Imagine being branded an outlaw by an emperor, excommunicated by the Catholic Church, and then becoming the father of Protestantism. This is exactly what happened to Martin Luther five hundred years ago in 1517. Martin Luther was a German monk turned religious revolutionary, famous for his Ninety-Five Theses, which spoke out against acts of the Catholic Church. This all did not take place overnight, however, as a lot led up to this moment.
Martin always had a strong sense of religious conviction, likely acquired as he attended two religious schools prior to university. He attended the University of Erfurt in Thuringia, and obtained his master’s degree in 1505. But how does this pertain to him becoming the father of Protestantism? Shortly after he graduated in 1505, he was on his way home when a thunderstorm struck. A bolt of lightning almost hit him and his horse, and he was terrified. He cried out for help and promised that he would become a monk if only god would save him. Less than three weeks later, on July 17th, 1505, he became an Augustinian monk.
Luther and His Call for Reformation
On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther sent his now-famous Ninety-Five Theses to his bishop, Albert von Mainz. His theses spoke out about the sale of indulgences, which were a way to buy one’s freedom from sin. He took great offense at this, among many other questionable practices. While he was not looking to break away from the Catholic Church at first, it was unavoidable after the Pope excommunicated him. Following this, the Holy Roman Empire, of which Germany was a part at the time, branded him an outlaw. From this moment forward, Luther was no longer a simple monk; he was Martin Luther, the Great Reformer.
His religious movement was not the only controversial aspect of Luther’s life, though. Despite being excommunicated, he had still pledged himself to god as a monk, forever to live as celibate. Regardless of this fact, he married in 1525. Adding to the controversy, he married a nun, another whose love was pledged to god alone. Katharina von Bora was a nun whom Luther helped to smuggle out of a Catholic cloister in 1523. They quickly became close with each other, and two years later they married. She was an important part of his life, taking care of his well-being as well as encouraging him to expand his ideas and reach. Their wedding had strong theological implications as well, as it set the stage for Protestant clergy to marry. This is one of the very obvious differences between Catholicism and Protestantism today, and much of it stems from this controversial celebration of love that took place almost 500 years ago.
The Halle Connection
While he was known for spending much of his life in Wittenberg and Wartburg Castle, Luther had a very strong connection with the town of Halle in Saxony Anhalt. One of the hymns that he wrote, titled “To Jordan came the Christ our Lord,” was introduced in 1541 in Halle. This Hymn was used as the rallying cry of the Reformation, sung at all the Protestant churches that Luther helped to build. Between 1545 and 1546, Luther preached multiple times at the Market Church in Halle. These were some of his final sermons before his death in 1546. He found great comfort in the town, and got along quite well with all the people. In fact, he got along so well in the town that his death mask is still preserved in Halle to this day.
A Culinary Reformation
Luther’s Reformation provided the world with much more than Protestantism, however. His wife, Katharina, is credited with the creation of a delightful type of bread known as Luther Bread. This sweet bread is made with chocolate, honey, apricot and almonds, and is eaten in celebration of Reformation Day every year. Continuing the Halle connection, also, is Kathi, a German brand based in the town of Halle. In celebration of Luther and his connection to their town, Kathi has created a wonderful product in his honor. Luther Cake is a chocolate cake mix with cherries, confectioners sugar and other berries and has a stencil of the Great Reformer on top. It is incredibly sweet, as he was known to be a big fan of sweet treats! Another treat in his honor are Luther Cookies, which have his family seal imprinted on top of them.