Posted by: sean | April 23, 2007

Michael Sattler (Martyrdom)

Below is the account of Sattler’s martyrdom taken from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopdia Online. It is from the same source as the biography but that post was getting quite long so this one is posted separately. The trial of Michael Sattler is contained in a different post.

The secretary may have felt that his poisonous attitude was making an unfavorable impression on the court, and began to speak in Latin with Sattler; this Klaus could not record, for he did not understand it. He remembered only Sattler’s last word, “Judica.” Now the city secretary became aware that he was playing a role that was not his. He therefore turned to Count Joachim with the words, “He will not cease this chatter today anyway. Therefore you may proceed with the sentence; I call for the decision of the court.” Now Joachim asked Sattler whether he wished to ask for the verdict. Sattler replied, “You servants of God, I am not sent to judge the Word of God; we are sent to testify; but we are not for that reason removed from being judged, and we are ready to suffer and to await what God is planning to do with us. We will continue in our faith in Christ as long as we have breath until we are shown from the Scripture to be wrong.”

Again the city secretary replied instead of the chairman, repeating the threat, “The hangman will instruct you and will debate with you, you arch-heretic!” Sattler replied, “I will appeal to the Scriptures.” At this point the discussion was broken off. The judges withdrew to consult on the verdict. Their discussion evidently did not proceed as smoothly as the city secretary had imagined, for it lasted one and one-half hours.

The Anabaptists were then committed to the soldiers. Sattler saw himself subjected to scenes similar to those his Lord and Master had experienced. One cried to him, “When I see you get away, I will believe in you.” Another seized his sword from the table, drew it, and said, “See, with this we will dispute with you.” Klaus von Graveneck was horrified by all these words of contempt which were not at all fitting to the gravity of the situation; he felt that in such a situation one would have pitied the worst murderer, and here he saw innocent people tormented with no defense. Sattler’s silence toward all personal insults annoyed the soldiers. One of the prisoners said, “Pearls should not be cast before the swine.” Once more Sattler began to speak when someone asked him why he had not remained a lord in a monastery. It seemed incomprehensible to the man that anyone would for the sake of his faith sacrifice the haughty rank of a priest and the comfortable life of a prior in a monastery. Then Sattler answered, “According to the flesh I would have been a lord, but it is better so,” and then showed from the Scriptures that his exchange was a fortunate one.

The period of painful waiting came to an end. The judges reappeared; the verdict was read. It read, “. . . Michael Sattler … shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of the execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic.”

Klaus von Graveneck adds, “All this I saw myself. May God grant us also to testify of Him so bravely and patiently.” Reublin says that the trial lasted two days, that the verdict was read on Saturday, 18 May, and that when the sentence was read, Sattler’s wife comforted him with great joy in the sight of the entire crowd.

Before the prisoners were led away, Sattler had another conversation in a private chamber with the mayor of Rottenburg, whom Sattler had made responsible for the final verdict, although it is to be assumed that the city secretary of Ensisheim bore most of the guilt for the sentence. Sattler said to the mayor, “You know that you with your fellow judges have sentenced me contrary to law; therefore take care and repent. If you do not, you will with them be condemned to eternal fire in God’s judgment.”

Three more days were granted Sattler. Reublin is probably correct when he says, “What fear, conflict, and struggle flesh and spirit must have undergone, cannot be imagined.” Sattler had agreed with his group to give a sign as evidence of his constancy and cheer. There is a difference of opinion concerning the day of Sattler’s death. The Anabaptist chronicles and the Ausbund give 21 May as the day of his martyrdom. Klaus von Graveneck gives 20 May. Reublin says, “Sattler lay in prison from Saturday to Monday and was executed on that day.” It is most likely that the Anabaptist chroniclers became confused in their counting by the termination of the imprisonment “until the third day,” and thought Sattler was executed on Monday, 20 May. This is also the opinion of Hulshof (p. 65) and Baum, Capito und Butzer (p. 373).

First Sattler was taken to the market place and a piece cut from his tongue, but not enough to prevent speech. Then pieces were torn from his body twice with glowing tongs. Then he was forged to a cart, and between the city gate and the place of execution the tongs were applied five times again. The number of times the tongs were used is variously given. The sentence ordered two and five applications, Reublin speaks of six, Capito in his letter to the Council of Horb of two and five. The place of execution is a quarter hour’s walk from the town close to the highway to Tübingen. The tortures of the unfortunate victim under the tongs, a monstrous heightening of the execution, must have been unspeakable, but nothing could shake Sattler. On the market place and the site of the execution he prayed for his persecutors and Klaus von Graveneck. When he was bound to the ladder with ropes to be pushed into the fire, he admonished the people to be converted, to repent and fear God, and to intercede for his judges. Then he turned to the judges. He especially remembered the mayor and the admonition given him in private. The mayor replied defiantly and angrily that Sattler should concern himself now only with God. Then Sattler 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 seal it with my blood.”

Reublin says that a sack of powder had been tied around Sattler’s neck to hasten his death. He was now thrown into the fire on the ladder; then his voice could be heard bright and clear with prayer and praise. Soon the ropes on his hands were burned through. He could now raise the two forefingers of his hands, thereby giving the promised signal to his group, and prayed, “Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.”

Reublin could not avoid adorning Sattler’s death with miracles. He reports that Sattler’s right hand and his heart did not burn. The executioner cut the heart to pieces, the blood spurting high toward heaven. In the night after Sattler’s death the sun and moon were seen for three hours above the site of execution with golden letters in them. The glow had been so bright that everyone thought it was midday. The authorities forbade anyone’s speaking of it under oath, in order to suppress the matter. The death of Sattler, steadfast to the end as a martyr to his faith, does not need adornment from Reublin’s imagination.

Three other Anabaptists were executed, among them Matthias Hiller. The furrier’s apprentice of St. Gall, the wife of Stoffel Schuhmacher, and Salome Katler (in) of Rottenburg had recanted publicly. These like all other recanting Anabaptists were lighted out of Rottenburg with burning torches, and expelled forever from Austrian territory. Veit Veringer, who had first recanted and then returned to the Anabaptists, lay in prison at Schömberg for over thirteen weeks and was then executed. Valerius Anshelm relates that the countess of Hechingen, i.e., the wife of Joachim von Zollern, tried to persuade Sattler’s wife to desist from her faith and stay at her court. But she declared that she would be true to her Lord and to her Christian husband, and was drowned in the Neckar on the eighth day after her husband’s death. She would have preferred to die in the fire with him. According to some reports she was drowned on Wednesday, 22 May.

Original website here


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