Anabaptist Hymns

Sung History

Since the earliest days of Christianity, believers have composed and sung songs with great enthusiasm.  It is hardly exaggerated to say that no person in history has had so many songs dedicated to him as Jesus Christ 

The Anabaptists were no exception, even though their songs rose out of “complicated circumstances.”  For example, as 150 Hutterites were held captive in the fortress of Falkenstein north of Vienna, the so-called “Falkenstein Songs” were written.  Still today—almost half a millennium later— these songs are sung in German, in part from memory by descendants of those Hutterites.

Martyr-songs are often the stories of the difficult fates of individuals.  Because public preaching was banned, they packed their teachings into songs (sung sermons).  They are usually joyful songs to the God for Whom they have given up everything.  They took plenty of time to sing; songs with over 30 verses were no rarity!

The songs were often given a popular melody which everyone already knew, so that everyone could sing along.  It seems strange to see the following written over an otherwise serious Martyr-song: “To the tune: “There once was a young lady with a jug” or “A flower on the moor.”  But in just that way, these songs had a strong selling power, since they radiated a defiance of death.

An example of a martyr song 

We roam around in the woods / We’re sought after with dogs 
We’re led like lambs who say nothing/ imprisoned and in bonds 
We’re shown in front of everyone/As if we were insurgents 
We are regarded as sheep for slaughter / As heretics and abusers.

(Leonhard Schiemer, beheaded in Rattenberg in Tyrol on January 14, 1528)