The German Peasant Rebellion of 1525

  By Komnenos
  Category: Early Modern Era

It must seem strange at first sight that the DDR (or the German Democratic Republic), a Socialist and thus self-declared atheist state issued bank-notes and postage stamps with the portray of a late Medieval Protestant priest. 
But Thomas Müntzer, born in 1489 in the little town of Stolberg in the remote Harz Mountains in Central Germany, belonged to the select number of German historical figures that the DDR regarded as the ideological ancestors of itself, “the first workers and peasant state on German soil”. That he was held in such high esteem in the DDR was certainly not because of the theological merits of Müntzer, a contemporary, disciple and later an enemy of Martin Luther, but because of the role he played in the most famous uprising of the German peasantry against their feudal lords in the late medieval age. During a few years in the 1520s, Müntzer became the spiritual and political leader of a rebellion that was oppressed as fast as it had risen, and as all the others before and after, ended in bloody revenge by the ruling classes whose most prominent victim, the priest himself became.
Müntzer’s elevation to the Socialist Olympus is mainly the work of Friederich Engels, Marx’s collaborator, who in his book “Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg” (18..) delivered a re-interpretation of the peasant uprising of 1525, in the understanding of historical-materialist historiography classifying it as one of the expressions of the eternal class struggle that moved on society. The humble protestant priest Müntzer thus became in Engels’ view a precursor of the Socialist movement, a proto- Communist rebel who a few centuries before the first socialist revolutions, that in Engels' view were just around the corner, had already attempted to establish a economically and politically egalitarian society. Marxist historians, and thus the party ideologists of the DDR, adopted Engels' interpretation, emphasising the political and minimising  the religious aspects of  Müntzer's life and work.
Müntzer was born in 1489, and although his precise family background is not known, the very fact that  at the age of seventeen he began his studies at the University of Leipzig indicates that his parents can't have been that poor as Orthodox Marxist historians suggested. After all they could afford to sent their son to undergo further education, a rather unusual privilege at the end of the Middle Ages.
Müntzer finished his studies acquiring a Baccalaureate in Theology either in Leipzig or in Frankfurt an der Oder ( today a  town on the German/Polish border) in 1513 and began his ecclesiastic career as an auxiliary priest in the small town of Halle in Central Germany.
The early 16th century was not the best of times to enter the clergy, the Catholic Church had been in a deep crisis for the last few decades and especially north of the Alps dissatisfaction with the Papal authority had grown and dissent had spread through the ranks of its subjects. A whole series of pamphlets, distributed and supported by itinerant priests, had appeared in the mid 15th century in Germany, formulating the grievances of the faithful population. At the core of the discomfort that was felt was the growing secularisation of the Papacy: During the late Middle Ages the Pope had turned into one of the many potentates that strove for political supremacy in the divided Italy, fighting in the endless civil wars and participating in the diplomatic intrigues at the courts of Europe. The Renaissance Popes  regarded themselves seemingly first as worldly princes, and only secondly as head of a Church and were thus were neglecting their spiritual duties towards their flock. In fact the only interest the Italian Popes showed in their German subjects were financial, not only did the Papal armies devour enormous costs, but also did the extensive rebuilding of Rome on which the Bishops of the city embarked. The practise to finance their earthly needs by undertaking a roaring trade with, usually faked, holy relics and by selling indulgences, that promised redemption from the time spent in purgatory, later would enrage Luther and embark him on his Reformation.
But the degeneration of the Papacy had spread through the entire ecclesiastic hierarchy and into Germany as well, when the higher clergy didn't function as the instrument of Papal money collecting, they did it at their own initiative as feudal princes. The Bishops of Cologne, Mainz and many other cities were powerful worldly rulers in their own right, exploiting their flocks and subjects as other feudal lords would, and even more, as they usually didn't have to answer the earthly jurisdiction or were exempt from Imperial taxation. But the secularisation of the Church went far deeper than this, pursuing their feudal interests, they clergy and the monasteries had lost their moral authority. The dismayed faithful could witness a moral decline in the Church that stood in sharp contrast to its teachings.
By the end of the 15th century, Church and people in Germany thus had become estranged from each other, not helped by the fact that hardly spoke the same language. While the  educated Catholic theologians engaged in the highly speculative discussion of the Scholastic age, the population returned to a mystic piety, informed by simple devoutness and by the growing insecurity of an age in upheaval. The lower clergy was usually excluded from both the financial and the intellectual secularisation of the higher ranks, lacking education and training, they shared the dissatisfaction of the ordinary believer, and took sides with the restless flocks.
