Huldrych Zwingli

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Huldrych Zwingli bigraphy, stories - leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, and founder of the Swiss Reformed Churches

Huldrych Zwingli : biography

1 January 1484 – 11 October 1531

Huldrych (or Ulrich/Ulricht) Zwingli (1 January 1484 – 11 October 1531) was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. Born during a time of emerging Swiss patriotism and increasing criticism of the Swiss mercenary system, he attended the University of Vienna and the University of Basel, a scholarly centre of humanism. He continued his studies while he served as a pastor in Glarus and later in Einsiedeln, where he was influenced by the writings of Erasmus.

In 1518, Zwingli became the pastor of the Grossmünster in Zurich where he began to preach ideas on reforming the Catholic Church. In his first public controversy in 1522, he attacked the custom of fasting during Lent. In his publications, he noted corruption in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, promoted clerical marriage, and attacked the use of images in places of worship. In 1525, Zwingli introduced a new communion liturgy to replace the Mass. Zwingli also clashed with the Anabaptists, which resulted in their persecution.

The Reformation spread to other parts of the Swiss Confederation, but several cantons resisted, preferring to remain Catholic. Zwingli formed an alliance of Reformed cantons which divided the Confederation along religious lines. In 1529, a war between the two sides was averted at the last moment. Meanwhile, Zwingli’s ideas came to the attention of Martin Luther and other reformers. They met at the Marburg Colloquy and although they agreed on many points of doctrine, they could not reach an accord on the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In 1531 Zwingli’s alliance applied an unsuccessful food blockade on the Catholic cantons. The cantons responded with an attack at a moment when Zurich was badly prepared. Zwingli was killed in battle at the age of 47. His legacy lives on in the confessions, liturgy, and church orders of the Reformed churches of today.

Life

Early years (1484–1518)

Huldrych Zwingli was born on 1 January 1484 in Wildhaus, Switzerland in the Toggenburg valley to a family of farmers, the third child among nine siblings. His father, Ulrich, played a leading role in the administration of the community (Amtmann or chief local magistrate). Zwingli’s primary schooling was provided by his uncle, Bartholomew, a cleric in Weesen. At ten years old, Zwingli was sent to Basel to obtain his secondary education where he learned Latin under Magistrate Gregory Bünzli. After three years in Basel, he stayed a short time in Bern with the humanist, Henry Wölfflin. The Dominicans in Bern tried to persuade Zwingli to join their order and it is possible that he was received as a novice.; . Potter mentions this possibility. Gäbler states that Zwingli did not refute later claims by opponents that he had been a monk in Bern. However, his father and uncle disapproved of such a course and he left Bern without completing his Latin studies.; He enrolled in the University of Vienna in the winter semester of 1498 but was expelled, according to the university’s records. However, it is not certain that Zwingli was indeed expelled, and he re-enrolled in the summer semester of 1500; his activities in 1499 are unknown.. The word exclusus (expelled) was added to his matriculation entry. Gäbler notes that without a date and reason, it does not conform to what was customary at the time. Zwingli continued his studies in Vienna until 1502, after which he transferred to the University of Basel where he received the Master of Arts degree (Magister) in 1506.

Zwingli was ordained in Constance, the seat of the local diocese, and he celebrated his first mass in his hometown, Wildhaus, on 29 September 1506. As a young priest he had studied little theology, but this was not considered unusual at the time. His first ecclesiastical post was the pastorate of the town of Glarus, where he stayed for ten years. It was in Glarus, whose soldiers were used as mercenaries in Europe, that Zwingli became involved in politics. The Swiss Confederation was embroiled in various campaigns with its neighbours: the French, the Habsburgs, and the Papal States. Zwingli placed himself solidly on the side of the Roman See. In return, Pope Julius II honoured Zwingli by providing him with an annual pension. He took the role of chaplain in several campaigns in Italy, including the Battle of Novara in 1513. However, the decisive defeat of the Swiss in the Battle of Marignano caused a shift in mood in Glarus in favour of the French rather than the pope. Zwingli, the papal partisan, found himself in a difficult position and he decided to retreat to Einsiedeln in the canton of Schwyz. By this time, he had become convinced that mercenary service was immoral and that Swiss unity was indispensable for any future achievements. Some of his earliest extant writings, such as The Ox (1510) and The Labyrinth (1516), attacked the mercenary system using allegory and satire. His countrymen were presented as virtuous people within a French, imperial, and papal triangle.; Zwingli stayed in Einsiedeln for two years during which he withdrew completely from politics in favour of ecclesiastical activities and personal studies.