Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli
Early years (1484 - 1518)
Huldrych Zwingli was born on 1 January 1484 in Wildhaus, in the Toggenburg valley of Switzerland, to a family of farmers, the third child of nine. His father, Ulrich, played a leading role in the administration of the community (Amtmann or chief local magistrate). Zwingli's primary schooling was provided by his uncle, Bartholomew, a cleric in Weesen, where he probably met Katharina von Zimmern. At ten years old, Zwingli was sent to Basel to obtain his secondary education where he learned Latin under Magistrate Gregory Bünzli. After three years in Basel, he stayed a short time in Bern with the humanist, Henry Wölfflin. The Dominicans in Bern tried to persuade Zwingli to join their order and it is possible that he was received as a novice. However, his father and uncle disapproved of such a course and he left Bern without completing his Latin studies. He enrolled in the University of Vienna in the winter semester of 1498 but was expelled, according to the university's records. However, it is not certain that Zwingli was indeed expelled, and he re-enrolled in the summer semester of 1500; his activities in 1499 are unknown. Zwingli continued his studies in Vienna until 1502, after which he transferred to the University of Basel where he received the Master of Arts degree (Magister) in 1506.
Zwingli was ordained in Constance, the seat of the local diocese, and he celebrated his first Mass in his hometown, Wildhaus, on 29 September 1506. As a young priest he had studied little theology, but this was not considered unusual at the time. His first ecclesiastical post was the pastorate of the town of Glarus, where he stayed for ten years. It was in Glarus, whose soldiers were used as mercenaries in Europe, that Zwingli became involved in politics. The Swiss Confederation was embroiled in various campaigns with its neighbours: the French, the Habsburgs, and the Papal States. Zwingli placed himself solidly on the side of the Roman See. In return, Pope Julius II honoured Zwingli by providing him with an annual pension. He took the role of chaplain in several campaigns in Italy, including the Battle of Novara in 1513. However, the decisive defeat of the Swiss in the Battle of Marignano caused a shift in mood in Glarus in favour of the French rather than the pope. Zwingli, the papal partisan, found himself in a difficult position and he decided to retreat to Einsiedeln in the canton of Schwyz. By this time, he had become convinced that mercenary service was immoral and that Swiss unity was indispensable for any future achievements. Some of his earliest extant writings, such as The Ox (1510) and The Labyrinth (1516), attacked the mercenary system using allegory and satire. His countrymen were presented as virtuous people within a French, imperial, and papal triangle. Zwingli stayed in Einsiedeln for two years during which he withdrew completely from politics in favour of ecclesiastical activities and personal studies.
Zwingli's time as the pastor of Glarus and Einsiedeln was characterized by inner growth and development. He perfected his Greek and he took up the study of Hebrew. His library contained over three hundred volumes from which he was able to draw upon classical, patristic, and scholastic works. He exchanged scholarly letters with a circle of Swiss humanists and began to study the writings of Erasmus. Zwingli took the opportunity to meet him while Erasmus was in Basel between August 1514 and May 1516. Zwingli's turn to relative pacifism and his focus on preaching can be traced to the influence of Erasmus.
In late 1518, the post of the Leutpriestertum (people's priest) of the Grossmünster at Zurich became vacant. The canons of the foundation that administered the Grossmünster recognised Zwingli's reputation as a fine preacher and writer. His connection with humanists was a decisive factor as several canons were sympathetic to Erasmian reform. In addition, his opposition to the French and to mercenary service was welcomed by Zurich politicians. On 11 December 1518, the canons elected Zwingli to become the stipendiary priest and on 27 December he moved permanently to Zurich.
