Debunking Zwinglian Myths
Every now and again I’ll be debunking myths and legends related to the life of Huldrych Zwingli. That because 1) too many people actually read Zwingli. And 2) too many people read about Zwingli in sources that aren’t always reliable (like Jim West and his positivistic minimalist mythical re-writes about Zwingli that obfuscate his actual history).
It has been told that when Zwingli rejected the playing of organs at Zurich’s churches that he took the key to the organ at the Grossmunster and tossed it in the Limmat, the river that bisects Zurich and empties into the Lake Zurich. That’s not entirely true.
Here’s what really happened.
Zwingli walked into one of the churches, and the organist was playing In A Gadda Da Vida. As usual Zwingli was pretty drunk and had a couple of girls on each arm. Wanting to impress the girls Zwingli declared, “I can do magic tricks.” To which one of the inebriated tarts replied, “Show us! Make the keys to the organ disappear.” Zwingli promptly took the keys and told the ladies to stagger after him. When they reached the Limmat he yelled “Abracadabra” and dropped the keys into the river, and slurred, “See it’s magic. They’ve disappeared.”
After which Zwingli and his posse returned to a night of carousing.
I have combed all the primary sources, and all of Zwingli’s biographers have heard of such a deed.