1571: Hans Haslibacher, Bern Anabaptist

On this date in 1571, Anabaptist Hans Haslibacher was martyred in Bern, Switzerland.

Haslibacher (German link) joined the oft-suppressed movement in 1532 and quickly established himself as one of the most energetic proselytizers in the Emmental in Bern canton.

Condemned at last in 1571 after a lifetime of arrests, he was honored in a 32-stanza anonymous poem “Das Haslibacherlied” (German) alleging that Haslibacher prophesied that his death would be marked with three signs:

  1. His head when struck off would spring into a hat and laugh aloud;
  2. The sun would turn blood-red;
  3. The town fountain would spew blood.

According to the poem, all three prophesies came to pass … and “the hangman too was heard to say: / ‘Tis guiltless blood I’ve shed today.”

The Swiss Anabaptists are noteworthy as the confessional ancestors of the present-day Amish: the latter sect is named for 17th century Bern canton Anabaptist Jakob Ammann, who was the leader of one faction in a 1693 schism within the Swiss Anabaptist community.

Fortunately (though not for this here site) that schism emerged too late in the day for a classic religious martyrdom. Hans Haslibacher, in fact, was the last Anabaptist put to death for his faith in Bern.

One thought on “1571: Hans Haslibacher, Bern Anabaptist”

  1. Just to be pedantic: it’s actually a song rather than a poem (‘lied’ is German for song) that was composed about him. It’s set to the tune ‘Warum betrubst du dich mein Herz’ which was (and is) a popular chorale, a folk hymn sung by the Lutheran congregation, and it’s a tune often used for songs about executed criminals in the German lands. But what’s fascinating about this one is that it’s a song that proclaims his innocence – the opposite of most of these types of songs.
    Thanks so much for this!
    Una

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