Ulrich (Huldreich) Zwingli, b. Jan. 1, 1484, d. Oct. 11, 1531, was a leader of the Swiss Reformation. The son of a prosperous peasant, Zwingli studied music, scholastic philosophy, and humanistic subjects in Vienna, Bern, and Basel. He became a Catholic priest in Glarus (1506 - 16) and accompanied Swiss mercenary troops as chaplain on various Italian campaigns, becoming convinced that the mercenary system was a great evil. From Glarus, Zwingli went to Einsiedeln as parish pastor, where he continued his studies of the Bible, church fathers, and the classics. He was strongly influenced by Desiderius Erasmus in favor of church reform.
In 1519, Zwingli began his duties as the people's priest of the Grand Minster in Zurich, where he preached powerful sermons based on the Scriptures, denounced the mercenary trade, and attacked ecclesiastical abuses. Trouble developed with the bishop of Constance in 1522 when several of Zwingli's associates ate meat on a fast day. Moreover, Zwingli married and thus broke his priestly vow of celibacy. In 1524 iconoclasts removed religious statuary from the church, and the next year the Catholic mass was replaced with a heretical Zwinglian communion using both bread and wine as symbols of Christ's body and blood. Zwingli's Sixty - seven Articles (1523) for disputation became a basic doctrinal document for the Swiss reformed church.
Zwingli was active in extending the reform to other Swiss cities, such as Basel, Sankt Gallen, and Bern. He was involved in controversy not just with Catholic opponents, but also with the Lutheran reformers because he denied Christ's real presence in any form in the Eucharist. The effort to reconcile the views of Zwingli and Luther at the Colloquy of Marburg (1529) failed. Zwingli also opposed the Anabaptists in Zurich who rejected infant baptism. He was killed on the battlefield of Kappel in 1531 when the Catholic cantons of southern Switzerland attacked Zurich.
His first reformatory work, "Vom Erkiesen und Fryheit der Spysen", appeared when the bookseller Froschauer and his associates publicly defied the ecclesiastical law of fasting, and a controversy concerning fasts broke out. Zwingli declared the fasting provisions mere human commands which were not in harmony with Holy Writ; and the Bible was the sole source of faith, as he asserted in his second writing, "Archeteles". Through the medium of a delegation the Bishop of Constance exhorted the town to obedience on 7 April. On 29 Jan., 1523, the council, on whose decision everything depended, held a religious disputation at Zwingli's instigation, and agreed to base its action on the result of the debate. In sixty-seven theses Zwingli now proposed a formal programme for the innovations; according to his view the Bible with his interpretation was to be the sole authority. The arguments brought against this view by the most important champion of the old Faith, the vicar-general Johann Faber of Constance, who appealed to the teaching and tradition of the early Church, were disregarded; the council in whose hands Zwingli reposed the government of the Church, forthwith declared in favour of the innovation.
A second religious disputation in October, 1523, dealt with the practical institution of a state church, the veneration of the saints, the removal of images, good works, and the sacraments. No notable representative of the ancient Faith was present. Zwingli urged the adoption of his doctrines so successfully that even his devoted adherent, Commander Schmid of Kusnacht, warned him against the too sudden abolishment of ancient customs and usages. The first steps having been taken in 1522-23, the reforms were carried into effect in Zurich in 1524-25. About Easter, 1524, indulgences and pilgrimages were abolished, the sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction rejected, and pictures, statues, relics, altars, and organs destroyed, regardless of their artistic value. Sacred vessels of great value, such as chalices and monstrances, were melted into coin. Church property was seized by the State, which gained most by the suppression of the monasteries; the Fraumünster Abbey, founded in 853, was voluntarily surrendered to the secular authorities by the last abbess. Celibacy was rejected as contrary to Holy Writ even though St. Paul extolled chastity above the married state as for fit in the service of God (1 Corinthians), and monks and nuns were married. As early as 1522 Zwingli with ten other ecclesiastics assembled at Einsiedeln and addressed a petition to the Bishop of Constance and to the diet asking freedom for priests to marry. "Your honourable wisdom", they declared, "has already witnessed the disgraceful and shameful life we have unfortunately hitherto led with women, thereby giving grievous scandal to everyone." From 1522 the marriage of priests in Zurich became ever more frequent; Zwingli himself on 2 July, 1524, married Anna Reinhard (the widow of Hans Meyer von Knonau), who bore him his first daughter on 31 July. A new marriage law of 10 May, 1525, regulated these innovations. In the spring of 1525 the Mass was abolished; in its place was introduced the memorial service of the Last Supper.
The new doctrines were not introduced without opposition. The first opponents of the Reformers were from the ranks of their own party. The peasants could find no reason in the Bible, the sole principle of faith, why they should contribute to their lords' taxes, tithes, and rent, and they refused any longer to do so. The greatest unrest prevailed everywhere, and was only quelled after long negotiations and some concessions by the Government. The Anabaptists were not so easily silenced. From the Bible, which Zwingli had placed in their hands, they had deduced the most marvellous doctrines, much more radical than Zwingli's and questioning even the authority of the state. Zwingli persecuted them mercilessly with imprisonment, torture, banishment and death; their leader Felix Manz was drowned. The war against these visionary spirits was more serious for Zwingli than that against Rome. At first Rome allowed itself to be soothed by evasive words; the "Lutheran sects" were aimed at and the Zwinglians clung to the word of God, was the information supplied to Clement VII by Zurich on 19 August, 1524. Soon, however, the breach with the ancient Church was too plain to be doubted. The cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Lucerne, Zug, and Fribourg remained true to the old Faith, and offered determined opposition to Zwingli. They could not see that Zwingli was more favoured by God than the ancient saints and teachers; in his clerical life he was not superior to others, and he was inclined rather towards disturbance than towards peace.
