.The life of Martin Luther is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of Christianity. It has all the stuff of a good novel or a movie trilogy: parental conflict, spiritual agony, life-changing moments, near-misses, princes, popes, emperors, castles, kidnapping, mobs, revolution, massacres, politics, courage, controversy, disguises, daring escapes, humor and romance. And not only is it a good story, it marks a major turning point in western history and in Christianity.
Luther's story begins in the region of Saxony in what is now Germany. As a part of the Holy Roman Empire, 15th-century Saxony was under the political control of the Holy Roman Emperor and the religious control of the pope in Rome. The Roman Catholicism into which Luther was born focused on purgatory, hell, angels, demons, sin, judgment and the saints. Jesus was depicted as an unapproachable, terrifying judge, but believers knew they could call upon the virgin Mary and other saints to intercede on their behalf.
Birth of Martin Luther
Around 1483 Hans Luder (or Ludher, later Luther) and his young wife Margarethe left Möhra, the Luder ancestral home, and settled in Eisleben, 110 miles to the northeast, in what is now the German state of Saxony-Anhalt.
November 10, 1483 – A son was born to Hans and Margarethe.
Restored birthplace of Martin Luther in Lutherstadt Eisleben. The actual house no longer exists; it was largely destroyed whan a fire swept through the town in 1689. The town council acquired the property in 1693 and restored it to its original floor plan as a memorial to the town's favorite son. It is now a museum, one of the oldest in the German-speaking world.
November 11, 1483 - The morning after the birth of his son Hans took him a short distance away to the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul to be baptized by the parish priest, Bartholomew Rennebrecher. It was the feast day of St. Martin of Tours and, per custom, the newborn was given the name Martinus or Martin in his honor. Hans acted sensibly in an age when infant mortality was 60 percent or more and everyone feared that unbaptized children who died might not go to heaven.
Vaulted interior of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Eisleben, with font used to baptize Martin Luther (left), and modern font in the floor for full-immersion baptisms. The "Luther font" was restored to the church after it was rediscovered in the garden of a local home. The font bears the Latin inscription, "Rudera baptistierii, quo tinctus est b. Martinus Lutherus 1483."
1484 (Martin age -1) – Less than a year after Martin's birth, the Luder family moved 6 miles northwest of Eisleben to the mining center of Mansfeld to improve Hans' job prospects. Mansfeld was the largest town in the territory, ruled by the four Counts of Mansfeld. The region was rich in mineral ore and extensively covered with mines. Martin roamed these streets until he was 13 years of age when he left to further his education. His parents stayed in Mansfeld for the rest of their lives.
Later in life Luther stated that he was the son of an "ore digger" who toiled away in the mines at Mansfeld, and that "my mother carried all her wood home on her back." Luther also said, "I am the son of a peasant. My great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all true peasants."
In truth, Hans Luder was the son of a farmer in Möhra, but he married Margaretta Lindemann from a small but well-off family in nearby Eisenach. that could boast a professor, lawyer and doctor among its members. They also had connections to the mining industry, the field in which Hans sought employment. This fortunate pairing may have inspired Hans' ambitions. He was not the eldest son so he was prohibited by law from inheriting his father's property.
Two articles, one titled "Findings Shed New Light on Luther" published in The National on November 20, 2008, and another titled "Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life" in Spiegel Online dated October 28, 2008, state that a 2003 archaeological investigation of the former Luder family home in Mansfeld revealed that Martin was not always forthcoming about his parents' social standing.
Newly discovered records indicate that Luther's father didn't begin as a poor miner when he arrived in Mansfeld. He came there with enough money to build a business and he quickly became a successful foreman. The Counts of Mansfeld granted franchises to entrepreneurs like Hans entitling them to operate smelters, small furnaces, called "herrenfeuer," for melting ore before separating the silver and copper. Hans was a "huttenmeister," a smelter-master who supervised the copper-smelting process. It is likely that he was assisted by Margaretha's uncle Antonius Lindemann who, prior to 1500, was a prosperous smelter-master in Eisleben and was able to advise him on how to obtain his own smelting franchise.
Hans also owned 198 acres of land and loaned money at 5 percent interest to a local lord. By 1491 the Luders were among the most respected members of the community and, in 1492, Hans became a "fiermeister," one of four citizens who represented others before the town council, an office for which ownership of a house was a prerequisite.
