And other contemporary texts...

Although this website is dedicated to Müntzer, several of the letters and publications written by his contemporaries cannot be overlooked. A small selection is provided below, including Luther's infamous, grim attack on the 'tumultuous peasants' of 1525, along with some of the most significant historical documnets of the time.
Recommended reading: further contemporary documents in English translation are available in
  • Tom Scott & Bob Scribner (eds), The German Peasants War - a History in Documents, New York 1991.
  • Michael Baylor (ed), The Radical Reformation, Cambridge 1991



Click here to readMartin Luther's 'Letter to the Princes of Saxony, Concerning the Rebellious Spirit' (June 1524)
Click here to readLuther's 'Open Letter to the Town of Mühlhausen', 21 August 1524
Click here to readThe 'Eleven Articles of Mühlhausen', September 1524
Click here to readThe 'Twelve Articles' of the Swabian peasantry, March 1525
Click here to readThe 'Letter of Articles' which accompanied the 'Twelve Articles', April 1525
Click here to readMartin Luther's pamphlet 'Against the Tumultuous Peasants', April 1525
Click here to readBalthasar Hubmaier's 'Articles and Confession', also known as 'The Constitutional Draft', March 1528
Click here to readMartin Luther's Dreadful History of Thomas Müntzer, May/June 1525
Click here to readMüntzer's supposed Speech at Frankenhausen, as composed by Melanchthon, June 1525

Luther's 'Letter to the Princes of Saxony, Concerning the Rebellious Spirit', June 1524.
This letter (immediately printed and published) was Luther's rather desperate attempt to have his rival Müntzer muzzled, or - by preference - chased out of Saxony. It failed.
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The 'Eleven Articles of Mühlhausen', September 1524.
These were the principal demands made on the town-council of Mühlhausen by Müntzer and his party, just before he was expelled from the town.
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Luther's 'Open Letter to the Honourable and Wise Mayor, Council and Whole Community of the Town of Mühlhausen', 21 August 1524.
Hearing that Müntzer was on his way to Mühlhausen, Luther attempted to have him barred from the town. This letter also failed.
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The 'Twelve Articles' of the Swabian peasantry, March 1525.
These are the famous demands of the South-West German peasantry, formulated (we think) by one Sebastian Lotzer. They denounce the worst of the feudal burdens which were imposed upon the peasants, and called for major reforms of the social, religious and economic practices of the time. If God wishes to hear the peasants (who are anxiously calling to live according to his word) then who dares to obstruct the will of God ? Who dares to intervene in his judgement ? Yes, who dares to strive against his majesty ? Did he not hear the children of Israel calling out to him, and did he not deliver them from the hand of Pharaoh, and can he not save his people even today ? Yes, he will save them ! And not too long from now ! So, Christian reader, read these Articles with great care and make your own judgement.
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The 'Letter of Articles' of the South-West German peasant army, April/May 1525.
This letter accompanied the 'Twelve Articles' and urged those who had not yet joined the peasant army - primarily townspeople, but also the nobility and clergy - to do so, or face a worldly ban on economic and social activity. All who have joined this Christian alliance, by their word of honour and the highest duty which they have undertaken, will have and maintain no fellowship with those who have cut themselves off and refused to join the brotherly alliance and to promote common Christian service. They will neither eat, nor drink, bathe, mill, bake, plough, mow with them, nor supply them with food, corn, drink, wood, meat, salt or anything else; no one will be permitted or allowed to buy anything from them nor to sell anything to them, and they will be left alone as limbs cut off from the body in all matters which do not promote, but rather oppose, the cause of the common Christian service and the public peace.
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Luther's pamphlet 'Against the Tumultuous Peasants', April 1525.
Luther wrote this letter in late April of 1525, at a time when the peasantry of South-West Germany, and of Thuringia, were mobilising in armies and posed a real threat to civic rule. The text of the pamphlet speaks for itself - it is a grim and bloodthirsty call for the princes and lords to put down the rebellion with the utmost severity. Its concluding message is this: And so, dear lords, you must rescue, you must save, you must give aid ! Take pity on the poor people ! Let anyone who can stab, smite and slay ! And if you lose your life in doing so, then good for you, for no one can earn a more blessed death: you will die in obedience to the word and command of God, Romans 13, and in the service of loving your neighbours, who will thus be rescued from Hell and the bonds of the Devil.
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Balthasar Hubmaier's 'Articles and Confession', also known as 'The Constitutional Draft', March 1528.
Dr Balthasar Hubmaier was one of the first leaders of the Anabaptist movement in South Germany and Switzerland. It is likely that Müntzer had contact with Hubmaier in the winter of 1524/1525. The capture, trial and confession of Hubmaier took place in early 1528, in Austria. A report of this was sent by the Catholic Bishop Johann Fabri to Duke Georg of Saxony; this report contains what is commonly referred to as the Constitutional Draft (Verfassungsentwurf), a radical proposal for the common people to overthrow their lords and elect their own governments. It is argued that Müntzer may have had an influence on Hubmaier for this 'draft'.
The common people should write to their lords once, then twice and then three times, requesting that they join the brotherhood and alliance. If they will not join, then each territory should be permitted to take the sword from its rulers and give it to another. If the territory does not do so, then it will share in the guilt of the lords' wickedness. And he teaches how to appoint kings, princes, dukes and lords. That is, when the people gather together, they shall make an oath to keep God's word; twelve men shall be proposed and from them the peasants will elect one, with no special treatment given to the nobility. And if the man who is elected should later prove unsuitable, then he may be removed after the people of the territory have given him three warnings.
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Luther's Dreadful History of Thomas Müntzer, May/June 1525
In this pamphlet, which was printed in late May or June 1525, Luther gave his (and God's) summary judgement on Müntzer. It is not a positive one. Essentially, Müntzer was to blame for the defeat of the peasantry at Frankenhausen, and that was God's will. Now was the time for everyone to be obedient to their lords. But Luther also did us a favour, by publishing here the texts of several letters written by Müntzer and the rebels, which otherwise might not have come down to us over 500 years...
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Müntzer's supposed Speech at Frankenhausen, as composed by Melanchthon, June 1525
In his 1525 pamphlet condemning Müntzer, entitled Die Histori Thome Muntzers, Philipp Melanchthon included the full text of a speech supposedly made by Müntzer when he was standing at the head of the rebel army on the hill above Frankenhausen, just before the battle. It is generally accepted that Melanchthon's report is a work of pure fiction - apart from any other consideration, he was 150 kms away, in Wittenberg, at the time. Although one or two elements of the speech sound plausible, much of it simply is not. But factuality was not Melanchthon's concern...
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