In my last post, Gentle Reader, I told you what I knew of the planned peasant uprising of 1502, under the leadership of Joss Fritz. Such a revolt, called a Bundschuh, is named for a poor man’s rough, rawhide footwear, sometimes bound to the leg as far as the calf by long, crossed leather thongs. Bund means binding or gathering into a bundle. So Bund can symbolize union.
After the 1502 Bundschuh was betrayed to the authorities before it could occur, Fritz went underground. In ten years, there was no word of him. It is now rumored that he was serving as a mercenary for the Swiss. In this capacity, he could be always raising support among the Swiss for his next attempt at revolution for the German peasants.
Then, about two years ago, Fritz quietly settled in the village of Lehen, two miles west of Freiburg. He was given the village position of field watch. The peasants in this area, though serving various ecclesiastical and secular lords within overlapping jurisdictions, are writhing under the harsh thumbs of overlords like Gabriel von Bollscheil, who told his serfs that they must do as he says or be cut to pieces.
For two years, Fritz carefully laid his plans and organized peasants in the many surrounding villages. It is said that a priest of Lehen joined with Fritz in promoting the Bundschuh as a just and godly undertaking to restore the world to the order that God intended.
However, unlike the planned Bundschuh of 1502, this revolt was not against only one Bishop but against many secular authorities as well. So the participants swore only an oath of secrecy, without religious litanies.
And the password ran: God greet you, fellow. How fares the world?
With the answer: In all the world, the common man can find no comfort.
It is said that the flag of 1502 had been preserved and was to be completed. It bore a Bundschuh on one side, and, on the other, a peasant kneeling before Mary, John the Baptist and Christ crucified, as if to say that it was for the common man that He had come. Beneath was the plea: Lord, stand by Thy Divine Justice.
At the beginning of September, in the night, Fritz met with the conspirators in a secluded field outside Lehen, where they planned their organization and attack. As many as possible were to attend the Biengen church ale on October 9. There, the Bundschuh flag would be flown high.
They would besiege the small country towns, marching southwards to join the Swiss, with whose support they could attack the fortified towns of Freiburg and Breisach. Then they would control the whole right bank of the Upper Rhine and sweep all southwest Germany.
But Fabri tells me that the authorities were alerted in the summer that another Bundschuh was in the offing. It seems a painter named Theodosion promptly reported to them that he had been contacted about completing the rebel flag. However, though Freiburg put its watch on alert, it had no names to arrest.
Only in this month of October did a conspirator named Michael Hanser reveal the entire plan to the margrave of Baden, who immediately informed the Freiburg authorities. A full-scale effort of scouts and armed posses was launched to round up the rebels. Fritz and two of his lieutenants, Jakob Huser and Kilian Meiger, headed for Zurich to seek assistance from the Swiss. On the way, they were captured.
Capito recognizes a most excellent source: Freiburg and the Breisgau, Town-Country Relations in the Age of Reformation and Peasants’ War by Tom Scott.
Two woodcuts from “Images of the Peasant, 1514-1525″ by R.W. Scribner in The German Peasant War of 1525 published by Frank Cass & Company.
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