Map of the German Peasant war of 1525
When  Müntzer started his career in the Church, it was thus no surprise that in the spirit of the age, he immediately distinguished himself as a severe critic of the Church establishment. Frequently changing his posts he became involved in anti-clerical circles that demanded a renewal of the Church in almost every town he preached. Even before he came in contact with Luther in Wittenberg in 1518,  Müntzer had developed his own reformatory ideas that often brought him into conflict with ecclesiastic and worldly authorities, and often he had to flee a town before they got hold of him.
Naturally Luther's revolt against Papacy and Emperor had a deep impact on  Müntzer who enthusiastically took up the cause of the rebellious monk, and on his travels as an itinerant preacher over the next few years, he helped to spread the message of Reformation, coming out as a Lutheran in Jterborg, Leipzig or Zwickau, all cities in the East of Germany.
Everywhere his inflammatory sermons found great resonance amongst the people, the apostles of the Reformation had  a captive audience for their anti-papal critic and demands for a comprehensive renewal of the Church. If the message didn't reach the people from the pulpit, it did by pamphlets and books, that thanks to the recently invented modern printing press, had become a widely distributed and affordable means of communication, and an understandable as well as the texts were written in the German language and thus enabled the ordinary people, formerly largely excluded from theological discussions, to participate. The dynamic that the reformatory movement had taken on in a extremely short time span, was truly astonishing, in a couple of years the whole of Germany was in theological revolt, and the tenets of Luther's revolt were the omnipresent topic of  popular debates.
It is thus no surprise that the first cracks in the initially monolithic Lutheran teaching appeared, the self dynamic of its circulation amongst clergy and population almost inevitably resulted in a radicalisation of reformatory ideas.
Amongst the Reformators who found that Luther's intentions didn't reach far enough, was  soon Müntzer. His stay in Zwickau in 1520-1521 is said to have changed his outlook on the necessary extent of the Reformation movement, he undertook a decisive and parallel re-orientation of his theological and social ideas that  were mutually informed by each other.
In Zwickau,  Müntzer came into contact with a lay movement, inspired by the cloth worker Nikolaus Storch, that combined radical theological teaching with critic on the prevailing social and economic conditions of the feudal age.
Müntzer soon incorporated the theological beliefs of the “Zwickau Prophet” into his own, the rejection of the Bible as the necessary means of the annunciation of the word of God, the rejection of infant in favour of adult baptism , the impending arrival of the “Day of Judgement” and the dawn of  the ever lasting “God's Kingdom” on earth.
The last two pronouncements were expressions of the hopes of the social under-classes of the city of Zwickau, the vast number of craftsmen and day labourers that hadn't participated in the economic growth of German cities in the late Middle ages.
Although  Müntzer must have been aware of the deep reaching social problems on Germany, but his contact with the labourers of Zwickau must have been a striking experience and must have profoundly changed his ideas on the implications of a  theological revolution.
In 1521,  Müntzer had to flee Zwickau, after arguments with the municipal authorities and arrived a few months later in Prague, then one of the most important cities of the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation”, as it was euphemistically called.
Prague was a largely Germanised city with a largely Slavic hinterland, where the Czech population was subjected to the usual feudal exploitation. Müntzer who by now had acquired a certain notoriety in the Empire soon got acquainted with the remnants of the Hussite rebellion that a century earlier had profoundly shaken up Bohemia and Moravia. Although Hus' rebellion had began as a religious revolt, informed by many of the complaints that Luther later took up, after his execution in 1415 in Constance, his followers had turned it into a social and national struggle that demanded the emancipation of the Czech peasantry from German rule in the country. Although the ultimate aim, the establishment of a Czech national state had not been achieved, the Hussites had weakened German rule in Bohemia, and by the beginning of the 16th century their various successor sects were still active. Müntzer came in contact with the Taborites who in the mid 15th century had preached a radical theology and had  practised a successful communal way of existence, where the economic spoils of their communities had been equally shared amongst its members. Although the formerly flourishing Tarborite communities were no longer in existence by 1521, the ideas were still in circulation and  had another important influence on  Müntzer's thinking. Whilst staying only a few months,  Müntzer found the time to formulate and publish his fundamental ideas in the “Prague Manifesto” of 1521.