Zurich ministry begins (1519 - 1521)
On 1 January 1519, Zwingli gave his first sermon in Zurich. Deviating from the prevalent practice of basing a sermon on the Gospel lesson of a particular Sunday, Zwingli, using Erasmus' New Testament as a guide, began to read through the Gospel of Matthew, giving his interpretation during the sermon, known as the method of lectio continua. He continued to read and interpret the book on subsequent Sundays until he reached the end and then proceeded in the same manner with the Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament epistles, and finally the Old Testament. His motives for doing this are not clear, but in his sermons he used exhortation to achieve moral and ecclesiastical improvement which were goals comparable with Erasmian reform. Sometime after 1520, Zwingli's theological model began to evolve into an idiosyncratic form that was neither Erasmian nor Lutheran. Scholars do not agree on the process of how he developed his own unique model. One view is that Zwingli was trained as an Erasmian humanist and Luther played a decisive role in changing his theology. Another view is that Zwingli did not pay much attention to Luther's theology and in fact he considered it as part of the humanist reform movement. A third view is that Zwingli was not a complete follower of Erasmus, but had diverged from him as early as 1516 and that he independently developed his theology.
Zwingli's theological stance was gradually revealed through his sermons. He attacked moral corruption and in the process he named individuals who were the targets of his denunciations. Monks were accused of indolence and high living. In 1519, Zwingli specifically rejected the veneration of saints and called for the need to distinguish between their true and fictional accounts. He cast doubts on hellfire, asserted that unbaptised children were not damned, and questioned the power of excommunication. His attack on the claim that tithing was a divine institution, however, had the greatest theological and social impact. This contradicted the immediate economic interests of the foundation. One of the elderly canons who had supported Zwingli's election, Konrad Hofmann, complained about his sermons in a letter. Some canons supported Hofmann, but the opposition never grew very large. Zwingli insisted that he was not an innovator and that the sole basis of his teachings was Scripture.
Within the diocese of Constance, Bernhardin Sanson was offering a special indulgence for contributors to the building of St Peter's in Rome. When Sanson arrived at the gates of Zurich at the end of January 1519, parishioners prompted Zwingli with questions. He responded with displeasure that the people were not being properly informed about the conditions of the indulgence and were being induced to part with their money on false pretences. This was over a year after Martin Luther published his Ninety-five theses (31 October 1517). The council of Zurich refused Sanson entry into the city. As the authorities in Rome were anxious to contain the fire started by Luther, the Bishop of Constance denied any support of Sanson and he was recalled.
In August 1519, Zurich was struck by an outbreak of the plague during which at least one in four persons died. All of those who could afford it left the city, but Zwingli remained and continued his pastoral duties. In September, he caught the disease and nearly died. He described his preparation for death in a poem, Zwingli's Pestlied, consisting of three parts: the onset of the illness, the closeness to death, and the joy of recovery. In the years following his recovery, Zwingli's opponents remained in the minority. When a vacancy occurred among the canons of the Grossmünster, Zwingli was elected to fulfill that vacancy on 29 April 1521. In becoming a canon, he became a full citizen of Zurich. He also retained his post as the people's priest of the Grossmünster.
First rifts (1522 - 1524)
The first public controversy regarding Zwingli's preaching broke out during the season of Lent in 1522. On the first fasting Sunday, 9 March, Zwingli and about a dozen other participants consciously transgressed the fasting rule by cutting and distributing two smoked sausages (the Wurstessen in Christoph Froschauer's workshop). Zwingli defended this act in a sermon which was published on 16 April, under the title Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen (Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods). He noted that no general valid rule on food can be derived from the Bible and that to transgress such a rule is not a sin. The event, which came to be referred to as the Affair of the Sausages, is considered to be the start of the Reformation in Switzerland. Even before the publication of this treatise, the diocese of Constance reacted by sending a delegation to Zurich. The city council condemned the fasting violation, but assumed responsibility over ecclesiastical matters and requested the religious authorities clarify the issue. The bishop responded on 24 May by admonishing the Grossmünster and city council and repeating the traditional position.
