Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Zwingli and the Kappel Wars

Despite what is commonly believed, Zwingli was actually reluctant to be part of the 2nd Kappel War where he lost his life. It is misleading to say of him, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword” as he was the chaplain on the battle field and not armed for battle.

The following are some extracts from Oswald Myconius written in 1532.

“He (Zwingli) therefore took part in the two civil wars, each of which is named the Cappel War from the monastery called the Chapel. To the first he went of his own motion, so that he might be present at the deliberations lest anything might occur contrary to what was true and right. Most happily things fell out and it was concluded without bloodshed. About it he often related to me that in it he had encountered more malice and perverse counsel that he had encountered in his whole life he had learned from experience of from books. In the second war he was elected chaplain, and although he told himself as well As others that he would not go, nevertheless he went. His divining mind saw what the future had in store. The cause of war never met his approval, ie the cutting off of provisions (from the Forest Cantons), for he knew what kind of counsel famine gives. Albeit, to speak frankly, after this plan (to cut off provisions) had been once accepted by the reluctant Zurichers (for others whom we know well had taken it up in no bad spirit since they thought by consultation and discussion a way would be found meanwhile for pacificatory measures even though the Zurichers had preferred a war), Zwingli was not pleased, since he feared that a change would only bring them into greater contempt with their adversaries, although he did not so strenuously oppose it.

Also within fourteen days before his departure he said from the pulpit in my hearing, amid the general excitement, ‘I know, I know what all this means. It means my death, everything is done to put me out of the way…..

As, then, I saw them going out in the morning, so at night I heard the news, - the fight had been sharp yet unsuccessful, and our Zwingli had perished. It was reported that three times he had in the shock of arms been prostrated, but each time he had struggled to his feet; a fourth time he was struck under the chin by a spear, and, fallen upon his knees, said, ‘What evil is there in this? They are able, it is true, to kill the body but not the soul.’ And having so spoken he fell asleep presently in the Lord. After the defeat, during the leisure given to the enemy (for our soldiers had retired into a well guarded place) the body of Zwingli was sought for (and who told them so quickly that he had been present in the battle or had fallen?), was found, tried and condemned, cut into four parts, thrown into the fire, reduced to ashes. The enemy having retired after the third day, friends of Zwingli went to see if they could perchance find any remains of him, and lo! (strange to say) his heart presented itself from the midst of the ashes whole and uninjured. The good men were astounded, recognising the miracle indeed, but not understanding it. Wherefore, attributing everything to God, they rejoiced because this supernatural fact had made more sure the sincerity of the heart. A man whom I knew very well, in fact very intimately, came to me shortly afterwards asking whether I desired to see a portion of Zwingli’s heart which he carried with him in a casket. Because a sort of horror on account of this sudden remark pervaded my whole body I declined. Otherwise, I could have been an eye-witness of this thing also.”

Samuel Macauley Jackson “Ulrich Zwingli: Early Writings” (1999),pp21-23