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1572 – Theologian Johann Sylvan is executed in Heidelberg for his heretical Antitrinitarian beliefs.
Johann Sylvan (died 23 December 1572 in Heidelberg) was a Reformed German theologian who was executed for his heretical Antitrinitarian beliefs.

Origins and early career
Johann Sylvan probably came from the Etsch valley in the County of Tyrol. By 1555 he was employed as a preacher by the bishop of Würzburg. In 1559 he fled Würzburg and joined the Lutheran church in Tübingen. In 1560 he became a minister in Calw.
Reformed pastor

In 1563 he entered the service of the Reformed Elector Frederick III of the Electorate of the Palatinate. During the same year he became pastor and church superintendent of Kaiserslautern. In 1566 Sylvanus took part in a diplomatic mission to the Netherlands. From 1567 Sylvanus became pastor in Ladenburg and was emerging as a prominent figure within the Palatine church. The Palatinate would be rocked by controversy in 1568 on the question of church discipline, and Sylvan along with his friends Thomas Erastus and Adam Neuser emerged as leaders of the anti-disciplinist faction against Calvinists such as Caspar Olevianus.

Antitrinitarian
Sylvan was asked by Jan Łasicki to refute a work by the Italian Antitrinitarian Giorgio Biandrata. The attempt to refute Biandrata’s treatise only convinced him of the veracity of Biandrata’s arguments, especially when the famed Hebrew scholar Immanuel Tremellius could offer him no support of the doctrine of the Trinity from the Old Testament.

Sylvan became part of an Antitrinitarian cell that included Adam Neuser, Matthias Vehe-Glirius, Jakob Suter and Johann Hasler. In 1570 John Sylvan wrote an Antitrinitarian manifesto entitled True Christian Confession of the Ancient Faith of the One True God and of Messiah Jesus of the True Christ, against the Three-Person Idol and the Two-Natured False Deity of the Antichrist.

Sylvan and Neuser attempted to migrate to Transylvania. Their letter to the Transylvanian prince was discovered and Sylvan – who unlike Adam Neuser was unable to flee – was arrested. Although Johann Sylvan later recanted his Unitarian faith, he was condemned and beheaded on the Heidelberg marketplace.

Elector Frederick’s own compromised confessional position, as an advocate of the theoretically illegal Reformed faith, created the context in which the Palatine court felt it had no other choice than to execute Sylvan and thus demonstrate the state’s theological orthodoxy.

 
 

Nontrinitarianism is a form of Christianity that rejects the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity—the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases or persons who are coeternal, coequal, and indivisibly united in one being, or essence (from the Greek ousia). Certain religious groups that emerged during the Protestant Reformation have historically been known as antitrinitarian.

According to churches that consider the decisions of ecumenical councils final, Trinitarianism was definitively declared to be Christian doctrine at the 4th-century ecumenical councils,[1][2][3] that of the First Council of Nicaea (325), which declared the full divinity of the Son,[4] and the First Council of Constantinople (381), which declared the divinity of the Holy Spirit.[5]

In terms of number of adherents, nontrinitarian denominations comprise a small minority of modern Christianity. By far the three largest nontrinitarian Christian denominations are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”), Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Iglesia ni Cristo, though there are a number of other smaller groups, including Christadelphians, Christian Scientists, Dawn Bible Students, Living Church of God, Oneness Pentecostals, Members Church of God International, Unitarian Universalist Christians, The Way International, The Church of God International and the United Church of God.[6]

Nontrinitarian views differ widely on the nature of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Various nontrinitarian philosophies, such as Adoptionism, Monarchianism, and Subordinationism existed prior to the establishment of the Trinity doctrine in AD 325, 381, and 431, at the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus.[7] Nontrinitarianism was later renewed by Cathars in the 11th through 13th centuries, in the Unitarian movement during the Protestant Reformation, in the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, and in some groups arising during the Second Great Awakening of the 19th century.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not present in the other major Abrahamic religions.

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1828 – Mathilde Wesendonck, German poet and author (d. 1902)
Mathilde Wesendonck (23 December 1828 – 31 August 1902) was a German poet and author. The words of five of her verses were the basis of her friend Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. He may have been her paramour.

Biography
Agnes Mathilde Luckemeyer was born in Elberfeld (now part of Wuppertal) in the Rhineland of Germany in 1828. In 1848[1] she married the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck (sometimes erroneously seen as von Wesendonck). Otto was a great admirer of Wagner’s music, and after he and Mathilde met the composer in Zurich in 1852, he placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner’s disposal. By 1857, Wagner had become infatuated with Mathilde. It is not known whether she returned his affections to the same degree, or if the affair – if there was one – was ever consummated. Nevertheless, the episode inspired Wagner to put aside his work on Der Ring des Nibelungen (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and begin work on Tristan und Isolde.

In 1858, Wagner’s wife Minna intercepted a romantic letter from Wagner to Mathilde. After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zürich alone, for Venice. Minna went to Dresden to stay with her family. She wrote to Mathilde before departing for Dresden:

“I must tell you with a bleeding heart that you have succeeded in separating my husband from me after nearly twenty-two years of marriage. May this noble deed contribute to your peace of mind, to your happiness.”[2]

In her autobiographical reminiscences Mathilde later wrote about Wagner’s stay in Zürich, but made no mention of troubles with Minna.

In 1866 Mathilde met with Johannes Brahms in Zürich and enabled him to study some of Wagner’s manuscripts.[3]

Mathilde Wesendonck died in Altmünster (Austria) in 1902, and she is buried at the Alten Friedhof with the Wesendonck family in Bonn, Germany.

Popular culture
Mathilde Wesendonck was portrayed by Valentina Cortese in the 1955 film Magic Fire, and by Marthe Keller in the 1983 film Wagner.

Her legacy as assumed lover of Richard Wagner lives on with reference to her in Rhett Miller’s song Our Love from the album The Instigator.

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