Eventually Hans became a "schauherr" (a mining inspector), one of the area's five senior mining officials. By the early 16th century he was managing seven smelters and employing some 200 workers in partnerships with others, which made him one of the bigger operators in Mansfeld.
After the death of Hans Luder in 1530, his son Jakob (with whom Martin was very close) inherited his father's mining and smelting businesses, and he followed in his father's footsteps.
Luder home in Mansfeld. Following the death of his father Hans in 1530, Jakob Luder, Martin’s brother, inherited the house and paid off his siblings in accordance with the inheritance contract of 1534. Luther’s home was in keeping with the prominent social position enjoyed by the Luder family. The four-sided farm complex included not only spacious living quarters, but also farm buildings for the household and livestock. These structures have entirely disappeared, and all that remains today is one-third of the house itself. At the end of 1578 / beginning of 1579, Jakob’s sons were forced to sell their parents’ home, but they continued to own other houses in Mansfeld.
The 2003 excavation of the Luder house revealed that it's size was in keeping with the family's economic and social standing. The large estate originally consisted of two plots of land. The front of the house on the street side was 82 feet wide (the house seen by visitors today is one third the size of the original). It had a wide entrance through which a horse-drawn wagon could pass, a big barn and stables for horses, also a garden.. The building complex enclosed a four-sided courtyard, A massive cellar under the house was also revealed. The house was adjacent to the city gate in the southeastern city wall with immediate access to the mines. Here the young Martin lived with his parents, his three or four brothers (one named Jacob, with whom he was close), four sisters, his paternal grandmother and servants. From 1530 on Jacob took over the house and his father's business.
It was here that young Martin and his siblings played, surrounded by flocks of geese and chickens. Fragments at the site reveal that they played with crossbows, clay marbles and bowling pins made of beef bones — toys not every family could afford at the time.
Some of the artifacts discovered in the Luder home in Mansfeld: left to right: whistle in the shape of a bird. The user partially filled it with water then blew into the tail to make a warbling sound like a bird; sewing thimble (possibly used by Margarethe Luder) and six marbles (made of clay and fired in an oven).
More artifacts from the Luder home: a set of roses sown onto a woman's clothing; a pair of pendants from the sleeves of a woman's garment; beef bone filled with metal used as a bowling pin; a beautiful "D" with leather remains indicating it was added to the end of a belt. One of Luther's sisters was named Dorthea, maybe it was hers?
The remains of kitchen scraps discovered on the property indicate that the family frequently ate roast goose and the meat of young pigs. During Lent, the family ate expensive ocean fish, like herring, codfish and plaice (flatfish). Their meals, prepared in a large kitchen, included figs, grapes, partridges and songbirds such as robins. The birds were cooked in grey three-legged pots. The hearth was heated with copper cinders from the smelters, taken to the home in carts.
In the courtyard of the Luder's Mansfeld house excavators made a serendipitous and spectacular discovery, a stairwell filled with two decades of kitchen waste and other garbage dating to the time of Martin's childhood. Among rusty nails, eggshells and thousands of animal bones, they found 300 silver coins believed to have been thrown away along with a host of other household items after two of Luther's brothers died of the plague in 1506 or 1507. The best explanation is that everything the brothers came into contact with was burned and discarded to hopefully prevent the spread of the disease to others.
Pilgrim's horn (only a small piece of this type of horn was found in the Luder's garbage). It indicated that Hans went at least once on a pilgrimage to Aachen, the western-most city in Germany (and where the Holy Roman Emperors were crowned), to view four relics displayed in the cathedral: the swaddling clothes of Jesus, the loincloth Jesus wore on the cross, the cloth that held John the Baptist's head after he was beheaded and the robe Mary wore on the night of Jesus' birth. In the middle-ages the journey was the equivalent of traveling to Rome in Italy, Jerusalem in Israel or Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
It is well-known that the Luders, like other Germans, were superstitious and believed in witches and the devil. Margarethe took steps to appease her neighbor, a witch whose spells she blamed for the death of one of her children.
Hans ruled his son with an iron hand. Martin later recalled, "my father once whipped me so hard I ran away. I hated him until he finally managed to win me back." Margarethe also was a harsh disciplinarian. Martin recalled "[that] for the sake of stealing a nut, my mother once beat me until the blood flowed."
