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Who was Huldrych Zwingli?

It popped up on one of my history feeds today that Huldrych Zwingli was killed in battle in 1531 against Catholic forces.

Swiss Pike Phalanx

The question for many is who was Huldrych Zwingli and why was he fighting with the Catholics?

The Swiss Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli

Zwingli was a Swiss Reformer, a pastor, a theologian and , a contemporary of Martin Luther who deviated significantly from Luther’s theology, especially regarding the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli became instrumental in pioneering what would later be called Reformed Theology, a theology further developed by the more well-known John Calvin in Swiss Geneva.

Reformation times were war-like times. Breaking with the papacy was never a simple matter and rarely settled peaceably. When the Reformation took root in Switzerland and parts of Germany whole areas became Protestant. Other areas remained loyal to Rome.

In those days church and state were wedded in ways the average American cannot understand. If one became a Protestant then one became an enemy of the state if the state remained Catholic. This also worked in reverse. And if you were anabaptist, all the other camps considered you an enemy of the church and state.

The reason the US has a 1st Amendment to the Constitution is to avoid unholy alliances between church and state and guarantee freedom of religion.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Such was  not the case in Switzerland where some cantons turned Protestant while others remained Catholic. It probably was a matter of time before the two sides clashed in a war over what religion would prevail in Switzerland.

Swiss citizens all served in the army, Catholic or Protestant, so when the time came the Swiss Reformer Zwingli picked up pike or halberd and took his place in the Swiss phalanx where he died facing a similar Swiss Catholic pike phalanx.

Zwingli’s legacy, perhaps because his life was cut short, is largely based on his desire that the Bible be the church’s final authority rather than pope or kings. In that he was less famous than Luther or Calvin who believed the same and as such Zwingli is known as “third man of the Protestant Reformation.

As a point aside the Vatican Swiss Guard sports a traditional uniform based on the Swiss armies of the 16th Century.

Vatican Swiss Guard

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2 comments on “Who was Huldrych Zwingli?

  1. [...] Who was Huldrych Zwingli? (broeder10.wordpress.com) [...]

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