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Title: Catharine de Bora - Social and Domestic Scenes in the Home of Luther
Author: Morris, John G.
Language: English
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[Illustration: CATHARINE DE BORA,

                           CATHARINE DE BORA;

                          Social and Domestic
                             SCENES IN THE
                            HOME OF LUTHER.

                            JOHN G. MORRIS,
                     LUTHERAN CHURCH OF BALTIMORE.

                          LINDSAY & BLAKISTON.

      Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by
                          LINDSAY & BLAKISTON,
  in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for
                 the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



                                  CHAPTER I.
  Clerical Celibacy—Luther—Bernhardi’s Marriage—Treatment of
          Catharine De Bora—the Convent—Wealthy Nuns—Convent
          Life—the Escape—Treatment of the Nuns—Florentine de
          Oberweimer—Leonard Koppe—Luther’s Defence                     9

                                 CHAPTER II.
  Luther’s Reflections—Example of the Apostles—Celibacy—Gregory
          VII.—Luther’s Change of Mind—Luther’s Marriage—Character
          of Catharine                                                 27

                                 CHAPTER III.
  Wedding-Dinner—Melanchthon—Slanders                                  43

                                 CHAPTER IV.
  Luther’s Domestic Life—Character of Catharine—Perils of
          Luther—Sickness—Death of his Parents—Private
          Life—Catharine                                               52

                                  CHAPTER V.
          Despondency—Journeys—Death                                   70

                                 CHAPTER VI.
  Catharine, a Widow—Her Support—Sufferings—Journeys—Death             84

                                 CHAPTER VII.
  Luther’s Children—Domestic Character—Catharine                       94

                                CHAPTER VIII.
  Character of Catharine                                              120


There are many interesting and characteristic incidents in the domestic
life of Luther which are not found in biographies of the great Reformer.
The character of his wife has not been portrayed in full, and who does
not wish to become better acquainted with a woman who mingled many a
drop of balsam in those numerous cups of sorrow which her celebrated
husband was compelled to drink?

This little book is the result of extensive research, and exhibits facts
attested by the most reliable authorities, many of which will be new to
those of my readers who have not investigated this particular subject.

                                                                J. G. M.

Baltimore, June, 1856.

                            LUTHER AT HOME.

                               CHAPTER I.

  Clerical Celibacy—Luther-Bernhardi’s Marriage—Treatment of Catharine
  de Bora—the Convent—Wealthy Nuns—Convent Life—the Escape—Treatment of
  the Nuns—Florentine de Oberweimer—Leonard Koppe—Luther’s Defence.

The celibacy of the clergy was one of the strongest pillars on which the
proud edifice of Romish power rested. It was a stupendous partition-wall
which separated the clergy from all other interests, and thus
consolidated the wide-spread authority of the Pope. It cut off the
secular clergy, as well as the monks, from all domestic ties. They
forgot father, mother, and friends. Political obligations to their
sovereign and country were disregarded, but the cord which bound them to
the interests of Rome was only the more tightly drawn.

Superior purity was the presumed ground of the system, but a total
surrender of all rights, and complete submission to the will of the
Pope, were its legitimate results. He was regarded as the only parent of
the clergy—the only sovereign to whom they owed allegiance—the only
protector in whom they were to confide, and, as dutiful sons, obedient
subjects, and grateful beneficiaries, they were obliged to exert
themselves to the utmost to maintain his authority and extend his
dominion. Clerical celibacy was regarded not only as a duty, but as the
highest attainment in moral perfection. The system was introduced with
caution and maintained with sleepless vigilance and zeal. There were
some who saw its errors and disadvantages, and desired its abolition,
but their remonstrances were unheeded and their clamors silenced.

That, however, which was considered impossible by the whole Christian
world, was accomplished by a single man, who himself had been a monk,
and whose first duty as such was a vow of celibacy! That man was Martin
Luther, Augustinian Monk, Doctor of Theology at the University of
Wittenberg, who, by his heroic conduct in relation to this subject, has
only added to the other inappreciable services he has rendered the
Church. It was he who was bold enough to abandon the monastic order,
and, in spite of the principles of the Church as they prevailed in that
age, _to enter the married state_. This adventurous step led to the
deliverance of a large portion of the clergy from the chain of Papal
power. From having been the slavish satellites of a foreign master in
Italy, they became patriotic subjects and useful men at home.

Several years before, two friends of Luther, who were his noble
assistants in the work of the Reformation, Melanchthon and Carlstadt,
had written treatises against clerical celibacy. Their books on this
subject were equally as unexpected, and created as much excitement among
the clergy, as Luther’s Theses against Indulgences had done six years

Luther was not the first priest of those days who practically rejected
celibacy. As early as 1521, one of his friends and fellow-laborers,
Bernhardi, superintendent of the churches at Kemberg, had the boldness
to marry. He was the first ecclesiastic in Saxony who took this step,
and his wedding-day was long regarded as the _Pastors’ Emancipation
Day_; but Caspar Aquila, a priest residing near Augsburg, was married as
early as 1516, Jacob Knabe in 1518, and Nicolas Brunner in 1519.

Luther was free from all participation in Bernhardi’s marriage, for at
that time he was a prisoner in Wartburg Castle, and the first
intelligence came so unexpectedly, that whilst he admired the courage of
his friend, he was very apprehensive it would occasion him and his cause
many severe trials. Not long after, Bernhardi’s metropolitan, the
Cardinal Archbishop Albert, of Mainz and Magdeburg, demanded of the
Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, to send Bernhardi to Halle, to
answer for his presumptuous act. Frederick did not yield to the demand
of the Archbishop, and the latter professed to be satisfied with an
anonymous defence of Bernhardi.

Luther himself sent a petition to Albert in behalf of the clergy who had
already married and of those who intended to marry. Subsequently,
however, Bernhardi suffered severely. When, in 1547, more than twenty
years after his nuptials, the Emperor Charles V. captured Wittenberg,
his savage Spaniards seized Bernhardi, and bound him fast to a table.
His wife rescued him from their murderous hands; but, soon after, others
laid hold of him, and after cruelly beating him, tied him to a horse and
dragged him to the camp at Torgau. A German officer, after much trouble,
had him liberated, and he finally, after unexampled suffering, reached
his family at Kemberg. A considerable number of priests followed the
example of Bernhardi. They were not deterred by the ban of the bishops,
nor by the fear of deposition and imprisonment. But all this would not
have created such immense excitement if Luther himself, to whom all eyes
were directed, had not resolved, by his own example, to strike a deadly
blow at priestly celibacy.

Catharine de Bora, a nun of the celebrated Bernhardin or Cistercian
convent at Nimtschen, in Saxony, was the person whom Luther chose as his
wife. She was born on the 29th of January, 1499. There is no authentic
record of the place of her birth, and the history of her childhood is
wrapped in obscurity. It is only as the nun Catharine that we first
became acquainted with her. Her Romish calumniators (and no innocent
woman was ever more bitterly and cruelly defamed,) declare that her
parents compelled her to become a nun against her will, because they
were poor and could not support her, and particularly because her
conduct was so objectionable that her seclusion was necessary. As
regards the first, it is true; she was not wealthy when she became the
wife of Luther; but, if she had been compelled to enter the nunnery, it
is likely that Luther would have mentioned it as an additional
justification of her flight. Her objectionable morality is based by her
enemies on the fact of her escape, and hence the accusation has no
ground whatever. There is not a particle of proof to establish the
calumnious charge.

This Convent was designated by the name of _The Throne of God_. It was
founded in 1250 by Henry the Illustrious. No trace of it remains at the
present day. In 1810-12 its ruins were removed to make room for the
erection of an edifice connected with a school for boys established at
that place.

Most of the inmates of this Convent were of noble birth, for at that
day, as well as at present, it was the policy and interest of the Romish
clergy to induce as many ladies of high rank as possible to take the
veil, thereby rendering the profession respectable, and securing large
sums as entrance fees if they were wealthy, and all their patrimony
after their decease.

It may seem strange that Catharine de Bora, who, according to her own
confession, was devout, industrious in the discharge of conventual
duties, and diligent in prayer, should have determined with eight other
“sisters” to escape from their prison. But when it is considered that
the convent was situated within the territory of the Elector Frederick
the Wise, who was Luther’s friend and patron—that Luther himself visited
a neighboring monastery at Grimma as Inspector—that in 1519, after the
dispute with Eck at Leipzig, he spent a few days in the town of
Nimtschen—that the principles of the Reformation had already made some
progress in that vicinity, and that several monasteries not far distant
had been abandoned—the circumstance is easily explained. It is scarcely
credible that amid the excitement of the times, no word of Luther’s
doctrine should have entered the convent halls, and that the stirring
events occurring around them should have been entirely concealed from
the unobtrusive occupants. Could not some of those courageous friends of
Luther, who afterwards, at his suggestion, effected the escape of the
nuns, have previously introduced some of Luther’s tracts into the
convent? He had at that time already written several small books against
the monastic life, and it is likely that some of these had been
clandestinely introduced, the perusal of which convinced these “sisters”
that their profession was not sanctioned by the Scriptures, and that it
was dangerous to their morals. They became so thoroughly assured of the
enormous error they had committed in thus secluding themselves from the
world, and were so heartily weary of the unnatural restraint imposed
upon them, that they earnestly besought their relatives to liberate them
for their souls’ sake! But these appeals were unheard, and now probably
the unhappy petitioners turned immediately to Luther. He not only
favored their resolution to escape, but selected his courageous friend,
Bernhard Koppe, a citizen of Torgau, to execute the project. Two other
citizens of the same place accompanied him on the adventure.

George Spalatin, Court Chaplain and Secretary of the Elector, reports
that they fled from the convent on the night before Easter, April 4,
1523. There were nine of them in all.

The accounts of the manner in which their rescue was effected, differ.
Some historians report that prudence required them to preserve the
strictest secrecy as long as they were traversing the territory of Duke
George, who was violently opposed to the Reformation, and hence they
were conveyed away in a covered wagon, and a few affirm, on the
authority of reliable documents, that they were concealed in casks. The
historians, however, agree that Koppe performed his part in the
enterprise with consummate courage and skill. It is very likely that the
nuns were aware of Koppe’s design, and held themselves in readiness at
the appointed time. Tradition tells us that they escaped through the
window of Catharine’s cell. To this day, they show at Nimtschen a
slipper which they say Catharine lost in the hurry of the flight.

They arrived at Wittenberg on the 7th of April, under circumstances
calculated to excite the sympathy of every feeling heart. As they
deserted the convent against the will of their relatives, and most of
them probably being orphans, they did not know where to find shelter or
support. But Luther, who had advised their flight, and aided in
effecting it, kindly received them, and spared no pains to render their
condition comfortable. In a few but expressive words to Spalatin, he
announced their arrival and depicted their destitution. He thus writes
on the 10th of April: “These eloped nuns have come to me; they are in
destitute circumstances, but as very respectable citizens of Torgau have
brought them, there can be no suspicion entertained as to their moral
character. I sincerely pity their forlorn state, and particularly that
of the great number still confined in convents, who are going to ruin in
that condition of constrained and unnatural celibacy. * * * How
tyrannical and cruel,” continues Luther, “many parents and relatives of
these oppressed women in Germany are! But ye popes and bishops! who can
censure you with sufficient severity? who can sufficiently abominate
your wickedness and blindness for upholding these accursed institutions?
But this is not the place to speak at large on this subject. You ask,
dear Spalatin, what I intend to do with these nuns? I shall report these
facts to their relatives, so that they may provide for them. If they
should refuse, I shall look to some other persons, for several have
promised aid. Their names are Margaretta Staupitz, Elizabeth de Carnitz,
Eva Grossin, Eva Schönfield and her Sister Margaret, Lunette de Golis,
Margaret de Zeschau and her sister Catharine, and Catharine de Bora.
They are, indeed, objects worthy of compassion, and Christ will be
served by conferring favors on them.”

As he could not afford to support them himself, he begged his friend to
solicit donations at court, that these fugitives might be supported for
several weeks. By that time he hoped to send them to their friends or
patrons. As Spalatin did not reply immediately, Luther wrote again, and
begged not to be forgotten. He added, “Yea, I even exhort the Prince to
send a contribution. I will keep it a profound secret, and tell no one
that he gave anything to these apostate nuns who have been rescued from
their prison.”

There is no doubt that the Elector, who esteemed Luther highly, sent him
the desired relief. The pacific Prince only wished the fact of his
contribution to be kept secret, that he might not give the Romish
clergy, and particularly Duke George of Saxony, occasion for new

Luther’s intercessions in behalf of the nuns with their relatives seem
to have been fruitless, but the people of Wittenberg were liberal beyond
his expectations in their donations for their support. They were kindly
received into various families, and hospitably entertained. In this way
Philip Reichenbach, a magistrate of the city, became the protector or
foster-father of Catharine de Bora, who, by her virtuous and dignified
behavior, rendered herself worthy of his paternal benevolence. This is,
of itself, a sufficient refutation of the slanders of Romish writers,
who charge her with leading a dissolute life until her marriage with
Luther; for no city official, such as Reichenbach, would have hazarded
his own character by harboring a licentious woman. Neither would Dr.
Glacius and other eminent divines have sought her hand in marriage, as
they perseveringly did, nor would she have enjoyed the friendship and
confidence of Amsdorff and other professors of the University if she had
not sustained a character above suspicion. The epitaph on her tomb-stone
at Torgau commemorates her virtues in most exalted terms of eulogy, from
the time of her escape to her death.

