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THOMAS MUNZER (c. 1489-1525)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 14 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THOMAS MUNZER (c. 1489-1525), German religious enthusiast, was born at Stolberg in the Harz near the end of the 15th century, and educated at Leipzig and Frankfort, graduating in theology. He held preaching appointments in various places, but his restless nature prevented him from remaining in one position for any length of time. In 1520 he became a preacher at the church of St Mary, Zwickau, and his rude eloquence, together with his attacks on the monks, soon raised him to influence. Aided by Nicholas Storch, he formed a society the principles of which were akin to those of the Taborites, and claimed that he was under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. His zeal for the purification of the Church by casting out all unbelievers brought him into conflict with the governing body of the town, and he was compelled to leave Zwickau. He then went to Prague, where his preaching won numerous adherents, but his violent language brought about his expulsion from this city also. At Easter .1523 Munzer came to Allstedt, and was soon appointed preacher at the church of St John, where he made extensive alterations in the services. His violence, however, aroused the hostility of Luther, in retaliation for which Munzer denounced the Wittenberg teaching. His preaching soon produced an uproar in Allstedt, and after holding his own for some time he left the town and went to Muhlhausen, where Heinrich Pfeiffer was already preaching doctrines similar to his own. The union of Munzer and Pfeiffer caused a disturbance in this city and both were expelled. Munzer went to Nuremberg, where he issued a writing against Luther, who had been mainly instrumental in bringing about his expulsion from Saxony. About this time his teaching became still more violent. He denounced established governments, and advocated common ownership of the means of life. After a tour in south Germany he returned to Muhlhausen, overthrew the governing body of the city, and established a communistic theocracy. The Peasants' War had already broken out in various parts of Germany; and as the peasantry around Muhlhausen were imbued with Munzer's teaching, he collected a large body of men to plunder the surrounding country. He established his camp at Frankenhausen; but on the 15th of May 1525 the peasants were dispersed by Philip, landgrave of Hesse, who captured Munzer and executed him on the 27th at Muhlhausen. Before his death he is said to have written a letter admitting the justice of his sentence. His Aussgetritckte Emplossung des falschen Glaubens has been edited by R. Jordan (MMuhlhausen, 19ot), and a life of Munzer, Die Histori von Thome Miintzer des Anfengers der doringischen Uffrur, has been attributed to Philip Melanchthon (Hagenau, 1525). See G. T. Strobel, Leben, Schriften and Lehren Thoma Mii.ntzers (Nuremberg, 1795) ; J. K. Seidemann, Thomas Munzer (Leipzig, 1842); O. Merx, Thomas Munzer and Heinrich Pfeiffer (Gottingen, 1889); G. Wolfrau, Thomas Miinzer in Allstedt (Jena, 1852).
End of Article: THOMAS MUNZER (c. 1489-1525)
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