Wyttenbach, Thomas

Wyttenbach, Thomas chronologically the first of Swiss reformers, is supposed to have been born in 1472 of an ancient family at Biel. He is known to have been a student at Tübingen, where Gabriel Biel and the learned Hebraist Konrad Pellican were the professors. About 1505 he habilitated himself at Basle as artium lib. magister and sanctae theologiae baccal. biblicus. He expounded the sentences of Peter Lombard and several books of Scripture, and taught the dogmas of Rome in disputations, as is attested by his pupils Leo Judah and Ulric Zwingli. In 1507 he was appointed to the town church of Biel, and confirmed in that charge by the bishop of Lausanne on Aug. 26. In the course of his early ministry he was employed by the town authorities to conduct negotiations with Rome respecting the permission to use a milk diet in Lent and the obtaining of indulgences for the citizens of Biel. He was also zealous in defending the independence of the town priest against the abbot of the neighboring convent of St. John, and the rights of the town church against the civil authorities. In 1515 he sojourned at Basle, and obtained the degree of theological doctor, besides being made canon and custos of St. Vincent's, while retaining his previous office at Biel; but five years later he had resigned all his dignities at Basle and resumed his place at Biel altogether. He persistently preached against indulgences and the mass, kept a watchful eye upon the abbot of St. John and the town council, and ventured; to attack the celibacy of priests. In 1524 he married, and was accordingly dismissed from his charge. He thereupon preached in the open air and other available places, visited his assailants and discussed the questions at issue with them, and by different methods gained many friends to his side. His life had been a constant struggle with poverty from the beginning, and was now more than ever wretched from this cause. But appeals to the council for support, in recognition of the services of eighteen years which he had given to the town, produced no effect; aid when, in 1525, the temper of the community had changed, and resolutions were adopted by the citizens asking that Wyttenbach be allowed to preach, and that a suitable support be assured hill, the council first evaded the demand and then invoked the intervention of the bishop of Lausanne. An episcopal admonition was accordingly addressed to Biel, Nov. 11, 1525. A protracted agitation followed, the result of which was that Wyttenbach was thrown aside by all parties, and refused employment of any kind by his native town. A pension amounting to twelve florins annually was after a time granted him as remuneration for the losses incurred in the contest with the abbot of St. John; but he did not live to enjoy even this beggarly provision. He died in 1526. Two years afterwards the reformation of Biel was an accomplished fact.

No literary remains of sufficient extent to afford a proof of Wyttenbach's scholarly abilities are in existence. A few Letters, mostly contained in the archives of Biel, are extant, which show him to have been a man of convictions and a courageous defender of truth and, right. See Scheulrer, Mausoleum (largely incorrect),; pt. 1; Kuhn, Reformatoren Berns; Blosch, Gesch.. d. Stadt Biel, etc., and particularly:the section Manuale Dominorum Collegii St. Vincentii Bernensis from A.D. 1488 to the Reformation; Haller to Zwingli in 1523, in Zwingli's Opp. 1, 294. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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