Following this event, Zwingli and other humanist friends petitioned the bishop on 2 July to abolish the requirement of celibacy on the clergy. Two weeks later the petition was reprinted for the public in German as Eine freundliche Bitte und Ermahnung an die Eidgenossen (A Friendly Petition and Admonition to the Confederates). The issue was not just an abstract problem for Zwingli, as he had secretly married a widow, Anna Reinhard, earlier in the year. Their cohabitation was well-known and their public wedding took place on 2 April 1524, three months before the birth of their first child. They would eventually have four children: Regula, William, Huldrych, and Anna. As the petition was addressed to the secular authorities, the bishop responded at the same level by notifying the Zurich government to maintain the ecclesiastical order. Other Swiss clergymen joined in Zwingli's cause which encouraged him to make his first major statement of faith, Apologeticus Archeteles (The First and Last Word). He defended himself against charges of inciting unrest and heresy. He denied the ecclesiastical hierarchy any right to judge on matters of church order because of its corrupted state.
Zurich disputations (1523)
The events of 1522 brought no clarification on the issues. Not only did the unrest between Zurich and the bishop continue, tensions were growing among Zurich's Confederation partners in the Swiss Diet. On 22 December, the Diet recommended that its members prohibit the new teachings, a strong indictment directed at Zurich. The city council felt obliged to take the initiative and find its own solution.
On 3 January 1523, the Zurich city council invited the clergy of the city and outlying region to a meeting to allow the factions to present their opinions. The bishop was invited to attend or to send a representative. The council would render a decision on who would be allowed to continue to proclaim their views. This meeting, the first Zurich disputation, took place on 29 January 1523.
The meeting attracted a large crowd of approximately six hundred participants. The bishop sent a delegation led by his vicar general, Johannes Fabri. Zwingli summarised his position in the Schlussreden (Concluding Statements or the Sixty-seven Articles). Fabri, who had not envisaged an academic disputation in the manner Zwingli had prepared for, was forbidden to discuss high theology before laymen, and simply insisted on the necessity of the ecclesiastical authority. The decision of the council was that Zwingli would be allowed to continue his preaching and that all other preachers should teach only in accordance with Scripture.
In September 1523, Leo Jud, Zwingli's closest friend and colleague and pastor of St. Peterskirche, publicly called for the removal of statues of saints and other icons. This led to demonstrations and iconoclastic activities. The city council decided to work out the matter of images in a second disputation. The essence of the mass and its sacrificial character was also included as a subject of discussion. Supporters of the mass claimed that the eucharist was a true sacrifice, while Zwingli claimed that it was a commemorative meal. As in the first disputation, an invitation was sent out to the Zurich clergy and the bishop of Constance. This time, however, the lay people of Zurich, the dioceses of Chur and Basel, the University of Basel, and the twelve members of the Confederation were also invited. About nine hundred persons attended this meeting, but neither the bishop nor the Confederation sent representatives. The disputation started on 26 October 1523 and lasted two days.
Zwingli again took the lead in the disputation. His opponent was the aforementioned canon, Konrad Hofmann, who had initially supported Zwingli's election. Also taking part was a group of young men demanding a much faster pace of reformation, who among other things pleaded for replacing infant baptism with adult baptism. This group was led by Conrad Grebel, one of the initiators of the Anabaptist movement. During the first three days of dispute, although the controversy of images and the mass were discussed, the arguments led to the question of whether the city council or the ecclesiastical government had the authority to decide on these issues. At this point, Konrad Schmid, a priest from Aargau and follower of Zwingli, made a pragmatic suggestion. As images were not yet considered to be valueless by everyone, he suggested that pastors preach on this subject under threat of punishment. He believed the opinions of the people would gradually change and the voluntary removal of images would follow. Hence, Schmid rejected the radicals and their iconoclasm, but supported Zwingli's position. In November the council passed ordinances in support of Schmid's motion. Zwingli wrote a booklet on the evangelical duties of a minister, Kurze, christliche Einleitung (Short Christian Introduction), and the council sent it out to the clergy and the members of the Confederation.