The Catholic cantons, however, also strove to abolish abuses, issuing in 1525 a Concordat of Faith with important reforms which, however, never found general recognition. From 21 May to 8 June, 1526, they held a public disputation at Baden, to which they invited Dr. Johann Eck of Ingolstadt. Zwingli did not venture to appear. The disputation ended with the complete victory for the old Faith, but those who believed that the teaching of Zwingli could be driven out of the world by disputations deceived themselves; it had already taken too deep root. In St. Gall the Humanist and burgomaster Vadian worked successfully in Zwingli's interest — in Schaffhausen, Dr. Sebastian Hofmeister; in Basle, (Ecolampadius. For Berne which, notwithstanding the efforts of Berchtold Haller, had previously maintained a non-committal attitude, the religious disputation held at Zwingli's suggestion, in Jan., 1528, was decisive. Zwingli himself came to the city, and the Catholic cause was but weakly represented. The new doctrines were then introduced as sweepingly into Berne as they had been at Zurich, and many places and counties which had previously wavered followed its example. Zwingli could also point to brilliant successes in 1528 and 1529. He ensured the predominance of his reforms through the "Christian Civic rights", agreed upon between Zurich and the towns of Constance (1527), Berne and St. Gall (1528), Biel, Mulhausen, and Schaffhausen (1529). To compel the Catholic cantons to accept the new doctrines, he even urged civil war, drew up a plan of campaign, and succeeded in persuading Zurich to declare war and march against the Catholic territories. The Catholic districts had endeavoured to strengthen their position by forming a defensive alliance with Austria (1529), the "Christian Union." At this juncture, however, they received no assistance. Berne showed itself more moderate than Zurich, and a treaty of peace was arranged, which, however, was very unfavourable for the Catholics.
In Zurich Zwingli was now the commanding personality in all ecclesiastical and political questions. He was "burgomaster, secretary, and council" in one, and showed himself daily more overbearing. His insolence indeed prevented an agreement with Luther regarding the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, when a disputation was arranged between the two heresiarchs at Marfurt in October, 1529. As a statesman, Zwingli embarked in secular politics with ambitious plans. "Within three years", he writes, "Italy, Spain and Germany will take our view". Even the King of France, whose greatest enemy he had previously been, he sought to win to his side in 1531 with the work "Christianae fidei expositio", and was even prepared to pay him a yearly pension. By prohibiting intercourse with the Catholic cantons he compelled them to resort to arms. On 9 Oct., 1531, they declared war on Zurich, and advanced to Kappel on the frontiers. The people of Zurich hastened to oppose them, but met a decisive defeat near Kappel on 11 Oct., Zwingli falling in the battle. After a second defeat of the Reformed forces at Gubel, peace was concluded on 23 Oct., 1531. The peace was of long duration, since the Catholic victors displayed great moderation. Zwingli's death was an event of great importance for all Switzerland. His plan to introduce his innovations into the Catholic cantons by force had proved abortive. But even Catholics, who claimed the same rights in religious matters as the people of Zurich, regarded him as the "governor of all confederates". Zwingli is regarded as the most "liberal" of all the Reformers, and was less a dogmatist than Calvin. His statue, with a sword in one hand and the Bible in the other, stands near the municipal library at Zurich, which has also a Zwingli museum.
If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in approximately 1520.
If you belong to the Swiss Reformed Churches, Ulrich Zwingli (an ex-Catholic Priest) created your religion not long after Luther invented protestanitms. Zwingli broke ranks with Luther over his teachings on the Eucharist.
If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII (an ex-Catholic) in the year 1534. Henry VIII decided to create his own church when Pope Clement VII would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.
If you are a Mennonite, Menno Simons (an ex-Catholic) created your religion in 1536.
If you are a Presbyterian, John Knox (an ex-Catholic) founded your sect in Scotland in the year 1560.
If you are a Congregationalist, your religion began with Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.
If you are a Baptist, John Smyth created your sect in Amsterdam in 1605.
If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, your church began with Michaelis Jones in New York in 1628.
If you are a Quaker, your religion began with George Fox in 1652.
If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, Samuel Seabury created your sect in the American colonies in the 17th century, as an offshoot of the Church of England.
If you are Amish, Jacob Amman created your religion in 1693, as an offshoot of the Mennonites.
If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.
If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your sect in London in 1774.
If you are a Mormon ("Latter Day Saints"), your religion comes from Joseph Smith, who revealed it in Palmyra, N.Y. in 1829.
If you are a Seventh Day Adventist, your religion was created by Ellen White in 1860.
If you worship with the Salvation Army, William Booth started your sect in London in 1865.
If you are of the "Jehovah's Witnesses," your beliefs came from Charles Taze Russell in 1872.
If you are a "Christian Scientist," Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy devised your religion in 1879.
If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as "Church of the Nazarene," "Pentecostal Gospel," "Holiness Church," "Pilgrim Holiness Church," "Assemblies of God," "United Church of Christ," etc., your religion is one of the thousands of new sects founded by men in the last century.
If you are Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, true God and true man; and that this one Church, to which people must belong to be saved, will exist until the end of time.