CAPITO, WOLFGANG FABRICIUS: Reformer
at Strasburg; b. at Hagenau) 16 m. n. of Strasburg)
1478; d. at Strasburg Nov., 1541. He was the
son of a blacksmith named Koepfel, whence the
Latin name Capito. Having passed the schools at
Pforzheim and Ingolstadt, he studied at Freiburg
first medicine, then law, and finally theology. In
1512 he became parish priest at Bruchsal and there
made the acquaintance of Ăcolampadius and
Pellican. Called to Basel in 1515 as preacher and
professor, he became intimate with the humanists,
including Erasmus, and, abandoning scholasticism.
betook himself to the study of the Bible. He
published the Psalter in the original (1516), became
personally acquainted with Zwingli and from
1518 corresponded with Luther. Contrary to
all expectation, he was appointed in 1519 chaplain
to Albert, elector and archbishop of Mainz. For
a time he tried to mediate with humanistic liberality
between the elector and Luther, but in 1522
he was brought over completely to the cause of the
Reformation, and resigned his position at Mainz.
In May, 1523, he went to Strasburg and as provost
of St. Thomas (a position obtained by the favor of
Leo X.) preached in accordance with his conviction.
In 1524 he married and became pastor of the Jung-St. Petergemeinde. From this time on, he belonged,
with Butzer and the burgomaster Jacob Sturm,
to the leaders of the Strasburg Reformation. In
(1527 and 1529) he prepared a
catechism, which, by its peculiar arrangement and
characteristic treatment of the matter, forms a
noteworthy pendant to Luther's contemporaneous
smaller catechism. With Butzer, Capito prepared
the Confessio Tetrapolitana
(1530). His most important
reformatory work is the Berner Synodus,
the result of the synod held at Bern in 1532, a kind
of church-discipline and pastoral instruction, distinguished
by apostolic power and unction, great
simplicity, and practical wisdom. He took an
active part in Butzer's efforts to bring together the
Evangelicals of Germany, France, and Switzerland.
He also had part in bringing about the Wittenberg
Concordia of 1536. Toward the Anabaptists and
other sectaries who disturbed the church at Strasburg
he was more friendly and confiding than Butzer,
and for a time sided with them, thus destroying the
good understanding between himself and Butzer.
But in 1534 he became convinced of the necessity
of stricter measures against the Anabaptists. Characteristic
of Capito were not only his mildness and
large-heartedness, but also a certain timidity and
uncertainty in his theological and ecclesiastical
position. However, this was not due to diplomatic
opportunism, but to a sincere repugnance to unfruitful
theological controversy and a religious
individuality which had more regard to the inner
possession of the fruits of salvation than to a
dogmatic definition of the doctrine of salvation.
He died of the plague after having attended the
Diet at Regensburg.
J. W. Baum, Capito and Butzer, Elberfeld,
1860; ADB iii. 772-775; A. Baum, Magistrat und Reformation
in Strassburg bis 1529, Strasburg, 1887; C. Gerbert,
Geschichte der Strassburger Sektenbewegung . . .
1524-1534, ib. 1889; A. Ernst and J. Adam, Katechetische
Geschichte des Elsasses, pp. 22-36, ib. 1897; S. M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, passim, New York, 1903; J. Ficker,
Thesaurus Baumianus, pp. 52-57, Strasburg, 1905; A.
Hulshof, Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg
van 1525 tot 1557, Amsterdam, 1905.