March 12, 1491 (Martin age 7) - Hans Luder was determined to see his son ascend to civil service and bring greater honor to the family. To that end he sent young Martin to the Mansfeld Latin School, which taught the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the grammar of Donatus and the parts of the Bible used in church services, all in Latin.
Later in life Martin reflected unkindly on the harsh discipline his teachers inflicted on him and his fellow students attempting to learn a new language. One student, called a wolf, was appointed to spy on the others and report lapses into speaking German. Every month the poorest scholar in the class was made to wear a donkey mask until he caught another speaking German. Luther related that one morning he was beaten with 15 strokes of a cane for neglecting to learn his lesson. His image of God was shaped by his experiences:
From early childhood I was accustomed to turn pale and tremble whenever I heard the name of Christ mentioned, for I was taught to look upon him as a stern and wrathful judge.
October 12, 1492 - Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas. The explorer believed he had reached East Asia.
1493 - Emperor Frederick III died. For the last ten years he ruled jointly with his eldest son Maximilian I, who then became sole Holy Roman Emperor.
1497 (Martin age 13) - From Mansfeld Luther moved to Magdeburg, one the great cities of the region, with about 30,000 inhabitants. He boarded with the Brethren of the Common Life, who stressed Bible reading and simple living. As at Mansfeld everything was taught in Latin, the language of the church. But few understood it
The Brethren of the Common Life was founded in the Netherlands in the 14th century by Gerard Groote, the son of a prominent merchant. In 1374, Groote had a conversion experience and adopted an ascetic lifestyle. From 1379 he preached a life of simple devotion to Jesus Christ. But, he severely criticized the clergy, some of whom had him silenced. He retired to his hometown awaiting reinstatement by the pope and gathered a commune around him. He was granted permission to preach again, but the notification didn't arrive until after his death. His followers then founded the community known as the Brethren of the Common Life. The movement spread from one city to another as houses for both men and women were established throughout the Netherlands and Germany. The Brethren, whom Luther called the Nullbrüder from a type of cowl they wore, took informal vows and were entirely self-supporting, pooling their money in a common fund from which they drew expenses. Any surplus was used for charity. They devoted themselves to nursing the sick, studying and teaching the Scriptures and producing written manuscripts and, later, printed books. Their schools were famous for their high standards of learning.
Besides Luther, another famous member of the Brethren of the Common Life was Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (commonly called Erasmus), whose greatest contribution was his Greek New Testament (1514), which later was the basis for Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament into German during his exile at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.
1497 (Martin age 13) - Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, sailed up the east coast of Africa and crossed the Indian Ocean, solving the major problem of the time: how to sail directly to the East from Europe.
1498 (Martin age 14) - A year later Luther moved to Eisenach, a much smaller, but still important town where, from 1498 to 1501, he attended St. George's Latin School. A good and industrious student, he was especially fond of the principle, John Trebonius, who treated his pupils with love and consideration.
Initially, Luther stayed with relatives (his mother was from Eisenach). To earn his keep, he went from house to house as a choirboy – quite common for students in that day. Accounts tell us he had a beautiful tenor voice, ranging into alto. One day Ursula Cotta, the young wife of city councilman Conrad Cotta, noticed him singing outside her home. She offered him free lodging in exchange for tutoring her son, enabling him to devote time to his studies. It was during this time that he learned to play the lute, a difficult 15-string instrument. Luther called Mrs. Cotta his "adopted mother." Her father, Heinrich Schalbe, who had close ties to the Franciscans, was one of the most influential residents of Eisenach. In addition to what he learned at St. George’s school, his spiritual growth was influenced by the Collegium schalbense, a circle of pious laity around Schalbe. Luther also attended meetings at the home of the priest Johannes Braun where those gathered made music, said prayers and discussed religious books. Luther fondly remembered his schooldays in what he called "his beloved town" and remained in contact with several Eisenach residents all his life, including one of Ursala Cotta's sons who came to study at Wittenberg.
1501 (Martin age 17) - Upon completion of his early schooling Luther enrolled at the University of Erfurt. Reputedly one of the best schools of its time it had approximately one thousand students and four colleges: Theology, Liberal Arts, Medicine and Law.
A medieval education did not come easy. Students arose at 4 am to attend mass, They ate two simple meals a day and took one bath a month. On the upside each was given a liter of beer per meal.
