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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

And the tied shoe Bundschuh


"Man weis doch aus der Schrift so viel, Aus altem und aus neuem Bunde, Es braucht nicht wieder neuer Kunde. Dennoch wallfahrten sie zur Klausen Des Sackpfeifers von Nicklashausen."(61)

And the Niklashausen pilgrimage was preserved in the memories of the people by a lengthy folk-song which Liliencron has printed in his collection.(62)

From this time onwards there was always some tinge of religious enthusiasm in the social revolts, where peasant and poor burghers stood shoulder to shoulder against the ruling powers in country and in town.

The peasants within the lands of the Abbot of Kempten, north-east of the Lake of Constance, had for two generations protested against the way in which the authorities were treating them (1420-1490). They rose in open revolt in 1491-1492. It was a purely agrarian rising to begin with, caused by demands made on them by their over-lord not sanctioned by the old customs expressed in the _Weisthuemer_; but the lower classes of the town of Kempten made common cause with the insurgents. Yet there are distinct traces of impregnation with religious enthusiasm not unlike that which inspired the Hans Boehm movement. The rising was crushed, and the leaders who escaped took refuge in Switzerland.

? 7. Bundschuh Revolts.

In the widespread

social revolt which broke out in Elsass in 1493, the peasants were supported by the towns; demands were made for the abolition of the imperial and the ecclesiastical courts of justice, for the reduction of ecclesiastical property, for the plundering of Jews who had been fattening upon usury, and for the curbing of the power of the priests. The Germans had a proverb, "The poor man must tie his shoes with string," and the "tied shoe" (_Bundschuh_), the poor man's shoe, became the emblem of this and subsequent social revolts, while their motto was, "Only what is just before God." This rebellion, which was prematurely betrayed, did not lack prominent leaders. One of them was Hans Ulman, the burgomeister of Schlettstadt, who died on the scaffold affirming the justice of the demands which he and his companions had made, and predicting their future triumph.

In 1501 the peasants of Kempten and the neighbouring districts again rose in rebellion, and were again joined by the poorer townspeople. In the year following, 1502, a revolt was planned having for its headquarters the village of Untergrombach, near Speyer; it spread into Elsass, along the Neckar and down the Rhine. The _Bundschuh_ banner was again unfurled. It was made of blue silk, with a white cross, the emblem of Switzerland, in the centre. It was adorned with a picture of the crucified Christ, a _Bundschuh_ on the one side, and a kneeling peasant on the other. The motto was again, "Only what is just before God." Every associate promised to repeat five times a day the Lord's Prayer and the _Ave Maria_. The patron saints were declared to be the Blessed Virgin and St. John. The movement was strongly anti-clerical. The leaders taught that there could be no deliverance from oppression until the priests were driven from the land, and until the property of the nobles and the priests was confiscated and their power broken. Tithes, feudal exactions of all kinds, and all social inequalities were denounced; water, forest and pasture lands were declared to be the common property of all. The leaders recognised the rule of the Emperor as over-lord, but denounced all intermediate jurisdictions. The plan was to raise the peasants and the townspeople throughout all Germany, and to call upon the Swiss to aid them in winning their deliverance from oppression. The revolt was put down with savage cruelty; most of the leaders were quartered. Many escaped to Switzerland, and lay hid among the Alpine valleys.


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