Reformation progresses in Zurich (1524 - 1525)
In December 1523, the council set a deadline of Pentecost in 1524 for a solution to the elimination of the mass and images. Zwingli gave a formal opinion in Vorschlag wegen der Bilder und der Messe (Proposal Concerning Images and the Mass). He did not urge an immediate, general abolition. The council decided on the orderly removal of images within Zurich, but rural congregations were granted the right to remove them based on majority vote. The decision on the mass was postponed.
Evidence of the effect of the Reformation was seen in early 1524. Candlemas was not celebrated, processions of robed clergy ceased, worshippers did not go with palms or relics on Palm Sunday to the Lindenhof, and triptychs remained covered and closed after Lent. Opposition to the changes came from Konrad Hofmann and his followers, but the council decided in favour of keeping the government mandates. When Hofmann left the city, opposition from pastors hostile to the Reformation broke down. The bishop of Constance tried to intervene in defending the mass and the veneration of images. Zwingli wrote an official response for the council and the result was the severance of all ties between the city and the diocese.
Although the council had hesitated in abolishing the mass, the decrease in the exercise of traditional piety allowed pastors to be unofficially released from the requirement of celebrating mass. As individual pastors altered their practices as each saw fit, Zwingli was prompted to address this disorganised situation by designing a communion liturgy in the German language. This was published in Aktion oder Brauch des Nachtmahls (Act or Custom of the Supper). Shortly before Easter, Zwingli and his closest associates requested the council to cancel the mass and to introduce the new public order of worship. On Maundy Thursday, 13 April 1525, Zwingli celebrated communion under his new liturgy. Wooden cups and plates were used to avoid any outward displays of formality. The congregation sat at set tables to emphasise the meal aspect of the sacrament. The sermon was the focal point of the service and there was no organ music or singing. The importance of the sermon in the worship service was underlined by Zwingli's proposal to limit the celebration of communion to four times a year.
For some time Zwingli had accused mendicant orders of hypocrisy and demanded their abolition in order to support the truly poor. He suggested the monasteries be changed into hospitals and welfare institutions and incorporate their wealth into a welfare fund. This was done by reorganising the foundations of the Grossmünster and Fraumünster and pensioning off remaining nuns and monks. The council secularised the church properties (Fraumünster handed over by Zwingli's acquaintance Katharina von Zimmern) and established new welfare programs for the poor. Zwingli requested permission to establish a Latin school, the Prophezei (Prophecy) or Carolinum, at the Grossmünster. The council agreed and it was officially opened on 19 June 1525 with Zwingli and Jud as teachers. It served to retrain and re-educate the clergy. The Zurich Bible translation, traditionally attributed to Zwingli and printed by Christoph Froschauer, bears the mark of teamwork from the Prophecy school. Scholars have not yet attempted to clarify Zwingli's share of the work based on external and stylistic evidence.
Conflict with the Anabaptists (1525 - 1527)
Shortly after the second Zurich disputation, many in the radical wing of the Reformation became convinced that Zwingli was making too many concessions to the Zurich council. They rejected the role of civil government and demanded the immediate establishment of a congregation of the faithful. Conrad Grebel, the leader of the radicals and the emerging Anabaptist movement, spoke disparagingly of Zwingli in private. On 15 August 1524 the council insisted on the obligation to baptise all newborn infants. Zwingli secretly conferred with Grebel's group and late in 1524, the council called for official discussions. When talks were broken off, Zwingli published Wer Ursache gebe zu Aufruhr (Whoever Causes Unrest) clarifying the opposing points-of-view. On 17 January 1525 a public debate was held and the council decided in favour of Zwingli. Anyone refusing to have their children baptised was required to leave Zurich. The radicals ignored these measures and on 21 January, they met at the house of the mother of another radical leader, Felix Manz. Grebel and a third leader, George Blaurock, performed the first recorded Anabaptist adult baptisms.
