Limmat River near Zurich where Felix Manz was drowned.

Felix Manz

Movement Radical Reformation
Born Zurich, 1498?
Died Zurich, 1527
Significance Co-founder of the Anabaptist movement in Zurich. He became the first Anabaptist martyr in Zurich on January 5, 1527.
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Felix Manz: The First Anabaptist Martyr in Zurich

Felix Manz was one of the three major figures in the Anabaptist movement in Zurich. He was born in Zurich around 1498 as the illegitimate son of a Zurich priest. As was the case with Grebel, Manz's radical tendencies were also displayed before the historic baptism in his home, or rather, his mother's home. In addition to co-signing Grebel's letter to Müntzer, he worked with Andreas Castelberger in Basel in October and November of 1524 to publish six of Karlstadt's tracts against Luther. In these tracts Karlstadt criticized Luther for enacting the reforms in Wittenberg too slowly and attacked Luther's view of communion. Grebel and Castelberger also intended to publish Karlstadt's tract on baptism, but Johannes Oecolampadius stepped in and halted the printing.
In December of 1524 Manz submitted a petition sometimes called Protestation or Protest and Defense to the Zurich city council outlining his argument against infant baptism. Manz began the work by defending charges against him that he was a rebel. He explained that his position was a valid biblical belief that he wishes to share with the council. He cited three instances from Scripture where persons displayed faith before baptism as evidence against infant baptism: John the Baptist required repentance prior to baptism, in Acts 10:48 Peter baptized believers after they received the holy spirit, and in Acts 22 Paul was baptized after he called upon the name of the Lord. Manz also briefly alluded to Romans 6:4 before arguing that no Biblical evidence exists for baptizing persons prior to their being instructed about Christ and possessing a certain knowledge and a desire to be baptized. Manz further argued that infant baptism was instituted by a pope rather than Christ.
As noted above, the council sided with Zwingli in the disputation on January 17, 1925 and Manz, Grebel, Blaurock, and others were baptized shortly after. Manz set out to spread the new formed faith to others around Basel, St. Gall, Schaffhausen, and the territory around Zurich until he was captured and sentenced to life in prison in 1526. He was recaptured in December of 1526 and on January 5, 1927 his hands and feet were bound and he was placed on a boat and pushed into the Limmat River.