Zwingli, Huldreich

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Zwingli, Huldreich or Ulrich

(ho͝old`rīkh tsvĭng`lē, o͝ol`rĭkh), 1484–1531, Swiss Protestant reformer.

Education of a Reformer

Zwingli received a thorough classical education in Basel, Bern, and Vienna, and was considerably influenced by the humanist precepts of Erasmus. His devotion to learning and his passion for individual freedom, developed through contact with the self-governing Swiss cantons, were important influences in his life. In 1506 he was ordained and appointed pastor of Glarus; he also served (1513, 1515) as chaplain to Swiss mercenaries in Italy. In 1516 he became people's vicar at Einsiedeln. While there Zwingli began to formulate the ideas that were to lead him to renounce the church of Rome.

Unlike Martin LutherLuther, Martin,
1483–1546, German leader of the Protestant Reformation, b. Eisleben, Saxony, of a family of small, but free, landholders. Early Life and Spiritual Crisis

Luther was educated at the cathedral school at Eisenach and at the Univ.
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, Zwingli experienced no acute religious crisis—he became a reformer through his studies. Later he was to adopt Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone, but Zwingli's independent study of Scriptures had already led him to question the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. When he became vicar at the Grossmünster of Zürich in 1518 he found the democratic institutions of the community amenable to his beliefs. In 1519 he successfully opposed the dispensing of indulgences in the city and soon was preaching against clerical celibacy, monasticism, and many other church practices.

Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation

The real beginning of the Reformation in Switzerland was Zwingli's lectures on the New Testament in 1519. Armed with Erasmus' 1516 edition of the Greek text he discarded scholastic commentaries and proclaimed the sole authority of the word of God as revealed in Scriptures. With his expression of opposition to Lenten observances in 1522 the Reformation in Zürich was well under way. In the same year, with the publication of Architeles, he made clear his belief in freedom from the control of the Roman hierarchy. A public disputation with a papal representative was held before the general council at Zürich in 1523; Zwingli presented his doctrines in 67 theses. The council approved the Zwinglian position and instructed all priests in the canton to comply.

The new practices were rapidly put into effect—organs were destroyed, images were removed from churches, priests were allowed to marry, monasticism was abolished, the liturgy was simplified, and the sacrament of communion reduced to a commemorative feast. In 1524, Zwingli publicly celebrated his marriage, which he had illegally contracted two years previously. In 1525 the Catholic Mass was replaced by a reformed service at Zwingli's church in Zürich.

Zwingli became embroiled with the Lutherans in a doctrinal dispute concerning the nature of the Eucharist (see Lord's SupperLord's Supper,
Protestant rite commemorating the Last Supper. In the Reformation the leaders generally rejected the traditional belief in the sacrament as a sacrifice and as an invisible miracle of the actual changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ
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). Philip of Hesse endeavored to reconcile these differences within the Protestant ranks by calling the disputants together at the Marburg Colloquy (1529). Zwingli and Johannes OecolampadiusOecolampadius, Johannes
, 1482–1531, German Protestant reformer, associate of Huldreich Zwingli in the Reformation in Switzerland. He was in 1516 a preacher at Basel, where he worked with Erasmus on his New Testament.
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 and Luther and Philip Melanchthon were present, but no agreement was reached.

Although Bern adopted Zwingli's reforms in 1528, and Basel and St. Gall soon after, he faced agitation by the Anabaptists, who wanted even more radical reform, and the armed resistance of the Forest Cantons that had remained loyal to Rome. When Zürich imposed a trade embargo on these cantons they retaliated with war (1531), and at the battle of Kappel, Zwingli was killed. Zwingli's work in Zürich was carried on by his colleague and son-in-law, Heinrich BullingerBullinger, Heinrich
, 1504–75, Swiss Protestant reformer. After the death of Ulrich Zwingli in 1531, Bullinger became pastor of the principal church in Zürich and a leader of the reformed party in Switzerland.
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, but the Reformation in Switzerland passed into the hands of John CalvinCalvin, John,
1509–64, French Protestant theologian of the Reformation, b. Noyon, Picardy. Early Life

Calvin early prepared for an ecclesiastical career; from 1523 to 1528 he studied in Paris.
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. Calvin built his comprehensive theological system partly on the groundwork laid by Zwingli, but he resisted Zwingli's more radical teaching on baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Consensus Tigurinus (1549) marks the departure of the Swiss Reformation from Zwinglian to Calvinist doctrine.


See his selected writings, ed. by H. W. Pipkin (2 vol., 1984); biographies by J. H. Rilliet (tr. 1964) and G. R. Potter (1984); bibliography by H. W. Pipkin (1972).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zwingli, Huldreich


Born Jan. 1, 1484, in Wildhaus; died Oct. 11, 1531, near Kappel. Swiss religious reformer and political figure. Founder of Zwinglianism, one of the burgher-bourgeois Protestant movements.

Zwingli was the son of a village magistrate. He was one of the most highly educated humanists of his time. Zwingli’s reforming work took place in Zürich, where he was appointed people’s priest in 1519, and was closely connected with the intensified sociopolitical struggle in the city. Progressive townspeople, who were associated with the new capitalist attitudes, the guilds, and the local peasantry opposed the patricians, the nobility, and the leadership of the city. Expressing the interests of the former classes, Zwingli developed an integrated system for the reform of the church and the political order. Zwingli’s religious teachings had much in common with those of Luther, but Zwingli was more decisive than Luther in his opposition to the ceremonial aspects of Catholicism. He explained the sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism, for example, rationally, considering them symbols rather than mysteries. Zwingli opposed the republicanism of his church to the princely Lutheran Reformation. He advocated the possession of small holdings and condemned usury, serfdom, and the use of mercenaries.

In 1522, Zwingli openly broke with the pope, abandoned his priestly calling, and married. In the following year he emerged the victor in his dispute with the Catholic Church, and his 67 articles (1522) became the basis of Zwinglianism. In 1523, Zwingli began implementing his reform of the church and the political order in Zürich: monasteries were closed, images and relics were removed from churches, and monastery property was confiscated and turned over to the needs of charity and education. In addition, authority in the city passed from the oligarchical small council to the great council, in which the guilds dominated; the use of mercenaries and the acceptance of foreign pensions were made punishable by death. Zwinglianism also won out in Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen, Glarus, and St. Gallen which together with Zürich joined in the Christian Civic Alliance.

Zwingli, however, not only failed to draw strength from the peasant movement that arose in Zürich in 1524, but through minor concessions to the authorities accompanied by repression he brought about its elimination and instigated a persecution of the Anabaptists. Zwingli insisted on retaining the large tithe, gave his church a strict organizational form, and made the church dependent on the civil authorities. As a result, Zwingli weakened the mass support for his reforms. In a war with the Catholic forest cantons, the Zürich forces were defeated and Zwingli was killed in a battle at Kappel.


Sämtliche Werke, vols. 1–14. Leipzig-Zürich, 1904–68.


Prozorovskaia, B. D. Ul’rikh Tsvingli. St. Petersburg, 1892.
Köhler, W. Huldrych Zwingli, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1954.
Farner, O. Huldrych Zwingli. vols. 1–4. Zürich, 1943–60.


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