The manifesto is essentially that of an millenarian movement and although  Müntzer's thinking was refined in his few remaining years, it poses somewhat as a definite and coherent summary of his beliefs.
Millenarianism , the believe in the coming of the end of historical time accompanied by the final judgement as revealed in the “Book of revelation” , the believe in the radical conversion of the world into a just and egalitarian society where mankind is equal before God, had been a recurrent theme of heresy in the Christian Church, most prominent amongst the many offshoots of the Hussite heresy.
The manifesto was a passionate appeal to the elected few to liberate the Christian faith from the Babylonian whore, the Papal Church, if necessary by force, to establish a new Apostolic Church and to help to realise the will of God here on earth.
As before on his journeys,  Müntzer found himself soon in trouble with the Prague authorities, he had to leave the city in a hurry soon after the publication of the manifesto and to continue his wanderings through the East of HRE.
In March 1523  Müntzer arrived in Allstedt, today as then a sleepy little town in the mainly agricultural regions of Central Germany, where he had been offered a position as Parish priest. He spent the first few month of his tenure reforming the Church service in his new home-town. In good Lutheran tradition, he introduced a German liturgy, the mass was celebrated entirely in the vernacular, rejecting Latin that until then had been spoken and sung in Church. What today seems a banality, was then a truly revolutionary act. To make the rites of the Church and their content transparent and accessible for the population, had been up to then successfully been prevented by the ecclesiastical authorities, but had been demanded and promoted by by the Lutheran Reformation. Martin Luther himself had famously translated the Old and New testament into the German the previous year during his solitary confinement on the Wartburg, thereby creating a uniform German literary language. Together with the printing innovations, this for the first time created the opportunity to read, understand and discuss the Bible amongst the ordinary believers.
It also helped to bridge the gap between priest and his parish, and Müntzer soon gained a deeper knowledge of the social problems of his flock, in Allstedt itself and in the surrounding countryside.
However, for a short while,  Müntzer remained uncharacteristically quiet and restrained. Possibly in order to secure his position in Allstedt,  Müntzer seemed at first hesitant to pursue his more radical teachings, he sought a reconciliation with Luther with whom he had mainly disagreed about the role of the New Testament in the revelation of God's word,  Müntzer downplaying its importance. He even pronounced a warning to the citizens of his town from the pulpit, asking them to abstain from radical and violent measures to enforce their political demands. Luther didn't bother to answer his advances, and his flock continued to demand reforms and eventually in 1524  Müntzer came out as the spiritual leader of a looming revolt.
In July 1524 he held, and later published his famous “Frstenpredigt” (“Sermon to the Princes”) in front of the court of the Duke of Saxony, attacking once again the authorities of Church and Empire, amongst them Luther who by then had become a traitor in the eyes of  Müntzer, and reminding the assembled dignitaries of their duties in the upcoming battle between good and evil that would herald the new millenarian age. He had broken now completely with Luther, who comforted his followers with salvation in God's Kingdom in the afterlife,  unlike Müntzer who demanded the creation of a heavenly Kingdom here on earth and now, if necessary with the help of armed force. The “Frstenpredigt” was held in defence of a group of citizens of Allstedt who had taken up more drastic actions, burning down a local church and forming a revolutionary society that was inspired by  Müntzer's teachings. The authorities naturally grew worried, and not astonishingly, weren't to responsive to  Müntzer's demands to join the rebellion.
It must be doubted that  Müntzer seriously expected the Duke of Saxony and his sons to take up arms for a millenarian society, after all they were on the other side of the social division that the labourers and peasants of Central Germany demanded to abolish. But preaching his radical ideas to the nobility must have presented him with an excellent platform to distinguish himself as one of the most radical theologians in Germany, and the plan worked.  The “Frstenpredigt“ was quickly distributed around Germany, and when  Müntzer had to escape Allstedt in the middle of the night and hit the road again, his reputation went before him .He was received with open arms in the Thuringian town of Mhlhausen, but here the known pattern repeated itself, and  Müntzer was expelled again after a short time, together with a couple of followers.
In the meantime Luther had found the time to answer the “Frstenpredigt”, condemning Müntzer's revolutionary teachings with the harshest words possible.  Müntzer retaliated with a vicious personal attack on Luther, throwing a whole number of choice insults at his former teacher and thus breaking all bridges between them.
From Mhlhausen, Müntzer went into territories unknown to him, into the South-West of Germany, into the heartland of the Peasant rebellions had had occurred in the last years of the 15th century. They were the predecessors of the revolt that should follow in 1525, and in origin and end set tits agenda.
