A 17th-century Christian sect known for its communal living and rigorous piety.

Religion: Christianity
Founder: Jean de Labadie
Founded: 1666
Ended: 1732
Location: Netherlands
Size: Approximately 600 members (at peak)
Other Names: Labadie Community, Labadists Community

The Labadists were a religious group that emerged in the 17th century, closely associated with the teachings and leadership of Jean de Labadie. Labadie, originally a member of the Jesuit order before becoming a Protestant minister, emphasized a form of Christianity that stressed personal piety, communal living, and the rejection of mainstream church practices which he viewed as corrupt. The movement can be traced back to Labadie’s belief in the necessity of a return to a more authentic, apostolic form of Christianity, which included communal living as a reflection of the early Christian communities.

After Labadie’s death in 1674, his followers, known as Labadists, continued to practice their faith and communal lifestyle, notably establishing a community in Wieuwerd, Friesland, in the Netherlands. This community was housed in Walta Castle, provided by the sisters Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, who were adherents of Labadie. The Labadist community in Wieuwerd became renowned for its printing operations, as well as for its self-sufficiency in various trades and farming activities. The community attracted numerous visitors, including high-profile figures such as Sophia of Hanover, William Penn, and the philosopher John Locke. Despite the initial influx of members and visitors, the community faced challenges, including the difficulty of maintaining strict discipline and communal sharing, especially as their numbers grew to around 600 at their peak​​.

The Labadists also attempted to establish communities beyond Europe. In Maryland, USA, Labadists acquired land through Augustine Herrman, a Bohemian-born mapmaker and landowner, who converted to the Labadist faith. Herrman’s son, Casparius, granted part of his plantation for the establishment of a Labadist community. This settlement, known as Bohemia Manor, grew rapidly, reflecting the Labadist commitment to communal living and the shared practice of their religious beliefs. Despite initial success, the Maryland colony faced decline in the late 17th century, eventually ceasing to exist by 1720. This decline was mirrored in the community in Wieuwerd, which also faded away by 1730​​​​.

Key beliefs of the Labadists included the idea that the true Church of Jesus Christ consisted only of the “born again” or the “elect,” and they practiced absolute equality between the sexes. They believed in a Christianity that was not of this world, affecting all aspects of life, including their distinctive dress. The Labadists held that personal prayer and mystical devotion were the true paths to knowing God, rather than through established religious laws. Their approach to communal living was rooted in the belief in shared resources and the rejection of personal wealth for communal benefit. Their theology was influenced by Calvinism and Jansenism, with a strong emphasis on predestination​​.

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