Biography of Menno Simons (1496-1561)

Dutch reformer born in 1496 in Witmarsum (Friesland) and died in Wustenfeld (Germany) January 31, 1561. Although ordered Catholic priest in 1524, in a few years he distanced himself from the church because of their unorthodox positions; It adopted the baptism of adults of the Anabaptists and entered one of its groups to rename to 1536. He led the non-violent sectors of the Anabaptist, who contributed some doctrinal and moral principles. He preached initially in the Netherlands, but from 1542 he was persecuted by the Emperor and eventually moved to Germany, where he died. His followers adopted the name of Mennonite Church.

He was born in a peasant family of East Frisia. At an early age he entered a monastic school, perhaps in the Franciscan monastery of Bolsward, in order to become a priest. He ordered in Utrecht in March 1524, and Pingjum parish was assigned (near his hometown). By then, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine was questioned during the Eucharist; to solve this doubt resorted to reading the Bible and the writings of Luther. As other reformers, soon recognized the Sacred Scripture as the main authority of faith and church life. In 1531 he was appointed parish priest of Lochristi, where he was born, but was already an evangelical preacher.

It examined the sacrament of baptism and membership in the Catholic Church: their reading of the New Testament concluded that the Church was indeed Christ's body, but she only owned indeed people of faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ full. Only these could be baptized, as a sign of their commitment to God and the condition of his witnesses before the world; Divine grace was enough to children until they reach sufficient age to accept or reject baptism. This was a thesis similar to the Anabaptists, with whom Menno had contact since 1532. In April 1535, a revolutionary Anabaptist group, occupied by Olde Klooster (near Bolsward), was massacred by public militias. A brother of Menno, Peter Simons, was one of the victims of the massacre, which moved you to condemn the revolutionary excesses.

After clarifying who truly belonged to the Church, defined more accurately its ecclesial doctrine: Scripture and sacraments, ethical obedience, love of neighbor, testimony of faith and acceptance of suffering. It took advantage of the defeat of the Anabaptists of Münster in July of the same year to attract the most violent sectors. However, his preaching endangered his life and he should hide in January of 1536. Throughout that year he remained retired, dedicated to writing the spiritual resurrection, the new birth and meditation of Psalm 33. Shortly before the end of 1536 or early 1537, it was renamed, since it would lead the Group of peaceful Anabaptists who had founded Konrad Grebel (disciple of Zwingli) and directed Obbe Philips from 1534; It was also during this period when he married Gertrude. In 1539 wrote the Fundamentbuch (book of foundations), the most systematic of his doctrinal works.

Although in 1542 the Emperor Carlos V put price on his head (100 ducats), Menno continued working between 1543 and 1544 by the spread of anabaptism in East Frisia. In January 1544, he met with the Polish reformer Johannes Lasco (1499-1560). Then, until 1546, he preached in the Rhineland, where was temporarily with the protection of the former Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann, now Protestant. He then settled in the North of Germany, in Holstein, where he preached until his death. In his travels reached the distant Danzig (today Gdańsk, Poland) and Königsberg (today Kaliningrad, Russia). Menno fled whenever it considered it necessary, without never frontally oppose the civil authorities. During these years he created his own printing press to disseminate propaganda against other Protestant movements written; Menno headed his texts with a biblical quote: "no one can put other Foundation than the already, Jesucristo" (1 Cor. 3: 11).

Although Menno not explicitly founded the then so-called Mennonite Church, this emerged group of Anabaptists Northern European directed and who have given peaceful nature to expel the more violent. Equally, his writings laid the foundations of the Mennonite Church: Evangelical Christianity, baptism by age fifteen, denial of divorce (except in some cases) and of all State organization.

Menno could not prevent that, already in 1555, his supporters escindieran are in two groups: the crude or waterländer (inhabitants of Waterland, in the North of Holland), and the fine or groningos (or danzigianos, who lived outside the Netherlands and subdividirían in turn in the following century).


Bibliography of Menno Simons, ca. 1496-1561 (1962).

BRANDSMA, J.A. Menno Simons Van Witmarsum. (1960).

KRAHN, C. "Menno Simons" in Mennonite Encyclopedia, vol. 3. (1957).

POUPARD, P. Dictionary of religions. (Barcelona, Herder, 1987).

The Complete Writings of Menno Simons. J.C. Wenger Edition. (1956).