Luther enjoyed his college days in Erfurt, Like any normal teenager he studied hard and he partied hard. Even at an early age he was a deep thinker and a big personality. His friends nicknamed him "The Philosopher" and his love of good German beer earned him the title "The King of hops." Young Martin developed an appetite for learning, music and the Bible. As part of his studies he read the Psalms, 15 per day. Every ten days he started over again, a practice he kept up the rest of his life until he knew all 150 by heart.
September 29, 1502 (Martin age 18) - Martin received his Baccalaureate degree and began studying for his Masters.
October 18, 1502 (age 18) - Elector Frederick the Wise founded a university in the small town of Wittenberg on the Elbe River in Saxony, 131 miles from Erfurt.
September 22, 1503 (age 19) - Francisco Todeschini Piccolomini was elected Pope; he took the name Pius III
October 18, 1503 (age 19) - Pope Pius III died (one of the shortest pontificates in history).
November 1, 1503 (age 19) - Guliano Della Rovere was elected Pope; he took the name Julius II. He was nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" and personally led his troops into battle on at least two occasions.
January 1505 (age 21) - Luther received his Masters degree. His father gave him a copy of Corpus Iuris (or Juris) Civilis ("Body of Civil Law") and arranged for his entry into law school.
Main building of the former University of Erfurt, the Collegium Maius. Here Luther began his studies at the Faculty of Arts during 1501 and studied legal sciences for a few months during 1505. The building was completely reconstructed after its destruction in 1945 and has been used by the Evangelical Church in Central Germany since 2011.
May 19, 1505 (age 21) - Luther entered law school at the University of Erfurt and began his studies by memorizing the titles of laws. He was well on his way to being everything his father wished. But suddenly all the certainties of Luther's life were shattered.. Later that year the black plague struck Erfurt. Death ran unchecked in the narrow city streets leaving anguish in its wake. Without warning some people were struck down, while others were spared. It was impossible to explain. Nobody knew how you caught it. It was a terrible, visible sign of punishment.
The black plague killed almost half of Europe's population over the previous hundred years. But the epidemic now touched Luther directly. Three of his friends were killed by the disease. This glimpse of mortality and the fear of God's wrath would lead to a turning point in his life.
July 2, 1505 (age 21) - Later in life Martin stated that while returning to Erfurt from his parents' home in Mansfeld, he was near Stotternheim, when he was caught in a bad thunderstorm and nearly struck by lightening. He used the word, Anfechtung, "a grasping dread," to describe what he felt. He vowed to become a monk if St. Anne saved him. (St. Anne was the patron saint of miners, around whom he had grown up in Mansfeld).
.But it seems the story of a sign from above coming to Luther in the form of a lightning strike is greatly exaggerated. Historians have uncovered written evidence that Luther, who was 21 at the time, was desperate to escape an impending arranged marriage. Records show that his father Hans had already married off three of Martin's sisters and one brother to the children of the mining elite in Mansfeld as a way of cementing his position in Mansfeld society. Apparently it was Martin's turn.
July 16, 1505 (age 21) - Rather than submit to his father's will, Luther decided to enter the Augustinian Black Monastery in Erfurt. He invited some friends, including "honorable matrons and maidens," to a lavish supper, during which he told his shocked companions about his decision to become a monk. The next day, July 17, he entered the monastery.
O how my father raged when he found out his son wouldn't be a lawyer. He went insane. He acted like a fool.. How was he to know that one monk in the family would bring him more fame, and shame, then I thousand ermine-clad advocates.
His reception as a would-be brother was a solemn occasion. The young Luther fell down at the feet of the prior and he was asked what he wanted. He replied, "God's mercy and yours." He was instructed on the hardships and the duties of the life he had chosen. Then he was given the white robe of a novitiate and was placed under the care of an older brother for a year of probation. During this period he learned the rules of the order and was obliged to do the most menial service, like sweeping and cleaning.
September 1506 - Luther's novitiate ended and he took the monk's vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Luther and his fellow monks at the monastery wore circular tonsures and black robes, the only clothing they had. About 74 ordained and 70 lay monks lived at the monastery at its peak in the early 16th century. They rose at two in the morning for the first Divine Office and prayed five times a day. Devout, earnest, self-critical, relentlessly self-disciplined and intelligent, Martin's only goal as a monk was to earn his way into heaven. His spartan quarters consisted of an unheated, sparsely furnished cell.
