Johannes Bugenhagen was born in Pomeranian Wolin on June 24, 1485. Bugenhagen began working as a teacher at the municipal school in Trzebiatów (German: Treptow an der Rega) in 1504, after having studied at the University of Greifswald. He later served as headmaster.
He had already developed an intense interest in Biblical exegesis at this time. He was ordained as a priest in 1509 and became a vicar at St. Mary's Church in Trzebiatów. Bugenhagen travelled through Pomerania in 1517 at the behest of his sovereign, Prince Bogislav X; this journey provided the material for his ‘Chronicle of Pomerania’ of 1518.
First Protestant minister of the City Church in Wittenberg
While still serving as lector in Belbuck Abbey’s monastic school, he became interested in the ideas of the Humanists and the Protestant reformers. Bugenhagen’s correspondence with Martin Luther made him decide to travel to Wittenberg in 1521. He began to study theology there and was soon giving lectures on Biblical exegesis himself. After being recommended by Luther, Bugenhagen was elected the new minister of St. Mary’s, the parish church of Wittenberg, in October 1523. He had already been married to Walpurga for a year at this time. This made his appointment as pastor of the parish church to a clear statement against celibacy.
Bugenhagen belonged to the inner circle of Wittenberg’s Protestant reformers. He quickly became a trusted companion to Luther. The Protestant reformer, two years older than Bugenhagen, regarded him as his confessor, spiritual advisor, and 'fatherly friend'. As pastor of the local church, Bugenhagen also wed Luther and Katharina von Bora in 1525 and baptised their children. He worked on the translation of the Bible together with other Protestant reformers and later completed a translation into Low German. In June 1533, he became one of the first individuals to receive a doctorate in evangelical theology from the University of Wittenberg.
Reformer of the North
Starting in 1528, Bugenhagen was often underway for the cause of the Reformation, particularly in Northern Germany. He travelled to Hamburg, Brunswick, Lübeck, and to his native Pomerania, among other destinations. He developed ecclesiastical and educational regulations for these places and also helped to implement the necessary changes. Bugenhagen was a particularly important figure in the Reformation’s establishment in the Nordic countries. He wrote the new church ordinance for Denmark and crowned King Christian III of Denmark in Copenhagen on August 12, 1537. Bugenhagen became known as the ‘Protestant reformer of the North’ because of his writings and travels.
He died on April 20, 1558, and was buried in St. Mary’s, the parish church of Wittenberg.