Archive for November, 2017

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we have been studying about the wives who supported the Reformers.

In Part 1 we found that Martin Luther claimed that he would not have done so many things without his Katy. John Calvin learned more graciousness and beauty from his wife Idelette.

In Part 2 we learned about wives who carried on the work of their husbands after they became widows. Kahtarina Schutz Zell wrote books and even preached. Wibrandis Rosenblatt, widowed four times, added to the ministry of her Reformation husbands by caring for the poor and the victims of the religious wars.

This week we turn to two other pious wives of the Reformation – Anna Reinhard Zwingli and Anna Adlischweiler Bullinger.

Anna Reinhard (1484 – 1538)

Anna Reinhard Zwingli was actually the first Reformation wife. Like Idelette de Bure, Anna was a young widow when she met Huldrych Zwingli. Her first marriage to John von Knonau ended tragically when he died from poor health leaving her with two children, a son and a daughter. It was her son, Gerold, who actually brought Anna and Huldrych together.

Zwingli, as a priest, came to Zurich in late 1518. Anna and her children would go to hear Zwingli preach. Zwingli noticed that Anna was one of his most attentive listeners. He also noticed that Gerold was a bright and gifted boy and Zwingli took him under his wing. He tutored Gerold until he was around 11 years old and then sent him to Basel where he continued his education. Gerold did well and rose to prominence when he moved to Zurich.

During this time Anna and Huldrych fell in love. They wanted to marry, but priests were not allowed to marry in those days. Anna and Huldrych married in secret in 1522.  When it was discovered it caused a great sensation.

Zwingli addressed Anna as his dearest wife. She was a model minister’s wife, refusing to wear jewelry so that she could feed the poor instead.

All through the hard years when Zwingli was translating the Bible into the Swiss German tongue, Anna stayed up late caring for her husband. He would often read to her from the translation and it became one of Anna’s favorite things. She never tired of hearing the stories from the Bible in her native tongue. When the Bible was completed in 1529 (several years before Luther’s translation appeared in 1534) Zwingli gave Anna a copy. It was her favorite book.

Along with her many hours of toil caring for her husband, Anna also entertained the visitors and friends who came by. Her home was always open to them. Even the town dignitaries praised Anna and Huldrych called her “an angel wife”.

In October, 1531 the Roman Catholic army approached Zurich. Hard as it seems to us today, the people were willing to fight a war for their religious beliefs. Zwingli was ordered to go along with the Reformer’s army as the chaplain. It was a tearful parting for Anna and Huldrych. They prayed together and embraced for what would be the last time. Anna said, “We shall see each other again if the Lord will. His will be done. And what will you bring back when your come?” Zwingli replied, “Blessing after dark night.” They were his last words to her.

The Roman Catholics won the battle and many Reformers died or had to flee. Anna lost Huldrych, her son Gerold, a brother, a cousin, and a fatally wounded son-in-law. Anna could not even give her husband a decent burial because his body had been quartered and burned and its ashes desecrated. Sorrow upon sorrow was heaped on her and yet she was seen at prayer soon after turning to God for comfort.  It was because of this that Anna has been called “the weeping mother of the Reformation.”

Several good friends cared for her and her remaining children. Martin Bucer (Remember him from the last post? He married Wibrandis Rosenblatt in 1542) offered help for her and her family. But it was the Bullingers (see post below) who took Anna in and gave her a new home. Zwingli had left no money for Anna. Heinrich Bullinger provided for Anna’s family, even seeing to the education of the children.

We don’t know much about Anna’s later years. Her oldest daughter, Regula grew into a beautiful and pious woman. Regula married Rudolph Gualther who later became the successor to Zwingli and Bullinger as the head of the Zurich church.

And so like mother, like daughter. Both women are still remembered today for their piety and many Christian graces. Anna was a great example for the many Christian wives to follow.


Anna Adlischweiler (1504 – 1564)

Anna Adlischweiler was a nun like Katherine von Bora.  Anna’s father had been killed in battle when she was eight years old. Her mother was poor and in bad health and so she put Anna in a convent. The convent at Oedenbach was also a hospital so Anna’s mother moved in with her.

Around 1522 the council at Zurich decided to send Zwingli into all of the convents to preach the Gospel to the Roman Catholics. Many of the nuns joyfully received the Gospel. Of course they left the convents to get married or find another living. In Oedenbach all but two left, Anna and her sister. Actually Anna became a believer but would not leave so that she could care for her mother.