On February 2, the council repeated the requirement on the baptism of all babies and some who failed to comply were arrested and fined, Manz and Blaurock among them. Zwingli and Jud interviewed them and more debates were held before the Zurich council. Meanwhile, the new teachings continued to spread to other parts of the Confederation as well as a number of Swabian towns. On 6–8 November, the last debate on the subject of baptism took place in the Grossmünster. Grebel, Manz, and Blaurock defended their cause before Zwingli, Jud, and other reformers. There was no serious exchange of views as each side would not move from their positions and the debates degenerated into an uproar, each side shouting abuse at the other.
The Zurich council decided that no compromise was possible. On 7 March 1526 it released the notorious mandate that no one shall rebaptise another under the penalty of death. Although Zwingli, technically, had nothing to do with the mandate, there is no indication that he disapproved. Felix Manz, who had sworn to leave Zurich and not to baptise any more, had deliberately returned and continued the practice. After he was arrested and tried, he was executed on 5 January 1527 by being drowned in the Limmat. He was the first Anabaptist martyr; three more were to follow, after which all others either fled or were expelled from Zurich.
Reformation in the Confederation (1526 - 1528)
On 8 April 1524, five cantons, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Zug, formed an alliance, die fünf Orte (the Five States) to defend themselves from Zwingli's Reformation. They contacted the opponents of Martin Luther including John Eck, who had debated Luther in the Leipzig Disputation of 1519. Eck offered to dispute Zwingli and he accepted. However, they could not agree on the selection of the judging authority, the location of the debate, and the use of the Swiss Diet as a court. Because of the disagreements, Zwingli decided to boycott the disputation. On 19 May 1526, all the cantons sent delegates to Baden. Although Zurich's representatives were present, they did not participate in the sessions. Eck led the Catholic party while the reformers were represented by Johannes Oecolampadius of Basel, a theologian from Württemberg who had carried on an extensive and friendly correspondence with Zwingli. While the debate proceeded, Zwingli was kept informed of the proceedings and printed pamphlets giving his opinions. It was of little use as the Diet decided against Zwingli. He was to be banned and his writings were no longer to be distributed. Of the thirteen Confederation members, Glarus, Solothurn, Fribourg, and Appenzell as well as the Five States voted against Zwingli. Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen, and Zurich supported him.
The Baden disputation exposed a deep rift in the Confederation on matters of religion. The Reformation was now emerging in other states. The city of St Gallen, an affiliated state to the Confederation, was led by a reformed mayor, Joachim Vadian, and the city abolished the mass in 1527, just two years after Zurich. In Basel, although Zwingli had a close relationship with Oecolampadius, the government did not officially sanction any reformatory changes until 1 April 1529 when the mass was prohibited. Schaffhausen, which had closely followed Zurich's example, formally adopted the Reformation in September 1529. In the case of Bern, Berchtold Haller, the priest at St Vincent Münster, and Niklaus Manuel, the poet, painter, and politician, had campaigned for the reformed cause. But it was only after another disputation that Bern counted itself as a canton of the Reformation. Four hundred and fifty persons participated, including pastors from Bern and other cantons as well as theologians from outside the Confederation such as Martin Bucer and Wolfgang Capito from Strasbourg, Ambrosius Blarer from Constance, and Andreas Althamer from Nuremberg. Eck and Fabri refused to attend and the Catholic cantons did not send representatives. The meeting started on 6 January 1528 and lasted nearly three weeks. Zwingli assumed the main burden of defending the Reformation and he preached twice in the Münster. On 7 February 1528 the council decreed that the Reformation be established in Bern.
First Kappel War (1529)
Even before the Bern disputation, Zwingli was canvassing for an alliance of reformed cities. Once Bern officially accepted the Reformation, a new alliance, das Christliche Burgrecht (the Christian Civic Union) was created. The first meetings were held in Bern between representatives of Bern, Constance, and Zurich on 5–6 January 1528. Other cities, including Basel, Biel, Mülhausen, Schaffhausen, and St Gallen, eventually joined the alliance. The Five (Catholic) States felt encircled and isolated, so they searched for outside allies. After two months of negotiations, the Five States formed die Christliche Vereinigung (the Christian Alliance) with Ferdinand of Austria on 22 April 1529.
