John of Leiden

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John of Leiden,

c.1509–1536, Dutch AnabaptistAnabaptists
[Gr.,=rebaptizers], name applied, originally in scorn, to certain Protestant sects holding that infant baptism is not authorized in Scripture and that baptism should be administered to believers only.
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 leader. His original name was Beuckelszoon, Beuckelzoon, Bockelszoon, Bockelson, Beukels, or Buckholdt. John of Leiden was attracted to the extreme left of the early Reformation movement through the influence of Thomas MünzerMünzer or Müntzer, Thomas
, c.1489–1525, radical German Protestant reformer. During his studies at Leipzig (1518) Münzer fell under the influence of Martin Luther.
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. In 1533 he joined the Anabaptists and, as a follower of Johann Matthyszoon (Matthiesen) moved to Münster. There in 1534 the Anabaptists took up arms and deposed the civil and religious authorities of the town. After Matthyszoon's death in the siege, John of Leiden assumed leadership and set up a theocracy in the new Zion. Soon John declared himself "king," with Bernard Knipperdollinck second in command; during his brief and arbitrary rule general lawlessness prevailed, polygamy was legalized, and property communized. When the siege to recover the town, led by the expelled prince bishop, was successful in 1535, the leaders of the new "kingdom of Zion" were barbarously tortured and in the following year executed.
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John of Leiden


(also, Jan Beukelszon). Born circa 1509 near Leiden; died Jan. 25, 1536, in Münster; one of the leaders of the Dutch Anabaptists and head of the Münster Commune from April 1534 to June 1535.

John of Leiden’s father, Jan Beukel (hence the name Beukelszon), was an assistant to a village elder and his mother a West-phalian peasant. He was trained as a tailor in Leiden, and his work later took him to England, Flanders, and Portugal. In 1535, John became associated with Jan Mathijs, a leader of the Dutch Anabaptists, who baptized him and made him one of his “apostles.” On Jan. 13, 1534, he came to Münster on Mathijs’ instructions, and the next month he and other Anabaptists gained control of the city. John became Mathijs’ closest associate in Münster, and after the latter’s death on Apr. 5, 1534, he headed the Council of 12 Elders, the commune’s chief governing body. John was later proclaimed “king of the New Zion” (Münster) and held unlimited power in the besieged city. He introduced a number of measures intended to establish social equality, organized a brilliant defense of the city, and attempted to spread the rebellion to other cities of Westphalia and northern Holland. On June 25, 1535, forces of the bishop of Münster seized the city; John was taken prisoner and later executed.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.