Monday, June 23, 2008
Early Basler Anabaptists
I wanted to show a few more photos and tell a few more Basel Anabaptist stories before I move into the Amish part of the blog. So far I have concentrated on the Mennonite and Amish common heritage in Anabaptism with its emphasis on a faith lived out in daily life within a community of reconciliation. This means a break with infant baptism which takes personal accountability out of the community and a break with the state church, which turns pesonal accountability into a matter of state enforcement.
As I said before, there were early Anabaptists not just in Zurich and Bern, but also in Schaffhausen and Basel, and for that matter in St. Gallen and other places. The first picture is of Weisse Gasse, a place of known Anabaptist activity already in 1529, four years after its beginnings in Zurich. Basel also followed Zurich in switching from Roman Catholicism to Reformed, with John Oekolampad being the leader as Ulrich Zwingli was the leader in Zurich.
Weisse Gasse is not out in the country but right in the middle of things in Basel, like the first Anabaptists in Zurich. It is next to Barfusserplatz, which means what it sounds like, the Barefooters Plaza. It is near the Franciscan church and monastery, and apparently since the Franciscans were barefooted their nickname in German became Barfusser. The Franciscan Church, or Barfusserkirche, is now a museum. The Franciscans don't have a place in Reformed Basel.
Like Zurich, Basel also persecuted its Anabaptists. And so the second photo is of the Spalentor. This was a place where Anabaptists and other criminals were imprisoned. It was a main gate into the city, and part of the old city wall. Basel decided to preserve this relic of its history.
Finally there is photo of the Basel Rathaus. This is the seat of city and cantonal government
in Basel. The building is beautiful. In 1595 Basel issued one of the most severe mandates against Anabaptists. They would confiscate their property and exile them from the country.
There is a village near me here in Bienenberg called Hersberg. It is of course where the Hershberger family comes from, and some of those local Hershbergers became Anabaptists.