John of Leiden

John of Leiden, c.1509–1536, Dutch Anabaptist leader. His original name was Beuckelszoon, Beuckelzoon, Bockelszoon, Bockelson, Beukels, or Buckholdt. John of Leiden was attracted to the extreme left of the early Reformation movement through the influence of Thomas Münzer. In 1533 he joined the Anabaptists and, as a follower of Johann Matthyszoon (Matthiesen) moved to Münster. There in 1534 the Anabaptists took up arms and deposed the civil and religious authorities of the town. After Matthyszoon's death in the siege, John of Leiden assumed leadership and set up a theocracy in the new Zion. Soon John declared himself "king," with Bernard Knipperdollinck second in command; during his brief and arbitrary rule general lawlessness prevailed, polygamy was legalized, and property communized. When the siege to recover the town, led by the expelled prince bishop, was successful in 1535, the leaders of the new "kingdom of Zion" were barbarously tortured and in the following year executed.

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