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University and monastic life (1501 1511)

* Erfurt is the town where Luther was a university student from 1501 to 1505 and thereafter an Augustinian monk and priest.  In 1511 he would be permanently transferred to Wittenberg.

* The Black Cloister (Monastery) of Erfurt  Following a friend’s death, his own serious leg infection, and a fall from a horse, Luther joined the monastic order of Augustinian Hermits.  He was ordained a priest April 3, 1507, and celebrated his first Mass (a traumatic event) here May 2, 1507.

*  Johann von Staupitz was the vicar of Luther’s order, his father confessor and confidant who played an important role in his theological and spiritual development.   Vicar is a person acting in place of another, and here in the Roman church the vicar is the representative of the local bishop.  Staupitz resigned his position in 1520, two months after refusing Rome’s order to restrain Luther’s preaching and writing.

* Rome, Italy  On business of his Order Luther journeyed here on foot  his only time outside of Germany.

The early Wittenberg years

*  Frederick the Wise was the Elector (governor) of Saxony, the first of three electors (John the Steadfast and John Frederick I) who supported, sustained and protected Luther throughout his life.  The appellation of “the Wise” was not something with which the Roman Catholic community of the time would have agreed concerning Frederick.  They had other names for him.

*  Wittenberg University  During the 1508 winter semester Luther taught at this university founded by Frederick the Wise in 1502.  In 1511 he returned here for a lifetime of teaching on the theological faculty.  He became a Doctor of Theology October 19, 1512.  The university moved to Torgau shortly after Luther’s death, when the plague ravaged Wittenberg.

*  The Stadtkirche (St. Mary’s, the city church, the town church)  In addition to his teaching duties, Luther became this church’s priest in 1514.  It provided him with an important pulpit from which to reach people as a preacher.  In 1515 he was appointed vicar over 11 Augustinian monasteries in the area.

*  Teaching/lectures  15131516 Luther lectured first on the Psalms, then Romans and finally Galatians.  In his study of the Psalms, he began to understand God’s righteousness and mercy as being one and the same  a free gift (grace) that God gives to sinners.  His study of Romans led him to the personal conviction that the just shall live by faith.  These two insights turned late medieval theology and religious practice on its head.

*  Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz was a teenage princebishop whose “purchase” of the Archdiocese (to add to two others) instigated a sale of indulgences in Germany that was designed to support Pope Leo X’s monumental effort to rebuild and restore St. Peter’s Church in Rome.

*Johann Tetzel was a Dominican monk and famous stump preacher who was “front man” for the special indulgence sale in Germany.  The proceeds were divided between the treasuries of the pope and Albrecht.  While Frederick the Wise didn’t allow Tetzel to preach in Saxony, some of his customers were Luther’s parishioners who crossed Saxon borders which thus brought Luther into the fray.

The flames of Reformation (1517  1525)

* 95 Theses  Luther posted these theses on the Wittenberg Castle Church door for scholarly debate on All Saints Eve, October 31, 1517.  The most famous of these challenged indulgences.

*  Disputation at Heidelberg  This spring 1518 debate of Luther’s ideas at the Augustinian Chapterhouse influenced a number of theologians to adopt Luther’s teachings.  It was followed that summer by an inquisition in Rome, where Luther was tried in absentia on charges of heresy, then given 60 days to answer the charges.

*  Cardinal Cajetan interviewed Luther in Augsburg October 12 14, 1518.  Luther refused his order to recant and fled, fearing for his life.  When Pope Leo X issued Cum Postquam, whose outline of church doctrine directly contradicted Luther’s position, Luther was ready to go into exile.  Instead, Frederick the Wise offered him protection that lasted throughout his lifetime.

* John Eck – the leading theologian from the University of Leipzig – debated Luther and his colleague Carlstadt (Andreas Bodenstein) at Leipzig June 27  July 14, 1519.  Eck declared himself the winner and left for Rome to become the principle architect of Exsurge Domine, the papal bull of excommunication.  He later served as Luther’s prosecutor at The Diet of Worms (pronounced   d   t  of  vorms).

* The four 1520 treatises  On Good Works, The Papacy in Rome, The Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, and The Babylonian Captivity (of the Church), came as rapid fire critiques that set Luther irrevocably against Rome.  These were written, quickly printed and enthusiastically read, leading to Luther’s increased following and Rome’s ire.

*  Thomas Muentzer was an important early Luther supporter and Reformation revolutionary was sent by Luther to pastorates in Zwickau and then Allstedt, and was driven out of both places for his proAnabaptist stance.  As pastor in Muhlausen, he led the illfated peasants’ revolt in Thuringia during the illfated Peasants’ war of 152425 (which Luther opposed).  He was arrested and beheaded in his own parish.

*  Erasmus of Rotterdam  Though open to church and papal reform, this leading humanist was as critical of Luther’s theology as Luther was of his depth.  Erasmus remained committed to the Roman Church.  The two men frequently commented on each other but never reconciled.

*  George (The Bearded/Rich) of Saxony was a vehement and lifelong opponent of Luther after the Leipzig Debate.  He united the Old Believers of Germany in the Dessau Alliance.

