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Menso Alting was born in Eelde and was raised in a Catholic family. After visiting several schools in the Netherlands and Germany, he studied theology at Cologne. In 1564 he was named vicar to Haren. A few months later he was named pastor of Sleen. Menso Alting probably never visited Sleen and Haren, instead using the functions, which had been given thanks to influential family-members, as a source of income.
In 1565, during his study Menso joined the Protestant Reformation. He continued his studies in Heidelberg. After finished his studies Menso Alting travelled back to Helpen, now a district of Groningen and Sleen, this time to convert the inhabitants to Calvinism.
As a result of the Protestant persecutions in the Netherlands after the Beeldenstorm, Menso Alting fled to Germany in July 1567. Travelling through Leiselheim (at Worms), Dirmstein (at Frankenthal) and Heidelberg he eventually reached Emden in East-Frisia in 1575. Around this time about half of the city's inhabitants were Protestant refugees from the Netherlands; an estimated 6000 Dutch people went to Emden during the second half of the 16th century.
In October 1575 he became preacher of the Great church in Emden, as well as a political leader. He succeeded the Dutch reformer Albertus Risaeus, who had died in 1574. Alting caused a breakthrough for Calvinism in Emden. Shortly after he became preacher, countess Anna von Oldenburg died. Menso Alting led the Calvinistic funeral services.
Count William Louis, stadtholder of Friesland, invited Menso Alting to Drenthe in 1594 to preach there. From this period Menso Alting received his nickname the reformer of Drenthe. It is known that he used a hunebed as pulpit for his sermons. This hunebed is still locally known as the Popeless church.
In March 1595, Menso Alting played a large role in the rebellion of the Calvinistic inhabitants of Emden against the Lutheran count of East-Frisia, Edzard II. Menso, who hoped that Emden would join the Dutch Republic, roused the population. Not long after the city declared itself independent from East-Frisia. In the treaty of Delfzijl on 15 July 1595, Emden received a semi-autonomous status, which it would keep until 1744.
Menso Alting died at the age of seventy in Emden.