The flight of the nuns was itself an unusual event, but it became
immensely important, for extraordinary consequences resulted from it.
Pains were taken to conceal the bold step they had assumed, especially
from all other convents. But these exertions were useless; nuns at other
places heard what their more adventurous sisters at Nimtschen had dared
to do, and they also undertook to fly from their narrow, unwholesome
cells to breathe the pure air of heaven. The abbess and four other nuns
of the Benedictine convent at Zeitz; six at Sormitz; eight at Pentwitz,
and sixteen at Wiedenstadt, escaped in a short time. Luther’s enemies
now assailed him with ferocious malignity. They regarded him as the
author of all this enormous mischief, and tried to show that his work
was productive of nothing but unmitigated evil, because it occasioned
such abominable results as the flight of poor nuns from their convent
prisons. Luther replied to them very briefly; he represented the dark
side of the picture of conventual life, and narrated some striking facts
in illustration. He published the life of a nun, _Florentine de
Oberweimer_, who had escaped from a convent at Eisleben. “I was but six
years old,” she says, “when I was sent to the convent by my parents.
When I was eleven, without knowing or being asked whether I could or
would observe the rules, I was compelled to take the vow. When I was
fourteen, and I began to find out that this mode of life was against my
nature, and hence complained to the abbess, she told me that I must be
contented and should continue to be a nun no matter what I thought or
felt. I then wrote to the learned Dr. Luther and begged his advice: but
my letter was intercepted by my superiors, who immediately put me in
prison, where I remained four weeks and suffered much. The abbess then
put me under the bans. (Florentine then minutely describes the severe
treatment she received before the ban was dissolved.) After that, I
wrote to my relative, Caspar de Watzdorf, who loved the gospel truth,
and complained of my treatment. This also became known to the abbess,
and I cannot tell to strangers how shamefully I was abused by her and
others. _I was so violently beaten by her and four other persons that
they became completely exhausted._ She put me in prison again and
fastened my feet with iron chains,” &c., &c.

In the dedication of this little book to the Duke of Mansfeld, in whose
dominions the convent was located, Luther wrote on the 2nd of March,
1524, “What are you about, ye princes and lords, that ye drive the
people to God whether they will or not? It is not your office nor in
your power. To outward obedience you may compel them, but God will
regard no vow that is not cheerfully and voluntarily kept. Hence, my
dear, gracious sirs, I have published this little narrative that all the
world may know _what conventual life is, and the devil’s folly thus be
made known_. There are princes and lords who are very indignant about
this affair, and it is no wonder. If they knew what I know, they would
perhaps honor me more for it, and contribute much more towards spreading
it abroad than I am doing.”

But Luther was not the only one who was charged with being accessory to
the flight of these nuns. Leonard Koppe, as the chief instrument in
effecting their escape, was, perhaps, exposed to greater dangers and
persecutions than Luther, who was powerfully protected by his prince.
For although Koppe had formerly been a councillor and a government
auditor, yet he had reason to fear the worst treatment from the clergy
if his participation in the act should become generally known. Hence he
sought to conceal it: but Luther, who was a stranger to the fear of man,
and who, in all things, went to work openly and boldly, was of a
different opinion. Fully convinced that Koppe had performed a
meritorious act, of which he should not be ashamed, but rather boast, he
mentioned his name in a letter to Spalatin a few days after the escape
of the nuns; but he also deemed it prudent to write to Koppe and inspire
him with courage. “Be assured,” he writes, “that God has so ordained it,
and that it is not your work or counsel; never mind the clamor of those
who denounce it as a most wicked undertaking, and who do not believe it
was so ordered of God. Shame! shame! they will say; the fool, Leonard
Koppe, has suffered himself to be led by that cursed heretical monk, and
has aided nine nuns to fly from the convent at once and to violate their
vows. To this you will reply: ‘_This is indeed a strange way of keeping
the thing secret._ You are betraying me, and the whole convent of
Nimtschen will be up against me, or they will now hear that I have been
the robber.’ But my reasons for not keeping it secret are good: 1. That
it may be known that I did not advise it to be concealed; for what we
do, we do in and for God, and do not shun the light of day. Would to
heaven I could in this or some other way rescue all troubled consciences
and empty all convents! I would not be afraid to confess my own agency
in the business, nor that of all my assistants. Confidence in Jesus,
whose gospel is destroying the kingdom of Antichrist, would sustain me,
_even if it should cost me my life_. 2. I do it for the sake of the poor
nuns, and of their relatives, so that no one may be able to say they
were involuntarily abducted by wicked fellows, and thus be robbed of
their reputation. 3. To warn the nobility and pious gentry who have
children in convents to take them away themselves, so that no worse
thing befal them. You know that I _advised_ and _sanctioned_ the
enterprise; that you _executed_ it, and that the nuns _consented_ and
_earnestly desired_ it, and I will here briefly give the reasons for it
before God and the world. First, _The nuns themselves had before most
humbly solicited the help of their relatives and friends in effecting
their release; they gave them satisfactory reasons why such a life could
no longer be endured, for it interfered with their souls’ salvation, and
they promised to be faithful and dutiful children when they should be
released._ All this was positively denied to them, and they were
forsaken by all their relations. Hence they had the right, yea, were
compelled to relieve their burdened consciences, and save their souls by
seeking help from other quarters, and those who were in a position to
afford counsel and aid, were bound by Christian love to bestow them.
_Secondly_, It is not right that young girls should be locked up in
convents where there is no daily use made of the word of God, and where
the gospel is seldom or never heard, and where, of course, these girls
are exposed to the severest temptations. _Thirdly_, It is plain that a
person may be compelled to do before the world what is not cheerfully
done; but before God and in his service no one has a right to use
compulsion. _Fourthly_, Women were created for other purposes than to
spend a lazy and useless life in a convent.”

                              CHAPTER II.

  Luther’s Reflections—Example of the Apostles—Celibacy—Gregory
  VII.—Luther’s Change of Mind—Luther’s Marriage—Character of Catharine.

All these preliminary steps were not unpremeditated by Luther.
Encouraged by the example of other clergymen who had married, he now
began seriously to reflect on the _propriety of clerical matrimony_.

In these reflections he found no difficulty as regards the secular
clergy, that is, those who officiated as pastors of churches, because he
considered their office as divinely instituted, and he knew from history
that their celibacy was forced by the popes under the most cruel
oppression. For although Paul advised the Christians of Corinth to
remain unmarried during the season of persecution,[1] yet the first
teachers of Christianity, and even Peter and most of the other apostles,
were married men.[2] Besides, celibacy is no where regarded as a
meritorious condition in the New Testament. Christ himself distinctly
commends matrimonial affection and harmony, and Paul teaches that it is
better to lead a married, than an unchaste life.[3] 1 Cor. 7; 2, 9, 28.

Notwithstanding all this, even during the first three centuries, a
peculiar merit began to be attached to celibacy. Many bishops, who were,
it is true, poorly enough supported, abstained from matrimony, or, if
they were married, separated from their wives. A second marriage was
particularly disapproved. But as yet there was no law on the subject,
and the celibacy of the bishops was far from being general. Many of them
were married men. It was only in the fourth century that it became a
general custom for the bishops to lead single lives, and several
councils held during this period, in this respect severely oppressed the
secular clergy. At the council of Nice, held in the year 325, the first
serious attempt was made to introduce celibacy, but the attempt failed
through the influence of Bishop Paphnutius, of Upper Thebes. From this
time, most of the bishops tried their utmost to prevent their secular
clergy from marrying. Some Popes, since the end of the fourth century,
such as Siricius, Innocent I., Gregory II., Nicolas I., and Leo IX. also
made attempts to restrain the priests. The predictions of Paul in 1 Tim.
4; 1, 3, were soon fulfilled. Scarcely had Gregory VII. arrived at the
papal dignity than he exerted all his influence to render the secular
clergy independent of the state, and this he thought could be best
accomplished through celibacy. The orders which he communicated to the
council held at Rome in 1074 in relation to this subject were very
severe; the married clergy were to be separated from their wives or be
deposed, and from that time forth no man was to be ordained to the
clerical office who would not bind himself to remain unmarried all his
life. The opposition to this severe regulation was strong. In Germany
they even committed violence on the papal ambassador, and openly
reproached the Pope as a heretic, who disregarded the plain instructions
of the Scriptures and introduced regulations which militated against
human nature and Divine Providence, and which would lead to the most
scandalous improprieties. When Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz held a
council at Erfurt, and communicated the commands of the Pope to the
secular clergy, the excitement was so great that he was in danger of his
life. The Archbishop of Passau did not fare better. At the council of
Worms, in 1076, Germans and French violently opposed the Pope, and
proclaimed him as a usurper of the papal sovereignty. At a meeting in
Pavia, the Italian bishops even _put this Pope under the ban_.

Notwithstanding all this opposition, Gregory could not be turned from
his purpose. He executed his orders with all possible severity, and even
demanded of the princes to forbid those priests who would not obey him
from administering the sacraments or reading mass. Thus his unnatural
law triumphed in 1080, though not universally, for Urban II. felt
himself compelled in 1089 and 1095 to re-enact it, and it was reserved
for Innocent III. in 1215 more firmly to establish celibacy as a
disciplinary law, although, long before this, marriage had been declared
to be a _sacrament_. In his address in 1520 to his Imperial Majesty and
German nobility, Luther strenuously advocated the marriage of the
_secular_ clergy.

He entertained different views, however, with regard to the _monastic_
order, and he made their celibacy a subject of investigation at Wartburg
castle. Although, thought he, their office is not of divine appointment,
yet they had chosen it, and had consecrated themselves to God; in most
instances they had voluntarily assumed the vow, and hence were bound to
keep it. Melanchthon, who had married a short time before, and
Carlstadt, who followed his example a short time after, to Luther’s
great joy, had both advocated the marriage of the monastic clergy in
their writings, although not altogether with his approbation.[4] “Our
Wittenbergers even wish the monks to have wives!” thus he wrote to
Spalatin, August 6th, 1521, “_but they shall force no wife on me!_ I
wish Carlstadt’s book had more light and distinctness, for it contains
much talent and learning.”[5]

But Luther’s penetrating mind soon discovered the truth. He communicated
his new-formed opinion to his father, and openly came out in favor of
the marriage of the monks. Although he now sturdily maintained this side
of the question, yet he did not at this time feel himself inclined to
matrimony. This was in the autumn of 1522.

Two years after this (1524), when he heard of a report in circulation
that he was to be married, he thus wrote to Spalatin: “From the opinion
which I have hitherto had, and now have, it is probable I shall never
marry; not that I do not feel myself to be flesh and blood, for I am
neither wood nor stone, but I feel no inclination in that way.” Still,
he highly honored the married relation as an institution of God. Long
after this he wrote thus to his friend Stiefel: “I did not marry as
though I expected to live long, but to establish my doctrine by my
example, and to leave behind me a consolation for weak consciences.” “I
married also for the purpose of opposing the doctrine of Satan, and
putting to shame the scandalous immorality practised in the papacy, and
if I had no wife I would now marry even in my old age, just to honor the
divine institution and to pour contempt on the ungodly lives of so many
popish priests.”

Luther’s mind gradually underwent a change. He now secretly resolved to
marry Catharine, who had already, as we shall see below, expressed a
tender feeling towards him. An intimation of his purpose we have in a
letter to his relative, Dr. John Ruhl, of May 4, 1525: “If I can manage
to spite the devil, I will marry Catharine before I die if I hear that
my enemies continue their reproaches.” From this it is evident that he
would not have married, at least at this time, if the clamor of his
enemies, the fear and weakness of his friends, and various other
circumstances, had not determined him to take the step. The generous and
public declaration of John the Constant[6] in favor of the Reformation,
as well as his own opposition to the celibacy of the clergy, and the
desire of gratifying the long-expressed wish of his father, hastened the
consummation of his design. “Thus,” says he, “I could no longer deny
this last act of obedience to my dear father, who earnestly entreated me
to marry.” Besides this, he wished to set an example to others around
him, for many whom he advised to marry had reproached him for writing
against monastic celibacy and yet not practising his own doctrine.

In the meantime, he wrote frequently to his friends on this subject, and
what gratified him much in the prospect of his marriage was the chagrin
it would occasion the Romish party, and subsequent experience proved
that he was not disappointed in his hopes.

Anxious as he was to consummate the event, yet his choice of Catharine
was not precipitate. It was only after he was assured of the superlative
excellence of her character that he offered her his hand. She conducted
herself in her lowly circumstances with such a reserved and womanly
dignity that he thought her to be somewhat prudish and proud, and it was
only after a more intimate acquaintance that he perceived her numerous
good qualities. “If I had felt a disposition to marry thirteen years
ago,” says he, “I would have preferred Eva Schönfield, who is now the
wife of Dr. Basilius. I did not love my Catharine at that time, for I
suspected her of being proud. But it has pleased God otherwise, and,
blessed be His name, all things have turned out well, for I have a
pious, faithful wife, as Solomon says, Prov. 31; 11, my heart doth
safely trust in her, and she contributes so much to my content and
manages my affairs so prudently, _that I have no need of spoil_, that
is, I have no temptation to envy the wealth of others or to prey upon my

Nor was she, on her part, in a hurry about giving her consent, but she
deliberated long. Though she was poor, yet she followed the inclination
of her heart.

Before he thought of marrying her himself he recommended her to Jerome
S. Baumgartner, a Nurnberg Patrician, and a student of theology, who had
a very tender regard for Catharine, and to whom she was not altogether
indifferent. Luther wrote to him (Oct. 12, 1524,): “If you have made up
your mind to marry Catharine, you had better be in a hurry before
another takes her who is near at hand. She has not ceased to love you,
and I should be much gratified to see you marry her.” But his
recommendation was of no avail, probably because Baumgartner, after his
return home, was captivated by some other lady. The other suitor to whom
Luther alludes was Dr. Caspar Glacius, vicar of the Archdeaconate of the
Castle Church at Wittenberg. Luther favored his pretensions to her hand,
and this led her to complain to Amsdorff, Luther’s friend. She requested
him to induce Luther to cease his importunity in behalf of Glacius, for
whom she had no inclination whatever. She, however, honestly
acknowledged to Amsdorff she would not refuse an offer either from
himself or Luther. She was not mistaken in her estimate of Glacius, for
he was an ill-tempered man, who never was at peace with his
congregation, and was dismissed from his office in 1537.

