PROPST (PROBST, PRÆPOSITUS), JAKOB: German reformer; b. at Ypres (30 m. s.s.w. of Bruges), Flanders, probably in the last decade of the fifteenth century; d. at Bremen June 30, 1562. He seems to have entered the Augustinian order at an early age, and soon became acquainted with Luther, whose pupil he was at Wittenberg in the beginning of 1519. In the same year he became prior at Antwerp, where he was active as a reformer. In 1521 he was again at Wittenberg, and on his return to Antwerp as provost found that his enemies had grown bolder. Luther's writings had been burnt and his followers imprisoned; Propst soon shared their fate. On Dec. 5, 1521, the imperial counselor, Franz van der Hulst, invited Propst to accompany him to Brussels. There every effort was made to induce him to recant, and after a long resistance he finally yielded, terrified by the threat of capital punishment (Feb. 9, 1522). The Protestants were much depressed at this event, especially Luther, although the latter pitied Propst and did not believe that he had really changed his views. Propst was now transferred to the Augustinian monastery of his native city, where he soon found sympathizers and again began a Protestant propaganda. Though he carefully avoided all polemics, his enemies grew suspicious, and he was brought back to Brussels. His execution seemed inevitable, but a fellow monk aided him to escape. After a time he found his way to Wittenberg, where he married a young woman closely connected with Luther's wife.
In May, 1524, Propst found an important sphere of activity when he was called to Bremen by his friend and fellow monk, Henry of Zütphen (see MOLLER, HEINRICH; and ZUETPHEN, HENRY OF), and given charge of the Liebfrauenkirche there. The Reformation was now carried out in Bremen; Protestant pastors were installed in the churches, and the Roman Catholic worship was forbidden, except in the cathedral; Propst became senior pastor with the title of superintendent. In 1532 a Protestant revolutionary movement, social rather than religious, which Propst and the other pastors did not regard with favor, resulted in his withdrawal from Bremen for a short time, but on his return he was able to labor for many years in peace. In 1535 he visited Cologne with Melanchthon, and in 1540 caused a Spanish merchant, Francisco San Romano, to embrace Protestantism and to spread his new doctrines in his native land. Although heartily in sympathy with the ideas of Luther, with whom he maintained an active correspondence, Propst was not a prominent figure in the eucharistic controversy begun by Albert Rizaeus Hardenberg (q.v.), even while energetically rejecting his doctrines. He accordingly gladly resigned in 1559 in favor of Tilemann Hesshusen (q.v.) and retired from public life. Subsequent events in Bremen, culminating in the supplanting of Lutheranism by Reformed tenets, he saw without being able to prevent.
(J. F. IKEN.)