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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: September 2012

Chapter 4 - Reformation and Revolution


In his ecclesiastical history of the town of Selb, Paul Reinel noted that until the year 1517 the gospel of Christ lay buried under papist lies and human teachings. After cataloging the extent and depth of popish errors, he announced how Martin Luther, “the third Elijah and prophet of the German lands,” revealed God's true word. Some three hundred pages later, in his chronicle of world affairs, Reinel described two events that occurred in 1517: the birth of Johannes Streitberger, general superintendent of the Lutheran church in the Oberland after 1560, and the misadventures of Jordan Prantner, vicar of Selb, and his mistress. No mention is made of Luther or Wittenberg. The next entry in the chronicle that concerns religion is a brief notice on the peasant “bloodbath” that began in 1524.

Reinel's account of the early years of the Reformation suggests that in his own researches he faced much the same problem as do modern scholars: how to relate the changes in religion on the local level with the larger course of the Lutheran Reformation. For Reinel, two events clearly stand out–Luther's protest of 1517 and the Peasants' War of 1524–25. But although the latter event is easily reconciled with local history, the former seemed to have no appreciable impact. Rather, a careful reading of Reinel's history would suggest that a reformation of the sort that Peter Blickle described was already at work well before 1517 and continued on until the publication of the first reformed church ordinances in the later 1520s.