AN AUTHOR OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ON THE LIFE OF THE HUTTERIAN BRETHREN
Written by: Paul Wipf on Monday, November 10th, 2014
[By HANS JAKOB CHRISTOPH GRIMELSHAUSEN] Hans Jakob Christoph von Grimmelshausen (1621-17 August 1676), author of the famous novel, Der abenteuerliche Simplizissimus, published in 1668. In book V, chapter 19, he gives a remarkable picture of “Hungarian Anabaptists” and their communal way of living, and there can be no doubt that Hutterite colonies in Slovakia are thus portrayed. To him it was almost like Utopia come true.
“Finally I recognize from all my studies that there is no better science than that of theology, if through it one is led to live for God and serve him. And I became acquainted with a way of living which would be more angelic than human, namely if a community could be founded consisting of married and unmarried persons, men and women who according to the manner of the Anabaptists, would endeavor simply and only win under a competent leader, by the labor of the hands, the needed temporal support and busy itself in the remaining time with the praise and service of God and salvation of their souls. I have personally seen in the Anabaptist colonies such a life that, if those people had not been mixed up in false and heretical opinions, contrary to the general principles of the Christian church, I would have joined them or at least would have held their life to be the most blessed in the whole world.
In the first place they had large treasure and an abundance of provisions, which however were by no means used extravagantly or unnecessarily. No profanity, no dissatisfaction, no impatience was observed among them, yea, one heard no unnecessary word. There I saw the craftsmen working in their shops as though they were under contract. Their schoolteachers taught the youth as though they were their own children. Nowhere did I see men and women together, but everywhere each sex was performing it’s own work apart from the other. I found rooms in which there were only nursing mothers who, without the supervision of men, were abundantly supplied, together with their infant children, with the necessary attention by their sisters. The duty of caring for the nursing mothers and children was committed to the widows alone.
Elsewhere I saw over a hundred women with distaffs. One was a washwoman, another was a bed-maker, the third was a stable maid, a fourth, dishwasher, a fifth, linen maid, and so all others also had a particular work to do. And just as the duties were systematically assigned to the women, so each one of the men and youth knew his business, which he performed in the most praiseworthy manner, and unconstrained.
If one or the other became ill, that one had a special caretaker; also each sex had a physician and an apothecary, although due to the praiseworthy diet and god habits they seldom became ill, on account of which I saw among them many a well-preserved man in healthy and peaceful high old age such as are scarcely to be found elsewhere. There was no anger, no jealousy, no vengeful spirit, no envy, no enmity, no concern about temporal things, no pride, no vanity, no gambling, and no remorse; in a word, there was throughout and all together a lovely harmony. They also called each other brothers and sisters.
Now, a community leading such a noble, blessed life as these Anabaptist heretics I should have liked to establish within the Roman Catholic Church for, as far as I could see, it surpasses even the monastic life. I thought to myself: If you could accomplish such a task and establish such a noble way of Christian living among orthodox Christians under the protection of the authorities, you would be a second Saint Dominic or Saint Francis. I often said to myself: if you could just convert the Anabaptists so that they would teach your brethren in the faith their art of living, what a blessed man you would be. Or, if you should lead, like these Anabaptists, such an apparently Christian and noble life, what would you not have accomplished thereby.”