Luther performed his share of manual labor and begged in the city with other monks. He was constantly in the confessional where, according to one monk, he even confessed to the most minor of offences.
I kept the rule of my order so strictly that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I.
At least once, Luther spent six hours confessing to his superior, Johann Von Staupitz. He later wrote:
I was myself more than once driven to the very depths of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him! ... I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailor and hangman of my poor soul.
Winter of 1508-09 - Luther was sent to the University of Wittenberg, then in its infancy, having been founded July 2, 1502, with an enrollment of one hundred and seventy-nine students. The town itself was a poor insignificant place, with three hundred and fifty-six taxable properties. While teaching philosophy and dialectics he also continued his theological studies.
Painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a significant Renaissance artist, dated 1536, 28 years after Luther was first assigned to teach at Wittenberg University. The perspective is from the south, across the Elbe River. Wittenberg Castle/All Saints Church (Castle Church) complex, left; Twin towers of the Stadtkirche (City Church), center.
1508 (Martin age 24) - Pope Julius II commissioned 33-year-old Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni to paint frescoes on the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (completed October 31, 1512).
Winter 1508-9 (Martin age 25) - Luther earned his bachelor's degree in the Four Books of Sentences by Peter Lombard, (the main theology textbook of the time).
October 1, 1509 (age 25) - Luther was recalled to Erfurt from Wittenberg, perhaps to assist his old Augustinian theology teacher, Johannes Nathin, instruct novitiates.
1510 (age 26) - Pope Julius II authorized the sale of indulgences to finance construction of the new St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Luther's Pilgrimage to Rome
Autumn 1510 (age 26) - Martin was offered an escape from his cloistered life and, hopefully, relief from his attempts to earn his salvation. He and Anton Kresz, another Augustinian from Nuremberg, were sent by Johann Von Staupitz on an 850-mile journey south across the Alps to Rome to handle a dispute over a new set of rules for the Augustinian order. At issue was a decree by Pope Julius II that merged the observant and the nonobservant houses of the order. Luther was assigned to represent the observant German Augustinian monasteries before the Pope. It was also hoped that a visit to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church would ease Luther's spiritual struggles.
Martin and Kresz were given ten gold florins to take care of their needs. They traveled on foot and found food and lodging in monasteries along the way. They probably stayed in Ulm, then went through the Sempter Pass in Switzerland to Milan, Italy. They visited the Convent of San Gallo, the Convent of Santo Spirito in Florence and the Convent of Santa Maria della Misericordia in Bologna. In Rome they stayed with the Augustinian community at Santa Maria del Popolo.
Luther became ill en route and feared he would die; he was saddened that he might perish in a foreign country. He became despondent for a time, but his health returned and he continued the journey.
At his first glimpse of Rome Martin knelt on the ground with the words:
Be greeted holy Rome, holy because of the holy martyrs dripping with their blood.
During the month-long stay, he did all the things any devout pilgrim would do. He visited many churches and the Catacombs. On his knees he ascended the marble steps of the Scala Santa, the Holy Stairs, which long ago were encased in a protective framework of wooden steps. The large staircase is enclosed in an edifice that incorporates part of the old, Papal Lateran Palace. They are said to be the actual stairs of Pontius Pilate's residence in Jerusalem, where Jesus walked after his condemnation. Legend says the steps had been transported to Rome by angels. Martin said an "Our Father" on each the 28 steps to free his grandfather from purgatory.
Also during his stay Martin learned some Hebrew from a Jewish Rabbi and took Greek lessons from a refugee from Constantinople. But the more Martin saw of the city, the more his reverence for Rome turned to loathing. He was shocked by the immorality and lack of piety of the local clergy and by the luxurious lifestyle of Pope Leo X, a member of the Medici family, who was known for his expensive tastes and his fondness for hunting, gambling and carnivals.
Martin went to Rome with innocence and naiveté and returned to Erfurt wiser and sadder, with seeds of disillusionment planted in his mind. He still was very much a Catholic who believed that all that was needed was a strong reform-minded Pope to put an end to abuses and corruption. But Leo X liked the status quo. In his later writings he recalled his great disappointment with the "holy city:"
It is almost incredible what infamous actions are committed at Rome; one should see it and hear it in order to believe it. It is an ordinary saying that if there is a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from which all sins proceed.
