The Affair of the Sausages

The Affair of the Sausages (1522) was the event that sparked the Reformation in ZürichHuldrych Zwingli, pastor of Grossmünster in ZurichSwitzerland, spearheaded the event by publicly speaking in favor of eating sausage during the Lenten fast. Zwingli defended this action in a sermon called Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen (Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods), in which he argued, from the basis of Martin Luther‘s doctrine of sola scriptura, that „Christiansare free to fast or not to fast because the Bible does not prohibit the eating of meat during Lent.”[1]

Ulrich Zwingli was a pastor in Zurich, who was dedicated to the Reformation ideology of Martin Luther.[1] His first rift with the established religious authorities in Switzerland came during the Lenten fast of 1522, when he was present during the eating of sausages at the house of Christoph Froschauer, a printer in the city.[2]

According to William Roscoe Estep, Zwingli had already held his convictions for some time before the incident.[3] In March 1522, he was invited to partake of the sausage supper that Froschauer served not only to his workers, who, as he later claimed, were exhausted from putting out the new edition of The Epistles of Saint Paul but also to various dignitaries and priests. Because the eating of meat during Lent was prohibited, the event caused public outcry, which led to Froschauer being arrested.[4]

The planned provocation took place e.g. in the presence of Leo JudKlaus Hottinger and Lorenz Hochrütiner, which all gained notoriety for Swiss reformation later. Froschauer himself published from 1525 on the Zürich Bible.[5] The meal involved Swiss Fasnachtskiechli and some slices of sharp smoked hard sausage, which had been stored for more than a year.[5] Though he himself did not eat the sausages, Zwingli was quick to defend Froschauer from allegations of heresy. In a sermon titled Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen (Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods), Zwingli argued that fasting should be entirely voluntary, not mandatory.[5] According to Michael Reeves, Zwingli was advancing the Reformation position that Lent was subject to individual rule, rather than the discipline which was upheld at the time by the Catholic Church.

In Basel, a sort of more opulent Spanferkel-meal served the same purpose some time later.[6][7]

However the Zurich sausage affair was interpreted as demonstration of Christian liberty and kept being of similar importance for Switzerland as Martin Luther’s 95 theses in Wittenberg for German reformation.[8][9]