Amish Beginnings in Europe


The Amish had their beginnings in Europe during the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther proposed revolutionary challenges to some of Rome’s fundamental teachings. Luther maintained that “salvation by grace through faith alone” signified that God’s saving grace comes straight to each Christian. For instance, it is on the foundation of his or her individual faith. It is not mediated through the church’s sacraments. This thinking undermined the Church’s significance authority. Luther broke from Rome in 1521. He was solely making decisions based on the Bible instead of tradition or canon law. Luther also used the German language instead of Latin. This made worship easier to understand.

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The printing press was invented by Johann Guttenberge sometime before 1450. It helped spread Luther’s ideas throughout German-speaking Europe and beyond during the Amish beginnings. Luther’s teachings were being introduced in many churches. Huldryeh Zwingli was a priest at the Great Church in the Swiss city of Zurich. Similar to Luther, he preached salvation through faith alone, rejected the doctrine of purgatory and supported the marriage of clergy. Zwingli also believed in the symbolic rather than the physical presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and wine of communion. Because of Zwingli, in 1522, students began meeting in private homes for bible study. Ideas of the Reformation exiled them.

Zwingli Continued

Zwingli was like Luther in that he relied on the government to implement religious change. He and Luther both believed that in order for society to succeed it needed a strong leader. In 1524, Zwingli said that parts of the Catholic church should be discarded.

Aspects of the Church

New aspects of the Church began to grow out of this movement. Baptism was to be for adults only. Those who could make a formal decision to follow the church. The Church should have no control over the activities or doctrines of the it’s salvation. Salvation came by grace through faith was what they believed. In addition, transformed one’s life with God. The radical Christians rejected participation in the military. Following the New Testament, the Church demonstrated sharing of personal aid among Christians. This was taken very seriously.


The Amish began in Europe coming out of the Protestant Reformation. They started with a group who called themselves the Anabaptist. The Anabaptist received their name from the fact that they were re-baptized as adult members. Anabaptist believed in separation of Church and state.

Henry and Magdalena Stahly were Amish in Europe who moved to the United States.
Around 1844, European-born Amish immigrants Henry Stahly(1810-1894) and Magdalena Stahly(1812-1879) settled on land that later became the town of Nappanee, Indiana. Photo taken around 1875.

Menno Simons

One of the key figures in the Anabaptist religion was Menno Simons. Church members are called Mennonites because of this man..

Jakob Ammanns

One member of the Mennonite church felt that the best ways were the old ways. He felt the members should stick to the earliest principals of the Anabaptist religion. His name was Jakob Ammanns. Ammanns and a portion of the Mennonite religion broke away from the Anabaptist.

Thieleman Jansz van Braght

A Dutch Mennonite minister by the name of Thieleman Jansz van Braght feared his people would get too used to this life. As they became more secured in their life socially, they may forget about Jesus and his teaching. Van Braght wanted to remind his people of their martyred past, therefore he wrote a book called The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror. Van Braght’s book has over a hundred different stories about martyred religious men and women. Amish elder Hans Nafziger of Essingen, Germany made arrangements to have the book reprinted. The Amish in North America began reading Martyrs Mirror. In addition, it is found in almost all Amish homes.

William Penn

William Penn, from the Quaker sect, sought settlers to the state of Pennsylvania. Penn made a small colony for those searching for religious freedom.

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