The marriage of a nun was, until that time, unheard of, and hence we
need not wonder that Luther’s enemies took every opportunity to
calumniate him as well as his intended wife. As Erasmus says, “It was at
that time an almost universal sentiment that the Antichrist would be the
son of a monk and a nun;” and he remarks in relation to this old saying,
“If this were true, the world has had thousands of Antichrists!” His
enemies knew too well how to make the most of this popular belief, but
they went still further, and charged him with all the misfortunes that
befel the country; the demolition of the convents in the Peasants’ War,
and other similar calamities, for they said that he inflamed the hatred
of the peasants against monastic life and the possessions of the clergy,
“And all this he did,” they affirmed, “that he might marry.”

But many of his friends also disapproved of such an alliance. “Our wise
men are fiercely excited on the subject,” wrote Luther, after his
marriage, to Stiefel. “They must confess it is the work of God, but my
professional character, as well as that of the lady, blinds them and
makes them think and speak unkindly. But the Lord lives, who is greater
in us than he who is in the world, and there are more on my side than on

It was perfectly in character with Luther not to delay the execution of
a purpose he had once formed. He was particularly opposed to
long-standing matrimonial engagements, and hence says, “I advise a
speedy marriage after a positive engagement; it is dangerous to postpone
the consummation, for Satan is ready to oppose many obstacles, by means
of slanderers, and sometimes the friends of both parties interfere.
Hence do not postpone the affair. If I had not married secretly, and
with the knowledge of but few friends, my marriage would have been
prevented, for my best friends exclaimed, ‘Do not take this one, but
another.’” Hence we are not surprised to learn that his final engagement
to Catharine and his marriage occurred on the same day.

His friends did not maintain that he should not marry at all, but they
did not esteem it wise that one who had been a monk should marry a lady
who had been a nun. They feared that the step would retard the
Reformation among the common people, who did not look with indifference
on the violation of the vow of chastity.[7] But Luther thought
otherwise, and believed that by marrying a nun he would inflict a
terrible blow on the whole system of monasticism.

The most minute attention was at that time paid to Luther’s doctrine and
conduct, and the most unimportant circumstances in his eventful life
were reported with the greatest care. We should hence suppose that the
precise date of his marriage would also be noted, and yet the reports
are very different. Melanchthon’s statement is the most reliable, for he
lived at that time in Wittenberg; he had daily intercourse with Luther,
and hence may be supposed to be intimately acquainted with his domestic
circumstances. In a letter to Camerarius (July 21, 1525,) he gives the
true date of Luther’s marriage: “As it may happen,” he writes, “that no
one will give you a correct account of Luther’s marriage, I have thought
it proper to inform you of the facts. On the 13th of June, 1525, he,
quite unexpectedly, married Catharine De Bora.” There is no good reason
to doubt Melanchthon’s report of the date, which is established by many
other witnesses, and hence it is unnecessary to refute those who give
other dates.

Agreeably to these accounts, compared with others, it appears that
Luther on the Tuesday after Trinity, June 13, 1525, in order to avoid
all excitement, took with him John Bugenhagen (Pomeranius) pastor of the
City Church, Dr. John Apel, Professor of Canonical Law, and Louis
Cranach, Court Painter, Councillor, and Chamberlain, without the
knowledge of his other friends, and proceeded to the house of the
town-clerk, Reichenbach, with whom Catharine lived, and there, in the
presence of these three friends, he asked her consent in marriage.
Unexpected as this declaration was, yet she yielded to the solicitation
of her former deliverer and benefactor. Soon after, the Provost, Dr.
Justus Jonas, and the wife of Cranach, entered, and Luther was there
married in the presence of these four witnesses, Bugenhagen performing
the ceremony. Luther was forty-two years of age, and Catharine
twenty-seven. He did not even ask the consent of the Elector; but, as we
shall subsequently see, he sent him an humble request for some game to
supply his wedding dinner-table.

Before the wedding, Luther offered the following prayer: “Heavenly
Father, inasmuch as thou hast honored me with the office of the
ministry, and wilt also that I should be honored as a husband and the
head of a family, grant me grace to govern my household in a godly and
Christian manner. Grant me wisdom and strength to direct and train all
the members of my family in the right way. Give them willing hearts and
pious dispositions to be obedient, and to follow in all things the
instructions of thy word. Amen.”

The golden wedding-rings of Luther and his wife were probably not
exchanged on this evening, but afterwards. The celebrated artist, Albert
Dürer, of Nurnberg, made them at the order and expense of the Patrician
and Councillor von Pirckenheim. They are minutely described by some
writers, and exact representations of them are given in various curious
works. One of these rings has exchanged hands many times by gift, sale,
and inheritance. Numerous imitations of them have been made, and sold to
collectors of such articles.

When, on the following day, the marriage of Luther became generally
known, the town council of Wittenberg sent him various articles, such as
are usually considered essential to wedding festivals of every age and

                              CHAPTER III.


Thus had Luther, actuated by the purest motives, suddenly and silently,
entered into this matrimonial alliance. Now it was no longer secret, and
in compliance with a custom common in that day he determined to invite a
number of his friends, in and out of Wittenberg, including his parents,
to a wedding-dinner. This was to occur on the 27th of June, two weeks
after his marriage. On that day also, he purposed to conduct his wife
publicly to his own residence at the Augustinian monastery. To his
absent friends he sent written invitations, seven of which are still
extant. But he was particularly desirous of having his parents, who
resided at Mansfeld, present on the occasion. He was anxious to show
them that he had finally gratified their most ardent wishes in
abandoning the monastic life and entering on matrimony. But he also
wished to make them personally acquainted with Catharine, and to receive
from them their parental blessing. They, with three or four others of
his friends, accepted the invitation. At this, as well at the other more
private festival on the day after his marriage, the town council of
Wittenberg expressed their highest respect for Luther by sending him
some essential contributions to his dinner.

It may appear remarkable, at first sight, that Melanchthon, Luther’s
most intimate friend and inseparable companion, should not have been
present at this nor at the previous solemnity, nor even consulted by
Luther on the subject of his marriage. But he well knew the timidity and
excessive sensitiveness of Melanchthon. He knew that his friend was so
painfully concerned for his reputation and peace of mind, that though he
could not disapprove of the act, yet he would reprove him for the manner
and time, fearing the evil consequences that might result to the work of
the Reformation. Hence Luther did not consult Melanchthon, and even
avoided his company at this time. The whole circumstance occasioned much
painful anxiety to Melanchthon, not because he did not sanction the act
in itself, but because it would give the numerous enemies of Luther
fresh occasion for more bitter persecution and more virulent calumny.

Although Luther had acted with great deliberation in this affair, making
it a subject of most fervent prayer, and hastening its consummation in
order only to avoid excitement, yet occasionally he sometimes seemed
deeply depressed on that very account, because in the opinion of many,
the whole transaction was calculated to injure his reputation. But
through the fraternal consolations of Melanchthon, he was soon restored
to his usual vivacity. He felt himself happy in the possession of
Catharine; for his marriage, instead of interfering with his numerous
professional engagements, only inspired him with renewed courage and
strength in the prosecution of his work. In many of his letters written
at this period, he expresses the most affectionate interest in his wife
and the most perfect satisfaction with his connubial state.

It would, however, have been surprising if the enemies of Luther had
passed in silence his marriage with a former nun. The most outrageous
slanders and abominable falsehoods might have been anticipated. Their
hatred of the man who had shaken the pillars of their spiritual
despotism, was also to be vented against the woman whom he had chosen
for his wife. “See,” cried out these despicable slanderers, “see the
real design of his apostasy from the Catholic Church! It was only that
he might marry.” And yet Luther was not married until eight years after
he had taken the first step towards the Reformation. They loaded
Catharine with the most opprobrious and disgraceful epithets, and
endeavored to cover her husband with shame and contempt. But they did
not reflect that if Luther had been inclined to an irregular course of
life, he might more easily, with much less excitement and much less
censure too, have indulged his evil propensities as an unmarried monk
than as a married clergyman. Even King Henry VIII. and Duke George of
Saxony sent him letters most bitterly censuring his course. The language
of the royal slanderer of England is especially vulgar, and his
accusations are infamous. But his more recent enemies have not been less
virulent. Luther, in dealing such a terrible blow on their forefathers,
has fearfully wounded them also, and that wound will never heal. They
most dishonestly perverted his language, and endeavored to dishonor the
name of Catharine by the most wretchedly contrived and disgraceful
fables. The principal object of Luther’s enemies was to sever the
matrimonial bond which united him and his wife. They exerted all their
diabolical cunning to gain Catharine over by their machinations, and
induce her to separate herself from Luther in order to return to the
convent. Two young men, members of the University of Leipzig, were
employed to write _Eulogies on Monastic Life_, and send them to Luther
in the hope that they would fall into Catharine’s hands, and induce her,
as a penitent sinner, to resume the veil. But neither he nor his wife
honored these writings with much attention at that time. They were sent
back to their authors in not quite as good a condition as when received,
for the servants, without Luther’s knowledge, had taken special pains to
deface them. They accompanied the papers with the Latin word _asini_
(asses), so ingeniously arranged in a square, that beginning in the
centre the same word could be read in forty different directions. Some
time after, Luther answered these writings and constructed several
amusing fables on them. The treatment of these eulogies by Luther and
his wife, and especially by the servants, created such an excitement in
Leipzig that Jerome Walther, a councillor, found it necessary to
communicate a full report of the whole transaction to the Court
Chancellor of Duke George. The infamous attempt, however, to separate
Luther and his wife signally failed.

The great restorer of the true gospel doctrine might have lived in open
profligacy as a monk, and it would not probably have been noticed; but
to marry was an unpardonable sin. The acknowledged teachers of the
priests have laid down such doctrine as the following: Cardinal de
Campeggi has taught that “It is a greater sin for a priest to marry than
to lead an infamous life.” The Jesuit Coster taught that “Although a
priest who indulges the most unnatural appetite commits a great evil,
yet he sins still more if he marries;” and Cornelius à Lapide remarks,
“For those who have taken the vow of chastity, it is better that they
live unchastely than marry.” The men who taught such morals were the
opponents of Luther’s marriage. The most influential of his enemies at
this time was Erasmus, who, in the beginning did not disallow Luther’s
merits, but he was fond of ridicule and sarcasm. He slandered Catharine
most infamously, but eight months afterwards he had the magnanimity to
retract his false accusations.

As we have already learned, Luther had determined to give a particular
wedding-festival especially for the sake of his own parents, but we have
no account of his having invited the parents of his wife. Every
unprejudiced reader will conclude that either her parents were
dissatisfied with her flight and marriage, or, what is more probable,
they were no longer living. For from the well-known letter of Luther to
Koppe, we cannot even with certainty conclude that her parents were
living at the time of her escape from the convent. He states that those
nine nuns had most earnestly implored their parents and _relatives_ to
deliver them from the prison, from which we presume that some of them
were orphans, and for this reason applied to their relations. But
Luther’s enemies still maintained that the parents of his wife were
living, but were of no account, and hence not mentioned at all. It is
likely that _poverty_ first moved them to place their daughter in a
convent early in life. Luther and some of his cotemporaries bear
testimony to the fact that she possessed no property. At one place he
thus expresses himself relative to the condition of her property, “As
thou gavest her to me, so I return her to thee again, O thou faithful
God, who richly aboundest in all things; support, sustain, and teach her
as thou hast supported, sustained, and taught me, thou Father of the
orphan and judge of the widow.” Even if she had taken property with her
into the convent, how could she have secured it in her flight? But when
Erasmus writes and says, “Luther has married a wife, a most beautiful
daughter of the celebrated family of Bora, but, as is said, without a
fortune,” this might also proceed from the dissatisfaction of her
relatives with her marriage and her flight from the convent.

But though those enemies of Luther could not exactly show the humble
condition of his wife’s parents, others tried hard to throw doubt, at
least, on her _noble_ birth. They could not deny that her mother was
entitled to that distinction of rank, but they totally reject her
father’s claim to it, and because Luther does not mention him in his
writings, they draw the unsound conclusion that he must have belonged to
the very lowest class of society. Catharine’s honor would not in the
least have been periled even if her father had been of humble birth. But
the most unimportant circumstances were industriously used by Luther’s
enemies to degrade him; hence, they would not allow her distinguished
birth, although the plainest proofs of the fact were given. His
opponents sometimes contradicted each other. They all agreed in most
scandalously calumniating him, but in their accusations they sometimes
singularly differed, and often unintentionally wrote something which was
more honorable to Luther than injurious. Cochlaeus, for example, charges
it as the greatest sin of Luther “that he rescued from the convent nine
nuns, _who were all_ of _noble rank_, and, to the eternal disgrace of so
many distinguished families, led them away.” Could this deadly enemy of
Luther only have conjectured that some of his brethren of the faith ever
intended to assail Catharine’s birth, he would have been more careful
than to have spoken of _noble_ rank and _distinguished_ families. But
the testimony of one such cotemporary is proof sufficient of her noble
origin, and we need not stop to refute those who maintain that there
never even existed a _family_ of _de Bora_.

                              CHAPTER IV.

  Luther’s Domestic Life—Character of Catharine—Perils of
  Luther—Sickness—Death of his Parents—Private Life—Catharine.

Luther led with Catharine a very peaceful and happy domestic life. It
would be doing him great injustice and placing him in the rank of common
men, to judge of his conjugal and domestic demeanor from his public
character. Here there was no trace of that severity and violence which
can only find an apology in the frequent insulting conduct of his
enemies, the unrefined spirit of the times, but, above all, in his
burning zeal for the glory of God and the truth of the Gospel. No! in
the circle of his family he was an affectionate husband and tender
father; kind and condescending to all his household, and benevolent to
the poor. In writing to Stiefel (Aug. 11, 1526), he playfully says: “My
rib, Kate, salutes you. She is well, with God’s help; she is amiable,
obedient, and obliging in all things to a greater degree than I could
have hoped for, thank heaven, so that I would not exchange my poverty
for the wealth of Crœsus.” When he had finished his commentary on the
Epistle to the Galatians, he cried out, “This is my letter to which I am
betrothed; it is my Katy von Bora!” On the 31st of August, 1538, he thus
writes to Bernard von Dohlen: “If I were a young man again, now since I
have experienced the wickedness of the world, if a queen were offered to
me after my Catharine, I would rather die than marry a second time.” “I
could not have a more _obedient_ wife unless I would have one hewn out
of stone.” Many such expressions occur in his table-talk. Among other
things, he says, “I hear that there are much greater faults and
occasions of disagreement among married people than I find in my wife.
This is an abundant reason that I should love and esteem her, because
she is _sincere_ and _upright_, as a _pious_ and _discreet_ wife should
be.” “I have a _pious_ and _faithful_ wife in whom the heart of her
husband doth safely trust.” Prov. 31; 11. “I value her more highly than
I would the whole kingdom of France and the sovereignty of Venice; for
God has given me a _pious_ wife.” “The best and most valuable gift of
God is a pious, affectionate, godly, domestic wife, with whom you can
live at peace, to whom you may entrust all that you possess; yea, your
very body and life.”

