Ulrich Von Hutten

1488-1523. German Reformer. Born at Steckelberg, he was in 1499 placed in a monastery with a view to a religious vocation, but fled in 1505 and wandered from university to university, studying the classics and humanist writings. In 1515 he made a bitter attack on Duke Ulrich of Württemberg who had murdered the head of his family, Hans von Hutten, and in 1517 he settled permanently in Germany in the service of the archbishop-elector of Mainz. Hitherto a humanist scholar, he was suddenly caught up in enthusiasm for the Reformation and the freeing of Germany from papal control. Bitter ironical attacks on the papacy led to an order of arrest from Rome in 1520 and his dismissal from the elector's service. He fled at first to the castle of Franz von Sickingen, but was forced later to remove to Schlettstadt, Basle, and Mühlhausen, all of which towns refused to receive him. In 1522, afflicted by disease and poverty, he approached Zwingli,* who secured him refuge on an island till his death.

Hutten is a puzzling figure whose precise influence on the course of the Reformation has been hotly debated by historians. Undeniably he sought the political emancipation of Germany rather than her spiritual renewal, advocating what is often called the “Knights' Reformation,” i.e., an alliance of the German nobility and free cities against the princes, an impossible ideal rendered quite abortive as early as 1520. But he was not without spirituality and derived from Luther not only inspiration to address his German audience in its native tongue, but also those evangelical sentiments which characterize his later works.

See H. Holborn, Ulrich von Hutten (1929; rev. ET 1937) and T.W. Best, Humanist Ulrich von Hutten (1969).