Martin Luther - Biography
Photo: epd-Bild / Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten Sachsen-AnhaltMartin Luther, Gemälde von Lucas Cranach d. Ä.Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483 to Hans and Margarete Luder. Hans Luder was able to ensure a good education for his son. In 1501, he enrolled him at the University of Erfurt, one of the most important universities in Central Germany. Luther was originally to become a successful jurist, but then a journey changed his life forever. On July 2, 1505, the young student found himself in the midst of a severe storm near Stotternheim. Fearing for his life, he made an oath to become a monk. He joined the Order of the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt only two weeks later. Luther led a strict monastic life as ‘Brother Martin’. He began to study theology and was ordained as a priest in 1507. Luther earned his doctorate in Wittenberg in 1512 and continued to serve as a professor of theology there until his death.
Johannes Tetzel, a Dominican monk, had been selling indulgences on behalf of Albert of Brandenburg since 1515. The funds raised with these so-called St. Peter’s indulgences were to be used to finance the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther had already begun to criticise Tetzel’s sermons and business practices at an early date. Luther posted his ninety-five theses against the misuse of indulgences on October 31, 1517. This date has continued to symbolise the beginning of the Reformation to the present day.
In 1518, the Roman Catholic Church initiated a preliminary inquiry regarding charges of heresy against Luther. Luther refused to recant his written statements for the first time during his interrogation in Augsburg by the Papal Legate Cardinal Cajetan. He questioned the infallibility of the Pope and the ecumenical councils at the Leipzig Disputation a few months later.
On June 15, 1520, the Pope issued a papal bull threatening Luther with excommunication; Luther’s friends in Wittenberg celebrated as Luther burned this document on December 10. He was declared anathema on January 3, 1521. At the Diet of Worms later that year, Luther refused the request of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, to recant his writings. The Edict of Worms then placed Luther under the imperial ban. The Saxon Elector Frederick III (the Wise) had him 'abducted’ and taken to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach for his own safety. Luther remained there in hiding for ten months under the assumed name ‘Junker Jörg’. Luther returned to Wittenberg in March 1522 and delivered a series of sermons (the Quadragesima Sermons) in order to put an end to a surge of unrest and iconoclastic destruction.
He married Katharina von Bora, a former nun, on June 13, 1525. They lived together with their six children and with other relatives, servants, and students in the former ‘Black Monastery’ in Wittenberg.
The final journey in Luther’s life took place in 1546; he returned to the city of his birth in order to resolve the conflicts between the Barons of Mansfeld. The Protestant reformer died in Eisleben on February 18 and was buried in Wittenberg’s 'Castle Church' three days later.
In addition to ecclesiastical, educational, and social reforms, his Bible translation is considered the Protestant reformer’s most important achievement. The complete Luther Bible was published in Wittenberg in 1534 and influenced the development of the German language more than any other book; it also inspired translations of the Bible into many other European languages. As declared by the American Luther film of 2003: ‘He changed the world forever’.