the Saxon Reformer, and earned the name of “Luther-Scourge” (Lutheromastix). He was now made lecturer in the Franciscan convent at Lucerne, and authorized to edit the acts of the Baden disputation.
The result of the Baden disputation was a temporary triumph for Rome, but turned out in the end, like the Leipzig disputation of 1519, to the furtherance of the Reformation.
I cite this rather long passage in order to set the stage for the volume presently under consideration. It is, after all, best to return to the sources themselves, no matter how useful and insightful secondary sources may be. Schaff’s work is impressive, but it pales to insignificance in comparison to the first hand accounts. And that is exactly what this impressive book amply provides.
This very large volume weighs in at over 700 pages and is comprised of a Foreword, a thorough list of abbreviations, a historical introduction (from pages 27- 200), a philological introduction (pp. 249-253), the Baden Disputation texts (the first hand accounts of the events which took place at Baden and the reactions of those who were there) (pp. 249-542). There next follows a series of indices covering the biblical text, persons, places, and authorities and sources (pp. 543-642). Finally there’s a marvelously useful and really immensely interesting biography/ bibliography of all the major persons discussed in the texts.
The volume also contains a number of illustrations. The book is festooned with valuable footnotes which direct readers to the copious literature available from the Disputation’s participants and witnesses. Indeed, there are enough footnotes to make even the most meticulously minded Germanic scholar proud.
The amount of work it took for the editors to produce this volume is staggering. From sifting through original hand written ‘minutes’ taken during the disputation itself to the examination of the official and not so official protocols later published by the Catholic and the Reformed participants and adherents must have taken many years to achieve. Yet the careful scholarship pays huge dividends for Reformation researchers and students of history.
Extremely interesting especially to the present reviewer is the material presented in the historical introduction concerning Zwingli’s absence from the proceedings themselves and yet his presence through swiftly transported letters from Zurich to Baden and back. Zwingli’s absence was not his wish but that of the Zurich council which knew that, had he gone, some harm would have befallen him. As we read on page 101
Zwingli hatte sicherlich keine Angst vor einem Zusammentreffen und einen Kräftemessen mit Eck, aber die Badener Disputation hatte von Anfang an den Charakter einer gegen ihn gerichteten Aktion und stand von Anfang an unter dem Vorzeichen einer altgläubigen Dominanz.
The texts of the disputation are presented in 16th century Swiss German but there are sufficient notes to assist modern German readers to comprehend the unusual vocabulary and orthography.
This volume is an utterly remarkable and thoroughly commendable work. The Reformation cry Ad Fontes is here realized in an amazing way.
If I were to recommend any improvement at all it would be to add a cd-rom with the contents of the protocols (at least) on them so that searching any term or phrase would be quite simple and easily accomplished. Several of the volumes published by TVZ contain cd’s (I’m thinking of the records of the Reformation in Zurich and Basle in particular). Such a tool would add significantly to the already significant usefulness of this volume.
Still, I love this book. It is scholarly, it is meticulous, it is brilliant.