Martin Luther und Katharina von Bora ©TV SBuHL

Martin Luther und Katharina von Bora ©TV SBuHL

Martin Luther was born to a mining family of peasant stock in Eisleben in 1483. In 1488, he began attending Mansfeld Latin school and later continued his studies in Magdeburg and Eisenach. From 1501 he studied in Erfurt to become a lawyer.

However, in 1505 Luther made a radical departure from his prescribed path and entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. This decision, which was marked by the search for a merciful God and His will as well as by a radical experience, set the course for the rest of his life. Thus began his evolution into a church reformer. His own negative experiences with the church’s means of grace, along with growing criticism of ecclesiastical abuses, resulted in a fundamental dispute with medieval theology.

Luther’s public criticism of the abuse of indulgences in 1517, which he had hoped would lead to a discussion, instead led to the opening of heresy proceedings, which concluded in 1521 with the imposition of excommunication and the imperial ban. To save Luther’s life, Elector Friedrich feigned an ambush. Luther lived for almost a year as Junker Jörg at Wartburg castle, where he also translated the New Testament into German.

His most visible, personal break with the monastic life was his marriage to the former nun, Katharina von Bora, in June 1525. She was one of several nuns he had helped escape from the monastery two years earlier. Thus was born the nucleus of the Protestant parsonage. Following the Peasants’ Revolt of 1525, which Luther opposed, the reformer promoted the development of Protestant country churches with inspection visits and church ordinances. He died in his native town of Eisleben in February 1546. Luther was buried in the Wittenberg castle church by order of the Elector.

By translating the Bible into German, Luther won lasting fame for unifying the German language. Some 70 million believers, on every continent, belong to Lutheran churches today.