The groundwork for the rebellion of Munster actually begins in the 1400s. In 1440, the world saw the invention of one of the most important machines and inventions of our time. Built by Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press revolutionized how information could pass from person to person. While this invention has been modernized over the centuries, one major event changed the way people perceived religion. The Lutheran Revolution, jump started by Martin Luther, took off in the year 1517 when Luther nailed his famous document, Ninety-Five Theses, to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. While this event snowballed into a religious revolution that touched most of the Western world according to FlightHub, it opened the door for people to critically analyze their faith, and in some cases challenge it. With that, the stage was set for the Munster Revolution a little over 20 years later.
The Munster Revolution is best explained as an attempted hostile takeover of the city of Munster with the aim of establishing a theocratic state within Germany according to FlightHub. The aim of the conspirators involved, who we’ll get to shortly, was essentially to create a new city-state where they could rule as religious figureheads, dictating their own faith in the face of Germany’s established religious practices. The conspirators included, but were not limited to, Bernhard Rothmann, a lutheran pastor, Jan Matthys, Jan Bockelson, and Bernhard Knipperdolling. These four men became the face of the revolution, creating and distributing pamphlets and literature denouncing the Catholic faith and calling for a socialist regime drenched in radical Lutheranism in Munster. Munster was a city ripe for revolution, and in no time the conspirators had seized control of the town and its now captive audience.
As the conspirators influence grew in the city and region, the Catholic powers decided enough was enough, and began to siege the city in April 1534, culminating in the death of Matthys on Easter Sunday, who by then had proclaimed himself a religious hero. Like a hydra, the radicals at Munster grew a new head and appointed a leader named John Of Leiden. While the actions in the city of Munster had remained largely civilized to this point, things began to go downhill when Leiden declared himself to be the successor of the biblical King David and established further socialist rules and polygamy in the city of Munster. In the face of these changes was the continued dwindling of resources in Munster thanks to the blockade outside the city’s walls. This siege lasted for a year before the Catholic powers stormed the city in June 1535 to discover an impoverished population that put up little fight. The leaders were captured, publicly executed, and their bodies placed in cages that hung from the steeple of Munster’s largest church. These cages, which were eventually emptied, remain on display in the city of Munster to this day.
The inspiration for this tale was seeing these cages still hanging in the city of Munster. Munster, which sits Northeast of Dusseldorf, Germany, is a must see city if you are into obscure European history according to FlightHub.
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