church window at the Protestent village church of Möhra
church window at the Protestent village church of Möhra (Photo: epd-Bild/Norbert Neetz)

Today, he would most likely be identified as highly gifted: The Reformer Philipp Melanchthon wrote Latin poetry as a teenager and became a student when he was twelve years old. Aged 21, he began to teach himself at the University of Wittenberg and became its rector five years later. The scholar was Martin Luther's congenial comrade. With his numerous treatises he made significant contributions to the Reformation, to church politics and education.

The name “Melanchthon” is a Greek translation of his birth name, which means “black earth”. It was given to him as his humanist name by his great-uncle and mentor Johannes Reuchlin. Melanchthon was born as Philipp Schwarzerdt on February 16th, 1497, in Bretten.