But Catharine had in Luther not only an affectionate husband, but a man
who, on account of his enlightened understanding, his widespread
usefulness, and his undaunted heroism, deserved all the veneration he
received from all the truly pious of his generation.

From this time forth, Catharine was totally and forever weaned from the
monastic life, and all the anxieties for the future which may have
distressed her on her first escape, had now vanished. Though Luther’s
worldly circumstances were not the most flourishing, yet he was aided by
the liberality of the princes and other noble-minded men to such an
extent, at least, that he did not absolutely suffer for the necessaries
of life.[8] In this respect, Catharine’s circumstances were much
improved. However, many dangers threatened the bold champion of truth,
right, and liberty, which were calculated to disturb the happy serenity
of his wife. He had several alarming attacks of sickness, which
occasioned her painful solicitude. In the first year of his marriage
some noblemen conspired against him because he effected the escape of
thirteen nuns out of a cloister in the territory of Duke George. He
himself acknowledges this in a letter to Stiefel, and says of it, “I
have chased away Satan from this booty of Christ.” Hence, with tears,
she entreated him not to leave Wittenberg at such a perilous time when
he was invited to the wedding of Spalatin, and he yielded. But he was
not accustomed to be alarmed at the thunder-clouds which rolled over
him. Even as early as 1526, he undertook a journey in company with
Catharine, and yet that was the time he had most to fear. But he was
never free from danger. In 1530, when his father was lying on his
death-bed, he dared not venture to visit him, but wrote an affecting
letter, stating that his friends positively forbade his leaving
Wittenberg, lest he might be murdered. A Jewish physician of Posen was
hired for two thousand golden guilders to poison him. In 1541 he was
waylaid by an assassin, but escaped. Notwithstanding his vigorous
constitution, which seemed to promise extreme old age, yet from early
youth he was subject to frequent severe attacks of sickness, and under
such circumstances we may well wonder, that besides his numerous
professional labors, he was able to prepare so many theological works,
to conduct so extensive a correspondence with men of every class of
society, and accomplish so many journeys, which must have consumed much
time.[9] His master-piece, The Translation of the Bible, was a work
which scarcely any learned man of the present day could have
accomplished in the same space of time, under similar circumstances. Let
it be remembered that the first time he ever saw the whole of the Bible
in the Latin language he was already twenty-two years of age; that he
had few of the preliminary aids essential to such a work, and that the
German language was at that time still very imperfect. In twenty-eight
years the translation of the whole Bible was finished and printed.[10]
He suffered most from hæmorrhoidal affections, the treatment of which
was little understood at that time. These attacks appeared mysterious to
him, and in his depression of mind occasioned by them, and in the
indulgence of a lively imagination, he ascribed the painful anxieties
which he felt, agreeably to the notions of that day, to the temptations
of the devil, who tried to hinder him in prosecuting his good work by
assuming various forms and appearances. Attacks of sickness, which were
in part the result of his severe fastings during his monastic life, were
aggravated by his extraordinary mental labors, by his sedentary habits,
and the numerous painful mortifications of spirit to which his
unconquerable love of the truth exposed him. Above all, it was the
unhappy sacramentarian controversy in 1525 which had the most injurious
influence on his health. Hence these corporeal sufferings could never be
entirely removed. Yet amid all his painful and melancholy hours
Catharine was to him a ministering angel. By her affectionate sympathy,
her tender nursing, and prudent accommodation to his whims, she greatly
relieved his bodily and mental sufferings. She had frequent occasion to
display these amiable qualities, for her husband had often recurring
attacks of sickness. To notice but a few instances, we will state that
as early as 1526 he suffered with hæmorrhoids, accompanied with severe
oppression of the breast. But it was particularly in 1527 that he was
attacked in a manner that brought him to the very borders of the grave.
In July, he was so suddenly and dangerously seized that his wife and
friends trembled for his life. But both of them displayed a greatness of
soul and dignity of deportment which were truly admirable. Christian
fortitude, perfect resignation to the will of God, and unshaken
confidence in an all-controlling Providence, animated them both in the
highest degree. They endured their present trials with pious submission,
and with comfortable security they anticipated future dangers. Luther
did not think that he would recover, but believed that he should have to
part with the wife whose husband he had been but two years. Catharine
was full of terrible apprehension of being left a poor widow and mother
of one child, without being able to count much on human aid, and having
no means of support. He was to leave the sacred work which he had begun,
and for which he would have sacrificed his all, and she was to be
dependent on the kindness of some real and many equivocal friends. Yet
Luther prayed with a submissive heart, and commended his wife to God’s
paternal care. “My loving and most benevolent Father! I thank thee from
my heart that it was thy will I should be poor on the earth, and hence I
can leave neither house, field, money, nor any other property, to my
wife and son. As thou hast given her to me, so I restore her to thee,”
&c. He also consoled his wife with these words; “My beloved Kate, I
beseech you to submit to God’s gracious will, if it should please him to
take me to Himself this time. You are my faithful wife, let the blind,
ungodly world say what it may. Let your conduct be governed by the word
of God, and hold fast to it, and thus you will have certain and constant
comfort against all the temptations and blasphemies of Satan.” When, at
his request, they brought his infant son to him, he said, “O you good,
poor little child! now I commend your beloved mother and you, poor
orphan, to my good and faithful God. _You have nothing_; but God, who is
the father of the orphan and the judge of the widow, will richly provide
for you.” Here he again turned to his wife, and said, “You know that,
excepting the silver cups, we have nothing.” These, and similar
expressions, awakened the most painful emotions in the heart of
Catharine, and yet she tried to conceal her grief, and to encourage him,
“My dear Doctor,” said she, “if it is God’s will, I would rather you
should be with Him than with me. But it is not only I and my child who
must be taken into account, and for whom your life would be valuable,
but there are many pious and Christian souls who have need of your
presence and services. Do not distress yourself about me; I commend you
to His divine will. I trust he will graciously preserve you.” Eight days
after, Luther recovered, to the great joy of his wife and all his

Not long after, in the same year, a contagious disease broke out in
Wittenberg, which created so much alarm that the students precipitately
fled, and the University was transferred to Jena. The Elector, John the
Constant, advised Luther to repair to Jena also; but this main pillar of
the new-born church would not leave Wittenberg, although there were
cases of the contagion in his own family. Bugenhagen also remained at
the post of duty. Nov. 1, Luther wrote to Amsdorff, “My house is an
hospital. I begin to feel anxious about my wife, who is in a delicate
condition. My infant son has been sick these three days; he eats nothing
and is extremely unwell.” But these attacks were not contagious, and
their alarm soon subsided. In the following year, Luther suffered from a
pulmonary affection and constant headache. In 1532, he was so severely
attacked with vertigo that apoplexy was apprehended. He also
occasionally suffered from obstinate boils; in his later years, symptoms
of calculus were also apparent. In 1536, an affection of the hip-joint
confined him to bed a fortnight. But in 1537, Catharine had especial
occasion to display her affectionate solicitude, for her husband was
again brought to the very brink of the grave. During this year he was
commanded by John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, to proceed to Smalcald
on important church business. Although he suffered severely from
calculus, and the weather was extremely cold, he set out on his journey
on Feb. 1. But he had scarcely arrived at Smalcald, when the pains
increased to such an extent, to which an obstinate ischury was
super-added, that everybody was doubtful of his recovery. The Elector,
who was present, contributed everything in his power to his restoration.
He visited and consoled him. On his departure, he thus addressed him:
“If it should please God to take you away, be not concerned about your
wife and children. I will take them into my protection.” He recovered
sufficiently to enter on his journey home on the 26th. Dangerous as
travelling appeared to be under the circumstances, yet it was of
immediate service. On the way, he was relieved of the principal cause of
his intense suffering, and communicated the joyful event to his wife and
the sympathizing Melanchthon. To the former he wrote, “Yesterday I left
Smalcald. I was not well three days whilst there; in a word, I was dead,
and I had commended you and the children to God and my gracious Elector,
for I never expected to see you again; but God had mercy on me. Most
fervent prayers to God were offered for me, and many tears were shed on
my account. God heard these prayers, and last night I was relieved. I
now feel like a new-born man. Thank God for this; and let the dear
children, with Aunt Magdalena, thank the Heavenly Father, for you had
almost lost me, the earthly father. God performed wonders towards me
last night through the intercession of pious persons. This I also
ascribe to you, for I presume the Elector ordered word to be sent to you
that I was dying, so that you might come and speak to me, or at least
see me before I died. That is not necessary now, you may remain at home,
for God has so mercifully helped me that I expect soon to meet you
happily in our own house. To-day we are stopping at Gotha.” Something
similar to this he wrote to Melanchthon: but, unfortunately, he had a
relapse at Gotha, and anticipated death so certainly, that he requested
Bugenhagen to administer to him the Lord’s Supper. As soon as Catharine
heard of this she could be no longer restrained from setting out to meet
him. She remained with him all the time, and accompanied him home. Thus
Luther, for the present, had escaped all apparent dangers, but every
year, for the ensuing nine, he was attacked by some disease. Dysentery,
Rheumatism, fever, violent vertigo, and headache, painful cutaneous
eruptions, and pulmonary affections, embittered all his days.

The affectionate sympathy, faithful watching, and tender nursing which
he received from his wife, not only on these occasions, but always when
bowed down under the immense weight of his other cares, moved him
deeply. He frequently alluded to it in the most touching language. On
his sick bed at Gotha, on Feb. 28, 1537, he commended Catharine, who had
enlivened twelve years of his life, to Bugenhagen, and bore this
favorable testimony to her character: “She has served me not only as a
wife, but with all the fidelity and industry of a servant.” Afterwards,
he said, “I inconsiderately look to Catharine and Melanchthon for
greater benefits than to Christ, and yet I know that neither they nor
any human being on earth can or will ever suffer for me as he has done.”
Soon after, he said, “How intensely I longed after my family when I was
lying at Smalcald, almost dead! I thought I should never see them again.
How painful the idea of separation was! I now believe that this natural
inclination and love which a man has for his wife, and children for
their parents, are most intense in dying persons.” In his last will,
(Jan. 6, 1542,) he said of her “that she had always been a pious and
faithful wife, and she always conducted herself handsomely and worthily,
as became a pious and faithful spouse.”[11]

But Catharine’s love for her husband was extended also to his parents.
The most striking proof of this she gave, when, in Feb., 1530, Luther’s
father was lying very sick. She most heartily wished that he might be
conveyed to Wittenberg, where she could nurse him. “Dear Father,” wrote
Luther to him, “my brother Jacob has informed me that you are
dangerously sick. I wished most eagerly to go and see you, but my
friends dissuaded me from my purpose, fearing the danger to which I
would expose myself, for you know that the Peasants are so violently
opposed to me.[12] But it would rejoice me greatly if it were possible
for you and mother to come to us. My wife also, with tears, expresses
her desire that you should come. We will here nurse you most tenderly.”
But the father was unable to go, and died in a few months after, whilst
Luther was residing at Coburg, where he had concealed himself during the
diet of Augsburg. As soon as Catharine heard of the event, she was very
solicitous about the effect of the intelligence on her absent husband,
of whose affectionate attachment to his father she was well aware. She
wrote to him a letter full of consolation, and in order more effectually
to calm his troubled heart, she sent him a likeness of his favorite
child, Magdalena, at that time an infant of a year old. She was not
disappointed in her hopes. His secretary, Veit Dietrich, answered the
letter, and said, “You have done a good work in sending the likeness to
the doctor; he forgets many troublesome things in looking at it. He has
hung it on the wall opposite the table at which we dine. When he first
saw it, he did not recognize it. ‘Why,’ said he ‘Lena’s complexion is
dark!’ But now he is remarkably well pleased with it, and the more he
looks at it the better he likes it. * * * I pray you, do not be troubled
about the doctor; he is, thank heaven, well and in good spirits. For the
first two days he was much depressed respecting his father’s death, but
has now recovered his usual vivacity.” When, in the following year,
Luther’s pious mother was attacked with a dangerous sickness and his
numerous engagements did not allow him to visit her, he wrote her a
consolatory letter, the conclusion of which expresses in a very striking
manner the cordial affection which Catharine and her children
entertained for this excellent woman. “My wife and children are praying
for you. They weep and say, ‘Grandmother is very sick.’” She also died,
to Luther’s most profound regret, on June 30, 1531.

It was not only in seasons of affliction and distress that Catharine
deeply sympathized with her husband. In times of prosperity and
rejoicing she equally displayed her interest, and was ever proud of his
growing reputation and of the honors conferred on him.

These are proofs sufficient that their matrimonial life was happy; yet
the foulest slanders were heaped upon them by the enemies of the cause
of which Luther was now the acknowledged champion.

Luther awarded to his wife the praise of unconditional obedience, and
agreeably to the custom of the times she always saluted him as _Herr
Doctor_. During the first years of his matrimonial life particularly,
when he had recovered from his attacks of melancholy, and his general
health had improved, he was almost always in excellent spirits. He
treated his domestics in the kindest manner, and his whole household was
conducted in a way which contributed to the happiness of every member.
He acceded to Catharine’s supreme control over the affairs of the
family, and never interfered, except when he deemed it absolutely
necessary. He often playfully addressed her as _Mrs. Doctor and
Professoress_, and sometimes as _Master Catharine_. All the world knew
that this was but the outpouring of a sportive disposition and an
affectionate heart.

                               CHAPTER V.


Luther’s income was disproportionate to his expenses. He has often said
“that he gave more out than he took in.” His pay at this time amounted
to but 200 guilders, and his own family expenses to 500. Besides, he
aided his poor relatives, and was obliged to perform many expensive
journeys on business relating to the Reformation. His eminent position
in society often subjected him to invitations to assume the relation of
godfather, and this always levied contributions on his purse. He was
also obliged to make numerous marriage presents, and almost daily to
entertain strangers, which compelled him to keep a corresponding number
of servants. His expenses were so great that sometimes he was
embarrassed with considerable debts. He says, “I am unfit for
housekeeping; I am made quite poor by the necessary support of my
destitute relations and the daily demands of strangers.” In writing to
another friend, he says, “You know that I am quite oppressed by my large
domestic establishment, for through my thoughtlessness I have, during
this year, made debts to the amount of more than 100 guilders. I have
pledged three silver cups at one place for 50 guilders; but the Lord,
who chastises my folly, will deliver me. Hence it is that Cranach and
Aurifaber will no longer take me as security, for they observe that I
have an empty purse. I have given them my fourth cup for 12 guilders,
which they have loaned to Herrman. But why is it that my purse is so
completely exhausted—no, not quite exhausted; but why am I so deeply
immersed in debt? I believe that no one will charge me with parsimony,
avarice,” &c. He sometimes had the honor of entertaining persons of
exalted rank. Elizabeth, the sister of Christian II., King of Denmark,
who had fled from her husband on account of his cruel treatment of her
because she had abandoned popery, and the Duchess Ursula of Münsterberg,
an escaped nun, had often been his guests for upwards of three months at
a time, and it is no small matter for a poor man to entertain a
princess. Many monks and nuns who had escaped from convents had often
imposed themselves on his hospitality, and sometimes shamefully deceived
him. In 1537 he took into his house his relative and countryman,
Agricola, with his wife and family, and kept them for a long time, until
Luther procured a professorship for him. Luther’s five children were now
growing up, and their education was by no means neglected, and even the
fields which his wife owned, near Wittenberg and Zoldorf, demanded no
little outlay. To all this was superadded that peculiar disposition
which has, however, characterized many great minds, which is, a perfect
contempt of all earthly possessions. The grounds of this he sought and
found in the Bible. When with scorn he rejected all offers of gold and
dignities on condition of renouncing his faith, which his enemies made,
he did right; but it must be confessed that as a father of a family he
was too careless about their wants. Thus, when some one reminded him
that he might, at least, lay up a little property for his family, he
replied, “That I shall not do; for otherwise they will not trust to God
or their own exertions, but to their money.” Thus he presented all his
manuscripts to the printers, who were at that time also booksellers, and
when they offered him 400 guilders annually for the privilege of
printing and selling his books, he rejected the offer, and said, “I will
not sell the grace of God. I have enough.” Only occasionally he asked
for a copy of his books as a present to a friend. He charged no fee for
his lectures. “It was my intention,” said he, “after I was married, to
lecture for pay. But as God anticipated me, I have all my life sold no
copy of my books, nor read lectures for money. And if it please God, I
will carry this honor to the grave with me.” When the Elector, John the
Constant, in 1529, designed to honor him with a share in a productive
silver mine at Schneeberg as a compliment for his translation of the
Bible, he replied, “It much better becomes me to pay the amount of my
share with a _pater noster_, that the ores may continue productive and
the product may be well applied.” This he confirmed soon after, (Sept.
8, 1530,) with these words, “I have never taken a penny for my
translation, and never asked it.” And at another place he says, “If I
did not feel such a painful concern _for his sake who died for me_, the
whole world could not give me money enough to write a book or translate
any portion of the Bible. _I am not willing to be rewarded by the world
for my labor; the world is too poor for that!_” Melanchthon promised him
1000 guilders compensation if he would finish the translation of Æsop,
begun in 1530, and dedicate it to some great personage; but Luther
desired to labor exclusively for the diffusion of the Gospel, and write
theological works, for which he would receive no pay. Another friend
made him a present of 200 guilders, which he generously divided among
poor students. When, in 1529, Bugenhagen brought him a gift of 100
guilders from a rich gentleman, he gave Melanchthon the half of it. As
early as 1520, he received a bequest of 150 guilders from Dr. Heinrich
Becke of Naumburg, and in 1521, a person named Marcus Schart presented
him with 50 guilders, which he divided with his prior, Breisger. When
the Elector, John the Steadfast, in 1542, ordered a tax to be levied to
raise money to carry on the war against the Turks, and exempted Luther’s
property, the latter would not consent to it, but for the sake of the
example had property to the amount of 610 guilders assessed.[13] Many
other similar instances of his remarkable disinterestedness, which,
however, were not always worthy of imitation, might be mentioned. He was
liberal and benevolent as even few rich men are, and hence it is that
his children received no large inheritance from him. Thus on one
occasion a very poor man applied to him for help. He had no money at
hand, and his wife was sick; but he took the donation which had been
made to his infant at its recent baptism, and gave it to the applicant.
The sick wife, who soon missed the money out of the savings-box,
expressed her displeasure, but Luther meekly replied, “God is rich; he
will provide in some other way.”

At another time, a young man who had finished his studies, and was about
to leave Wittenberg, made a similar request. Luther was again destitute
of funds. With sincere sympathy he deplored his inability to aid the
youth; but when he observed his deep distress, his eye fell on a silver
cup which had been presented to him by the Elector. He looked
inquiringly at his wife; her countenance seemed to reply, no! But he
hastily snatched the cup and gave it to the student. The latter was much
astonished, and was unwilling to take it. Catharine also, by winks and
looks, intimated to her husband not to press the acceptance of it on the
stranger. But Luther, with a great effort, pressed the sides of the cup
together and gave it to the young man, saying, “I have no use for a
silver cup. Here, take it; carry it to a goldsmith, and keep all you can
get for it.”

Luther was indebted to the punctuality, thrift, and economy of his wife,
for the small property in land, furniture, and books, which he left at
his death. She has been charged with parsimony as well as with a
multitude of other sins by Luther’s enemies, but there is no evidence to
sustain the accusation. If she was economical when her husband had no
guests in his house—which was not often the case—it rather redounded to
her credit, and arose from necessity. This course was pursued with his
sanction. He was always temperate in his diet. Sometimes, even when he
was in good health, he partook of no substantial food for four days
together. At other times a little bread and a herring sufficed for a
day; or, that he might study the more intensely, bread and salt
constituted his meal. Of course, at other times, he lived more
generously, but always within the bounds of moderation.

Catharine not only sympathized most sincerely with her husband in all
his joys and sorrows, but she herself suffered severe afflictions, some
of which were calculated to fill a mother’s heart with inexpressible
anguish. Some of these have been already alluded to. In August, 1538,
they were both attacked with fever, and in July, 1539, they
providentially escaped a violent death. Luther had had a new cellar
constructed, which he went to inspect in company with his wife. They had
scarcely left the cellar, when the ground caved in with a terrible
crash. In loud thanksgivings to God they expressed their sense of this
miraculous deliverance. In January, 1540, Catharine was brought nigh to
death at the birth of a child. To Luther’s great joy, she gradually
recovered. The death of their second daughter, Magdalena, in 1542, at
the age of fourteen—the first, Elizabeth, had died in 1528—bowed her
heart deeply, and overwhelmed her with sorrow. Scarcely had the pious
sufferer endured these severe visitations with the resignation becoming
a true Christian, when she was called on to deplore the death of her
most intimate and valuable friend, the wife of Dr. Jonas. This
unexpected event was so much the more painful to Luther, inasmuch as
when in secret he reflected on his own departure out of this world, he
always reckoned on the wife of Dr. Jonas as the comforter of his widow
and children.

In 1545, the three sons of Luther and his yet surviving daughter,
Margaretta, were all at the same time attacked with the measles, and the
latter also suffered in addition, from a severe and dangerous fever.

About this time, Luther, very unexpectedly to his friends, determined to
leave Wittenberg. His strength was exhausted by disease, and by his
numerous literary labors. He was disappointed and chagrined also on
various accounts, and longed for repose. As soon as this became known,
Bugenhagen and others were sent to him on the part of the University and
the town, whose tears and entreaties prevailed on him to remain for the
present. But in July, 1545, he was bent on carrying out his
determination, and travelled in company with his eldest son, John, by
way of Löbnitz and Leipzig to Merseburg, where he visited Prince George,
of Anhalt, whom, on this occasion, he solemnly consecrated to the office
of Coadjutor of the Chapter of the Cathedral. During his stay in
Leipzig, he wrote (July 28), to his wife, “I should like to arrange it
so that it would not be necessary for me to return to Wittenberg. My
feelings are so alienated that I do not care any longer about being
there. I also wish that you would sell our house and other property. I
wish you would return the large house to my gracious master,[14] and it
would be better for you to settle at Zallsdorff whilst I yet live; for
after my death you will hardly find a support in Wittenberg, hence you
had better do it during my lifetime.” Catharine was extremely surprised
at this determination; but as her husband had enjoined it upon her to
inform Bugenhagen and Melanchthon of his purpose, and to request the
former to take leave of the congregation in his name, she, at least,
complied with this wish. But not so the University. As soon as the
members had learned the purport of his letter, they sent not only a copy
of it to the Elector, and a letter to his Grace, beseeching him to
influence Luther to return; but they and the town council also sent
Bugenhagen and Melanchthon, and some other deputies, as a committee to
see him. The Elector himself wrote to him, promising to render his
condition at Wittenberg more comfortable, and summoned him to appear at
his palace at Torgau for further conversation on the subject. Luther
instantly obeyed the summons, and appeared at Torgau. The Elector
persuaded him to return to Wittenberg. Sick and depressed in heart he
arrived there on the 18th of August, where he was received with open
arms by all his friends.

But this gratification was of short duration for them and Catharine; for
in January, 1546, completely debilitated by the effects of protracted
sickness, he entered upon a journey of another character, from which,
alas! he never returned. His youngest sister, Dorothea, was married to
Paul Mackenrot, who was in the service of the Elector. The family of
Mackenrot possessed productive silver-mines in the duchy of Mansfeld,
which excited the envy of the dukes of Mansfeld, and led them to the
determination of securing to themselves the entire products of the
mines, for before they had received only the tenth and some other
perquisites. As soon as Luther heard of this unjust proceeding, he
undertook to maintain the rights of his brother-in-law, and in 1540
wrote to Duke Albert on the subject; but his intercession was fruitless.
In 1542, he renewed his attempts, but without any favorable result. In
1545, he travelled to Eisleben and to Mansfeld on the same mission, but
all to no effect. Soon after, Luther was urgently entreated by the Dukes
themselves (of whom, Albert was a Protestant, and the other two, Philip
and John George, were still Catholics,) to appear personally at Eisleben
in order to settle this difficulty as well as some others existing among
them. Although his health was in a wretched condition, he promised to
go. After he had preached in Wittenberg, the last time, on January 17,
1546, he took leave of his friends, and on the 23d, he departed,
accompanied by his three sons; John, 19 years of age, Martin 14, and
Paul 13. He passed through Halle, where he visited his friend, Dr.
Jonas, at that time pastor in that city. Jonas accompanied him to
Eisleben; but as he approached that city, he was so exhausted that he
fainted, and they were apprehensive of his death; but he was conveyed to
a house where they rubbed him with warm cloths, and he was soon
restored. He arrived safe at Eisleben on the 28th, but a violent attack
was soon renewed. Catharine, who on the departure of her husband could
easily have anticipated these attacks, on having been informed of them
by the eldest son, John, who had been sent back, forwarded some remedies
from her own domestic medicine-chest, the good effects of which he had
often experienced. On the 1st and 6th of February he communicated to her
the state of his own health and of the affairs at Mansfeld, and
entreated her to lay aside any undue anxiety about himself. But he soon
expressed an intense desire to return home. He wrote to that effect on
the 10th, and again in a jocose style besought her not to be uneasy on
his account. But he was never to see her again. As he anticipated, he
was destined to die in the place of his birth.[15] Although he suffered
keenly from pulmonary affection, he not only preached four times, but
performed much other important business. But his end had come, and he
died on February 18, 1546, in the 63d year of his age. Dr. Jonas and the
court preacher at Mansfeld, Michel Coclius, who, with others, were
present at his death, immediately communicated the melancholy event to
the Elector, and requested his Grace to issue orders respecting the
funeral, as well as to have a letter of consolation written to his
bereaved widow. The intelligence was conveyed so rapidly to Torgau, that
the Elector, on the same evening of the day on which Luther died,
answered the letter, and gave immediate orders in relation to his

                              CHAPTER VI.

  Catharine, a Widow—Her Support—Sufferings—Journeys—Death.

No one was more deeply distressed at his death than the mourning widow.
For more than twenty years she had lived with him in uninterrupted
harmony; had sought to alleviate his sufferings, and had shared his
joys; and she was not permitted to see him die nor minister to his last
wants! Even if he did die among friends, yet she was not there to smooth
his pillow and to perform those tender offices which an affectionate
wife alone knows how to do. When on the 22d of February the corpse was
conveyed to Wittenberg and deposited in the castle church, and all the
inhabitants of the city went to meet the melancholy procession, there
stood Catharine weeping, and with her children looked on her deceased

She survived him nearly seven years, and cherished his memory most
affectionately. Though his enemies assailed him most virulently when he
was no longer present to defend himself, yet she never allowed her
affection to cool nor her interest in his work and reputation to abate.

The black velvet cloth which had covered the funeral car came into the
possession of the widow, and for many years it was preserved among
Luther’s posterity as a valuable memento. Neither did the Elector forget
her. He wrote her a letter of condolence, in which he sought to comfort
her on the grounds of the happy death of her husband, and the secret,
wise councils of God. At the same time, he repeated his assurances of
his protection of her and her children.

Although Luther had expressed a desire that Catharine should remove from
Wittenberg, fearing that after his death she might not be able to
support herself there, yet induced by good reasons, she resolved to
spend the remainder of her days in that place; for where could she
expect to find better friends than in Wittenberg? Bugenhagen, Cruciger,
Melanchthon, and others, were still living, who were her counsellors and
comforters; and Wittenberg was also the place where her sons had already
begun their education, and where they could most advantageously finish

Luther had, some time before his death, made ample provision, consisting
of various kinds of property, for his wife,[16] which she was to hold
independent of her children, in the event of her remaining a widow. In
the document conveying it to her he speaks of her in the most exalted
terms as a pious woman, a faithful wife, and an affectionate mother. The
property thus left was far from being sufficient to maintain the widow
and her children. The Elector of Saxony, agreeably to his promise,
contributed to her support. The dukes of Mansfeld and the King of
Denmark also liberally came to her help. The Elector, John Frederick, of
Saxony, who had already paid the funeral expenses, thus wrote to Dr.
Schurf, Professor of Medicine and Rector of the University: “And as we
have heard that the widow of the sainted Luther is in need of pecuniary
assistance, ... we send you by this messenger 100 gold Groschen for her
use.” He also wrote to Cruciger and Melanchthon, the guardians of the
children, to select a teacher for the two younger sons, Martin and Paul,
with whom they should also board. He directed that with regard to the
oldest son, John, they should wait six months longer, to ascertain
whether he was inclined or qualified to study a learned profession, and
if not, the Elector promised to give him employment in his palace as a
clerk or secretary.[17] To enable the guardians to execute his wishes
with regard to the children, the Elector sent them 2000 guilders. He
likewise afterwards sent the same sum to the widow. The dukes of
Mansfeld, for whose benefit Luther had undertaken many journeys and
suffered much trouble, were not behind; in the same year they
established a fund of 2000 guilders for the benefit of the widow and
children, from which they drew an annual interest of 100 guilders. Part
of the capital only was paid, for when Catharine died, in 1552, 1000
guilders still stood to her credit. The year after Luther’s death,
Christian III., King of Denmark, transferred for her benefit 50 dollars,
the remainder of a sum which he had previously granted to Luther and
several of his friends. Catharine wrote to the King, expressing her
profound gratitude for this act of benevolence.

But she was soon called on to experience additional sorrows. The
Smalcald War had already broken out in 1546, which brought desolation
into many peaceful and happy families. Catharine did not escape the
general calamity. The Elector, John Frederick, who would certainly have
done more for her, was taken prisoner at the battle of Muhlberg, April
24, 1547; Wittenberg was besieged on the 5th of May, and on the 25th,
Charles V., with his Spanish troops, entered the city as conqueror. All
the faithful subjects of the Elector, and many persons who had embraced
the doctrines of the Reformation, had left before the siege. The widow
of the Reformer, with her children, could not possibly remain behind.
She accompanied Dr. George Major, Professor of Theology, to Magdeburg,
and thence, sustained by the town council of Helmstadt, she went under
Melanchthon’s protection to Brunswick, from whence Dr. Major was to
conduct her to Copenhagen. Here she expected further protection and
support from the King of Denmark, as her illustrious benefactor, the
Elector of Saxony, could no longer assist her. But she did not proceed
farther than Gifhorn, near Brunswick; for a proclamation appeared
promising a safe return and the secure possession of their property to
all who had left the country. It seemed best to her, as well as to
Melanchthon, to return to the home she had abandoned. But her life, from
this period, was an unbroken series of sorrows. The assistance she had
formerly received from the liberality of the Elector was withdrawn; the
annual contribution of the King of Denmark—although he had promised
further help—had not been sent since 1548, and her small real estate was
loaded with taxes. It would have been difficult for her to support
herself and four children if she had not, some time subsequently,
mortgaged her little farm at Zillsdorff for 400 guilders, and pawned
some silver-ware for 600 guilders. She also rented out several rooms in
her house, as her husband had done, and boarded the occupants, and thus
she contrived to gain a meagre subsistence.

In the beginning of the year 1548, she travelled with Melanchthon to
Leipzig, in order to solicit from the imperial assessor some diminution
of the oppressive war tax. Melanchthon also wrote to the King of
Denmark, entreating him to continue the annual contribution which he
made during Luther’s lifetime. Bugenhagen wrote similar letters to his
Majesty, begging him, for Luther’s sake, to come to the help of “the
poor widow and her children.” But as these repeated appeals were
fruitless, she herself wrote to him, October 6, 1550. In this letter,
she calls to his mind the services which her illustrious husband had
rendered to the cause of Christianity, and his Majesty’s former
liberality to him. In pathetic terms she represents her destitute
condition and the severity of the times, occasioned by the existing
wars. She says, “Your Imperial Majesty is the only king on earth to whom
we poor Christians can fly for protection, and God will doubtless richly
reward your Majesty for the kindness you have bestowed on poor Christian
preachers and their widows and children.” This letter did not
immediately produce the desired result. Two years afterwards, when most
sorely pressed by want, she repeated her entreaty, and wrote again. In
this letter she complains of her forsaken condition, and declares that
she had been more unkindly treated by professed friends than enemies.
She writes in a deeply desponding tone, and seems to be on the brink of
despair. Bugenhagen seconded this appeal to the King, and it was
successful; a contribution was received which relieved her immediate
wants and comforted her desponding heart.

Luther’s exalted merits were not always recognized, at least, not in the
way in which they should have been. The widow of the man who conferred
favors on thousands at the expense of extraordinary self-sacrifice,
often pined in misery, and paid the severe penalty of his
disinterestedness and liberality. With much truth could it be said in a
discourse commemorative of her virtues: “During the war she wandered
from place to place with her orphan children, enduring the most trying
privations and perils, and, besides the numerous trials of her
widowhood, she also encountered much ingratitude from many, and she was
often shamefully deceived by those even from whom she had a right to
expect kindnesses on account of the inappreciable services of her
husband to the Church.”

After the peace of Passau (July 31, 1552), security was re-established
for the Protestants, and the former elector of Saxony was restored to

About this time a contagious disease broke out in Wittenberg, and all
the members of the University removed to Torgau. Catharine also
determined to leave the place with her two younger sons, Martin and Paul
(John was studying at Konigsberg), and her only daughter, Margaret, was
to follow them a short time after. On the journey the horses became
unmanageable and ran away with the carriage. Catharine, more concerned
about the children than her own safety, and with the hope of
facilitating their escape, leaped out of the vehicle and fell violently
into a ditch full of water. This painful accident gave such a severe
shock to her system that she was conveyed to Torgau in a very weak
condition, where she took her bed and never left it alive. Her illness
increased from day to day, and soon assumed the decided character of
consumption. Two months after, December 20, 1552, she died in the 54th
year of her age. Her funeral was attended by an immense crowd of
persons. The professors, students, and citizens, united in
demonstrations of respect for the deceased widow of the illustrious

During the whole period of her sickness, she comforted herself with the
promises of God’s word. She heartily prayed for a peaceful departure out
of this vale of tears. She frequently commended the Church and her
children to the continued protection of God, and her daily supplication
was that the true doctrine, which the Lord had given to the world
through her deceased husband, might be transmitted uncorrupted to

A plain monument in the _city church_ of Torgau designates the place
where her remains repose. On the monument or tombstone there is a
recumbent statue, the size of life, with an open Bible pressed to the
heart. The inscription is, Anno 1552, den 20 December. Ist in Gott selig
entschlaffen alhier Zu Torgau Herrn D. Martin Luther’s Seligen
hinterlassene Wittwe Katharina von Bora.

                              CHAPTER VII.

  Luther’s Children—Domestic Character—Catharine.

Catharine had been the mother of six children, three sons and three
daughters. 1. _John_, born June 7, 1526; studied law, and became a civil
officer in the service of the Elector of Saxony; died October 27, 1575,
aged 50 years. 2. _Elizabeth_; born December 10, 1527, died August 3,
1528. 3. _Magdalena_; born May 4, 1529; died September 20, 1542, aged
14; 4. _Martin_; born November 7, 1531—studied theology; died March 3,
1565, aged 34. 5. _Paul_; born January 28, 1533—studied medicine, and
became court physician to the Elector of Saxony; died March 8, 1593,
aged 61 years. 6. _Margaret_; born December 17, 1534; died 1570, aged 36

Luther was accustomed to say, “The more children we have, the more
happiness we enjoy. They are the loveliest fruits and bonds of the
domestic life.” He was never more happy than in the circle of his
family, and whoever saw him there forgot that he was the man who spoke
without fear or trembling with emperors, kings, and nobles. He was much
averse to noisy entertainments. “I lose too much time at such festal
gatherings with the citizens. I do not know what demon it is that
prevents me from abandoning them, and yet they do me much harm,” said
he. It was in the bosom of his family and in the company of a few select
friends in which he sought the most agreeable relaxation from the
burdensome cares of his life, and gathered fresh vigor for his arduous
labors. Surrounded by his wife and children, and by the side of his
intimate friends, as Spalatin, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Melanchthon, and a
few others, he took part in the innocent amusements of life with a heart
full of gratitude to God, who favored him with these evening
relaxations. In 1543, he celebrated his 62d birthday, and invited
Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, George Major, and Eber; it was the
last time he celebrated that day. Subjects of solemn import came up for
conversation. Luther, in a prophetic spirit, said, “As long as I live,
with God’s help, there will be no danger, and Germany will continue
peaceful; but when I die, then pray! There will be really need of
prayer; our children shall have to grasp their weapons, and there will
be sad times for Germany. Hence, I say, pray diligently after my death.”
He then turned to Eber particularly, and said, “Your name is Paul; hence
be careful, after Paul’s example, to preserve and defend the doctrine of
that Apostle.”

Luther was a man of a sociable disposition, always enjoying conversation
enlivened by wit and edifying anecdote. He excelled in spicy
conversation himself, and was the life of every circle of distinguished
men. But he especially found the sweetest enjoyment in conversation with
his wife and children, and often, too, from the innocent prattle of the
latter he derived no ordinary edification. When his heart was sad, he
would take one of them into his arms and tenderly caress it. Thus, on
more than one occasion, he took the youngest child, and, pressing it to
his bosom, with deep emotion exclaimed, “Ah! what a blessing these
little ones are, of which the vulgar and the obstinate are not worthy.”
On another occasion he said, “I am richer than all papal theologians in
the world, for I am contented with little. I have a wife and six
children, whom God has bestowed on me; such treasures the papistic
divines do not deserve.” Little Martin was once playing with a dog;
“See,” said Luther, who took a religious view of the most ordinary
circumstances, and thus also in social life he became the teacher of
those around him; “See,” said he, “this child preaches God’s word in its
actions; for God says, ‘Have, then, dominion over the fishes of the sea
and the beasts of the earth,’ for the dog suffers himself to be governed
by the child.” On one occasion, this same child was speaking of the
enjoyments of heaven, and said “In heaven, loaves of bread grow on the
trees.” The father replied with a smile, “The life of children is the
happiest and best of all, for they have no worldly cares; they know
nothing about fanatics and errorists in the church, and have only pure
thoughts and pleasant reflections.” He was amusing himself one day with
the child, and said, “We were all once in this same happy state of mind
in Eden; simple, upright, without guile or hypocrisy—we were sincere,
just as this child speaks of God, and in earnest.”

At another time, he remarked that Martin afforded him special delight
because he was his youngest child. “We do not find such natural kindness
in old persons; it does not flow so freely and fully. That which is
colored or feigned loses our favor; it is not so impressive; it does not
afford as much pleasure as that which springs up naturally from the
heart. Hence children are the best playmates; they speak and do
everything sincerely and naturally. How Abraham’s heart must have beat,”
he continued, “when he was called on to sacrifice his son! I do not
think he told Sarah anything about it! I could contend with God if he
demanded anything similar of me.” Here the maternal feeling of Catharine
was roused, and she observed, “I cannot believe that God could demand of
parents the slaughter of their children.” He removed her objections by
reminding her of the greater sacrifice which God the Father made by
offering his own son as a ransom for our sins.

Margaretta was once speaking to her father of Jesus, the angels, and
heaven. Deeply moved, he exclaimed, “Oh! how much better than ours is
the faith and life of children! The word which they hear they accept
with joy and without any doubts, and are happy. But we old fools have
painful anxieties, and dispute long. Well has Christ said, ‘Unless ye be
converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of
heaven.’” Christmas, particularly, was a season of joyful festival in
Luther’s family. No annual fair, such as are to this day held in
Germany, passed by in which he did not purchase presents for his
children. With deep regret he wrote to his wife, when he was in Torgau,
in 1532, that he could find nothing in that town to buy for the little
ones at home.

Vocal and instrumental music was a frequent source of family
entertainment, especially after supper. Luther himself accompanied it
with the flute or the lute, both of which he played skilfully. He often
invited accomplished singers, and thus held family concerts in his
house. When his time and the weather permitted, he repaired to what was
afterwards called _Luther’s Spring_, which he himself discovered, and
over which, after his marriage, he had a neat summer-house erected. He
spent many an hour of pleasant enjoyment in his garden, with his wife
engaged with her needle, and the children playing around him. Here he
often invited his friends to exhibit to them the luxuriant fruit of his
own cultivation. As the children increased in years, especially the
sons, he made them his companions. He took them with him on his numerous
journeys, and they accompanied him on his last and eventful tour to the
place of his birth, and, as it proved, the place of his death. That he
might enjoy the society of his wife as much as possible, he pursued his
labors with her at his side or invited her into his study. She often
copied his manuscripts for the press, and otherwise rendered aid in
writing. He communicated to her everything of special interest relating
to the progress of the Reformation not only orally when at home, but by
letter during his absence. He also frequently read aloud for her
entertainment, and sometimes even extracts from the books of his
opponents, such as Erasmus and others. He often gave her striking
passages of Scripture to commit to memory, such as Psalm 31, which was
particularly applicable to her condition after his death, just as though
he had anticipated it years before. She, on the other hand, often urged
him to the performance of pressing duties, especially answering letters.
Her participation in his affairs was kindly reciprocated by him. He
patiently listened to all her requests, and in his letters executed many
of her commissions. It was only when he desired to complete some work
which allowed no postponement that he dispensed with her presence. At
such times, he locked himself in his study for days, and ate nothing but
bread and salt, that he might, without interruption, pursue the work in
hand. This often occurred, and he would not allow himself to be
disturbed. On one occasion he had been thus locked up for three days;
she sought him everywhere—shed bitter tears—knocked at all the doors and
called him, but no one answered. She had the door opened by a locksmith,
and found her husband profoundly absorbed in the explanation of the 22d
Psalm. She was proceeding to reprimand him for occasioning such painful
anxiety, but he was impatient of the interruption to his studies,
pointed to the Bible, and said, “Do you think, then, that I am doing
anything bad? do you not know that I must work as long as it is day, for
the night cometh in which no man can work?” But his tone and look
sufficiently indicated to her that he was, after all, not unduly
excited. At his social assemblies, his walks for recreation, and short
excursions into the country, she was his inseparable companion as often
as circumstances permitted. When numerous business calls necessarily
compelled him to leave home, he wrote to her the most affectionate and
often the most humorous letters.

The birth of his first child (June 7, 1526,) afforded him peculiar
gratification. He communicated the fact to many of his correspondents in
a strain of pleasant humor, and, of course, received their
congratulations in return. The child was baptized soon after birth by
Dr. Rörer, and named _John_ by the grandfather. Bugenhagen, Jonas, and
the painter, Cranach, senior, were his godfathers. From his earliest
years this boy excited the liveliest hopes in his parents on account of
his uncommon mental qualities, and it was he who gave occasion to the
preparation by the father of several excellent books for children.
Luther possessed the rare faculty of letting himself down to the
capacity of children without himself becoming a child. This son’s name
often occurs in the letters of Luther, and he is always mentioned as a
lad of uncommon promise and an agreeable plaything to his father and
mother. He thus writes to Hausman: “Besides this, there is nothing new,
except that my Lord has blessed my Kate and made her a present of a
healthy son. Thanks and praise for his unspeakable goodness. Mother and
child send their respects to you.” Sometime after he wrote to Spalatin,
“My little Hans salutes you. He is now teething, and begins to scold
everybody about him with the most amiable reproaches. Kate also wishes
you every blessing, and particularly that you also may have a little
Spalatin, who may teach you what she boasts of having learned from her
boy, viz: the joys of matrimonial life, of which the Pope and his
satellites are not worthy.” Luther’s friends were much attached to this
child on account of his amiable disposition, and sent him many presents
suitable to his age. When the boy was yet but four years old, his father
wrote to him the following letter: “Grace and peace in Christ, my
dearest little son. It pleases me much to hear that you love to learn
and to pray. Continue in this good way, my child; when I come home I
will bring you a beautiful present. I know where there is a beautiful
garden into which many children go. They wear gilded garments and gather
all manner of fruit from under the trees; they sing, leap, and are
happy. They also have beautiful little horses with golden bridles and
silver saddles. I asked the man who owns the garden what sort of
children they were. He replied, ‘They are children who love to pray, to
learn and serve God.’ Then I said, ‘My dear sir, I also have a son
called little Hans Luther; may he not also go into the garden, that he,
too, may eat these beautiful apples and pears, and ride these nice
horses and play with these good children?’ He answered, ‘Every little
boy who loves to pray and learn, and is good, may come into the garden,
Lippus and Jost[18] also, and if they all come together they shall also
have all sorts of musical instruments, and dance and shoot with little
crossbows.’ And he pointed out to me a meadow in the garden suited for a
children’s playground, and there were hanging golden instruments of
music and beautiful silver crossbows. But it was yet early, and the
children had not yet eaten their breakfast, hence I could not wait to
see the children dance and play, and I said to the man, ‘Ah, my dear
sir, I will go without delay and write all this to my beloved little
son, Hans, that he may diligently pray, learn well, and be pious, so
that he, too, may come into this garden; but he has a little sister,
Lehna, whom he must bring with him.’ Then the man said, ‘It must be so;
go and write to him.’ For this reason, dear son, learn and pray, and
tell Lippus and Jost also to do the same, and then you shall all go into
the garden. I commend you to God. Kiss Lehna for me. Your dear Father,
M. L., 1530.”

The prudent discipline of the mother, exercised with tender earnestness,
gradually developed the moral and intellectual faculties of this youth
in an eminent degree, and this, combined with his religious and
scientific attainments, as subsequently displayed, afforded the father
unspeakable gratification. In his 15th year this youth received the most
honorable testimonial of his industry in study and general excellence of
character from John William, the second son of the Elector, John
Frederick, promising further encouragement and aid in the prosecution of
his studies. When he was properly qualified by preliminary attainments
to attend a higher school, he was sent to the Gymnasium at Torgau.
Afterwards, he studied law at Wittenberg and Konigsberg, and on his
return from his travels in various countries of Europe he was appointed
Court Councillor by John William, in which office he subsequently served
under the brother of the Elector. He was dismissed at his own request,
and entered the service of Duke Albert in Konigsberg, and died October
28, 1575, aged 49 years.

His second child, Elizabeth, was born during the prevalence of the
contagious disease in Wittenberg before alluded to. She lived only nine
months, and Luther’s grief at her death was excessive. He thus writes to
Hausman: “Never could I have believed a parent’s heart could be so
tender towards children; seldom have I mourned so deeply. My sorrow is
like that of a woman.”

The death of his third child, Magdalena, at the age of 14, was a severe
affliction. She was a girl of unusual promise; amiable, gifted, and
pious. Her complete resignation to the will of God—her vivid conception
of the doctrines of the Bible—her strong faith in the Saviour, and her
filial and religious virtues, distinguished her far above many of her
tender years. She was for a long time confined to bed, and she felt that
her end was rapidly drawing nigh. She ardently desired to see her
brother John, who was a student at the academy at Torgau. The father
gratified her wish, and despatched a messenger to summon the absent son
to the death-bed of his sister. Luther, as far as was possible, watched
by the side of the dying child. Although the trial was severe, his
patient submission to the will of God was characteristic of the man and
the Christian. “Alas!” sighed he, “I love this child most tenderly; but
O, God, as it is thy will to take her to thyself, I cheerfully resign
her into thy hands.” Then he advanced to the bed and spoke to the
suffering child, “Magdalena, my daughter, you would willingly remain
with your father on earth, and yet you also desire to go to your Father
in heaven.” On which she replied, “Yes, dearest father, just as it
pleases God.” He continued, “Dearest child, the spirit is willing, but
the flesh is weak.” Overcome by emotion, he turned away and said: “Oh!
how I love this suffering child! but if the flesh is now so strong, what
will then the spirit be!—well, whether we live or die, we are the
Lord’s.” When she was breathing her last, the mother, overwhelmed with
sorrow, retired from the couch; Luther threw himself on his knees, wept
convulsively, and implored God to release the child from suffering; he
then took her by the hand—and she died. The father at once had recourse
to the Scriptures to seek consolation for his grievous loss. He opened
the book, and the passage, Romans 14; 7, first arrested his attention:
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” This
expressive passage was as a balsam to his wounded heart. When the body
was deposited in the coffin, he said, “Thou dear Magdalena! how happy
thou art! O, dear Magdalena, thou wilt rise again, and wilt shine like a
star, yea, like the sun.” But the coffin having been made too small, he
said, “This bed is too small for her, now that she is dead. I am indeed
joyful in the spirit, but after the flesh I am very sad; the flesh is
slow to come to the trial; this separation troubles us exceedingly; it
is a marvellous thing to know that she is certainly happy, and yet for
me to be so sad!” When the people came to attend the funeral, and,
according to custom, addressed the Doctor, and said that they sincerely
condoled with him in this affliction, he said, “You should rejoice: I
have sent a saint to heaven, yea, a living saint. O! if only such a
death were ours! such a death I would be willing to die this moment!”
When one said, “That is indeed true; yet we all wish to retain our
relatives,” Luther replied, “Flesh is flesh and blood is blood. I
rejoice that she has passed over; I experience no sadness but that of
the flesh.” Again, he said to others present, “Be not grieved, I have
sent a saint to heaven, yea, I have sent two.” When she was buried, he
said, “It is the resurrection of the flesh,” and when they returned from
the funeral, he said, “Now is my daughter provided for, both as to body
and soul. We Christians have no cause to complain; we know that it must
be thus. We are perfectly assured of eternal life; for God, who, through
his Son and for the sake of his Son, has promised it unto us, cannot

Throughout the whole of this trying event Luther showed all the
tenderness of an affectionate father, and all the resignation of a

His second son, Martin, was tenderly cherished by the father. He himself
feared that the child would be spoiled by too much affectionate
attention and favoritism. In reference to this, he said, “The love of
parents is always stronger for the younger than the elder children, and
the more they require the care and protection of the parents the more
dear are they to them. Thus, my Martin is now my dearest treasure,
because he demands more of my attention and solicitude. John and
Magdalena can walk and talk and can ask for what they want, and do not
require so much watchful nursing.” But afterwards, Luther’s anxieties
about him were very great. “He is rather a wild bird,” said he, “and he
occasions me much solicitude.” But Martin, who was not without talents,
studied theology, and it was only continued ill-health that prevented
him from publicly assuming the office of a preacher. He spent his life
in private teaching. In an obituary notice of him, it is said that “he
possessed such strong mental faculties and such striking oratorical
powers, as even to have excited the admiration of his father.”

Of the third son, Paul, when yet a child, Luther thus spoke: “He is
destined to fight against the Turks,” alluding to the energy of
character then observed in him, and which was afterwards so strikingly
developed. And truly, this Paul, endowed as he was with unusual decision
and unshaken perseverance, was the most gifted of Luther’s sons, even if
he did not in all respects possess the heroic spirit of his father. He
was not only a zealous promoter of the science of Alchemy, so highly
prized at that day, but he was a distinguished chemist, and succeeded,
by his assiduous labors, in making many useful discoveries in Chemistry
and Medicine. He also possessed a thorough knowledge of ancient
languages. He was devoted with all his heart to the religious doctrines
which his father restored, and defended them with zeal and ability. He
was so strenuously attached to the orthodox system of theology, that he
once refused a very flattering call to the University of Jena on account
of the presumed heresies which the theologian, Victorine Striegel, had
promulgated at that seat of learning, and he soon afterwards received
the appointment of private physician to John Frederick II., at Gotha. In
1568 he served Joachim II., of Brandenburg, in the same capacity, by
whom he was elevated to the rank of Councillor, and richly rewarded.
Afterwards (1571), he was employed by the Elector, August, and his
successor, Christian I., at Dresden. The former not only honored him by
inviting him to be sponsor to his children, but also presented him with
a farm, which, however, never came into the possession of his family,
inasmuch as the subsequent times, during which the Calvinistic
Chancellor, Crell, held the helm of affairs, were not favorable to the
prosperity of the sternly Lutheran Paul Luther. This same Calvinistic
spirit, finally, was the occasion of his retiring into private life in
1590. He moved to Leipzig, where he died in 1593. At the baptism of this
son, Luther said, “I have named him Paul; for St. Paul has taught us
many great and glorious doctrines, and hence I have named my son after
him. God grant that he may have the gifts and grace of the great
Apostle! If it please God, I will send all my sons away from home! If
any one of them has a taste for the military profession, I will send him
to Field-Marshal Löser; if any one wishes to study, him I will send to
Jonas and Philip; if any one is inclined towards labor, him I will send
to a farmer.” But afterwards, when he became better acquainted with
their disposition, he changed his mind. “God forbid,” said he, “that my
sons should ever devote themselves to the study of the law; that would
be my last wish. John will be a theologian; Martin is good for nothing,
and about him I have great fears; Paul must fight against the Turks.”
But history teaches us that his wishes were not gratified. He himself
subsequently advised Paul to study medicine, and the example of John
induced all the educated sons of Luther’s children for several
generations to study law.

The sixth child, Margaret, who entered into a happy matrimonial
alliance, was dangerously attacked with fever after the measles, from
which her brother suffered at the same time. Her father was much alarmed
about her condition, but comforted himself with the thought that she
would be taken out of this present evil world. She married George V.
Kuhlheim, a civil officer in the Prussian service, who was a pious man
and a most ardent admirer of Luther, and especially of his writings, of
which his favorite one was “Luther’s Exposition of the Book of Genesis.”
So profound was his reverence for the Reformer, that the fact was
thought worthy of being mentioned in the sermon preached at his funeral.
His youngest son must have inherited his father’s disposition and
character, for he always esteemed it the highest possible honor to be
“the grandson of the great Luther.”

It is not known to what extent Catharine took part in the education of
her children; but a woman of her mild and amiable temper and strong
decision of character must have contributed much to the proper training
of her offspring. These prominent traits exercised a subduing influence
even on her husband; and Erasmus, who was at this time bitterly opposed
to him, says, “Since Luther’s marriage, he begins to be more mild, and
does not rave so fearfully with his pen as formerly.” Presuming this to
be true, it speaks well for the character of Catharine as a woman and a

Luther not only employed special teachers for his children, but also
instructed them himself, notwithstanding his numerous other engagements.
He says, “Though I am a Doctor of Divinity, still I have not yet come
out of the school for children, and do not yet rightly understand the
ten commandments, the creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, but study them
daily, and recite the catechism with my little Hans and Magdalena.” For
years he superintended their instruction, diligently watching their
progress, and often giving them tasks to perform. But, above all, he was
solicitous about their religious and moral training, agreeably to his
own sound principle. The father must speak out of the children. The
proper instruction of children is their most direct way to heaven, and
hell is not more easily earned than by neglecting them! They were taught
to pray and to read the Scriptures and other devotional books in the
presence of the family. Particularly during their meals did he address
them in impressive, paternal admonitions. Morning and evening he
assembled his numerous family, house-teachers, guests, and domestics, to
worship. When it is elsewhere said that Luther “daily spent three hours
in private devotion,” it must be restricted to the period of the Diet of
Augsburg, when he was concealed at Coburg.

