Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born on 10 November 1483 in Eisleben. At the age of 15 his parents sent him to the church school in Eisenach. Luther earned his keep as a member of the choir – as did Johann Sebastian Bach 200 years later. In the spring of 1501 he began his studies at the University of Erfurt. After achieving his master’s degree in 1505 he continued his studies at the Law Faculty. However, in July 1505 an important event changed the course of his life: on his way back from Mansfeld near Erfurt he was overtaken by a powerful storm near Stotternheim. Fearing for his life he saw his only escape to be a prayer: “if you help me, Saint Anna, I will become a monk!” Two weeks later on 17 July 1505 he entered the Augustine monastery in Erfurt where after two years he was ord-ained as a priest.

Under instruction from the monastery in Erfurt Luther went to Rome in 1511 to make a general confession. When he returned he moved in September 1511 to Wittenberg. He enrolled in the University and a year later graduated with his doctorate in theology. He retained the chair of theology until the end of his life.

In the years that followed Martin Luther was critically involved with the practice of indulgences in the Catholic church which led to the publication of his 95 theses. At the height of the discussion about the practice of indulgences he finally posted his theses on the door of the Wittenberg castle church in October 1517.

It did not take long for Luther’s opponents to take their first counter-measures. In October 1518 he was summoned to answer accusations at the Imperial Diet in Augsburg. He refused to retract his theses since he could not be refuted by holy scripture. After the public burning in Wittenberg of the papal bull which threatened Martin Luther with excommunication, he was summoned to the Imperial Diet in Worms in 1521. Since he there again refused to recant, the Edict of Worms declared Luther an outlaw. In order to protect him, his supporter, Friedrich the Wise, hid him incognito as Junker Jörg on the Wartburg. While he was there Luther used his time to translate the New Testament in the space of eleven weeks. Just a year later the partial translation of the Old Testament followed.

The Reformation in the church divided politics as well: in 1531 the league named after the town of Schmalkalden was founded. For this league Luther published the Schmalkald Articles in 1537, containing the main teachings of Protestantism. Martin Luther died in 1546 and is buried in the Wittenberg castle church.

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