MUNZER, THOMAS (c. 1480-1525), German religious enthusiast, was born at Stolberg in the Harz near the end of the 15th century, and educated at Leipzig and Frankfort, graduating is theology. He held preaching appointments in various places, but his restless nature prevented him from remaining in one position for any length of time. In 1520 he became a preacher at the church of St Mary, Zwickau, and his rude eloquence, together with his attacks on the monks, soon raised him to influence. Aided by Nicholas Storch, he formed a society the principles of which were akin to those of the Taborites, and claimed that he was under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. His zeal for the purification of the Church by casting out all unbelievers brought him into conflict with the governing body of the town, and he was compelled to leave Zwickau. He then went to Prague, where his preaching won numerous adherents, but his violent language brought about his expulsion from this city also. At Easter 1523 Miinzer came to Allstedt, and was soon appointed preacher at the church of St John, where he made extensive alterations in the services. His violence, however, aroused the hostility of Luther, in retaliation for which Miinzer denounced the Wittenberg teaching. His preaching soon produced an uproar in Allstedt, and after holding his own for some time he left the town and went to Miihlhausen, where Heinrich Pfeiffer was already preaching doctrines similar to his own. The union of Miinzer and Pfeiffer caused a disturbance in this city and both were expelled. Miinzer went to Nuremberg, where he issued a writing against Luther, who had been mainly instrumental in bringing about his expulsion from Saxony. About this time his teaching became still more violent. He denounced established governments, and advocated common ownership of the means of life. After a tour in south Germany he returned to Miihlhausen, overthrew the governing body of the city, and established a communistic theocracy. The Peasants' War had already broken out in various parts of Germany; and as the peasantry around Miihlhausen were imbued with Miinzer's teaching, he collected a large body of men to plunder the surrounding country. He established his camp at Frankenhausen; but on the 15th of May 1525 the peasants were dispersed by Philip, landgrave of Hesse, who captured Mtinzer and executed him on the 27th at Miihlhausen. Before his death he is said to have written a letter admitting the justice of his sentence.
His Aussgetriickte Emplossung des falschen Glaubens has been edited by R. Jordan (Muhlhausen, 1901), and a life of Munzer, Die Histori von Thome Muntzer des Anfengers der duringischen Uffrur, has been attributed to Philip Melanchthon (Hagenau, 1525). See G. T. Strobel, Leben, Schriften und Lehren Thomd Miinlzers (Nuremberg, 1795); J. K. Seidemann, Thomas Munzer (Leipzig, 1842); O. Merx, Thomas Munzer und Heinrich Pfeiffer (Gottingen, 1889) ; G. Wolfrau, Thomas Munzer in Allstedt (Jena, 1852).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)