For Müntzer the grievances that had informed the uprisings of the “Bundschuh” and “Der Arme Konrad”, as two of the most popular revolts had become known under, must have seemed strangely familiar. The lands along the Upper Rhine and in the Alsace belonged of different feudal lords, but the situation of the peasantry and labouring classes in the cities were almost identical to those in  the more familiar lands in Central Germany, and although twenty years had passed since the begin of the rebellions, the situation had not become any better.
Had the fate of the peasants never been an easy one in the feudal age, in the last few decades of the 15th century it had grown steadily worse in the wake of the economic and political changes in the Empire. 
Two main developments had occurred that worsened the life of the peasantry: Firstly the power and influence of the princes of the large territories and that of the free cities had increased. Whilst the former had been the political winners of the various “Reichsreforms”, the reforms of the structure of the Empire, and at the end of the 15th  century were virtually independent of imperial interference, with their own administration and armies, the latter had profited from the changes in the economy that had seen a more centralised and efficient production in the cities.
Secondly, the influence of the smaller feudal lords, only answerable to the Emperor, had dramatically decreased, resulting in the loss of military importance and the severe impoverishment of the “Reichsritter” that in the High Middle Ages had been backbone of the Empire.
Caught in the middle, was the peasantry who had suffered increasing financial demands from all sides, the powerful princes and the poor knights.
Feudal obligations had always been strict, a heavy taxation, combined with the duty to perform certain amounts of labour services to their feudal lords had made the life of the peasant an constantly precarious affair. But the ever rising financial needs of the territorial princes, in order to finance their armies and bureaucracy, and those of the lower nobility, in the vain hope to preserve their social status, had made life in the 15th century even more unbearable. Furthermore, the introduction of Roman law in the HRE in the late Middle Ages, in order to standardise the splintered judicial systems, had robbed the peasants of a number of rights that they had enjoyed under Germanic law. Peasant communities lost their right to self administration, lost their right to access to the formerly common land, and peasants had lost a number a personal freedoms, turning them into virtual serfs of their feudal lords.
The fate of those, who had tried to flee their economic and social oppression in the villages by escaping to the cities, wasn't much better. The former peasants became a cheap labour reservoir in the urban workshops that were highly regulated by powerful guilts and owned by a handful of Patrician families, and hardly improved their economic situation.
On the background of such  a volatile social situation, the late 15th century had witnessed a series of uprisings, mainly in the South-West of Germany, where peasants, urban labourers and a number of knights had combined their forces against the territorial nobility.
The “Bundschuh” had been a secretive organisation of rebellious peasants that had started a number of local revolts between 1476 and 1517, all ending in defeat. As had the revolt of the “Armer Konrad” against the Duke of Swabia. The uprising of the lesser knights, led by Franz von Sickingen and Ulrich von Hutten had ended in 1523 with the death of the former during the siege of his castle Landshut.
It is not known if Müntzer came in contact with any of the surviving leaders of the early  South-Western revolts when he travelled the region in 1524, but he must been very much aware of the sorry fate of the rebellious peasants, on the whole not an encouraging experience.
Müntzer was back in  Mhlhausen in early 1525, the ground having been prepared for him by the fellow priest Pfeiffer, one of his adherents. Both put themselves at the head of the rebellious plebeian citizens of the town, putting the “Eleven Articles” that contained their demands into action. The old patrician city council of  Mhlhausen was deposed, and Müntzer took over the main city Church of St. Nicholas from which pulpit he agitated the crowds that came to hear him all from all over the surrounding country side. After a few weeks Müntzer was practically running the city, and he could at least on a small scale put his egalitarian principles into practise. Müntzer chased the resident monks out of the nearby monastery of St. John and established himself and his closest followers as a community that practised the  sharing possessions and labour that he had envisaged for the coming millenarian society.
As much as the eschatologic idea of the end of time, the notion of an “Ur-Communist” society had been at the heart of many theological heresies that tried to return to the core beliefs of early Christendom. Christian egalitarians had always pointed out the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and regarded the example of his apostolic community and the many references in the New Testament that alluded to the immorality of accumulating earthly wealth, as proof that the ideal Christian society was an egalitarian where the spoils of communal labour was shared amongst those that produced it. Sects as the Cathars and Waldensians had attempted to put such ideals into practise, and the English peasant revolution of 1381 , whose theological content would influence the Hussites and other protestant religious groups, had famously expressed the notion of the egalitarian society as the oldest and original form of human community: “When Adam toiled and Eve span, who was then the gentleman”?
