(also Johan Mathis). Born circa 1500; died Apr. 5, 1534, in Münster. One of the principal leaders of the Dutch Anabaptists; head of the Münster Commune until early April 1534.
A resident of Haarlem (Netherlands), Mathijs was a baker by profession. In his teaching, the temporizing chiliasm of the Mel-chiorites was transformed into a revolutionary doctrine advocating the violent overthrow of the existing order and the establishment of the “millennial kingdom of Christ”—the embodiment of vague communist fantasies, entertained by the urban plebs and the peasantry, about a reign of social equality and freedom to be established on earth.
Mathijs sent his “apostles” everywhere to spread his teaching. He moved the center of his activities from the Netherlands to Münster (Germany), where he arrived in mid-February 1534; here, together with a group that included John of Leiden, he planned the Anabaptists’ seizure of power and the establishment of the Münster Commune. As head of the commune, Mathijs organized the defense of the city and enacted the first measures aiming at socioeconomic equality. He was killed in a skirmish with armed mercenaries of the archbishop of Münster.