Below: excerpt from 2003 film Luther, staring Joseph Fiennes
1511 (age 27) - Johann Staupitz, Martin's Augustinian superior, also the dean of the theology faculty at Wittenberg University, transferred him back to Wittenberg to take his place as professor of biblical theology, and to study for his doctorate.
In 1502, the University of Wittenberg, located along the banks of the Elbe River, was established by the Elector of Saxony, Frederick III, known as the Wise. When its doors were opened on October 18, 1502, it was called Leucorea, the Greek translation of "Wittenberg" (leukos = white; oros = mountain). Apparently the early settlers of Wittenberg, Flemish immigrants and native Wends, named the settlement "Witten Berg". To the settlers from the Netherlands, who were accustomed to seeing flat land, saw in Wittenberg a modest hill of white sand.
The Augustinian Monastery or Black Cloister was built in 1504 as part of the University of Wittenberg. It was the residential hall and academy for the monks of the Order of St Augustine who were studying at the University. Martin Luther lived there while studying for his Doctorate and teaching at the University.
1511 (age 27) - Martin moved into the newly constructed Augustinian Black Cloister, named for the monk's black habits, and began his second teaching stint at the University of Wittenberg.
October 19, 1512 (age 28) - Martin was awarded a Doctorate of Theology.
February 21, 1513 - Pope Julius II died of fever and was succeeded on March 9, 1513 by Giovanni dei Lorenzo de Medici, the second son of Lorenzo de Medici. He took the name Pope Leo X.. His coronation cost 100,000 ducats, one seventh of the reserve left in the papal treasury. Within two years he squandered the fortune left by his predecessor -- a serious financial embarrassment. To keep up with his expenditure his officials created more than 2000 salable Church offices during his tenure as pope -- an estimated three million ducats, but not enough to satisfy Leo.
August 16, 1513 (age 29) - Martin began lectures on the Psalms. One university student stated that professor Martin was a good lecturer with a voice that was easy to listen to.
He spoke neither too quickly nor to slowly, but at an even pace, without hesitation and very clearly, and in such fitting order that every part.
August 1513 (Luther age 29) - Albrecht of Brandenburg was elected archbishop of Magdeburg (where a 13 year old Luther attended school) and administrator of the Diocese of Halberstadt. He was 23 years old (canon law specified a minimum age of 27 for high Church offices).
1514 (Luther age 30) - In addition to his other positions Albrecht obtained the vacant office of Elector of Mainz by paying a bribe to an unknown agent in Rome, to buy off a rival As both an archbishop and a ruling prince he held a powerful position as one of seven electors whose responsibility it was to elect the Holy Roman Emperor should the need arise. It also was a lucrative one because others paid bribes to influence his vote. For Albrecht It was a real power play, It also placed him on an equal level with his older brother Joachim I Nestor, who held the title of Elector of Brandenburg.
Albrecht's unscrupulous action left him deeply in debt. In order to gain the agreement of Pope Leo X to his holding more than one high office, which smacked of simony, Albrecht borrowed 21,000 ducats* (one source says 48.000) from Jakob Fugger, an enormously wealthy banker and merchant from Augsburg. To repay the loan he obtained permission from Pope Leo to sell indulgences in his territories, as long as he forwarded half the income to the papacy. The pope, whose extravagant and self-indulgent lifestyle had exhausted the papal treasury, saw it as an opportunity to restart the rebuilding of St. Peter Cathedral in Rome begun by his predecessor, Julius II. When the indulgence sales began, commissioners representing Jakob Fugger accompanied the indulgence sellers to collect his share.
*Ducats: various silver or gold coins formerly issued in various parts of Europe, especially those first issued in Venice in 1284. A ducat's weight is roughly 3.5 grams, or .11 troy ounces of gold weight. At one time in 2017 gold was selling for roughly $1,200 per oz. Therefore, 21,000 ducats would equal about $2,772,000!
Pope Leo X got what he wanted: money for himself and money to build Saint Peter's Basilica. Albrecht got what he wanted: money to pay off his debt and gain control of the German church. The German people got what they didn't want or need: indulgences!
1514 (age 30) - Martin was named priest at Wittenberg's Stadtkirche St. Marien (city church of St. Mary, named for Mary Magdalene) in addition to his university duties. That same year he preached against the abuse of indulgences and the way they cheapened grace rather than requiring true repentance.
