Martyrs Mirror

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Anabaptist Dirk Willems rescues his pursuer and is subsequently burned at the stake in 1569. Dirk.willems.rescue.ncs.jpg
Anabaptist Dirk Willems rescues his pursuer and is subsequently burned at the stake in 1569.

Martyrs Mirror or The Bloody Theater, first published in Holland in 1660 in Dutch by Thieleman J. van Braght, documents the stories and testimonies of Christian martyrs, especially Anabaptists. The full title of the book is The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660. The use of the word defenseless in this case refers to the Anabaptist belief in non-resistance. The book includes accounts of the martyrdom of the apostles and the stories of martyrs from previous centuries with beliefs similar to the Anabaptists.


Next to the Bible, the Martyrs Mirror has historically held the most significant and prominent place in Amish and Mennonite homes. [1]

In 1745, Jacob Gottschalk arranged with the Ephrata Cloister to have them translate the Martyrs Mirror from Dutch into German and to print it. The work took 15 men three years to finish and in 1749, at 1,512 pages, it was the largest book printed in America before the Revolutionary War. [2] An original volume is on display at the Ephrata Cloister.

The 1685 edition of the book is illustrated with 104 copper etchings by Jan Luyken. Thirty-one of these plates survive and are part of the Mirror of the Martyrs exhibit at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. [3] Two of the copper plates are located at the Muddy Creek Farm Library [4] established by Amos B Hoover in Ephrata, PA. [5]

The first English edition, translated from German by I. Daniel Rupp, was published by David Miller near Lampeter Square, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1837. [6] An edition entitled A Martyrology of the Churches of Christ was translated and printed in England in 1850 in 2 volumes by Edward Bean Underhill under the auspices of the Hanserd Knollys Society in England. [7] The Martyrs Mirror differs from Foxe's Book of Martyrs in that it only includes those martyrs which were considered nonresistant, while Foxe's book does not include many Anabaptist martyrs.

The Martyrs Mirror is still a beloved book among Amish and Mennonites. While less common now than in the 20th century, in Mennonite homes Martyrs Mirror is a common wedding gift.

See also

Related Research Articles

Anabaptism is a Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation. Anabaptists believe that baptism is valid only when candidates freely confess their faith in Christ and request to be baptized. Commonly referred to as believer's baptism, it is opposed to baptism of infants, who are not able to make a conscious decision to be baptized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mennonites</span> Anabaptist groups originating in Western Europe

Mennonites are a group of Anabaptist Christian church communities tracing their roots to the Radical Reformation. The name is derived from that of one of the early prominent leaders of the Anabaptist movement, Menno Simons (1496–1561). Through his writings about Reformed Christianity during the Radical Reformation, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss Anabaptist founders as well as early teachings of the Mennonites founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus. The original Anabaptist followers had held such beliefs with great conviction, despite persecution by various Roman Catholic and Mainline Protestant states. Formal Mennonite beliefs were codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (1632), which affirmed "the baptism of believers only, the washing of the feet as a symbol of servanthood, church discipline, the shunning of the excommunicated, the non-swearing of oaths, marriage within the same church", strict pacifistic physical nonresistance, anti-Catholicism and in general, more emphasis on "true Christianity" involving "being Christian and obeying Christ" as they interpret it from the Holy Bible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Foxe</span> English historian and martyrologist (died 1587)

John Foxe was an English clergyman, theologian, and historian, notable for his martyrology Actes and Monuments, telling of Christian martyrs throughout Western history, but particularly the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the 14th century and in the reign of Mary I. The book was widely owned and read by English Puritans and helped to mould British opinion on the Catholic Church for several centuries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ephrata Cloister</span> Historic church in Pennsylvania, United States

The Ephrata Cloister or Ephrata Community was a religious community, established in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel at Ephrata, in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The grounds of the community are now owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and are administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Felix Manz</span> Co-founder of the Swiss Brethren movement (1498–1527)

Felix Manz was an Anabaptist, a co-founder of the original Swiss Brethren congregation in Zürich, Switzerland, and the first martyr of the Radical Reformation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anabaptist theology</span> Theological tradition reflecting the doctrine of the Anabaptist Churches

Anabaptist theology, also known as Anabaptist doctrine, is a theological tradition reflecting the doctrine of the Anabaptist Churches. The major branches of Anabaptist Christianity agree on core doctrines but have nuances in practice. While the adherence to doctrine is important in Anabaptist Christianity, living righteously is stressed to a greater degree.

Nonresistance is "the practice or principle of not resisting authority, even when it is unjustly exercised". At its core is discouragement of, even opposition to, physical resistance to an enemy. It is considered as a form of principled nonviolence or pacifism which rejects all physical violence, whether exercised on individual, group, state or international levels. Practitioners of nonresistance may refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. Nonresistance is often associated with particular religious groups, such as Anabaptist Christianity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dirk Willems</span> Dutch Anabaptist martyr (died 1569)

Dirk Willems was a Dutch Anabaptist martyr most famous for escaping from prison but then turning back to rescue his pursuer — who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems — only to be recaptured, tortured and killed for his beliefs.

The Radical Reformation represented a response to perceived corruption both in the Catholic Church and in the expanding Magisterial Protestant movement led by Martin Luther and many others. Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Radical Reformation gave birth to many radical Protestant groups throughout Europe. The term covers Radical Reformers like Thomas Müntzer and Andreas Karlstadt, the Zwickau prophets, and Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites and the Mennonites.

Jacob Gottschalk (Godtschalk) Henricks van der Heggen was the first person to serve as a Mennonite bishop in America.

The Mennonite Historical Library (MHL) is considered the world's most prominent and complete collection of resources and artifacts pertaining to Mennonites and related Anabaptist groups. It is housed in the Harold and Wilma Good Library on the campus of Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana. The specialty library was founded in 1906 under the guidance of Harold S. Bender and Ernst Correll. Historian John D. Roth is the current director.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jan Luyken</span> Dutch engraver (1649–1712)

Johannes or Jan Luyken was a Dutch poet, illustrator, and engraver.

Amish Mennonites came into existence through reform movements among North American Amish mainly between 1862 and 1878. These Amish moved away from the old Amish traditions and drew near to the Mennonites, becoming Mennonites of Amish origin. Over the decades, most Amish Mennonites groups removed the word "Amish" from the name of their congregations or merged with Mennonite groups.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dordrecht Confession of Faith</span> 1632 statement of Mennonite beliefs

The Dordrecht Confession of Faith is a statement of religious beliefs adopted by Dutch Mennonite leaders at a meeting in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on 21 April 1632. Its 18 articles emphasize belief in salvation through Jesus Christ, baptism, nonviolence (non-resistance), withdrawing from, or shunning those who are excommunicated from the Church, feet washing, and avoidance of taking oaths.


The Ausbund is the oldest Anabaptist hymnal and one of the oldest Christian song books in continuous use. It is used today by North American Amish congregations.

The Fellowship of Evangelical Churches (FEC) is an evangelical body of Christians with an Amish Mennonite heritage that is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States. It contains 60 churches located in Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thieleman J. van Braght</span>

Thieleman Janszoon van Braght was the Anabaptist author of the Martyrs Mirror or The Bloody Theater, first published in Holland in 1660 in Dutch.

Conservative Mennonites include numerous Conservative Anabaptist groups that identify with the theologically conservative element among Mennonite Anabaptist Christian fellowships, but who are not Old Order groups or mainline denominations.

Heinrich Funck was a mill operator, religious author and a Mennonite bishop in America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lambert Bidloo</span>

Lambert Bidloo, of Amsterdam, was by religion, a Zonist Mennonite, by profession, an apothecary and botanist and by passion, a man of letters and translator. After a solid education in classical letters and a period of apprenticeship, Lambert joined the apothecaries' and surgeon's guild overseeing standards and education at the Collegium Medicum. In 1688, he became the director of this institution, and, along with associates and collaborators, botanist Jan Commelin and anatomist Frederik Ruysch he had a hand in its herbalist Hortus Medicus flowering into the global Hortus Botanicus (Amsterdam) of today. His various learned works in Latin and Dutch deal with plants, with Mennonite religious issues and with different historical themes, contemporary, biblical and literary. Among these Bidloo is best known for the curious Panpoeticon Batavum,, a figurative and visual poet's gallery of Golden Age Dutch literature. This he produced as a joint undertaking with the noted artist and art historian Arnold Houbraken who was then also launching The Great Theatre of Dutch Painters,.


  1. Schmidt, Kimberly D. (2001). "'Sacred Farming' or 'Working Out': The Negotiated Lives of Conservative Mennonite Farm Women". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 22 (1): 79–102. doi:10.1353/fro.2001.0013. S2CID   145612322.
  2. "News at the Ephrata Cloister: Committed to Print: Printing at the Ephrata Cloister". Ephrata Cloister . Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  3. "The Mirror of the Martyrs". Kauffman Museum. Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  4. "Muddy Creek | Fairmount Homes".
  5. "'Martyrs Mirror' plate discovered". Bethel College: Mennonite World Review. 19 May 2014.
  6. "Martyrs Mirror: Prefaces" . Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  7. "A martyrology of the churches of Christ, commonly called Baptists, during the era of the Reformation : Bracht, Tieleman Janszoon van, 1625–1664 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". 10 March 2001. Retrieved 11 June 2014.