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Henry Nicholas

c.1502-c.1580. Also Heinrich or Hendrik Niclaes, founder of the Family of Love or Familist* sect. Born at Münster, he was reared in a devout Christian home and as a boy demonstrated theological precocity and claimed to receive visions from God. The son of a merchant, he too became a businessman. Around 1540 he founded a religious movement which emphasized communality, mystical enlightenment, experiential holiness, the possibility of immanent union with God, the second coming of Christ, and a church comprising believers only. This last belief often led to Familists being misidentified as Anabaptists.* Nicholas spent much of his adult life in Amsterdam and Emden where he was constantly in trouble because of his aberrant religious views. However, his clandestine movement grew to substantial numbers in Germany, the Netherlands, and England. Nicholas nurtured the Familists with his many books and his pastoral travels, which probably included a trip to England in 1552-53. Having experienced consistent persecution, he died in Cologne around 1580.