One day the chaplain of the convent, Leo Juda, brought a young man by the name of Heinrich Bullinger with him when he visited Anna. Heinrich fell in love with the gracious and pious Anna. Heinrich proposed to Anna in a letter. It is actually the oldest existing love letter from a Reformer. It is very long but I will quote part of it from James I. Good’s book on Famous Women of the Reformed Church.

At length in his letter, Heinrich honestly tells all to Anna – he describes his physical and his financial conditions. He then makes his proposal:

But why are many words necessary! The sum of it all is, that the greatest, surest treasure that you will find in me, is fear of God, piety, fidelity and love, which with joy I will show you, and labor, earnestness and industry, which will not be wanting in temporal things. Concerning high nobility and many thousand gulden, I can say nothing to you. But I know that what is necessary to us, will not be wanting. For Paul says, “We brought nothing into the world, and we will take nothing out. Therefore, if we have clothing and food it is enough.”

Ten days later Heinrich received Anna’s reply of acceptance. Anna was very happy, but her mother was opposed to this marriage. Anna postponed the wedding so she could care for her mother until her mother died in 1529. Then in August, 1529, Anna and Heinrich were married.

Much had happened during the years that Anna was in the convent. As mentioned above, war had started. The defeat of Zurich left many Reformers dead. Others fled to safer places. During this war Zwingli, the pastor of the church at Zurich died leaving his wife Anna a widow with children. Heinrich and Anna Bullinger took the Zwingli’s in and gave them a home.

Anna not only cared for all of these others but she and Heinrich had babies almost every year. She eventually had six sons and five daughters. She also took care of her in-laws. Like Katherine von Bora Luther, Anna entertained some of Bullinger’s students.

On top of all of this, in 1556 as a result of the religious wars, 116 refugees fled to Zurich. Anna and Heinrich cared for eighty of them. Bullinger’s salary was not large and Anna often wondered where they would find the money to care for all of the refugees. Somehow she managed; the Lord always provided.

Like Anna Zwingli, Anna Bullinger received the reputation of a ministering angel. In addition to all of the refugees, other prominent foreigners came to her home – Calvin, Farel, Bucer, and Capito.

Anna distributed food, drink, medicine, and clothing to the huts of the poor. Like other Reformed wives, Anna earned the title of “Mother”.

Ever thoughtful of others, putting their needs before her own, Anna nursed her husband during the plague. He got better, but she succumbed. When she died in 1564 all of Zurich mourned for her.

Anna Adlischweiler Bullinger joins the list of the wonderful Wives and Mothers of the Reformation –

Katherine von Bora Luther

Idelette de Bure Calvin

Katharina Schutz Zell

Wibrandis Rosenblatt Bucer

Anna Reinhard Zwingli

We thank the Lord for their graciousness, faithfulness, and godly character.




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Churches all over the world have been celebrating the 500th anniversary of one of the most momentous times in history – The Reformation. Historians often credit the beginning of the Reformation with the nailing of his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517.

Last week we posted the stories of the wives of two of the most famous Reformers – Katherine Von Bora Luther and Idelette de Bure Calvin. Luther and Calvin both praised their wives and thanked God for the blessings these remarkable women were to them in their lives.

Speaking of pastor’s wives, two other women made contributions to the Reformation as well. Katharina Schutz Zell was known as the “mother vicar of pastor’s wives”. A really interesting woman was Wilibrandis Rosenblatt who was the wife of four men, three of which were pastor’s!!!!

Here are their fascinating stories:

Katharina Schutz Zell (1497 – 1562?)

Katharina Schutz, wife of Matthew Zell, is called the “mother vicar of pastor’s wives”.

Katharina married as a young woman; she was 20 years younger than her husband.

When Katharina married Matthew in 1525 the Reformation had begun. The Zells ministered as a team to their congregation. Katharina was a brilliant woman. She had the ability to put Scriptural truths into words for the common people. Katharina became the Reformation’s leading female author. Martin Bucer said that Katharina was “a trifle imperious” but he also said that she was “God-fearing and courageous as a hero.”

In addition to her writing, Katharina enjoyed a happy family life. Her parents and siblings lived nearby. The family was overjoyed when Katharina gave birth to a child in 1526. But sadly the child died in a few months. Katharina struggled to cope with the loss. Matthew and good friends, like Bucer, tried to comfort her. Katharina gave birth again in 1531 but this child died within two years. Katharina began to worry that God was punishing her. She did come to realize that God gives challenges to his children for their spiritual growth. She could rely on her own experiences to sympathize with others. And there were plenty to sympathize with.

During the German Peasants’ War refugees poured into Strasbourg. Katharina helped to organize Strasburg to deal with 3,000 refugees for a period of 6 months. Katharina opened her own home to care for as many as eighty at one time. Katharina cared for these refugees and wrote to their wives, encouraging them to stand firm in their faith.

