« Prev The Death of Zwingli Next »

§ 47. The Death of Zwingli.


Mörikofer, II. 414–420.—Egli, quoted on p. 179.—A. Erichson: Zwingli’s Tod und dessen Beurtheilung durch Zeitgenosen. Strassburg, 1883.


Zwingli himself died on the battlefield, in the prime of manhood, aged forty-seven years, nine months, and eleven days, and with him his brother-in-law, his stepson, his son-in-law, and his best friends. He made no use of his weapons, but contented himself with cheering the soldiers.284284    "Zwingli blieb in nächster Nähe bei den Kämpfenden stehen, machte aber nach dem Zeugniss von Freund und Feind von seinen Waffen keinen Gebrauch." Mörikofer, II. 417. "Brave men," he said (according to Bullinger), "fear not! Though we must suffer, our cause is good. Commend your souls to God: he can take care of us and ours. His will be done."

Soon after the battle had begun, he stooped down to console a dying soldier, when a stone was hurled against his head by one of the Waldstätters and prostrated him to the ground. Rising again, he received several other blows, and a thrust from a lance. Once more he uplifted his head, and, looking at the blood trickling from his wounds, he exclaimed: What matters this misfortune? They may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul." These were his last words.285285    According to Osw. Myconius (Vita H. Zwingli, ch. 12), who gives the report of an eyewitness: "Prostratum, ajebat, prementium multitudine jam tertio, sed in pedes semper restitisse: quarto fixum cuspide sub mento et in genua prolapsum dixisse: ’Ecquid hoc infortunii? Age, corpus quidem occidere possunt, animam non possunt.’ Atque his dictis mox obdormivisse in Domino."

He lay for some time on his back under a pear-tree (called the Zwingli-Baum) in a meadow, his hands folded as in prayer, and his eyes steadfastly turned to heaven.286286    Bullinger, III. 136: "und verharet mitt sinem Gesicht zu stunen am hymel." According to Tschudi, he lay on his face. Salat also says ("Archiv," etc., I. 310):, Zwingli ward funden ligend uf sim angsicht." But this is not necessarily a contradiction, as the dying man may have changed his position.

The stragglers of the victorious army pounced like hungry vultures upon the wounded and dying. Two of them asked Zwingli to confess to a priest, or to call upon the dear saints for their intercession. He shook his head twice, and kept his eyes still fixed on the heavens above. Then Captain Vokinger of Unterwalden, one of the foreign mercenaries, against whom the Reformer had so often lifted his voice, recognized him by the torch-light, and killed him with the, sword, exclaiming, "Die, obstinate heretic."287287    Salat says that the man who did this cowardly act, was "ein redlicher alter Christ," but does not name Vokinger (also spelt Fuckinger, or Fugginger).

There he lay during the night. On the next morning the people gathered around the dead, and began to realize the extent of the victory. Everybody wanted to see Zwingli. Chaplain Stocker of Zug, who knew him well, made the remark that his face had the same fresh and vigorous expression as when he kindled his hearers with the fire of eloquence from the pulpit. Hans Schönbrunner, an ex-canon of Fraumünster in Zürich, as he passed the corpse of the Reformer, with Chaplain Stocker, burst into tears, and said, "Whatever may have been thy faith, thou hast been an honest patriot. May God forgive thy sins."288288    Mörikofer, II. 418. He voiced the sentiment of the better class of Catholics.

But the fanatics and foreign mercenaries would not even spare the dead. They decreed that his body should be quartered for treason and then burnt for heresy, according to the Roman and imperial law. The sheriff of Luzern executed the barbarous sentence. Zwingli’s ashes were mingled with the ashes of swine, and scattered to the four winds of heaven.289289    According to an uncertain and improbable tradition, the heart was, as it were, miraculously saved, and brought to Zürich, but thrown into the river to prevent idolatry. Myconius (Vita Zw., c. 12) reports: "Hostibus digressis, post diem tertium accedunt amantes Zwinglii, si quid reliquiarum eius offenderent, et ecce cor (mirabile dictu) se offert e mediis cineribus integrum et illaesum ... Venit non multo postea vir mihi notissimus, sed et familiarissimus [Thomas Plater?], rogans an portionem cordis cupiam videre Zwingliani, quod secum ferat in loculo: quia propter sermonem hunc inopinatum horror quidam totum corpus pervaserat, negaram, alioquin et huius rei possem esse testis oculatus."

The news of the disaster at Cappel spread terror among the citizens of Zürich. "Then," says Bullinger, "arose a loud and horrible cry of lamentation and tears, bewailing and groaning."

On no one fell the sudden stroke with heavier weight than on the innocent widow of Zwingli: she had lost, on the same day, her husband, a son, a brother, a son-in-law, a brother-in-law, and her most intimate friends. She remained alone with her weeping little children, and submitted in pious resignation to the mysterious will of God. History is silent about her grief; but it has been vividly and touchingly described in the Zürich dialect by Martin Usteri in a poem for the tercentenary Reformation festival in Zürich (1819).290290    Der armen Frow Zwinglin Klag, published in the "Alpenrosen," Bern, 1820, p. 273; in Zwingli’s Werke, II. B. 281; also in Christoffel, I. 413, and Mörikofer, II. 517. After giving vent to her woe, Anna Zwingli resorts to the Bible, which was her husband’s comfort, and was to be hers. I select the first and the last of the fourteen stanzas of this poem, which Mörikofer numbers among "the imperishable monuments of the great man."
   1. "O Herre Gott, wie heftig shluog

   Mich dynes Zornes Ruthen!

   Du armes Herz, ist’s nit genuog,

   Kannst du noch nicht verbluoten?

   Ich ring die Hand:

   Käm’ doch myn End!

   Wer nag myn Elendfassen?

   Wer misst die Not ?

   Myn Gott, Myn Gott,

   Hast du mich gar verlassen ?

   14. "Komm du, o Buoch du warst syn Hort,

   Syn Trost in allem Uebel.

   Ward er verfolgt mit That und Wort,

   So griff er nach der Bibel,

   Fand Hilf bei ihr.

   Herr, zeige mir

   Die Hilf in Jesu Namen!

   Gib Muoth und Stärk

   Zum schweren Werk

   Dem schwachen Wybe! Amen ."

Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, took the afflicted widow into his house, and treated her as a member of his family. She survived her husband seven years, and died in peace.

A few steps from the pear-tree where Zwingli breathed his last, on a slight elevation, in view of the old church and abbey of Cappel, of the Rigi, Pilatus, and the more distant snow-capped Alps, there arises a plain granite monument, erected in 1838, mainly by the exertions of Pastor Esslinger, with suitable Latin and German inscriptions.291291    Mrs. Meta Heusser (d. 1876), the most gifted Swiss poetess, who lived a few miles from Cappel, wrote two beautiful poems for the dedication of the monument, Oct. 11, 1838, which are printed in the first series of her Lieder, pp. 189 sqq. I quote the first stanza of the second poem:—
   "Die Stätte, wo ein Heldenauge brach

   Ist theuer nach den späten Enkelsöhnen;

   Es schweigt der Todtenklage banges Ach,

   Verschlungen von des Sieges Jubeltönen."

A few weeks after Zwingli, his friend Oecolampadius died peacefully in his home at Basel (Nov. 24, 1531). The enemies spread the rumor that he had committed suicide. They deemed it impossible that an arch-heretic could die a natural death.292292    See above, § 31, pp. 115 sq., and the note on p. 188.



« Prev The Death of Zwingli Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |