Martyrs Mirror

Last updated

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.

Martyr's 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 Martyr's Mirror is a common wedding gift.

See also

Related Research Articles

Anabaptism Non-conformist Christian movement

Anabaptism is a Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation.

Mennonites Anabaptist groups originating in Western Europe

Mennonites are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders, with the early teachings of the Mennonites founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held with great conviction, despite persecution by various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. An early set of Mennonite beliefs was codified in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith in 1632, but the various groups do not hold to a common confession or creed.

Plain people

Plain people are Christian groups characterized by separation from the world and by simple living, including plain dressing in modest clothing. Many Plain people have an Anabaptist background. These denominations are largely of German, Swiss German, Dutch or other European ancestry. Conservative Friends are traditional Quakers who are also considered plain people; they come from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds.

Ephrata Cloister United States historic place

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.

Felix Manz 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.

Theology of Anabaptism

Theology of Anabaptism is the beliefs of the Anabaptist movement. Anabaptism has a reputation of de-emphasizing theology in deference to living righteously. The various branches of the Anabaptist movement take slightly different approaches to theology.

Dirk Willems Dutch Anabaptist martyr (died 1569)

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

Radical Reformation Anabaptist movement concurrent with the Protestant Reformation

The Radical Reformation represented a response to 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.

Amish Mennonite

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.

Dordrecht Confession of Faith

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.

Thieleman J. van Braght

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 Conservative Mennonite or Anabaptists

Conservative Mennonites include numerous groups that identify with the more conservative or traditional element among Mennonite or Anabaptist groups but who are not Old Order groups. The majority of Conservative Mennonite churches historically have an Amish and not a Mennonite background.

British Anabaptism

Anabaptists did not originate in England, but came from continental Europe to escape persecution from Switzerland. English Anabaptism, it did not touch the country as quickly as other countries since Henry VIII wanted to eradicate heresy quickly and wanted to push a unified religion in England. In fact, during his rule in 1535, Henry VIII had them deported out of England officially with a proclamation that, "Ordered Anabaptists to leave the realm within twelve days after parliament adjourned or suffer the penalty of death." In 1539 he pardoned Anabaptists with a similar proclamation to restore them to the Roman Catholic church. He wanted unity above all. While Henry VIII himself had broken away from the Catholic Church himself, Anabaptists did not face a welcoming country from the beginning of their coming to England. Both Henry and his Tudor successors have charged dissidents on the basis of Anabaptism, some of whom had not such convictions. Looking at primary sources, this means that just because they were charged as an Anabaptist does not mean they were one.

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

Lambert Bidloo

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.