The Protestant Reformation in Germany. Freedom v. Authority. The Cast of Characters. Martin Luther, an obscure German monk. Changed the medieval world and threatened the Catholic Church like no other. .
The Protestant Reformation in Germany
Freedom v. Authority
Martin Luther, an obscure German monk. Changed the medieval world and threatened the Catholic Church like no other.
Leo X, one of the most extravagant Popes in history. Made the mistake of not seeing Luther as a threat to the power of the Catholic Church.
Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor from 1500-1558. Opposed Luther and tried to outlaw him and his followers as heretics.
Hans and Margarette Luther, pious and hardworking Germans whose son changed the world forever.
Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony from 1486-1525.Supported Luther and his teachings. Protected him in his early years so the Reformation had a chance to flourish.
Katharine von Bora, Luther’s wife. Luther found peace when he married this ex-nun whom he had helped to escape from a nunnery.
Martin Luther, an obscure Augustinian monk
Martin Luther detail from the Freedom Window War Memorial Chapel Washington Cathedral. (Noted are Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Paul Revere and George Washington.)
"God has given us the Papacy. Let us enjoy it!"– Pope Leo X
The Problem of Authority
Luther’s discovery uncovered the problem of authority. Is the Bible the sole basis for religious authority (as Luther claimed) or are the Bible and Church tradition the basis for authority (as the Roman Catholic Church claimed)? Here’s how one Protestant denomination today characterizes Luther’s contribution to Reformation theology:
Pope Leo X, Luther’s Adversary
Charles V, Luther’s most powerful adversary
Boundary of the Holy Roman Empire House of Hapsburg Brandenburg Church lands Bourbon lands
Frederick the Wise, Luther’s strong advocate and benefactor
Erasmus von Rotterdam, a northern Renaissance humanist, remained a Catholic and wanted to reform the church from within.
Pope Leo X, Luther’s adversary
Raphael’s portrait of Leo X in the company of two cardinals (1518)
Hans and Margarette Luther, hardworking and pious Germans
Katharine von Bora, Luther’s wife
Luther thoroughly approved even advocated drinking heavily. When a young man wrote to him complaining of despair at the prospect of going to hell, Luther wrote back advising him to go and get drunk. That, he said, was what he did when he felt despair.
Luther’s tankard: “Bad and sad thoughts must be followed by a good and happy little song and a friendly conversation.”-- Martin Luther
Luther also thoroughly approved of sex; he said that a woman had the right to take on a lover, if her husband wasn't able to satisfy her in bed – and the husband should look on this with composure.
Luther was very keen on music. An accomplished lute player, he composed countless hymns and he is regarded as one of the most important German composers prior to Bach.
Wittenberg, where Luther lived for much of his life, was a tiny town in Germany at that time. And yet Luther found himself living only a few doors away from two of the greatest German painters of the day, Lucius Cranach and his son. The Cranachs are responsible for the series of striking portraits of Luther that still survive.
Luther's wife was an ex-nun who had managed to escape from her convent by hiding in a barrel that had once contained pickled fish.
With his translation of the Bible into German Martin Luther attained permanent fame as far as a unification of the German language was concerned. Today some 70 million believers on all five continents are members of the Lutheran Church.
Luther was bitterly opposed to hunting. When he was disguised as a knight in the castle at Wartburg, he refused to take part in the customary pursuit of rabbit hunting. One ran up his leg to escape the dogs, but they still bit through the cloth and killed it.
Although Luther objected to the holy relics he discovered in Rome, there were at least as many on his own doorstep. The Castle Church of Wittenberg contained a collection of over 1500 relics including bones of saints and bits of the true cross. Every All Saints day, these would be spread on the grass in front of the church for the local populace to come and gaze at.
Luther was paid no wage, and took no payment for his services. At the end of his life, with six children, he installed a lathe and learned woodwork-ing in order to keep the money coming in. He was also a keen gardener, apparently producing fantastic lettuces, beans, melons and cucumbers.
As a young monk Luther was obsessed with atoning for his sins and went to ridiculous lengths to punish himself. This ranged from extreme self denial and physical and mental tests to self flagellation. One such punishment consisted of lying in the snow, through the night at the height of winter until he would have to be carried back inside.