The Life of Martin Luther

Spotlights on the most important events in the life of the Reformer

By State Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt

State Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt

Martin Luther (1528) by Lucas Cranach the ElderOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

He sought to reform European Christianity in the 16th century: Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a monk and family man, professor of theology and church reformer, translator and songwriter. What began with his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences ended with the division of the Christian Church into Catholics and Protestants.

Luther's friend Alexius is struck dead by lightning (1847) by Gustav KönigOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

It all began with a thunderstorm in July 1505: Aspiring law student Martin Luther calls on Saint Anne for help and promises, "Help, I want to become a monk!" Two weeks later, he enters the monastery. Here, the artist has invented his friend Alexius...

Luther's posting of his theses (1878) by Rudolf Julius Benno HübnerOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

On October 31, 1517, Luther slams his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. He protested against the sale of indulgences and challenged the church and the pope. Luther himself would later say that this day marked the beginning of his Reformation.

The display of the highly praised reliquaries (1509) by Georg SpalatinOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

With the posting of the theses, Luther actually only wanted to invite people to a "disputation," an argument among scholars. The portal of the castle church in Wittenberg was the university's "bulletin board. On the other hand: Luther's posting of the theses takes place on the day before All Saints' Day, the feast on which the elector presents his large collection of relics to pilgrims, who can purchase indulgences there. So it's more than an invitation to discussion - it's a public protest.

The Burning of the Papal Bull (around 1834) by Manasse UngerOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

In the summer of 1520, the Roman Church threatens to excommunicate Luther as a heretic. He is given 60 days to recant his writings. Luther lets the deadline pass and publicly burns the papal letter. The break was complete, and Luther was expelled from the church.

Luther before the Diet of Worms (1864) by Hermann Freihold PlüddemannOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

In April 1521, Luther is summoned by the emperor to appear before the Diet in Worms. If he does not recant his writings, the imperial ban is imposed on him. Luther declares in a speech that has become world famous: Unless I am refuted by Holy Scripture or clear reasons of reason, I cannot recant - my conscience forbids me to do so. Luther does not recant.

Luther as Junker Jörg before Worms (1598) by Heinrich Göding the ElderOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Emperor Charles V imposes the imperial ban on Luther. Luther's life is now in danger. His sovereign Frederick the Wise has him kidnapped and taken to safety at Wartburg Castle. There, Luther grows a beard and hair and pretends to be a knight, the "Junker Jörg".

Luther and his friends translating the Bible (before 1917) by Karl BauerOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

At Wartburg Castle, Luther begins translating the Bible into German. With a team around the most important co-reformer, Philipp Melanchthon, Luther will continue to work on the translation for years in Wittenberg. The first complete Luther Bible appears in 1534, and is still considered Martin Luther's most significant achievement.

Luther's Wedding (1917) by nach P. Paul ThumannOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

In 1525, Luther finally broke with his monastic vows when he married the former nun Katharina von Bora. The married state is blessed by God for Luther, and he will be followed by Protestant pastors in the following centuries. Luther's wife Katharina manages the household and the business and is recognized by Luther as his equal.

Luther in the circle of his family (1843) by Carl August SchwerdgeburthOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Martin and Katharina have six children. The 19th century imagines the reformer couple like a bourgeois family, with house music and a Christmas tree.

Handle of Luther's coffin (1546) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Luther dies in February 1546. He is buried in the Wittenberg Castle Church. During the restoration of the church in 1892, a handle from Luther's coffin disappears. This eventually ends up in the Luther House, where it can be seen today in the permanent exhibition.

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