On this date in 1601, former Saxon chancellor Nikolaus Krell/Crell was beheaded in Dresden as a heretic.
By the latter half of the 16th century, Lutheranism had won some official toleration in the Holy Roman Empire … but the same did not go for Calvinism, the rival reform doctrine that caught a full measure of Luther’s own ample bile.*
The “Crypto-Calvinist” movement within Lutheranism was a particularly sore spot in Krell’s own Electorate of Saxony where such exalted figures had already in the 1570s been toppled from proximity to the Elector Augustus by exposure of their Zwinglian sympathies.
He’d taken a shine to the disfavored doctrines on a youthful sojourn in Switzerland, and evidently carried them with due discretion all the way on his his pinnacle as Elector Christian I‘s chancellor.
In this position, Krell made himself unpopular for a variety of policy reasons including but not limited to his promotion of Calvinist-leading ecclesiastes, which would just be all in a day’s work for the Elector’s Hand save that Christian died young and left the Electorate to an eight-year-old son — exposing his former chief minister to the vengeance of his foes.
The ensuing regent had Krell clapped in prison almost immediately, although it took years from that point to bring him to trial and finally to the scaffold as the process refracted through the cumbersome imperial bureaucracy.
A stone marked “Kr” at the Dresden Jüdenhof marks the spot of Krell’s beheading. Von SchiDD – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0
* A notable bone of contention: the purported “Real Presence” (not merely symbolic presence) of Christ in the Eucharist, a Catholic doctrine which Luther also accepted but Zwingli rejected.