KARENBACH, klar'en-bacH, ADOLF: German Reformer; b. at Lüttringhausen (17 m. s.e. of Düsseldorf), in the latter part of the fifteenth century; executed at Cologne Sept. 28, 1529. He was educated at Lennep, at Münster (where he came under the influence both of the Brethren of the Common Life--see COMMON LIFE, BRETHREN OF THE--and of the humanists), and at the Laurentian seminary in Cologne, over which presided Arnold of Tongern, later one of his judges. For a time after receiving his degree in 1517 nothing is known of him, but within a few years he was a teacher in a Latin school at Münster. He had already come to sympathize with the principles of the Reformation, perhaps through the influence of his mother, and he was obliged to leave the city on a charge of insulting the cross. In 1524 Klarenbach was associate rector at the municipal school of Wesel, a town strongly in favor of the new faith. There, though he had never taken orders, he seems to have assumed ecclesiastical functions, aided by a number of others who had become disaffected with Roman Catholic tenets. The hostility of the monks obliged him to leave Wesel for Osnabrück after two years, and in his new home he taught Latin, in addition to giving Protestant lectures on certain books of the New Testament and the dialectics of Melanchthon. His activity roused the opposition of the cathedral chapter of Osnabrück, but he declined a call to Meldorp, feeling that his duty summoned him rather to Lennep, where he settled shortly after Easter, 1527. The attacks there made upon him evoked his chief literary work in 1527, in which he assailed the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and defended Protestant tenets. Expelled from Lennep, Klarenbach turned to his old friend Johann Klopreis, the ex-parish priest of Büderich, who had already been cited before the spiritual court at Cologne. Under Klarenbach's inspiration, however, KIopreis became so outspoken in his sentiments that he was again summoned to appear before the court and was imprisoned, while Klarenbach, who had accompanied him to the trial to give him encouragement, was likewise placed in confinement on Apr. 3, 1528. Klopreis succeeded in making his escape Jan. 1, 1529, but his comrade was denied all hope of freedom.

The problem before the Roman Catholics of Cologne was a serious one, for Protestantism was beginning to work its way insidiously into this stronghold of Roman Catholicism in Germany; the citizens were distrustful of the clergy, and the university was declining under Luther's influence. In view of the importance of Klarenbach in the Protestant movement and his audacity in invading the center of archiepiscopal power, it became doubly necessary to make a terrible example of him. His trial was a long one, since not only the ecclesiastical court, but also the civil court of Cologne and even the imperial supreme court at Speyer were concerned. The latter wished Klarenbach to be released on condition that he would bring no claim for damages, but the court of the Inquisition refused to agree, and on Mar. 4, the sentence of death was imposed. The execution took place on Sept. 28, the delay being due to the fact that the populace was displeased at the verdict and must first be pacified. During the course of the summer, however, the city was visited by a plague, so that the conviction spread that this was a divine retribution for mercy to heretics, and the execution accordingly became feasible, especially in view of the repeated failures of the efforts made to induce him to retract his teachings. The German Protestants regarded Klarenbach and Peter Fliesteden, a somewhat fanatical character of whom little is known, but who was imprisoned with Klarenbach and died with him, as the martyrs of the Lower Rhine, and in 1829 the third centennial of the execution was publicly celebrated and a monument was erected in his honor.

The exact relation of Klarenbach to the Reformation is somewhat uncertain, but it seems probable, on the whole, that he was Biblical rather than professedly Lutheran, although he had read the works of the Wittenberg reformer, approving portions of them and rejecting others. On the other hand, the circumstances of his trial led him to emphasize certain aspects of his beliefs and to pass over others more lightly. Noteworthy features of his defense were his frequent use of the term "brethren," an appellation rare with Luther, and his rigid avoidance of taking an oath, apparently due to the influence of the old Evangelical thought as exemplified by the Waldenses, Moravian Brethren, and the Anabaptists. [While he held that "there is no satisfaction for sin save the death of Christ alone," he yet insisted that "our good works are signs, witnesses and pledges of such faith in Christ." He rejected transubstantiation and consubstantiation


alike, insisting that the elements in communion are "only external signs and nothing more." He defines baptism as "dipping into the water and drawing out again" and as inviting death to all fleshly lust and a putting on of a new man and the leading henceforth of a spiritual life. Cf. extracts in Rembert, pp. 134 sqq. [A. H. N.]


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Epistola Johannis Romberch . . . in qua narratur . . . tragoedia . . . Adolphi Clarenbach, Cologne, 1530, ed. E. Bratke and A. Carsted in Theologische Arbeiten aus dem rheinischen . . . Predigerverein, Freiburg, 1898; C. Krafft, Geschichte . . . Adolf Clarenbach und Peter Fliesteden, Elberfeld, 1886; E. Densmer, Geschichte der Reformation am Niederrhein, Düsseldorf, 1899; K. Rembert, Die "Wiedertäufer" in Herzogtum Jülich, pp. 114-137 et passim, Berlin, 1899.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 10/03/03. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely