A Man Called Martin Luther

Martin Luther, German monk, Catholic priest, and professor of theology was born in 1483 and died in 1546. By questioning some of the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic Church he laid the groundwork for becoming one of the most influential figures in the Protestant Reformation movement.

Martin Luther – early years

Martin Luther was born in the town of Eisleben in southeast Germany, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time. He initially entered the University of Erfurt to pursue a legal career. But at age 22 he had a life-changing experience that set him on a different course. One day, he was caught in a horrendous thunderstorm. A lightening bolt struck near him. Luther cried out to St. Anne, the patron saint of miners, “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!” http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-9389283. He was spared and took his promise seriously. He left law school and entered a friary in Erfurt. In 1507, he was ordained to the priesthood, became the dean of the newly founded University of Wittenberg one year later, and was awarded his Doctor of Theology in 1512.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Martin Luther – his 95 theses

When a papal representative was sent to Germany in 1516 to sell indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Luther vehemently objected. Indulgences were grants for good works. They were given by the pope. They could also be purchased by donating money to the church and then be used to temporarily relieve punishment for minor sins. Luther felt this practice was wrong and protested by nailing a sheet of paper on the door of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg. The paper contained 95 Theses. Thanks to the newly invented printing press, his theses spread throughout Germany and Europe within weeks and sparked the Reformation. Throughout 2017, Germany celebrates the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s life and theses. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/500th-anniversary-martin-luthers-thesis/

Martin Luther – later life

When Martin Luther refused to retract his theses, the Catholic Church excommunicated him in 1921. At age 41, he married the 26-year-old former nun, Katharina von Bora. He devoted his life to organizing the new church. He wrote a German Mass, developed the catechism as a teaching method, translated the New and the Old Testament into German, and wrote numerous hymns. His hymn Vom Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come), based on Luke 2:11-12, is still sung every Christmas season. In his later years, Luther grew increasingly bitter toward several segments of society, particularly Jews and Muslims. According to the prevailing view among historians, the Nazis later incorporated his anti-Jewish rhetoric. He died at the age of 62.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.


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