A young widow named Anna made her way slowly through the streets of Zurich on a cold January morning in 1519. A baby named Agatha was in her arms, wrapped up warmly by her mother to keep out the chill of the cold winter air. Near her skirts walked two young children, Gerold and Margaret. The widow and three fatherless children were on their way to the Grossmünster Cathedral of Zurich to hear the new preacher.
Later that morning, Anna and her children heard the new preacher open the Gospel of Matthew and expound the first chapter of the New Testament. Over the coming weeks, he went through the first Gospel line by line, opening to the congregation the words and the works of Jesus of Nazareth.
Anna listened with rapt attention to the sermons of the new preacher. She had never heard the Bible preached in this way before. Over the following weeks and months, the life of Jesus became very real to her. She saw the personal nature of his atoning sacrifice for sin as never before. Anna wanted, like the mothers of Galilee, to bring her children to sit at the feet of Jesus and receive His blessing.
Anna Reinhard had been born into a poor family in Zurich. She was known throughout the city as a vivacious and beautiful young girl. Several young men sought her hand in marriage. One of them was a young nobleman, an only child named John Meyer, but the match was considered beneath the family dignity of the Meyers. Against his family’s will and without their knowledge, John Meyer secretly married the beautiful Anna who had won his heart. John’s father was so enraged by the marriage that he refused to even look his new daughter-in-law in the face. Selling his estates, he vowed he would never pass his wealth to John and Anna.
For five long years, John and Anna waited in vain for a child. It seemed for a time that Anna was barren, but then God opened her womb and she was granted a son. The young couple named their firstborn son after his paternal grandfather, Gerold Meyer. One day, the estranged grandfather looked out the window of the council chamber of Zurich, where he was a member, and saw a bright and handsome boy of three years old sitting in the fish market. Being struck with the boy’s appearance and behavior, the elderly nobleman inquired as to his identity. He was informed that it was his own grandson, Gerold Meyer.
Thus, the grandson became the means of bringing the father and son into reconciliation. The young boy became the delight of his grandfather’s declining years, and Anna was welcomed with open arms into the Meyer family. Two daughters were added to the family, Margaret and Agatha. John Meyer took the place of his father in the Council of Two Hundred. All seemed to be set for a future of happiness and security. But tragedy struck and John was taken away by sickness, leaving Anna a widow with three young children under her care.
Anna found great comfort in the Gospel, and she clung to the promise of Jehovah to be a father to the fatherless and a judge of widows. An awakening was dawning throughout the Swiss cantons, and the new preacher in Zurich preached the living Gospel and the glories of the Lord Jesus who is the One Mediator between God and man.
Anna gradually threw off her old religious superstitions and embraced the Gospel with all of her heart. The Bible in the common language soon became an open book in Zurich, and she drew strength from its pages. The new preacher in Zurich kindly offered to the young widow that he would become the tutor for her eldest son. Gerold became an eager student who learned to read the Greek New Testament on his own.
When the Black Death struck the city of Zurich, the faithful pastor bravely stayed in his pulpit, visiting the sick and comforting the dying, and mourning with the bereaved. The pastor himself caught the plague and almost died, but he recovered after a long illness. Over this period, the friendship between the new pastor and the young widow blossomed gradually into love. Ulrich Zwingli was married to Anna Reinhard in 1522. It was very bold for a priest to dare to ignore the vows of celibacy and to embrace the Biblical state of marriage, but Zwingli did so without hesitation. He believed he could serve the Lord best with Anna at his side. If Peter was married, and if the apostles declared that marriage was honorable, Ulrich Zwingli decided that, in spite of Roman tradition, he would take Anna as his wife.
Ulrich Zwingli became a true and loving father to Anna’s three children, and the Lord added four more children to bring the total to seven. Although Anna had been blessed with wealth from her previous marriage, she gave of her riches to the advancement of the Gospel, and laid aside her sumptuous garments, her fancy rings, and the jewelry that marked her as a noble woman and took up the plain dress of her new husband.
Anna became a help truly meet to Ulrich Zwingli. Like her husband, she loved music and they taught their children to play instruments such as the lute, the dulcimer, and the horn. She assisted Ulrich in his large correspondence, and her wisdom offered valuable advice to her husband when he made any important decision. It is said that Ulrich Zwingli never published anything for public reading without first asking his wife for any helpful comments. Anna visited the sick. She administered medicines with her own hand. She opened her home to the numerous traveling preachers who came to Zurich to learn from Zwingli. Anna saw her eldest son, Gerold Meyer, married to a Godly young lady. Zwingli presided over the wedding. Margaret and Agatha were also happily married to Godly young men. Her four younger children, Regula, William, Ulrich, and Anna, flourised under her motherly love and care.
On the fateful day when the men of Zurich were called upon to defend the city against armed invasion, Anna tearfully prayed with her husband as he prepared to mount his horse and ride to battle. Their little ones stood around weeping. Ulrich Zwingli took up his battle axe, and bidding his family an affectionate farewell, mounted his horse to defend the town.
It is said that Anna could hear the thunder of artillery in her living room, where she and her young children were on their knees. Later that day, the news came in from the battlefield that her husband had fallen mortally wounded. His body had been dismembered and quartered. She also was told that her brother, Bernhard Reinhard, had also fallen in battle along with her oldest son, Gerold Meyer. Thus, Anna lost her husband, her brother, and her son all in the same day.
Anna Reinhard lived out the rest of her life in virtue and faith. She raised her little ones to love and honor the memory of their father. Henry Bullinger, the pastor who took the place of Zwingli, cared for the aging widow for the rest of her long life. She lived quietly in her room, giving herself to prayer and to the encouragement of her children. Anna died in December of 1538. Her last years were spent caring for the three children of her eldest son, Gerold. Anna Reinhard became a Godly grandmother just as she had been a Godly mother, and raised up the next generation to carry on the work of Zwingli in a new generation.
Ladies of the Reformation by J. H. Alexander