At various times, Katharina also hosted other Reformers at her home – John Calvin, Oecolampadius, and Zwingli. During a period of persecution for the Reformers, she hid Bucer and Fagius in her home for several weeks until they could escape to England. Like Bucer said, she was a very courageous woman!

Katharina traveled frequently with her husband, unusual in that day. She showed tolerance and concern for Anabaptists and made frequent visits to those who were imprisoned.

Katharina was widowed in 1548, and spoke at Matthew’s funeral. Bucer sent her to Basel to recover from her grief in the home of Myconius, and then to Zurich. When she felt better emotionally, she returned to Strasburg. Her physical health was failing, but not her zeal.

In 1558 she cared for a Magistrate stricken with leprosy, and a nephew with syphilis. She gave an address at a funeral of a wife of a follower of Schwenckfeld shortly before her own death in 1562. There were no other pastors at the funeral so she just did it herself.

Katharina was praised for developing women’s ministries. She also published a book of Psalms for women to sing. She was constantly entertaining and worshipping in her home.

Katharina produced many other works. Some samples of her writings are: On the Priesthood of Believers (1534) which contains an important, relevant truth – “Teach your household to know that they do not serve human beings but God when they faithfully keep house, obey, cook, wash dishes, wipe up and tend children, and such-like work which serves human life, and that they can also turn toward God with the voice of song. And teach them that in doing this, they please God much better than any priest, monk, or nun in the incomprehensible choir song.”

On Christ Alone and Grace Alone (1548 and 1553) – She wrote – “Christ has power to save us from sins, death, and hell, and to give us eternal life. In Him is all salvation, and in no other creature or work in heaven and earth, for no one comes to the Father, or dares to think of coming to Him except through this living Son of God, who should be honored as the Father is. The one who has Him has everything; He is the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6, 5:23)

The date of Katharina’s death is uncertain. A letter survives dating to March, 1562. But sometime before she died she had written a letter to a friend summarizing her faith in Christ:

“That is my glory . . . in God and Christ, not in myself. I glory that God the Father gave me the gift of faith in His Son (which is not given to everyone), solely out of His gracious love, without any ability or merit on my part.” (Eph. 2:4-8, 19)

Many thousands came to thank the Lord for Katharina’s faithful service in caring for them. Today we can still be blessed by her writings.


Wibrandis Rosenblatt

One of the many women who had a significant impact on the Reformation was Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504 – 1564). Wibrandis was such a gifted and compassionate woman that four men were ready to marry her in order to have someone who was so intelligent and diligent as a life companion.

Wibrandis lived in Basel, Switzerland. She was the daughter of a knight who was frequently off fighting the Emperor’s wars. She lived in the exciting and challenging times of the Reformation.

Because she had four husbands, all Reformers, she has sometimes been jokingly called “The Merry Widow of the Reformation”.

But, Wibrandis deserves much more respect as a woman who supported the goals of the Reformers. Obviously at least four men noticed her strength and godly character and considered her companionship to be very valuable to them in their lives and work. Each one of Wibrandis’s husbands are famous as Reformers. These great men of God knew that their life’s work would be blessed by having such a wife.

Here are the four husbands:
First, Wibrandis married Ludwig Keller around 1524.This marriage lasted about two years. Wibrandis was widowed in 1526 for the first time. During this marriage Wibrandis had one child.

Next, she married Johannes Oecolampadius. Oecolampadius was an older man, probably around 45 years old. He was sickly, but they had three children together before he died leaving her a widow again in 1531.

After this, Wibrandis came to the notice of Wolfgang Capito who had been widowed himself and was still grieving. He took comfort in such a godly woman as Wibrandis and they were married in 1532.  They had five children together before he succumbed to the plague and died in 1541.

Lastly, Wibrandis married the very famous Martin Bucer in 1542. During Reformation times life was often dangerous. Martin and Wibrandis Bucer had to flee to England at one time to save their lives. During this marriage Wibrandis had two more children and they also adopted a child. In 1549 Martin died leaving her a widow for the fourth time.

Wibrandis moved back to Strasbourg with her family. She then relocated to Basel where one of her sons was studying theology. The plague was still rampant and it claimed her as one of its victims in 1564. She was buried next to her second husband. Wibrandis is remembered not only for being such a fine and gifted wife and mother, but also for her years of hospitality. She was always willing to open her home to the less fortunate. In addition to caring for her large family she nursed her mother.

She is truly a model for Christian wives everywhere.



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