May 1515 (age 31) - At a meeting of the Chapter of the German Observant Augustinians in Gotha Luther was appointed district vicar for Meissen and Thuringia, which gave him charge over ten (later eleven) area monasteries. His duties could sometimes -- but not always -- be conducted by letter. He wrote to the friary at Neustadt to depose a Prior, and elect a new one — not an easy thing to do. The opening paragraph of the letter stated that the community was not "of one mind and one heart." Following an official visitation to the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt he wrote a letter to the prior, his friend Johann Lang, suggesting that the guest house had become a convenient hotel, and that Lang might want to keep a tally of exactly how much was eaten and drunk there each day.
In another letter to Lang Luther described his workload:
I could use two secretaries. I do almost nothing during the day but write letters. I am a preacher, a reader at meals, director of studies ... overseer of the fish pond at Litzkau, referee of the squabble at Torgau, lecturer on Paul, collector of material on the Psalms ... I rarely have time for canonical hours and for saying mass, not to mention my own temptations with the world, the flesh and the devil. See how lazy I am.
May 1515 (age 31) - Martin began year of lectures on Romans.
Luther's Tower Experience
1516? - Luther scholars still are not united on an exact date for Luther’s discovery. But most agree that between 1515 and 1518. (Luther, the year before he died, stated it took place in 1519);
In the preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Works (1545) Luther said that he made his monumental discovery of righteousness by faith through an in-depth study of Paul's letters to the Romans, Galatians and Hebrews in preparation for delivering lectures at Wittenberg University. Slowly, terms like penance and righteousness took on new meaning. The controversy that erupted after the publication of his 95 Theses placed even more pressure on the reformer to study the Bible. This study convinced him that the Church had lost sight of several central truths. To Luther, the most important of these was the doctrine that brought him peace with God: that salvation is a gift of God's grace, received by faith and trust in God's promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ's death on the cross.
This discovery, according to Table Talk -- a compilation by students and associates of Luther’s observations at meals and other times between 1531 and 154.4 -- took place both in the tower of the Augustinian cloister and in the cl. of the monastery, which some scholars say is an abbreviation of the Latin cloaca, "sewer," or cultus, “toilet.”
This discovery is called Luther's "Tower Experience," because in Table Talk he mentions that he was studying Romans 1:17 in the heated room (his study) in the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg. But, nobody knew exactly where this "Tower Experience" took place, because the tower no longer exists.. Even its location wasn't known until 2004, when archaeologists stumbled across its remains on the south side of his home (the former Augustinian Cloister) while making plans to plant a garden. The excavation also uncovered a 450-year-old toilet -- very advanced for its time. It was made out of stone blocks, with a 12 x 12 inch wide stone seat with a hole. Underneath was a cesspit attached to a primitive drain. Luther's tiny study, “the poor little room,” as he called it, was located higher up in the tower above the toilet.
Luther frequently alluded to the fact that he suffered from chronic constipation and spent much of his time in contemplation while sitting on the lavatory. Now it's clear what the reformer meant.
What makes the find even more fitting is that at that time fecal language was often used to denigrate the devil, such as "I shit on the devil" or "I break wind on the devil". It was not a very polite time and Luther was not always polite when expressing his opinion.
The remains also included a vaulted ceiling, sandstone door frames and what is left of a floor-heating system, which presumably gave Luther some comfort during the hours he spent in contemplation, while suffering from chronic constipation. It may well be that he had his central insight of the Reformation, his "Tower Experience," while sitting on the toilet:
There I began to understand God's justice as one where the righteous lives through God's gift, which is through faith. Then I felt totally newborn, and through open gates I entered paradise,
Or was Luther simply speaking about his study above the toilet?
Whether in the study or on the toilet: Martin Luther's insights about a merciful God were probably not due to a sudden flash of inspiration at a certain location, but were the result of a long struggle over the course of many years, with self-doubts and fear, in dialogue with himself and with God.
1516 (age 32) - Plague struck Wittenberg. Martin's friends encouraged him to leave the city, but he would not abandon his duties.
October 27, 1516 (age 32) - Martin began a year of lectures on Galatians, his favorite biblical book. Years later he said in one of his Table Talks:
The Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katharina (referring to his wife Katie).
Much later when a friend of his was preparing an edition of all his Latin works, he remarked:
If I had my way about it they would republish only those of my books which have doctrine, my [commentary on] Galatians, for instance.
