This beautiful set of larger notes and a very nice envelope that tells the story behind the scenes depicted here from the Anabaptist revolt known as the Münster Rebellion of 1534-1535, a sequel to the events of the German Peasants' War a decade earlier. The envelope is written in nice, fully intelligible High German, while the notes themselves bear captions written in the local Low German dialect.
The envelope's cover bears the name of the series in German, Wiedertäufer-Notgeld ("Anabaptist-Notgeld"). If you're not familiar with the term, the Anabaptists still exist today as the Amish and Mennonites. Despite their peaceful pastoral life here in the United States today, the birth of the movement was bloody indeed. The words 'anabaptism' and Wiedertaufe both literally mean 'to baptize again' or 'another baptism'. The original Anabaptists didn't believe in baptizing infants, they felt that belief had to be a conscious decision and adherents were re-baptized as adults, which was considered heretical, and the group was banned from the evangelical Lutheran church. Persecution of the group continued until mid-19th century, with thousands being killed.
Here's my translation of the text inside the envelope:
Notgeld of the City of Münster in Westfalen
The Anabaptism 1533-36. In the wake of the great socio-religious upheavals at the end of the Middle Ages, the zealous teachings of the Melchiorites found a firm foothold in the old episcopal town of Münster after Pastor Rottmann had abolished child baptism and advocated anabaptism. Münster soon became the refuge of the anabaptists, persecuted everywhere by Catholics and Lutherans, and whose faith community, increased particularly by adherents from Holland, on February 27, 1534 drove those of the old faith from the city and announced the time of the "new empire of God on Earth," calling in their religious fanaticism: "Woe, woe, repent, repent!"
Growing ever more unsettled by a plethora of inner conflicts, and ever more harshly besieged by episcopal and royal troops, "the new Zion," after the death of its prophet, the baker Jan Mathyszoon from Haarlem, quickly turned from a democracy into a representative government and then a dictatorship of the tailor Jan Bockelson from Leiden. Bockelson had himself anointed the King of Zion and showed, next to brutality, bloodthirst and carnality, great spiritual gifts. Next to him, the Münster clothier Bert Knipperdolinck wielded the always-ready executioners' sword, and the Pastor Bernt Krechting from Gildehaus agitated for the religious, social, cultural and economic ideas of the new children of God.
Under the bitter famine of the hunger blockade, socialism took on communist forms through increasing radicalism; a rebellion of idealistic anabaptists against the introduction of polygamy by King Jan, who himself took 16 wives, was bloodily put down. The tailor king also dreamed of the coming world revolution in the globe of his crowned coat-of-arms [depicted on the front of note D] and had coins minted with the inscription: "One King upright above all, one God, one Faith, one Baptism!" He showed the knack for government also in holding royal court. Strict and complete state-controlled markets in nutrition, clothing and social life (rationing, forced construction, mass feeding, civil service, draft, clothing confiscation, etc.), as well as the abolition of private property, the elimination of capitalism and the introduction of unpaid compulsory labor, characterized the development of the Anabaptist empire, which represents one of the most unusual episodes in world history. In the night of July 24, 1535, after 17 months of siege, Münster fell only through the treason of a deserter. The king and his ministers Krechting and Knipperdollinck were taken prisoner, while possibly the entire Anabaptist community was slaughtered. A January day of the year 1536 then saw the King of Münster and his ministers die majestically, tortured to death with glowing tongs on a scaffold before the Rathaus. Their corpses were then hung up high in iron cages on the steeple of St. Lambert's Church as a warning example. The cages are still present today as a reminder of the final act of the Anabaptist drama in Münster.
The reverse of the envelope has a tourism-minded description of the city:
Münster, capital of the province of Westfalen, beautiful old garden city with celebrated promenades on the ramparts of old fortresses, magnificent parks and spaces; appealingly picturesque street scenes, above all the main market with the Rathaus, city winery and numerous row homes. The castle and many "courts" of the Westphalian nobility; cathedral and other art-historically exceptional churches; a wealth of historical reminders, especially of the Anabaptist era (1533-36) and the Peace of Westphalia (1643-48). University, all types of institutions of higher education, music college, state museum, episcopal museum, museum of natural history, libraries and archive, rich theatre and music life. Seat of all provincial authorities. Up-and-coming big city with over 100,000 inhabitants, healthy, open location in an attractive environment. Brisk commerce and traffic, hub of eight rail lines, city harbor on the Dortmund-Ems canal; center of the Münsterland economy.
And, last but not least, the notes themselves:
A: The front depicts John of Leiden, and reads: "Jan Bockelson, tailor, born in Leiden, became Anabaptist King in Münster, 1334-1336." The reverse shows the preacher Rottmann defending the Anabaptist doctrine.
B: The front of the note shows Bernt Knipperdollinck, the merchant executioner with his sword, while the reverse shows the Anabaptists racing madly through the city with their cry of "Woe, woe, repent, repent!"
C: The front reads: "Berntken Krechting of Gildehaus, pastor, was a representative of the Anabaptists", depicting him on the front of the note. The reverse shows the Anabaptists executing those who resisted polygamy: "Whoever stands up against polygamy, gets something in the head from the Anabaptists" reads the caption.
D: This note's front depicts the coat-of-arms John of Leiden chose for himself as king, with his motto: "One King upright above all, one God, one Faith, one Baptism!" The reverse of this note shows John upon his throne, but the abbreviated dialect is difficult to translate with certainty, although parts of it are clear. I believe the translation may be something like: "Take a look at John as King, and see what all can be made from a tailor".
E: The front shows the cages in which the corpses of John and the other ringleaders were hung from St. Lambert's Church, with the caption: "Jan Knipperdollinck and Krechting are caught, killed, and hung from Lambert's". The reverse shows the torture and killing of the Anabaptists, with the text reading "All those who made a pact with John of Leiden, they caught and massacred."