That such “ur-communist” ideas found the same echo amongst the German peasantry more than a hundred years later, is understandable. In view of the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor in the late Medieval society, the vision of a socially egalitarian society must have been irresistible. And if the earliest demands of the rebellious peasantry sought not much more than a restoration of its ancient rights and a lightening of its financial burdens, with every suppressed revolt and every disappointed hope, the demands asked for a more fundamental transformation of society.
Amongst the dispossessed poor of the city of Mhlhausen and the oppressed peasants in the nearby countryside,  Müntzer's ardent radicalism thus found an enthusiastic audience that made his program its own. In his seemingly unassailable position in  Mhlhausen, not only Müntzer's visions became more and more radical, but also his ideas how God's Kingdom on Earth should be achieved. He saw himself and his adherents now as the chosen instruments of God who had authorised him to cleanse the earth of all obstacles to the ever lasting divine Kingdom. And the only method to achieve that would be an all out war against the forces of the Anti-Christ.
The time for that war seemed finally to have arrived.
The rebellion in the South-West had resurged in late 1524, and by early 1525 its tremors were felt in Thuringia and the nearby Saxony. The Swabian peasantry had formulated its demands in the “Twelve Articles of Memmingen”, a rather moderate document compared to Müntzer's ideas, and had managed to attract a large following, amongst them again a number of lower aristocrats, most notably Florian Geyer and Gtz von Berlichingen ( later to be immortalised by J.W. Von Goethe) who became leaders of the revolt.
After initial successes in Swabia, the uprising soon met with organised resistance and  deteriorated into anarchic plunder and pillage  and had already lost much of its impetus when it finally reached  Mhlhausen in April 1525.
Müntzer believed his time had come. In a letter to the citizens of his former parish Allstedt he expressed the vision that the final battle was near: “Dran, dran, derweil das Feuer heiss ist. Gott geht euch voran, folget, folget!” ( “Forward, forward, while the iron is hot. God will lead you, follow, follow!!”)
At the end of April 7000 armed peasants had assembled in and around Mhlhausen, and Müntzer naturally assumed the leadership, not only the spiritual and political, something that was almost self-evident, but also the military, a surprising and, as later proven, fatal move.
The first chosen aim of the rebels of  Mhlhausen was the castle of the Count Ernst von Mansfeld, an old adversary, and the peasant army moved to Frankenhausen, carrying the banner of the rebellion, a white banner with the rainbow colours that should remind the faithful of God's pact with Noah.
The princes of Central Germany meanwhile hadn't remained inactive, the Dukes of Brunswick and Saxony had assembled their armies, and joined by the Landgrave of Hessia, they marched towards Frankenhausen to suppress the revolt. On May 14th the two armies stood in view of each other on a field outside the town, both equal on strength, approximately 8000, but the armies of the Dukes consisted of well trained and well armed professional soldiers, in every aspect superior to Müntzer's peasant army.
The next day, the Dukes offered a three hour truce, in which the peasants were allowed to consider the conditions of surrender that was demanded. One of its stipulations was the handing over of  Müntzer and his fellow leaders, after which the crowds were promised an amnesty under the condition that they would disband immediately.
Müntzer's camp deliberated for a short while, but as a couple of minor nobles that had joined the peasants' cause came out in favour of a surrender, they were promptly beheaded and the matter was thus settled.
There is no reliable account of the exact course of the Battle of Frankenhausen, and it hardly deserves its name. While  Müntzer seemed to have spent the time until the expiry of the truce by preaching to the demoralised peasantry, outlining for a last time
his visionary ideas, the ranks of disciplined “Landsknechte” appeared to have moved slowly but steadily towards the peasants' camp, and without awaiting the end of the arranged truce suddenly opened fire on the peasants  , assisted by their artillery. The fight was over in minutes, panic broke out in the camp, the peasants fled in disarray, pursued by the princely troops. What followed was a unmitigated slaughter, and when it was over 5000 of the 8000 peasants were killed, whilst the Landsknechte  suffered 6 casualties. The remainder of the peasant army fled into Frankenhausen, but the tow was soon taken by the army of the Dukes. Müntzer, having been wounded during the fight, was discovered in a house,  arrested and taken to the nearby castle of Herdrungen.
