Grossmünster Door

Door of the Grossmünster in Zurich where Zwingli preached. Michael Sattler was present at the Third Disputation in Zurich.

Michael Sattler

Movement Radical Reformation
Born Stauffen, Germany, 1490
Died Rottenburg, 1527
Significance South German Anabaptist author of the Schleitheim Articles.
Works The Schleitheim Confession
Hymns If One Ill-Treat You
See also Home | Index of People | Radical Reformation | Michael Sattler Chronology | Michael Sattler Links | Michael Sattler Album

Michael Sattler was born in Stauffen, Germany about 1490. Little is known about his early life or even his education. He entered the Benedictine Monestary of St. Peter's near Freiberg where he probably became its prior. In the 1520's he left the monastery probably due to theological differences and disgust over the unspiritual lives of the monks and priests. In May of 1525, a group of peasants from the Black Forest marched upon St. Peter's monastery to protest the high taxes levied upon them by the abbot. Sattler may have left the monastery as a result of this attack. Shortly after leaving the monastery Sattler married Margaretha, a former Beguine. Because of the program to eliminate heresy from the region by Ferdinand I of Austria, Sattler and his wife, who would join him in martyrdom, fled to Zurich in 1525 where he became an Anabaptist. He was present at the Third Disputation in Zurich on November 6,1525 and was expelled on the 18th.

He eventually went to Strasbourg and stayed with Wolfgang Capito, a German humanist who became a leading reformer. During his stay with Capito, Sattler discussed theology with his host and Martin Bucer. They disagreed on several points including infant baptism. Sattler's experience with the reformers was different from that of the Swiss Anabaptists in that the disagreement over infant baptism did not cause animosity between Sattler and his friends. Sattler referred to them as his "beloved brothers in God" in a letter written after he left Stasbourg. After Sattler was executed, Capito and Bucer described him as a "dear friend of God."

In February of 1527 a group of Anabaptists met in Schleitheim, north of Zurich near the German border. The result of their meeting was the drafting of the Schleitheim Articles, of which Michael Sattler was the principal author. The document, considered the first Anabaptist confession of faith, was widely circulated among the Anabaptists in the region. Protestant reformers in Switzerland were also familiar with the document and by the late summer of 1527 Zwingli felt the need to respond to the work and published Refutation of Anabaptist Tricks to refute its teachings.

The work is not a systematic confession of faith, but it does address seven major issues that Anabaptists agreed upon. The seven articles concern baptism, the ban, the breaking of bread, separation from the world, the role of pastors, the sword, and swearing oaths.

In the month following the drafting of the Schleitheim Confession, Sattler and his wife were arrested, tried, and convicted of heresy. As a result of his conviction, on May 20, 1527, Sattler was taken to the town marketplace in Rottenburg and tortured. A piece was cut from his tongue, although not enough to keep him from speaking, and glowing tongs ripped pieces from his flesh. At the marketplace he prayed for his persecutors. He was then taken outside the city and tied to a ladder and a sack of gunpowder was tied around his neck. He prayed, "Almighty, eternal God, thou art the way and the truth; because I have not been shown to be in error, I will with thy help on this day testify to the truth and seel it with my blood." He was then pushed into a large fire. As the ropes around his hands were burned away, Sattler gave a signal to his group to show them he was confident about his fate and prayed, "Father, I commend my spirit into thy hands." Two days after his execution, Margaretha Sattler was executed by drowning, often called "the third baptism" by authorities.