Reformation Seal

Katharina Zell

Movement Magisterial Reformation
Born Strasbourg, 1497
Died Strasbourg, 1562
Significance Zell was a Lutheran reformer in the city of Strasbourg. In 1523 she married prominent Lutheran pastor, Matthias Zell. Shortly after their marriage, she began to publish works that addressed important issues of the Reformation.
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Zell's first work, an Apology on marriage, published in 1524, used Scripture to defend clerical marriage. Her next work, published the same year, was The Suffering Christian Wives of Kentzingen in which she comforted women whose husbands had fled to Strasbourg to escape persecution. She exhorted them to continue in the faith by recounting the stories of Old Testament heroines. In An Open Letter to All the Citizens of Strasbourg, written nine years after her husband's death, she chastized the religious leaders of Strasbourg for their intolerance toward Christians of other traditions.

She was well-known for her tolerance of other Christians. She entertained both Catholics and Anabaptists and wrote to Martin Luther after his dispute with Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy encouraging him to respond to his fellow reformer with love. Her association with Kaspar Schwenkfeld and his followers led to her being criticized by Matthias Zell's adopted son.

She assumed pastoral roles in that she conducted Bible studies which were sometimes attended by men. She conducted part of her husband's funeral as well as the funeral of two women followers of Schwenkfeld.