Luther, during all his life, was a man of prayer. Although he was
opposed to mechanical formality in regard to special times and seasons,
as he had been taught in the church of Rome, yet he maintained a certain
order and regularity in the performance of this Christian duty.
Matthesius, one of his biographers, and a cotemporary, says, “Every
morning and evening, and often during meals, he engaged in prayer.
Besides this, he repeated the smaller catechism and read the Psalter. *
* * In all important undertakings, prayer was the beginning, middle, and

“I hold,” says Luther, “my prayer to be stronger than Satan himself, and
if that were not the case it would long since have been quite different
with Luther. If I remit prayer a single day, I lose a large portion of
the fire of faith.” His writings contain many sparkling gems on the
subject of prayer.

Fondly as he was attached to his children, yet he never showed a
culpable indifference to their errors, and, least of all, when they were
unruly or displayed anything like ingratitude or deception. On one
occasion when John, at twelve years of age, was guilty of a gross
impropriety, he would not allow him to come into his presence for three
days, and paid no regard to the intercessions of the tender mother and
of his intimate friends, Jonas and Cruciger, but forgave him only after
he had repented of his fault and humbly begged for pardon. He said, “I
would rather have a dead son than a rude and naughty living one. Paul
has not in vain said, ‘A bishop must be one who ruleth well his own
house, having his children in subjection, so that other people may be
edified, witnessing a good example, and not be offended.’ We ministers
are elevated to such a high position in order to set a good example to
others. But our uncivil children give offence to other people. Our boys
wish to take advantage of our position and privileges, and sin openly.
People do not inform me of the faults of mine, but conceal it from me.
The common saying is fulfilled, ‘We do not know the mischief done in our
own families; we only discover it when it has become the town-talk.’
Hence we must chastise them, and not connive at their follies.” Once,
when he saw a youth of fine personal appearance and uncommon abilities,
but of corrupt morals, he exclaimed, “Ah! how much evil an over
indulgence occasions! Children are spoiled by allowing them too much
liberty; hence I shall not overlook the faults of my son John, nor shall
I be as familiar with him hereafter as with his little sister.” But
Luther, though he received from his father a severe training, and was
roughly treated at school, was too well acquainted with human nature not
to know that undue severity in all things created a cowardly, slavish
fear in the minds of some children, and obstinacy and dissimulation in
others. Hence he pursued the golden medium, and tried to accomplish his
purpose by kind and yet earnest admonitions. “I will not chastise Hans
too severely, or he will become shy of me and hate me,” said he. “We
must take care to teach the young, to find pleasure in that which is
good; for that which is forced out of them by stripes will not be
profitable, and, if this is carried to excess, they will only continue
good as long as they feel the lash. But by admonition and judicious
chastisement, they learn to fear God more than the rod. We must often
_stammer_ with children, and in all good things come down to a level
with them, that is, we must be tender, affectionate, and condescending,
and, if that is of no avail, then we may employ severity.”

When he saw his wife or children suffering, his sympathizing heart often
found relief in tears. “I love my Catharine,” he would say, “I love her
more than I do myself. I would rather die myself than she and the
children should die.” It was only when the cause of religion was
concerned that the dearest object on earth was not too dear; for the
honor of religion and truth, he would have sacrificed wife and children.
Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, the magnanimous Reformer, when he
had already become the father of two children, could most cordially say,
in the spirit of Christ’s words, “Let them take my life, property,
reputation, children, and wife—let them all go—the kingdom of God is
still ours.” His heroic hymn, “Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott,”[19]
sufficiently shows his feelings on this subject.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

  Character of Catharine.

It must be acknowledged that there is nothing remarkably striking in the
history of Catharine de Bora, considered apart from her relation to her
illustrious husband. She was distinguished by no extraordinary talents
or surprising act of heroism after her marriage; she has left no
literary monument to perpetuate her memory, nor any public institution
founded by her munificence. She was nothing more than the “virtuous”
woman so eloquently described by King Solomon in the last chapter of the
Book of Proverbs, but she was that in an eminent degree. A noble dignity
and a temperate self-reliance were the fundamental traits of her
character. Hence, though dependent on others for support, she possessed
sufficient independence of mind to reject several brilliant offers of
marriage, and showed herself worthy of Luther. Her resolution to
exchange the noiseless cloister for a life of honorable and useful
activity in the disturbed world without, displayed not only a noble
courage in the certain anticipation of poverty and persecution, but also
a strong confidence in God. It is more than probable that she read many
of Luther’s writings as soon as they appeared, not actuated by a blind
curiosity, but with a sincere desire to ascertain the truth, and to
derive from them instruction for heart and head. Afterwards, during her
married life, she took every opportunity of correcting and enlarging her
religious views. Although, as the result of the spirit of that age and
of her previous monastic training, she was not profoundly educated, yet
Luther esteemed her as a woman possessing a noble, dignified,
independent spirit, in whose feelings and opinions he found an echo of
his own. Pious, in the proper sense of the word, she found her highest
enjoyment in solitary communion with God, and those hours which she
devoted to the attentive reading of the Scriptures were always the most
happy. To this profitable exercise she was often exhorted by her
husband, and she followed his advice. Said she, “I hear a great deal of
the Scriptures, and read them diligently every day.” In writing to Jonas
on one occasion, Luther says, “She is a diligent reader of the Bible;
she shows deep earnestness in this duty.” She faithfully attended the
public means of grace also, and with her Christian brothers and sisters
worshipped God in the sanctuary. She was devotedly attached to the
doctrines of the Reformation, and one of her dying prayers was for their
preservation in purity to the end of time. She never neglected her
_domestic_ duties. To her husband, in all the relations of his active
life, she was the most affectionate companion; in his sickness, the most
faithful nurse; in his troubles, the most tender comforter: to her
children, she was a most gentle mother; in her household affairs she was
a model to all in regard to cleanliness, order, and neatness; to her
domestics and dependants, a condescending and indulgent mistress. She
was liberal without extravagance, economical without meanness,
hospitable without ostentation. Her questions and opinions, still
preserved in Luther’s writings, show a strong desire for mental
improvement, an enlightened understanding, a clear and dispassionate
penetration. This elevated, intellectual character of Catharine,
connected with her lofty independence and self-confidence, created a
distaste for the company of other less cultivated and less dignified
ladies, for the glory of her husband also encircled her head, and the
house of Luther was the central point of union of the distinguished men
of that day. Hence we need not wonder that, by the envious, she was
accused of pride. It is true, that now, after the lapse of three hundred
years, there may be many more refined and accomplished women than
Catharine was, for she was not distinguished for learning or science;
but none exceed her in that pious, Christian disposition which was so
forcibly expressed in her words and actions. Her lively temperament and
affectionate heart admirably qualified her to feel the warmest sympathy
in the diversified events of her husband’s life, and most kindly to
participate with him in his joys and sorrows. But above all, it was not
less her pious disposition than her persevering faith which identified
her so completely with himself! Whenever the opposition of the enemy
disturbed the quiet of the husband, Catharine never faltered for a
moment, and proceeded to administer consolation to his dejected heart.
During the prevalence of a contagious disease, in 1527, her confidence
in God was not unshaken, so that Luther could in truth write, “Catharine
is yet strong in the faith.” Also, as a widow, when she was subject to
attacks of sickness and adverse circumstances, her equanimity never
entirely failed. She was especially solicitous about her children, and
devoted all the energies of body and mind to their welfare. It cannot be
denied that Catharine partook of the common lot of mortals; she had her
faults and infirmities; but they are all overshadowed by those numerous
exalted virtues which are not always found united in one person of her
sex. She was a pattern of every domestic and Christian virtue; of
righteousness and good works to her generation, and may the daughters
and wives of the present day imitate her example, and profit by the
practical lessons which her life has taught!

If she could make no pretensions to personal beauty, still she possessed
not a little that was attractive. She was of medium size, had an oval
face, a bright, sparkling eye, an expansive, serene forehead, a nose
rather small, lips a little protruding, and cheek-bones somewhat
prominent. Erasmus speaks of her as a woman of magnificent form and
extraordinary beauty; but Seckendorf says this is an extravagant picture
of her. The later opponents of Luther agree with Erasmus in representing
her as very beautiful, and falsely charge the Reformer as being
attracted only by her personal charms. Maimbourg says, “Among the nuns,
there was one named Catharine von Bora, whom Luther found to be very
beautiful, and whom, on that account, he loved.” Varillas and Bossuet
report, “That he married a nun of high rank and uncommon beauty.”
Chardon de la Rochette relates the following fact: “I have found the
likeness of Luther and his wife in a lumber-room in Orleans, where they
are in great danger of going to ruin. I will bet that there is no man
who would not wish to have so beautiful a wife as Catharine von Bora. It
is the first time that I have seen her picture, and it justifies the
opinion which Bossuet has expressed of her appearance. She has a noble,
expressive, and animated face.” But Luther himself says of her, “A wife
is sufficiently adorned and beautiful when she pleases her husband, whom
she ought to please.”

Her likeness was frequently painted, and at various periods of her life,
by the distinguished artists of that age, such as Cranach, senior,
Cranach, junior, and Hans Holbein, junior. Cranach, senior, painted her
likeness in oil colors _sixteen times_, and the other artists mentioned,
several times each. Many of these original portraits are still to be
seen in the various picture galleries of Europe. There are extant more
than _forty_ different copper-plate and wood-engravings of her likeness.
It has also been transferred to porcelain-ware and other articles of
domestic use. A number of medals containing her likeness have been
struck to commemorate her virtues, and plaster casts of the bust of full
life size have also been made. All this shows the high esteem in which
she has ever been held by those who can appreciate exalted virtue and
genuine Christian character.

As a proof of her artistic skill and her proficiency in ornamental
needle-work, even in that distant age, there is, to this day, exhibited
in the vestry-room of the cathedral at Merseburg, a blue satin surplice
which she embroidered for her husband, and which he wore on the occasion
of some great solemnity, and in the former University library at
Wittenberg, they still show a likeness of Luther, neatly and elegantly
worked in silk by Catharine. But these works will perish, whilst the
results of her faith, hope, and charity, will endure forever.

                                THE END.


[1]1 Cor. 7; 7, 8, 26, 28.

[2]1 Tim. 3; 2, 12. Tit. 1; 6. 1 Cor. 9; 5, 6. Matt. 8; 14. Mark 1; 1.
    Luke 4; 38.

[3]The passage 1 Cor. 9; 5, 6, speaks of Christian _married women_, who
    accompanied the apostles on their travels. From this and other
    passages it is undeniable that most of the apostles, and that, too,
    during their apostleship, were married men. John probably lived
    unmarried; and Paul seems to say the same of himself. 1 Cor. 7; 7,
    8, compare ch. 9; 5, 6. The idea that in Phil. 4; 3, he is speaking
    of _his own_ wife, conflicts with the connection of the verse.

[4]Melanchthon married (Nov. 25, 1520,) Anna Krappe, daughter of the
    burgomaster of Wittenberg; Carlstadt, (Dec. 26, 1521,) Anna von
    Michael. Soon after, he gave his reasons for this step in a letter
    to the Elector, in which he says, “I have learned from the
    Scriptures that there is no condition of life more pleasing to God,
    more blessed and more consistent with Christian liberty than the
    married state, if we live in it agreeably to God’s design.” Luther
    highly approved of the measure.

[5]He thus expressed himself in one of his tracts: “I hope I have come
    so far _that by the grace of God I may remain as I am_, although I
    have not yet got over the difficulty.”

[6]His brother and predecessor, Frederick the Wise, had died May 5,

[7]Dr. Jerome Scurf, Professor of Theology at Wittenberg, among others,
    said, “If this monk should marry, the whole world, yea, the devil
    himself would laugh, and he would thereby spoil all his previous

[8]His annual compensation did not amount to more than about $160, but
    the Elector, John Frederick, supplied him with wheat, wood, free
    house, clothes, &c. &c., to some extent. He inherited only 250
    guilders from his father. The King of Denmark, Christian III., gave
    Luther towards the end of his days a pension of $50 a year. A man
    who was executed for murder in Leipzig in 1537, with a vain hope
    probably of reconciling heaven, bequeathed Luther $530, and
    Melanchthon $300.

[9]In 1529 he wrote to Link, “I am daily buried in books, so that
    windows, chairs, benches, &c. &c., are full.” As early as 1516 he
    said to Lang, “I have full employment for two secretaries. I do
    scarcely anything all day but write letters.”

[10]Luther was aided in this work by several of his learned friends, as
    Melanchthon, Cruciger, Jonas, Bugenhagen, and others. He submitted
    his work to their review, and adopted such alterations as his
    judgment approved. Various sections or books were published from
    time to time, until finally, in 1534, the complete Bible was
    published. His work superseded all other previous translations, for
    it excelled them all in fidelity, force, and distinctness; and even
    now, 300 years after its appearance, with all the modern progress in
    criticism and biblical interpretation, and the improvements of the
    German language which are displayed in many more recent
    translations, Luther’s Bible still maintains the ascendency in
    private and public use.

[11]Jerome Weller von Wolsdorff, Luther’s intimate friend, has said, “I
    remember hearing Luther often say that he always regarded himself
    extremely happy that God had given him such a prudent and thrifty
    wife, who cherished him so tenderly in sickness, &c. Whenever Dr.
    Luther was depressed, she, like a sensible wife, always consulting
    his welfare, secretly invited Dr. Jonas to her table, so that he
    might cheer him by his interesting conversation. She knew that no
    one could so well entertain him as Dr. Jonas.”

[12]This was during the Peasants’ War.

[13]This property was obtained by gifts from the benevolent.

[14]The Elector had presented him with a house.

[15]He was born in Eisleben on the 10th of November, 1483.

[16]All the property he ever owned was received from his father, his
    friends, and the Elector. He never accumulated any by his own

[17]This son, John, afterwards studied law at Wittenberg, and
    subsequently filled responsible offices under several successive

[18]Sons of Melanchthon and Jonas.

[19]See a translation in Hymn 907 of our Hymn-Book.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

--Corrected a few palpable typos.

--In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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