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Zwick, Johannes locked

  • Victor H. Mattfeld

(b Konstanz, c1496; d Bischofszell, Oct 23, 1542). Swiss reformer, poet and hymnographer . In 1509 he entered Freiburg University to study law, where he met and became a friend of the humanist Bonifacius Amerbach. In 1518 he was ordained and, with his brother, matriculated at Bologna University, later going to study law at Siena University. In 1521 he became instructor in jurisprudence at Basle University and continued his studies in theology. At about this time he became a follower of Luther and eschewed humanism. In 1522 he married and took a parish at Riedlingen. Because of his Reformation activities he was ordered to appear in Rome in September 1524, but when he ignored this it was not pursued. However, because the peasants considered him a member of their party in the Peasants' War of 1525, he was expelled from Riedlingen. Later in the same year he assumed a pastorate in Konstanz where, with his brother Konrad and the brothers Ambrosius and Thomas Blarer, he was to become a leader of the reform movement.

Zwick's most important contributions to the Swiss reform movement were concerned with the Eucharist and the use of hymns. Contrary to the attitudes of Zwingli, Zwick stated that scriptures neither command nor forbid hymn singing in church and that although psalm singing was important, other hymns should also be encouraged. He did not, however, approve of Latin hymns or polyphony. Together with Ambrosius Blarer he edited the third edition of the Konstanz hymnal (1540, 4/1548); his preface, ‘Vorred zu Beschirm und Erhaltung des ordentlichen Kirchengesangs’, was widely quoted and stands alongside Luther's hymnbook prefaces in importance.

23 hymn texts by Zwick are extant. The 1540 hymnal contains 151 hymns of which 19 are by Luther, 16 by Zwick and nine by the Blarer brothers. He wrote largely festival hymns with didactic messages including two for Ascension in the 1540 edition and one each for Christmas, New Year and the Passion. Zwick also provided a variety of hymns for children – for catechism and hymns of prayer; the 1540 hymnal contains six, which reappear in his Gebaett für jung Lüt (Zürich, c1540) with seven additional texts.

Zwick's hymns are usually brief, and, though mostly in local dialect, are notable for the quality of their texts. Melodies were often provided in the hymnal, most of which were well-known tunes, but Zahn listed seven melodies which may have been composed by Zwick. Zwick's hymn writing exercised significant influence on other composers, including Benedictus Ducis and Sixt Dietrich.


  • C.E.P. Wackernagel: Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit bis zum Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts, 3 (Leipzig, 1870/R)
  • F. Spitta: Gebete und Lieder für die Jugend von Johannes Zwick (Göttingen, 1901)
  • J. Hotz: Johannes Zwick: Uss der Werckstatt sines Läbens (Zürich, 1942)
  • B. Moeller: Johannes Zwick und die Reformation in Konstanz (Gütersloh, 1961)
  • M. Jenny: Geschichte des deutschschweizerischen evangelischen Gesangbuches im 16. Jahrhundert (Basle, 1962)
F. Blume: Die evangelische Kirchenmusik (Potsdam, 1931-4/R, enlarged 2/1965 as Geschichte der evangelischen Kirchenmusik; Eng. trans., enlarged, 1974, as Protestant Church Music: a History)
J. Zahn: Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder (Gütersloh, 1889-93/R)