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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 6. Zwingli’s Birth and Education.


Franz: Zwingli’s Geburtsort. Beitrag zur reformator. Jubelfeier 1819. (The author was pastor of Wildhaus.) St. Gallen, 1818. Schuler: Huldreich Zwingli. Geschichte seiner Bildung zum Reformator des Vaterlandes. Zürich, 1819. (404 pp. Very full, but somewhat too partial, and needing correction.)


Huldreich or Ulrich Zwingli1616    The name is often misspelled Zwingel (by Luther), or Zwingle (by English and American writers). was born January 1, 1484, seven weeks after Luther, in a lowly shepherd’s cottage at Wildhaus in the county of Toggenburg, now belonging to the Canton St. Gall.

He was descended from the leading family in this retired village. His father, like his grandfather, was the chief magistrate (Ammann); his mother, the sister of a priest (John Meili, afterwards abbot of Fischingen, in Thurgau, 1510–1523); his uncle, on the father’s side, dean of the chapter at Wesen on the wild lake of Wallenstadt. He had seven brothers (he being the third son) and two sisters.

The village of Wildhaus is the highest in the valley, surrounded by Alpine meadows and the lofty mountain scenery of Northeastern Switzerland, in full view of the seven Churfirsten and the snow-capped Sentis. The principal industry of the inhabitants was raising flocks. They are described as a cheerful, fresh and energetic people; and these traits we find in Zwingli.1717    Mörikofer (I. 4): "Zwingli erinnert in seinem Wesen immer wieder an seine helle Heimath; wir haben stets den in frischer Bergluft gestärkten und gestählten Alpensohn vor uns." The Reformation was introduced there in 1523. Not very far distant are the places where Zwingli spent his public life,—Glarus, Einsiedeln, and Zurich.

Zwingli was educated in the Catholic religion by his God-fearing parents, and by his uncle, the dean of Wesen, who favored the new humanistic learning. He grew up a healthy, vigorous boy. He had at a very early age a tender sense of veracity as "the mother of all virtues," and, like young Washington, he would never tell a lie.

When ten years of age he was sent from Wesen to a Latin school at Basle, and soon excelled in the three chief branches taught there,—Latin grammar, music and dialectics.

In 1498 he entered a college at Berne under the charge of Heinrich Wölflin (Lupulus), who was reputed to be the best classical scholar and Latin poet in Switzerland, and followed the reform movement in 1522.1818    Lupulus was deposed from his canonry for marrying in 1524, but reinstated after the introduction of the Reformation. "Dass Lupulus eine uneheliche Tochter hatte (before his marriage), wurde ihm leicht verziehen." Mörikofer, I. 7. He lamented Zwingli’s early death in a Latin epitaph in verse.

From 1500 to 1502 he studied in the University of Vienna, which had become a centre of classical learning by the labors of distinguished humanists, Corvinus, Celtes, and Cuspinian, under the patronage of the Emperor Maximilian I.1919    There in no evidence that he became acquainted in Vienna with Eck and Faber, the famous champions of popery, nor with his friends Glareanus and Vadianus. See Horawitz, Der Humanismus in Wien, 1883. He studied scholastic philosophy, astronomy, and physics, but chiefly the ancient classics. He became an enthusiast for the humanities. He also cultivated his talent for music. He played on several instruments—the lute, harp, violin, flute, dulcimer, and hunting-horn—with considerable skill. His papal opponents sneeringly called him afterwards "the evangelical lute-player, piper, and whistler." He regarded this innocent amusement as a means to refresh the mind and to soften the temper. In his poetical and musical taste he resembles Luther, without reaching his eminence.

In 1502 he returned to Basle, taught Latin in the school of St. Martin, pursued his classical studies, and acquired the degree of master of arts in 1506; hence he was usually called Master Ulrich. He never became a doctor of divinity, like Luther. In Basle he made the acquaintance of Leo Jud (Judae, also called Master Leu), who was graduated with him and became his chief co-laborer in Zurich. Both attended with much benefit the lectures of Thomas Wyttenbach, professor of theology since 1505. Zwingli calls him his beloved and faithful teacher, who opened his eyes to several abuses of the Church, especially the indulgences, and taught him "not to rely on the keys of the Church, but to seek the remission of sins alone in the death of Christ, and to open access to it by the key of faith."2020    Werke, I. A. 254; Opera, III. 544. Leo Judae, in the preface to Zwingli’s Annotations to the N. T., reports that Zwingli and he derived from Wyttenbach’s lectures in 1505 "quidquid nobis fuit solidae eruditionis."



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