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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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