Monday, 31 July 2017

Luther's Life after 1517 (Germany)

After the publishing of the Ninety-five Theses in 1517 Martin Luther's life would never be the same again. The monk and professor was then talked of by everyone. This second post about Luther's life (see the first here) will focus on the main events in his life between 1517 and his death in 1546. 

Luther stamp from the
series Great Germans (issued 28-06-1961)

The Heidelberg Disputation was held on 25th April 1518. Martin Luther was able to articulate his views and to defend his theses. Among the listeners were Johannes Brenz and Martin Bucer, who later became important supporters of Luther. 


In June 1518 Luther was summoned to Rome, as he was accused of heresy, but with the help of Frederick the Wise he was able to move the trial from Rome to Augsburg. During the Diet of Augsburg (12th to 14th October 1518) Luther was interrogated by Cardinal Thomas Cajetan. Luther refused to revoke his theses if there would not be an evidence for their falseness in the Bible. Cajetan rated this as heresy and to escape the threatening arrest Luther fled from Augsburg. Due to the political situation the Pope was forced to hold the trial in abeyance if Luther would keep quiet. Luther agreed to do so.


In the meantime Johann Eck prepared theses for a debate with Andreas Karlstadt, a friend and supporter of Luther. The theses were clearly against Luther and so Luther decided to break the silence and join the Leipzig Debate himself in July 1519. Eck's debating skills led Luther to declare that the Pope does not have power, as he is not mentioned in the Bible, and that "Auch Konzile können irren" (Also Councils can be wrong (meant was the one in Constance)).

The debate led Pope Leo X to censor Luther and threaten him with excommunication from the Catholic Church in June 1520 with the papal bull Exsurge Domine, which banned Luther's views from being preached or written.


In 1520 Martin Luther also published his important works To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church and On the Freedom of a Christian.

After Luther burned the papal bull on 10th December 1520, Pope Leo X issued the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem on 3rd January 1521, which excommunicated Martin Luther.

Owing to Frederick the Wise Martin Luther was allowed to articulate and defend his views once again during the Diet of Worms on 17th April 1521, where he was interrogated and requested to revoke his theses. He refused and answered with his famous, but undocumented, sentence: "Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen." The Edict of Worms declared Luther to be an obstinate heretic and banned the reading or possession of his writings. Luther was declared an outlaw, but Emperor Charles V still kept the promise of safe-conduct which he had given Frederick the Wise. On his way home Martin Luther was "abducted" by Frederick's soldiers on 4th May 1521 and was brought to the safe Wartburg Castle. 


Luther Memorial in Worms

At Wartburg Castle Martin Luther lived as Junker Jörg and translated the New Testament into German in only eleven weeks. It was the first German bible translation that was understandable for the most people and had a large impact on the German language. Due to riots and the radicalisation of the Reformation under Karlstadt, Martin Luther returned to Wittenberg on 1st March 1522. After just one week quiet set in again.




In the following time Martin Luther celebrated the first Lutheran communion and the first germanophone mass. In 1524 he abandoned the lifestyle of a monk and in 1525 he married Katharina von Bora.

At the behest of Philip I of Hesse Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and other reformers met at Marburg Castle in October 1529. The Marburg Colloquy attempted to solve a disputation between Luther and Zwingli over the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, but failed to do so.



After the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 the life of Martin Luther calmed down again. In the following years he mainly worked as publicist, chaplain and professor in Wittenberg, but still spoke his mind about important events of the time like the Ottoman Wars.

Although he suffered from a heart disease, Martin Luther decided to go to Eisleben in January 1546 to settle a dispute with the Counts of Mansfeld. On 18th February 1546 Martin Luther died in Eisleben, where he was born 62 years ago.

Saint Andrew's Church in Eisleben,
where Luther gave his last four sermons


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