2020-09-08

UU Minute #6

UU Minute #6: Katarzyna Weiglowa



As women stand up threatening patriarchy and orthodoxy, let’s remember that our Unitarian heritage includes courageous women who have been doing that for almost 500 years.

In 1527, ten years after Martin Luther had nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, thereby launching the Protestant Reformation, another German Protestant theologian, Martin Borrhaus, published De Operibus Dei -- Work of God -- the first open questioning of the doctrine of the Trinity in print in Europe. Borrhaus went quiet on the subject thereafter and was able to live out his life.

Katarzyna Weiglowa, a Polish woman in her late 60s when Borrhaus’ book came out, was less fortunate. Influenced by that book, she began professing nontrinitarian views. The pockets of Arian Christianity in Europe had long since been suppressed, so an adherent of the God of the Hebrew Bible who did not regard Jesus as co-equal and co-eternal with that God could only turn to Judaism – which Katarzyna Weiglowa adopted, though we don’t know if she ever sought to become part of any actual Jewish community.

The Christian world regarded her as theirs, and beginning in 1529, when she was 70 years old, she appeared several times before the church court in Krakow. Pressed to abandon the “mistakes of the Jewish faith,” she refused. So she was charged with heresy and imprisoned in Krak√≥w. She spent 10 years in prison, maintaining her profession of the unity of God, rejecting the trinity, and refusing to call Jesus the Son of God. In 1539, at the age of 80, she was burned at the stake, loudly proclaiming her faith until the end.

For both Unitarians and Jews, Katarzyna Weiglowa’s name is remembered and honored as a martyr.

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