The Inner Circle (1520  1546)

*  Philip Melancthon was fourteen years younger than Luther, Melanchthon was Luther’s closest friend and most important ally, this Wittenberg University colleague provided the systematization of Luther’s theology.  Melanchthon was the principal author of The Augsburg Confession and is considered to be the second most important figure in the Lutheran Reformation.  Born Philip Schwartzerdt (which means “black earth”) he, too, changed his name into the Greek word for black earth.  Melanchthon is buried next to Luther in Wittenberg’s Castle Church.

*  George Spalatin (George Burckhardt) was secretary and court preacher to Frederick the Wise and an early close friend of Luther, he served as intermediary between Luther and Frederick, a factor important to the success of the Reformation.  Many letters exist, written to him by Luther.

*  Justus Jonas was Luther’s intimate friend was a witness to his marriage, assisted Luther in translating the Bible, and translated the Latin works of Luther and Melanchthon.  As a professor at the University of Erfurt, he accompanied Luther to the Diet of Worms, was present at his deathbed, and wrote a vivid account of Luther’s last hours.

*  Johannes Bugenhagen (“Dr. Pomeranus”) – Luther’s close friend and supporter – was also Luther’s pastor, succeeding him as pastor of St. Mary’s Church, the Wittenberg Stadtkirche (city church).  He assisted Luther with biblical translations and preached his funeral oration.

*  Katharina von Bora was a former nun under Luther’s protectorate.  She married Luther in 1525 and together they had six children.  Called “My Lord Katie,” and “The Morning Star of Wittenberg” by Luther, she was his lifelong intellectual and emotional companion.

*  Lucas Cranach (The Elder) was the court painter to the electors of Saxony from 1505 to 1550.  He was also the town druggist, and he was also elected Wittenberg’s mayor.  A close friend of Luther and Katharina, his art expressed much of the spirit of, and served as propagandist for, the German Reformation.  His portraits of the Reformers included many versions of Luther.

The Supporting Cast and Contemporary Reformers (15251546)

*  John the Steadfast was the brother of Frederick the Wise and his successor as Duke/ Elector of Saxony (152532).  John was a dedicated Lutheran.  He was recognized as the secular leader of the Protestant movement, particularly after his stand against Rome and the emperor at Augsburg.  He cofounded the Protestant Schmalkaldic League of Lutheran territories.

*  John Frederick I the Magnanimous, the son of John the Steadfast, was the last elector under whom Luther served.  Succeeding his father, and like him a devoted supporter of Luther, he served until he was outlawed by the Emperor in 1546 and defeated in battle in 1547.

*  Philip, Landgrave of Hesse was a dashing nobleman who founded the University of Marburg and who sought to bring the Protestant Reformers to agreement there at the Marburg Colloquy.  His later bigamy, tacitly supported by Luther, brought scandal to the Reformation.  Cofounder of the Schmalkaldic League, he surrendered to Charles V at the end of the Schmalkaldic War and was held captive by the emperor for five years.

*  John Bucer was also a reformer who met Luther at the Heidelberg Disputation and introduced the Reformation in Strasbourg.  He participated in the Marburg Colloquy and sought to bring Luther and the Swiss reformers together.  Expelled from Germany by Charles V, he went to England to become a professor at Cambridge.

*  Andreas Carlstadt was Luther’s senior on the Wittenberg faculty and adopted Luther’s ideas.  He later split with Luther on the nature of the reforms.  He was among those radical reformers labeled “The Enthusiasts.”  He ultimately broke with Luther, dying an outcast and with no significant following.

*  Johannes OEcolampadius was an early supporter of reform who differed with Luther on the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  He was also present at Marburg.  His real name was Hussgen or Huesggen which he changed to Hausshein and then into the Greek equivalent which is derived from oikos (house) and lampada (lamp).

*  Ulrich Zwingli was the first Swiss reformer and chief among those who clashed with Luther over Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  Zwingli emphasized the memorial character of the Last Supper saying that Christ was only spiritually and not physically present in the elements.  He and Luther failed to agree at Marburg, and Zwingli died in the Second War of Kappet, when the Roman Catholic forces rebelled against forced introduction of the Reformation in Switzerland.  His body was burned by the victors.

The Papacy (15191546)

*  Leo X was pope from 1513 to 1521.  His sale of indulgences to finance St. Peter’s in Rome sparked the Reformation, and his papal bull in 1520 (Exsurge, Domine) called for Luther’s excommunication which was subsequently issued in January 1521.

*  Hadrian VI was pope following Leo from 1522 to 1523 (Dutch).  He tried to raise the moral level of the Curia without success.

*  Clement VII, cousin of Leo, succeeded Hadrian and was pope until 1534.  After he backed Francis I of France against Charles V, the victorious Charles had Rome sacked by Germans.  The Augsburg Confession was heard during his papacy.  Clement never fully understood the depth of the Reformation.  It was during his papacy that Henry VIII separated the English Church from Rome.

*  Paul III was pope from 1534 to 1549 and patron of the arts.  He always had the problem of the Reformation at heart and convened the Council of Trent to address reform.