Soon after the Austrian treaty was signed, a reformed preacher, Jacob Kaiser, was captured in Uznach and executed in Schwyz. This triggered a strong reaction from Zwingli; he drafted Ratschlag über den Krieg (Advice About the War) for the government. He outlined justifications for an attack on the Catholic states and other measures to be taken. Before Zurich could implement his plans, a delegation from Bern that included Niklaus Manuel arrived in Zurich. The delegation called on Zurich to settle the matter peacefully. Manuel added that an attack would expose Bern to further dangers as Catholic Valais and the Duchy of Savoy bordered its southern flank. He then noted, "You cannot really bring faith by means of spears and halberds." Zurich, however, decided that it would act alone, knowing that Bern would be obliged to acquiesce. War was declared on 8 June 1529. Zurich was able to raise an army of 30,000 men. The Five States were abandoned by Austria and could raise only 9,000 men. The two forces met near Kappel, but war was averted due to the intervention of Hans Aebli, a relative of Zwingli, who pleaded for an armistice.
Zwingli was obliged to state the terms of the armistice. He demanded the dissolution of the Christian Alliance; unhindered preaching by reformers in the Catholic states; prohibition of the pension system; payment of war reparations; and compensation to the children of Jacob Kaiser. Manuel was involved in the negotiations. Bern was not prepared to insist on the unhindered preaching or the prohibition of the pension system. Zurich and Bern could not agree and the Five (Catholic) States pledged only to dissolve their alliance with Austria. This was a bitter disappointment for Zwingli and it marked his decline in political influence. The first Land Peace of Kappel, der erste Landfriede, ended the war on 24 June.
Marburg Colloquy (1529)
While Zwingli carried on the political work of the Swiss Reformation, he developed his theological views with his colleagues. The famous disagreement between Luther and Zwingli on the interpretation of the eucharist originated when Andreas Karlstadt, Luther's former colleague from Wittenberg, published three pamphlets on the Lord's Supper in which Karlstadt rejected the idea of a real presence in the elements. These pamphlets, published in Basel in 1524, received the approval of Oecolampadius and Zwingli. Luther rejected Karlstadt's arguments and considered Zwingli primarily to be a partisan of Karlstadt. Zwingli began to express his thoughts on the eucharist in several publications including de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist). He attacked the idea of the real presence and argued that the word is in the words of the institution—"This is my body, this is my blood"—means signifies. Hence, the words are understood as a metaphor and Zwingli claimed that there was no real presence during the eucharist. In effect, the meal was symbolic of the Last Supper.
By spring 1527, Luther reacted strongly to Zwingli's views in the treatise Dass Diese Worte Christi "Das ist mein Leib etc." noch fest stehen wider die Schwarmgeister (That These Words of Christ "This is My Body etc." Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics). The controversy continued until 1528 when efforts to build bridges between the Lutheran and the Zwinglian views began. Martin Bucer tried to mediate while Philip of Hesse, who wanted to form a political coalition of all Protestant forces, invited the two parties to Marburgto discuss their differences. This event became known as the Marburg Colloquy.
Zwingli accepted Philip's invitation fully believing that he would be able to convince Luther. By contrast, Luther did not expect anything to come out of the meeting and had to be urged by Philip to attend. Zwingli, accompanied by Oecolampadius, arrived on 28 September 1529 with Luther and Philipp Melanchthon arriving shortly thereafter. Other theologians also participated including Martin Bucer, Andreas Osiander, Johannes Brenz, and Justus Jonas. The debates were held from 1–3 October and the results were published in the fifteen Marburg Articles. The participants were able to agree on fourteen of the articles, but the fifteenth article established the differences in their views on the presence of Christ in the eucharist. Afterwards, each side was convinced that they were the victors, but in fact the controversy was not resolved and the final result was the formation of two different Protestant confessions.
