Michael and Margaretha Sattler: Anabaptist Martyrs
In keeping with my Reformation Protestantism theme, I often write about Lutheran and Calvinist figures, yet I also intend to occasionally feature articles on the Anabaptist faith. This belief system, too, developed in the early 1500s as a direct result of the Protestant Reformation. Unfortunately, Protestants and Catholics both found it impossible to reconcile with these “radical” believers, thus the Anabaptists were universally disliked. Like the French Huguenots, the Anabaptists understood the culture of martyrdom. It was a fate they daily expected. Any families who helped Anabaptists hide or escape were treated harshly. I found myself interested in the story of one particular man, Michael Sattler. Here is why.
Michael Sattler was a German born sometime around 1490. I do not know his physical appearance, though I believe that is a key element of assigning identities to those who have gone before. At first glance, Michael and his wife Margaretha seem to parallel Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora in a very interesting way. Michael was once a monk and Margaretha was once a nun. Like Martin, Michael grew disillusioned with the monastic lifestyle and was stunned by the hypocrisy he witnessed. However, the similarities end there. Michael fled to Zurich in Switzerland so he might live his life freely even though he disagreed with major theological issues of the day. The Peasants’ War might have been another reason for his hasty decision to leave the monastery.
One of Michael Sattler’s defining differences was that he had strong opinions against infant baptism. Both Catholics and Protestants of the sixteenth century believed it was necessary, while Anabaptists and likeminded individuals preferred baptism when a child or adult was spiritually and mentally mature enough to understand the choice they were making. Anabaptists also rejected governmental assignments and other statutes regarding the formation of a pure church. It did not take long for Michael and Margaretha to become suspect. In 1527, it came time for Michael to make his testimony. He underwent various torments too heinous to describe and yet continued to pray and lament for those who wounded him.
As he was about to burn at the stake, he showed no fear. Some of his last words were: “Almighty, eternal God, thou art the way and the truth; because I have not been shown to be in error, I will with Thy help on this day testify to the truth and seal it with my blood.” He even motioned to those watching his fate, reassuring them he remained unafraid and that the laurel of victory would soon be his. The date was May 17, 1527. Martin Luther had abandoned his monastic strivings and had been married just a few years. John Calvin was only eighteen years old.
Margaretha Sattler learned of Michael’s death with a heavy heart, but also with the knowledge that he was with God and no harm could touch him now. She herself underwent a round of torture before her fate was decided. She was forcibly drowned just a few days after her husband’s death. This was the end chosen for Anabaptist women who refused to recant. The men, Michael’s companions, were burned just as he had been. Due to these Anabaptist believers’ courage, faith, and confidence in God’s will, what their enemies meant to be a horrendous black mark on their record was instead a test of endurance and an overwhelming victory. They have been remembered as witnesses of the finest caliber. May they be remembered always.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved