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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Knipperdollinck, Bernt

< 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

KNIPPERDOLLINCK (or Knipperdolling), BERNT (Berend or Bernhardt) (c. 1490–1536), German divine, was a prosperous cloth-merchant at Münster when in 1524 he joined Melchior Rinck and Melchior Hofman in a business journey to Stockholm, which developed into an abortive religious errand. Knipperdollinck, a man of fine presence and glib tongue, noted from his youth for eccentricity, had the ear of the Münster populace when in 1527 he helped to break the prison of Tonies Kruse, in the teeth of the bishop and the civic authorities. For this he made his peace with the latter; but, venturing on another business journey, he was arrested, imprisoned for a year, and released on payment of a high fine—in regard of which treatment he began an action before the Imperial Chamber. Though his aims were political rather than religious, he attached himself to the reforming movement of Bernhardt Rothmann, once (1529) chaplain of St Mauritz, outside Münster, now (1532) pastor of the city church of St Lamberti. A new bishop directed a mandate (April 17, 1532) against Rothmann, which had the effect of alienating the moderates in Münster from the democrats. Knipperdollinck was a leader of the latter in the surprise (December 26, 1532) which made prisoners of the negotiating nobles at Telgte, in the territory of Münster. In the end, Münster was by charter from Philip of Hesse (February 14, 1533) constituted an evangelical city. Knipperdollinck was made a burgomaster in February 1534. Anabaptism had already (September 8, 1533) been proclaimed at Münster by a journeyman smith; and, before this, Heinrich Roll, a refugee, had brought Rothmann (May 1533) to a rejection of infant baptism. From the 1st of January 1534 Roll preached Anabaptist doctrines in a city pulpit; a few days later, two Dutch emissaries of Jan Matthysz, or Matthyssen, the master-baker and Anabaptist prophet of Haarlem, came on a mission to Münster. They were followed (January 13) by Jan Beukelsz (or Bockelszoon, or Buchholdt), better known as John of Leiden. It was his second visit to Münster; he came now as an apostle of Matthysz. He was twenty-five, with a winning personality, great gifts as an organizer, and plenty of ambition. Knipperdollinck, whose daughter Clara was ultimately enrolled among the wives of John of Leiden, came under his influence. Matthysz himself came to Münster (1534) and lived in Knipperdollinck’s house, which became the centre of the new movement to substitute Münster for Strassburg (Melchior Hofmann’s choice) as the New Jerusalem. On the death of Matthysz, in a foolish raid (April 5, 1534), John became supreme. Knipperdollinck, with one attempt at revolt, when he claimed the kingship for himself, was his subservient henchman, wheedling the Münster democracy into subjection to the fantastic rule of the “king of the earth.” He was made second in command, and executioner of the refractory. He fell in with the polygamy innovation, the protest of his wife being visited with a penance. In the military measures for resisting the siege of Münster he took no leading part. On the fall of the city (June 25, 1535) he hid in a dwelling in the city wall, but was betrayed by his landlady. After six months’ incarceration, his trial, along with his comrades, took place on the 19th of January, and his execution, with fearful tortures, on the 22nd of January 1536. Knipperdollinck attempted to strangle himself, but was forced to endure the worst. His body, like those of the others, was hung in a cage on the tower of St Lamberti, where the cages are still to be seen. An alleged portrait, from an engraving of 1607, is reproduced in the appendix to A. Ross’s Pansebeia, 1655.

See L. Keller, Geschichte der Wiedertäufer und ihres Reichs zu Münster (1880); C. A. Cornelius, Historische Arbeiten (1899); E. Belfort Bax, Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (1903).  (A. Go.*)