Posts Tagged ‘Wives of the Reformation’

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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