Martyred by the Catholics: Leonhard Keyser of Barvaria

Leonard Keyser of Barvaria picks a Fire Flower and becomes Super Keyser.

Leonard Keyser of Barvaria picks a Fire Flower and becomes Super Keyser.

It’s not fun being a responsible skeptic. The world is a far more interesting place when you believe that there is a chance for the impossible to happen. Professional skeptics like myself are often the target of derision and ridicule from the fundamentalist brands of religion that never quite grew out of the Santa Claus/Easter Bunny view of spirituality.

So it was refreshing to see the writer of the Martyrs Mirror activate his own BS detector in the story of Leonhard Keyser before I had a chance to do it. The Mirror tells two tales of Keyser’s death – a fantastic one, and then a more action-packed believable one.

Keyser’s first tale reads a lot like that of Polycarp (who I’ve recounted here). Call him “Asbestos Man II.” While being wheeled to his fiery execution on a cart in 1527, Keyser picks a flower, holds it up to the judge who condemned him and says:

Lord judge, here I pluck a flower. If you can burn this flower and me, you have justly condemned me. But, on the other hand, if you cannot burn me with this flower in my hand, consider what you have done and repent.

Keyser then proceeds to survive, unharmed, two rip roaring bonfire attempts to burn him alive. In the second round, his hair and nails are singed, but he and the flower are not. So, the executioners cut him to pieces and attempt to burn his body. The pieces are not consumed. In frustration, Keyser’s dismembered and lightly scorched body is thrown into the river.

Terrified by this occurrence, the judge resigned and left the town. The judge’s servant then joined an Anabaptist church. This, incidentally, is how the story was recorded, from the tale of the servant.

It’s then interesting to see the second account, taken from an historic chronicle, that immediately follows. In the historical account, Keyser’s remarkable resistance to death was mainly due to his executioners’ ineptness. Keyser is tired to a ladder and laid on a pyre. However, the ropes holding him on the ladder burn and fall off before the flames reach Keyser. So, Keyser rolls off the pyre. The executioners jab him with poles, forcing him back to the fire. He simply rolls out the other side. At this point, the executioners give up and fall on him with their swords. Again, the dismembered pieces of Keyser refuse to burn. One has to wonder if these guys had ever built a fire before.

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5 Responses to “Martyred by the Catholics: Leonhard Keyser of Barvaria”

  1. Admiring the persistence you put into your website and
    in depth information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
    the same out of date rehashed information. Great read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  2. Joan Mann Says:

    I am a descendant of Leonhard Keyser and it was great to find this on the Internet. I have a copy of the entry in Martyrs Mirror. My grandfathers surname was Keyser

    • Karen Holmes Says:

      One of my Great Grandfather’s as well Joan Mann, extremely interesting and honored family legacy to pass on to the next generation. Enjoyed this reading, Thank You!

  3. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Revelation 2:10b

  4. I am a descendant of an Umstadt, whose sibling married a Keyser, and I also found this fascinating.

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