06 - The Drowning Martyrdom of Anabaptist, Felix Manz
On Saturday June 17, 2023 we will visit the site on the Limmat River in Zurich City where one of the first Anabaptist leaders, Felix Manz, was executed by drowning solely because of his Anabaptist faith.
The people of Zurich crowded along both sides of the Limmat to follow the macabre scene playing out in the middle of the river. Felix Manz, his hands and feet bound, crouched down on the deck of the fisherman’s cottage and sang a full-throated rendition of the psalm “Into thine hand I commit my spirit.”
From a skiff, a Reformed Church preacher lectured him verbosely, while the executioner pulled with all his might on the rope he had tied around the neck of the condemned man. Desperate cries rang out across the water. They were from Manz’s mother, who called to him from the bank telling him to remain steadfast in his faith.
No one had expected this grisly end. Felix Manz was originally a trusted accomplice of Huldrych Zwingli and had worked together with him on a new translation of the Bible. But differences soon emerged. Manz and his friends accused Zwingli of delaying the Reformation and of making compromises with the authorities.
They were young and radical, but basically did exactly what Zwingli preached himself: they took the Holy Scripture as the only guideline for their faith and their actions. They denied, among other things, the existence of purgatory, and demanded the abolition of the holy mass and infant baptism because neither of these were mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
On January 5, 1527, Manz was dragged by the executioner into the ice-cold Limmat, where he died a wretched death. Shortly before his execution, he had written in prison: “Such acts are wrought by the false prophets and hypocrites of this world, who curse and plead from the same mouth, whose lives are disordered, who call on the authorities to kill us, and thereby defeat the essence of Christ.”
“Here in the middle of the River Limmat from a fishing platform were drowned Felix Manz and five other Anabaptists during the Reformation of 1527 to 1532. Hans Landis, the last Anabaptist, was executed in Zürich during 1614.”