Founder of the "House of Love," or nicolaites or Familists; b. Münster, Westphalia, 1502; d. 1580. In Münster, Niclaes (Nicholas) attended Latin school and worked in his father's business. At the age of 27, when he was suspected of Lutheran beliefs, he moved to Amsterdam, where he was under suspicion of being a "Münsterite." In 1541 he established a business at Emden, East Friesland, and gathered some followers. He was imprisoned, but escaped and went to the Netherlands, London, and Cologne. He wrote more than 50 pamphlets dealing with his prophecies and mystical pantheism and also carried on a literary dispute with David joris. About his relationship with the latter, an opponent said: "David George layed the egg and Henry Niclaes brought forth the chicken." He does not seem to have had any other Anabaptist connections. Niclaes emphasized an actual righteousness and holiness, which was practiced in the "House of Love." Connected with this was an attempted degree of enlightenment and divinization. He had some followers in England and the Netherlands, among whom was the printer Christoffel Plantijn of Antwerp. By the end of the 17th century the Nicolaites had disappeared.
Bibliography: f. nippold, "Heinrich Niclaes und das Haus der Liebe," Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie 32 (1862) 321–402. r. m. jones, Studies in Mystical Religion (London 1909). g. h. williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia 1962). k. algermissen, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:21. g. b. bareille, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 5.2:2070–72.