Birthplace of the Schleitheim Confession

In February 2015, I wrote a blog post about Michael Sattler, one of the thought leaders of the Swiss Brethren after reading Arnold C. Snyder’s book, The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler. He is credited for having authored the Schleitheim Confession in 1527, which is the first known documentation of the beliefs of the early Swiss Brethren. It was written in Schleitheim, Switzerland, just below the border with Germany.

The night before leaving Switzerland, when I was staying in Schaffhausen for the night, I discovered that there was a bus that went to Schleitheim. I decided to take that bus, and I’m glad I did. The bus drove past the big waterfall in Schaffhausen, and then through the city for quite some time. Finally it entered the countryside, and it was so beautiful! It was a whole different landscape than the other parts of Switzerland I’ve seen. It reminded me of driving through the unspoiled parts of the Big Valley in Pennsylvania — beautiful rolling hills with checkerboard fields of green and brown, with mountains in the background. I wish now I had snapped photos from the bus window, but I was running out of battery power on my camera, and I wanted to be able to take photos of Schleitheim. So you have to take my word for it… if you even get a chance to visit Schleitheim… be sure to take it.

I got off the bus in the middle of town. I could see the church steeple, so I walked to it, and took photos of it inside and out.

The church steeple in Schleitheim with the countryside in the background: Photo by Saloma Furlong

Visiting the church in Schleitheim just before sundown: Photo by Saloma Furlong

Inside the church in Schleitheim, Switzerland: Photo by Saloma Furlong

I thought this church might be old enough to have been around in 1527, when the Schleitheim Confession was written, but I found out from a local person that it probably was not built until the 1800s. I ate dinner at the Gasthof Brauerei. I asked the host whether she knew about the Schleitheim Confession, and she did. She said there is a museum in town, where people can view the original document. However, it is by appointment only, and since this was a Saturday night, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. So I will just have to return there to see it someday in the future.

My host, whose name is Cécile Stamm- von Gunten, also told me that busloads of Amish people have visited the museum in Schleitheim. After finding out that they have visited Erlanbach, the birthplace of Jakob Ammann, I am not surprised. In fact, today I found a website about a tour that a group of Amish were taking, visiting many more sites than I have so far. Here is a link to the itinerary of just one of the tours.

Schleitheim, Switzerland: Photo by Saloma Furlong

After eating and visiting the church, I had 40 minutes to wait for the bus to arrive to take me back to Schaffhausen. I took a photo, where ducks were swimming in the stream that flows through the middle of town. I kept having little darts of excitement go through my heart when I would think about walking through this town, so integral to the history of my ancestors. Many years ago, I would never have believed that I would have this opportunity someday, even though I dreamed of it. And now, here I was — in Europe, home of my ancestors!

As dusk gathered, a damp cold settled in. I wished I had brought a scarf, but I was glad I had my gloves in my coat pocket. There was a different kind of sculpture just out of sight of this photo. You can see it in the third photo on this webpage. You can also see there is a finny little hut built into the side of the bridge. As I was walking by there at dusk, I heard the soft quack of ducks, but I didn’t see them on the water. Then I looked inside the little hut, and there they were, congregating in the hut for the night. There was a ramp they would go up to get into the hut. Someone must have built it for them, and I wondered who that was, and what the story is behind it.

As I was waiting for the bus, the church bells began ringing at 6:00 PM. They rang, and they rang, and they rang some more. They must have continued ringing for five minutes. I imagine it is a tradition in the town, and my guess is that it relates to the farming culture.

When the bus finally arrived, I was pretty glad to get on it because I was getting cold. I was sorry it was dark because I could no longer see the countryside. I hope see it again another day with David by my side.

I slept in my hotel in Schaffhausen and the next morning I began my travels back home. How bittersweet: my travels in Switzerland were coming to an end, but I was returning home to David.

Behind the wing: Photo by Saloma Furlong

Most of the trip back over the Atlantic was cloudy, but there was a time that I could actually see the ocean, so I decided to take a photo of it. The plane landed in Boston in the middle of a snowstorm on the evening of February 12. David and I decided not to chance it, so we stayed overnight before driving home the next day.

So this concludes my series of blog posts chronicling my Swiss travels. As I mentioned in the last post, it seems like ever so long ago, and it was really less than six weeks. Amazing how travels like this change my sense of time.

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11 thoughts on “Birthplace of the Schleitheim Confession”

  1. I too am sorry to see the chronicles end! From time to time, when a thought occurs to you, please give us some more. I greatly admire your ability to focus and to stay open on your treks.

    Sculptures are very subjective, aren’t they. I’m sure there is a story, some meaning, behind the sculpture of the reclining man- if you know, let us know!

    One of the man in the threesome took me aback: Mr. Willi Bächtold, the one on our right, looks like a Bontrager! :)

    1. Elva, I am also sorry to be ending these chronicles of Switzerland. But the next time I travel to Europe, I will write about my travels.

      You never know… Mr. Willi Bächtold could be a distant relative of yours… a descendant of one of those families who stayed in Europe. He is the museum director I will need to make an appointment with when I visit Schleitheim again.

      I don’t know what the story is behind that sculpture. I promise… if I find out, I will let you know.

  2. Arida van oudenallen

    Interesting story… I know it’s all true.greetings from the Netherlands and know you are always welcome in Aalsmeer!!!!!Arida

  3. Salome, I live just down the street from Arida. We would love to show you around and host you as long as you would like. Holland has a rich Mennonite history and is so small you can see a lot in a few days.
    I have really enjoyed your blogs about Switzerland.
    Greetings from Mary

    1. Mary, thank you for the kind invitation! How very cool that you and Arida are neighbors! I would LOVE to come and visit you both in December when I’m in Northern Germany. I’ll email the two of you about that.

      Yes, I’m aware that Holland has a rich Mennonite history. I would love to see historical sites as they relate to this history while I’m there.

      I’ll be in touch soon.

  4. I love your photo’s, you have such a good eye! However, the icing on the cake, as they say, are your words that carry us through the photo’s. I felt I was walking along side you those last few days. The coldness of the weather as night began to fall, discovering the little hut someone so kindly built for the ducks, the ringing of the bells. How hard it must have been to leave. Such mixed emotions. Feeling the tug of your ancestors as they beckon for you to stay and the tug of your heart to be back home with David. Thank you again Saloma for sharing this experience with us. It was quit a journey. I look forward to the next one!!

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