pronounced ZWIHNG lee or TSVIHNG lee, Huldreich, pronounced HUL drykh (1484-1531), was a
leader of the Protestant Reformation. His career centered in Switzerland, but he
influenced the Reformation in Germany, the Netherlands, and England.
His life. Zwingli was born in the Wildhaus Valley near St. Gall, Switzerland. In 1506, he
was ordained a Catholic priest. By 1514, Zwingli had become a follower of the Dutch
humanist Desiderius Erasmus. Zwingli studied Erasmus' edition of the Greek text of the New
Testament and adopted the program of the Christian humanists for reforming the church.
This program tried to follow what the humanists felt was the simple faith of the New
Testament and of the early Christians.
In 1518, Zwingli was chosen to be a priest of the cathedral in Zurich. He became a
forceful reform preacher, following the views of Erasmus. Soon he was reading works by the
reformer Martin Luther. By 1520, Zwingli had worked out a Protestant theology unlike that
After the Catholic bishop of Zurich tried to silence Zwingli, the civil magistrates took
charge of all the city's religious affairs. In 1523, the magistrates called a public
meeting to decide between Catholicism and Zwingli's new Protestantism. The decision
favored Zwingli's new theology. During the next two years, the magistrates abolished
religious images such as statues, adopted a Protestant liturgy, closed the monasteries,
and substituted the Lord's Supper for the Mass. By 1528, the major German-Swiss cities had
followed Zurich's lead. Rural areas remained Catholic. In 1531, Zwingli, serving as a
chaplain with the Protestant troops, died during a war with Catholics.
His ideas. Zwingli agreed with other early reformers on many issues. These issues included
salvation by faith rather than by good works, the supremacy of the Bible as the sole
authority for Christianity, and the universal priesthood of all believers. The concept of
universal priesthood declared that all believers were considered priests since they helped
bring God's grace to others. Catholic priests were set apart from lay people by their
power to perform the sacraments.
Luther and Zwingli disagreed on certain points, especially the Lord's Supper. Luther
believed Jesus Christ was really present in this sacrament, though not in the same way the
Catholic Church taught. Zwingli considered the Lord's Supper a thanksgiving to God for
grace already given in other ways, especially through God's gift of the Gospel.
Luther was mainly concerned about individual salvation. Zwingli, however, had greater
concern about what he called the "renaissance of Christendom." By this he meant
the total rebirth of humanity and society.
Zwingli became active in politics and in social reform. He supported radical changes in
the church and worked successfully for the right of the people to control the church.