December 1516 (age 33) - Martin published Theologia Germanica (German Theology), a mystical treatise believed to have been written around 1350 by an anonymous author. Martin added his own preface and claimed he learned more from this manuscript than any other source except the Bible and the writings of Augustine. Theologia Germanica proposed that God and humanity can be wholly united by following a path of perfection, as exemplified by the life of Christ, renouncing sin and selfishness. This was Luther's first published writing.
Did you know?
Johann Staupitz, was superior of the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. It was in Erfurt that von Staupitz first met Martin Luder, a young monk plagued by persistent thoughts of spiritual inadequacy. Martin felt compelled to confess to everything sinful he may have ever done. At least once, he spent six hours confessing and later wrote, "I was myself more than once driven to the very depths of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him!" He also remarked, "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell."
Pope Julius II
The Papacy of Julius II was marked by an active foreigh policy, ambitious building projects and patronage of the arts. He commissioned the destruction and rebuiding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and Michelangelo's decoration of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Her was nicknamed the "Fearsome Pope" and the "Warrior Pope." He personally led troops into battle on at least two occasions. He died of fever on February 21, 1513 and was succeeded by Pope Leo X on March 9, 1513.
"Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith."
Quoted by Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians (Romans 1:17), Habakkuk 2:4 is one of the great declarations of faith in all the Bible. It presents a contrast between those who are arrogantly rebellious, and those who are humbly submissive. It reveals the striking difference between the proud and the just. The future belongs to the righteous, while the wicked have no future. Wickedness carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Pride, tyranny and evil cannot last, but the righteous shall live by faith.
There is no single text in the Old Testament that plays a larger rôle in the doctrinal discussions of the New Testament than this little sentence from the prophecy of the prophet Habakkuk. It is also one of the foundation stones on which Martin Luther built his anti-papal doctrines of the Reformation, and changed the course of Church History.
The Black Death, or bubonic plague, was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that mainly affected rodents, normally black rats, but fleas could transmit the disease to people. It also traveled from person to person through the air or by exposure to the body fluids of dead. plague-infected animals.
Once people were infected, they rapidly infected others. Plague caused fever and painful swelling of the lymph nodes called buboes, typically found in the armpits and groin, from which the disease got its name.
In the Middle Ages there seemed to be no rational explanation for the Black Death. No one knew exactly how it was transmitted and no one knew how to prevent or treat it. Physicians relied on crude, dangerous and unsanitary practices like bloodletting and boil-lancing, as well as superstitious cures such as burning aromatic herbs and bathing in rosewater or vinegar.
Healthy people did all they could to avoid the sick. Doctors refused to see patients; priests refused to administer last rites; shopkeepers closed stores. Many people fled cities for the countryside, but even there they could not escape the disease: It affected cows, sheep, goats and pigs. Because nobody understood the disease, many believed that the Black Death was a punishment sent by God for sins like greed, blasphemy, heresy and fornication. By this logic, the only way to overcome the plague was to win God's forgiveness. Some believed that the way to do this was to purge their communities of heretics and other troublemakers.
Plague Mask worn by doctors
Plague doctor mask, Germany, c. 16th century. As protection against the Black Death doctors wore a leather gown with a wrap and a mask. The beak-like profusion was filled with aromatic Herbs or sponges soaked with vinegar which were believed to prevent the doctor from contracting the disease.
Martin Luther Plaza in Rome?
The “Piazza Martin Lutero” was officially dedicated in Rome on Wednesday October 16, 2015, in the presence of Mayor Ignazio Marino. The site chosen iwas the Oppian Hill, a park area that overlooks the Colosseum, Rome’s most prominent symbol. Several hundreds of people attended the event, including many leaders of local and national Protestant and Evangelical churches. Mayor Marino publicly thanked the former delegate for Culture and Sport of the city, Paolo Masini, who started the legislative process that led to this historic day. Both the Adventist Churches and the Lutheran Church of Rome sent a request in 2009 to name a street or a square honoring the German Reformer, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.
Despite Luther being excommunicated from the Catholic church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council, a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters."
The move contrasts sharply from views held by Luther around the time of his visit to Rome, when it was said he repeated the saying, “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.”
What is your image of God? Who or what shaped it?
How has your image of God changed since you were a child? Is your image of God in the process of changing now?
What are the greatest challenges you face as a parent?
Tell of a time you felt God was very close. Tell of a time you felt God was far away.