Mhlhausen itself, badly defended by Pfeiffer, surrendered a few days later, and the Thuringian peasant rebellion ended as fast as it had began.
Müntzer was subjected to intensive torture at the castle, and although he seemed to have recanted some of his beliefs, to what extent is not known and still disputed. On May 27th he and Pfeiffer were beheaded on the town square of Mhlhausen, with all the regional Dukes in attendance, and their heads customary put on spikes on the town walls. Mhlhausen itself was punished for harbouring the rebellious preacher, it lost its independence as free city and became a subject of the Duke of Saxony.
In the rest of Germany, mainly in the South, the peasant rebellion lingered on for a few more months of 1525, but in the end suffered the same fate as the Thuringian. The military superiority of the princely armies were no match for the peasants, region by region the revolt was brutally suppressed, followed by  punishing tribunals. An important role in the oppression had been played, of all people, by Luther who in his pamphlet “Wider die mrderischen and ruberischen Rotten der Bauern” ( “Against the murdering and stealing gangs of peasants”) had declared firmly on the side of the worldly authorities of the Empire and against  social and political upheaval.
The social dimension of the German reformation came to end in 1525. Although its radical wing, the Anabaptists, kept on preaching parts of Müntzer's visionary millenarianism, it never again rose to a serious political force, if one disregards the temporary establishing of a “New Jerusalem” in the Westphalian town of Mnster in 1534 by Dutch Anabaptists as the farcical episode it was.
The egalitarian ideas survive as well, on a much smaller scale as Müntzer had planned it, it was and to a certain extent still is practised by Anabaptist communities.
The German peasant rebellion of 1525 wasn't the only uprising in Central Europe: the Jacquerie in France in 1356-1358, the Peasant's revolt of 1381 in England, the Rebellion of the Remences in Spain in 1462 and 1485 and many others, are other manifestations of the social struggles in Medieval Europe.
An only superficial look at all these revolt reveals a common pattern, the universal causes were the increasing financial pressures on the peasantry next to external disasters as famine, plague or war;  the common ideology that sought to justify the transformation of society was that of a fundamental Christianity, and the general outcome of the uprisings was that of a total defeat of the peasant armies.
The 1525 uprising in Thuringia was thus symptomatic for all the others, and Müntzer's fate was shared by most of the leaders of the revolts.
His martyrdom gave an additional reason for Orthodox Marxist historiography to proclaim him a hero of pre-Socialist revolutionary struggles. But to over-emphasising his political ideas by simultaneously virtually disregarding his religious motivations, is doing injustice to Müntzer's life and work. And is completely unnecessary.
Müntzer's teaching was predominantly informed by his theological thinking, by the radical interpretation of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. He arrived at his severe criticism of the Church authorities and their application of Christian belief by the same road as Luther did. But he took his subversion one decisive step further. He came to see the secular degeneration of the Church as only one symptom of the unjust and fundamentally wrong distribution of wealth and power in the Medieval society that stood in stark contrast to the idea of a godly and egalitarian society that Jesus had been advocating. The notion that all men were equal before God had to be applied not only to the promised paradise of the afterlife, but the  world here and now.(That Müntzer didn't apply his notion of human equality onto the Jewish people is usually conveniently forgotten.)
That almost all peasant uprising were informed by the same religious millenarian ideas is the result of the absence of any other body of thought by which such political aims could be deducted from. In the 14th and 15th century the notion of basic human rights, that later were to inform the political rebellions of early modernity, were either not developed yet or were still in their philosophical infancy. For the peasant of the feudal age, the only source for the legitimisation of his struggles was his religion, Christianity and its basic document, the Bible, whose complex texts gave justification enough for an egalitarian society. For Müntzer and his following there never was a separation of religion and politics, the idea of the formation of God's Kingdom on earth implied both.
If Müntzer's uprising of 1525 can be regarded as a predecessor of the later social struggles that had occurred before Engels or would do after him, it can only be done so with the awareness that Christianity was the determining force behind it, at a time when Christianity in Europe, in view of the absence of any other, still had the potential to be a critical and sometimes revolutionary ideology of the social revolts that occurred frequently in the late Middle-Ages.
Friederich Engels, Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg, 1850, from: Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Werke, Bd. 7, Berlin 1960
Owen Chadwick, The Reformation, London 1964
Geoffrey Barraclough, The Christian World, A Social and Cultural History, London 1981  
Belfort Bax, The Peasant War, London 1899
Ed Weick, The German Peasants Rebellion, 2000, from: