THOMAS MÜNTZER - SO WHO WAS HE?

The life of Thomas Müntzer was brief. When he died on the executioner's block in 1525, he was only 35 years old. His role in the Church reform movement in Germany spanned the last eight of those years. But when he died, he had managed to incur the wrath of the feudal rulers of the German states, and their reforming preacher Martin Luther, not to mention those still adhering to the Catholic Church. When he died, he left behind a small number of printed works, all of which resound with the words of a radical and hopeful belief. When he died, he left behind a small number of admirers and comrades who continued the radical traditions into the following decades.

For 500 years, he has provoked detestation and admiration in almost equal amounts. It took historians - lay and Church alike - almost 450 years to even begin to understand the complexity of the man and his teachings. In the past 100 years, he has inspired at least 150 novels, poems, films and other artistic productions. In the past 60 years, over two thousand books, articles and essays. The vast majority of these such works have been written in German.

Part of the Panorama at Frankenhausen Research over the past few decades has made it abundantly clear that Müntzer played a highly significant role in the early years of the German religious reform movement. Not only did his interventions have a major impact on close colleagues of Luther, and even on Luther himself, but his reforms to the church services in the places where he preached were among the very first in Germany. His doctrinal legacy persisted for years afterwards among the radical Anabaptists, albeit mingled with other radical and mystical traditions.

So: Thomas Müntzer, a man of rare complexity, learning and potential. He is one of an elite group of men and women who, over the centuries, have spoken out single-mindedly against the oppression of body and soul. Most paid for their beliefs with their lives; some shine in the memory, many are forgotten. That Müntzer failed, between 1523 and 1525, to lead 'his' Reformation to anything other than local success was due more to the social and political situation of his time than it was to any fundamental fault in his thoughts or actions. In the great tapestry of history, Müntzer has his rightful place; to deny him that place is to deny history itself.

This website will attempt to compensate for the widespread omission of Müntzer's name from histories written in the English language. It is intended that some of the basic raw materials will also be available here - his most important works (in translation), images, debates. And - we can only hope! - we will attempt to raise awareness of Thomas Müntzer in English-speaking countries.
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