Shepherd, religious enthusiast; b. near Helmstadt, c. 1450; d. Würzburg (lower Franconia), July 19, 1476. Nicknamed Hansel the Drummer or the Piper, Böhm entertained the peasants with kettledrums and bagpipes. Suddenly, on Laetare Sunday, 1476 (March 24), he burned his drum in front of the pilgrimage church of Niklashausen on the Tauber (Baden) and proclaimed that it was the will of Mary, revealed to him in a vision, that she be especially venerated at that place.
Inspired by stories of St. john capistran's success, the unlearned enthusiast began to preach penance. Eventually he demanded revolutionary social changes that were a combination of radical communism and hatred for the clergy and for the authorities. waldensian and huss ite influences, with which his name is linked, hardly touched him directly; his visions of Mary and his Marian devotion are the best proof of that. The influence of some unknown nobles and priests still remains uncertain.
His sermons and alleged miracles attracted thousands of people from central and southern Germany. When he called for an armed meeting, Bp. Rudolf of Würzburg, in agreement with the archbishop of Mainz, had him arrested. After a disorganized attempt by his followers to free him, he was burned as a heretic. The "Niklashausen pilgrimage" lived on in the memory of the people, and the church had to be destroyed (1477) to prevent the continuation of the movement, one of many isolated outbreaks antecedent to the peasants' war (1524–25).
Bibliography: Sources. Die Rats-Chronik der Stadt Würz-burg, ed. w. engel (Würzburg 1950), n. 117. Literature. f. a. reuss, "H. B. und die Wallfahrt nac Niklashausen im Jahre 1476," Archiv des Historischen Vereines von Unterfranken 10 (1850) 300–318. a. k. barack, ibid. 14 (1858) 1–108, basic study. w. e. peuckert, Die grosse Wende (Hamburg 1948). a. meusel, Thomas Müntzer und seine Zeit (Berlin 1952) 7–40, 185–187. o. graf, Neue deutsche Biographie (Berlin 1953–) 2:382. a. bigelmair, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 2:559. g. franz, Der deutsche Bauernkrieg (4th ed. Darmstadt 1956). w. brÖl, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912–) 9:388–389.