Politics, confessions, the Kappel Wars and death (1529 - 1531)
With the failure of the Marburg Colloquy and the split of the Confederation, Zwingli set his goal on an alliance with Philip of Hesse. He kept up a lively correspondence with Philip. Bern refused to participate, but after a long process, Zurich, Basel, and Strasbourg signed a mutual defence treaty with Philip in November 1530. Zwingli also personally negotiated with France's diplomatic representative, but the two sides were too far apart. France wanted to maintain good relations with the Five States. Approaches to Venice and Milan also failed.
As Zwingli was working on establishing these political alliances, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, invited Protestants to the Augsburg Diet to present their views so that he could make a verdict on the issue of faith. The Lutherans presented the Augsburg Confession. Under the leadership of Martin Bucer, the cities of Strasbourg, Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau produced the Tetrapolitan Confession. This document attempted to take a middle position between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. It was too late for the Burgrecht cities to produce a confession of their own. Zwingli then produced his own private confession, Fidei ratio (Account of Faith) in which he explained his faith in twelve articles conforming to the articles of the Apostles' Creed. The tone was strongly anti-Catholic as well as anti-Lutheran. The Lutherans did not react officially, but criticised it privately. Zwingli's and Luther's old opponent, Johann Eck, counter-attacked with a publication, Refutation of the Articles Zwingli Submitted to the Emperor.
When Philip of Hesse formed the Schmalkaldic League at the end of 1530, the four cities of the Tetrapolitan Confession joined on the basis of a Lutheran interpretation of that confession. Given the flexibility of the league's entrance requirements, Zurich, Basel, and Bern also considered joining. However, Zwingli could not reconcile the Tetrapolitan Confession with his own beliefs and wrote a harsh refusal to Bucer and Capito. This offended Philip to the point where relations with the League were severed. The Burgrechtcities now had no external allies to help deal with internal Confederation religious conflicts.
The peace treaty of the First Kappel War did not define the right of unhindered preaching in the Catholic states. Zwingli interpreted this to mean that preaching should be permitted, but the Five States suppressed any attempts to reform. The Burgrecht cities considered different means of applying pressure to the Five States. Basel and Schaffhausen preferred quiet diplomacy while Zurich wanted armed conflict. Zwingli and Jud unequivocally advocated an attack on the Five States. Bern took a middle position which eventually prevailed. In May 1531, Zurich reluctantly agreed to impose a food blockade. It failed to have any effect and in October, Bern decided to withdraw the blockade. Zurich urged its continuation and the Burgrecht cities began to quarrel among themselves.
On 9 October 1531, in a surprise move, the Five States declared war on Zurich. Zurich's mobilisation was slow due to internal squabbling and on 11 October, 3500 poorly deployed men encountered a Five States force nearly double their size near Kappel. Many pastors, including Zwingli, were among the soldiers. The battle lasted less than one hour and Zwingli was among the 500 casualties in the Zurich army.
Zwingli had considered himself first and foremost a soldier of Christ; second a defender of his country, the Confederation; and third a leader of his city, Zurich, where he had lived for the previous twelve years. Ironically, he died at the age of 47, not for Christ nor for the Confederation, but for Zurich.
In Tabletalk, Luther is recorded saying: "They say that Zwingli recently died thus; if his error had prevailed, we would have perished, and our church with us. It was a judgment of God. That was always a proud people. The others, the papists, will probably also be dealt with by our Lord God." Erasmus wrote, "We are freed from great fear by the death of the two preachers, Zwingli and Oecolampadius, whose fate has wrought an incredible change in the mind of many. This is the wonderful hand of God on high." Oecolampadius had died on 24 November. Erasmus also wrote, "If Bellona had favoured them, it would have been all over with us.