April 5


Jan Matthys dies outside Münster

Jan Matthys van Haarlem (c. 1500-1534) was a Dutch baker who converted to Anabaptism in the 1520s. By 1533 he had convinced himself that he was the reincarnated prophet Enoch and began to preach the coming Apocalypse. His followers infiltrated the city of Münster in Westphalia and summoned Matthys in January 1534 to become the leader of the New Zion. They drove out the Catholic inhabitants of the city and instituted a regime of the godly who were awaiting the End Times. Community of goods, simple living, adult baptism, and theocracy was the new order of things with Matthys as the deciding voice. The seizure of the city led the Catholic bishop to summon help from German princes to crush this dangerous heresy and Münster was soon under siege (pictured above).

In the middle of a wedding banquet Matthys was seized by the Holy Spirit, and cried out, “Father, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” With a deep sense of gloom he bade farewell to his followers and left the room, claiming that he had been supernaturally instructed that he should go out of the city to confront his enemies. On the next day, at high noon on Easter Sunday, he imitated Gideon and chose thirty companions to sally forth against the Bishop’s army. The poor loon, no warrior by any means, and his band were quickly killed. Matthew’s head was paraded around the walls on a pole and his genitals were nailed to the town gates. His death meant that leadership devolved on the even more radical John of Leiden whose rule of the doomed Anabaptists became bizarre and tragic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *