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ZWINGLI (tsving'lē), or ZUINGLIUS (zwing'gli-us), ULRIC, a Swiss reformer born in the hamlet of Wildhaus, in the Toggenburg, Jan. 1, 1484. After receiving instruction from his uncle the parish priest of Wessen, he was sent to study first at Basel, then at Berne, and afterward at Vienna. At the age of 18 he returned to his native village, but only to quit it again almost immediately, and renew his studies at Basel. He applied himself to scholastic theology, but gave it up in disgust as a mere waste of time, and soon after rejoiced to hear the teachings of Thomas Wittenbach. Zwingli eagerly studied the classics, and became one of the best scholars of his time. He was also passionately fond of music, and learned to play well on the flute, the lute, the violin, and other instruments. In 1506 he was ordained priest — he had been master of arts for several years — and accepted the place of pastor of Glarus, which he filled with zeal and devotedness for 10 years. During this period thoughts were working in his mind, which were the germs of the reformation to come. He twice accompanied the Swiss auxiliaries to the wars in Italy, fought at the battle of Marignano; and used his influence with his countrymen to dissuade them from foreign military service. In 1514 he had visited Erasmus at Basel, and was greatly influenced by his writings.

Collier's Zwingli Ulric.png


The year of 1516 Zwingli has noted as the period of the commencement of the Swiss Reformation. That same year he removed to the secluded monastery of Einsiedeln, of which he was appointed priest and preacher. His clear and eloquent announcement of scriptural truth astonished his new hearers, and drew crowds from the surrounding country to hear him. In 1519, through his high reputation for learning, piety and eloquence, and the active influence of his friend Oswald Myconius, Zwingli was appointed preacher at the cathedral of Zurich, and was thus brought into the center of the political movement of Switzerland. His preaching produced immense excitement by its novelty; but while most were charmed, not a few were alarmed and angry. In the autumn of the same year he was attacked by the plague (known then as the “great death”), and it was reported that he was dead. He, however, recovered, and with a new vigor and devotedness, and fullness, resumed his work. In 1522 began the action of the court of Rome against the Reformation in Switzerland; the Bishop of Constance, by letter to the chapter of Zurich, attempted to stop the preaching of Zwingli. The latter replied in his “Architeles,” and the attempt failed. But an order of the Diet was soon after obtained, which prohibited preaching against the monks. About the same time Zwingli married Anna Reinhold, a widow, and mother of Zwingli's beloved disciple and friend, Gerold. He did not make his marriage known till two years later.

Meanwhile enmity was growing into persecution, and the reformer was sometimes overwhelmed with the forebodings of evil to come, and the failure of his hopes. Early in 1523 a conference between the advocates and opponents of the new doctrines was held at Zurich, by order of the Great Council; but the discussions, which lasted three days, left the controversy as it was; the reformers arguing on the basis of Scripture, and their opponents from the canon law, and there being no first principles in common with them. Not long after the reformation was publicly established in Zurich, pictures and statues, etc., were taken out of the churches, and instead of the mass a simple form of celebrating the Lord's Supper was adopted. Education was provided for, and convents were suppressed, just regard being had to the interests of their inmates. In 1528 Zwingli attended the important conferences of Baden, and in 1529 that of Marburg, where he agreed on certain articles of faith with Luther and Melanchthon. Two years later, the long suppressed enmity of the cantons which remained Catholic broke out in open war against Zurich and Berne. Delay, indecision, and half-heartedness among the citizens of Zurich made their cause hopeless; and at the battle of Cappel their handful of disorderly troops was easily destroyed or dispersed by the superior numbers and discipline of the Catholic army. Zwingli fell on that field, Oct. 11, 1531. His body was discovered, burnt, quartered, and his ashes mingled with those of swine, and scattered to the winds. The works of Zwingli were published in 1581, three volumes, 4to.