Caspar Neumann’s Meditation on Death

Translator’s Preface

Pieter Schenk, Caspar Neumann, copperplate engraving. Neumann was called the “Chrysostom of Breslau” for his preaching ability.

Caspar Neumann’s (1648-1715) hymn, “Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben,” did gain some ground in German Lutheran hymnody – including in the Wisconsin Synod’s German hymnal, where, however, it was titled “Lieber Gott, wenn werd ich sterben.” But its fame consists primarily in the fact that Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) chose it as the basis for the cantata he composed for the 16th Sunday after Trinity, September 24, 1724. (He had just been hired as the St. Thomas Cantor in Leipzig the previous year.) Considering that Neumann had passed away less than 10 years earlier, and had only composed this hymn perhaps 30 years earlier (c. 1690), this was a high compliment from the great composer.

Bach selected Neumann’s hymn text in light of the Gospel appointed for that Sunday, Luke 7:11-17, the account of Jesus raising the son of the widow who lived in Nain. Bach simply incorporated sts. 1 & 5 into the cantata as they were, for the first and sixth movements (opening chorus and closing chorale), respectively. The remaining stanzas were paraphrased and reworked into different schemes by an as-yet unknown poet:

  • Original st. 2 (AB AB CC DD, 87 87 77 88) – 2nd movement (Tenor Aria; AB AAB, 98 998)
  • Original st. 3 – 3rd movement (Alto Recitative; AAB CCB DE DE, 649 687 69 65)
  • Original st. 4 – 4th movement (Bass Aria; AB CC AB, 12-11 5-5 12-11) and 5th movement (Soprano Recitative; AA BCCB DEED, 9-11 8-10-8-10 9-8-8-5)

I have retained the meter of the original in my translation, but my rhyme scheme is slightly different – AB CB DD EE.

The usual tune originally suggested was “Freu dich sehr” (used, e.g., with “Comfort, Comfort All My People”). I would also suggest “Der am Kreuz” (used, e.g., with “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”). You can read the original German text along with a prose translation here. You can listen to a performance of the cantata here.

May Neumann’s meditation on death lead us to see what blessings, comfort, and assurance we have in Christ Jesus, and thus become our own meditation.

Dearest God, When Will Death Meet Me

1. Dearest God, when will death meet me?
Precious time keeps slipping by,
And heirs of the sinful nature,
With whose number, too, am I,
Have from Adam as their lot
But a brief and fleeting slot
on this earth to live in sorrow,
ere becoming earth tomorrow.

2. I wish not to meet unwilling
The conclusion of my time;
Mortal seeds sown in my members
Guarantee their passing prime,
Not to mention without fail
One and all go down death’s trail,
Many loved ones not omitted,
Who to graves are now committed.

3. Yet, O God, what questions anxious
Shall I raise when death draws near?
Where shall my cold frame be buried?
Where shall then my soul appear?
How my worries swell and soar!
Who’ll assume my treasure store?
Where shall all my loved ones scatter,
While I turn to earthly matter?

4. Stop! What right have I to worry,
Since I’ll go to Jesus’ side?
Better now ’twould be than later,
For my flesh shall be revived.
Pardon glad, world, I bestow
That you keep my goods below;
To my heirs I am supplying
God, a giver never dying.

5. Lord of life and death, I pray you,
Let my end a good one be.
Teach me to give up my spirit
With devout serenity.
Grant that I a decent grave
Next to faithful Christians have,
And at last, with ground my cover,
All disgrace may then be over.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Salzburgers

By Christian Friedrich David Erdmann

Translator’s Preface

I do not know how any historical development and events such as those described in the article below can create such a sensation in their time, yet fly so low under the popular radar in the present, even within the confines of the Christian church. I pray the triune God that this translation helps to put this significant historical blip back on the screen, and that souls redeemed by Christ’s blood thereby also derive the rich spiritual benefits that familiarity with these events is sure to breed.

I translated David Erdmann’s article below from the Real-Encyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, 2nd ed. (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1884), vol. 13, pp. 323-335. The endnotes are mine.

Erdmann did a lot of reading and was clearly passionate about the subject, but his article does have several weaknesses:

  1. As with many scholarly writers of the time, Erdmann, wittingly or not, writes not just to communicate information but also to show off his scholarship and linguistic mastery. Even with my efforts to untangle and simplify his sentences, an extra measure of concentration is likely required in order to read with comprehension.
  2. Here and there Erdmann did not carefully reproduce what he read. Some corrections I have made in the text; others I have relegated to the endnotes. Where I was unsure of Erdmann’s information (as, e.g., with the name of Archbishop Paris Hadrian, which most online sources give as Paris Count von Lodron), I left his material alone without comment.
  3. In the first part of his article he sets off important names with increased spacing (equivalent to italics today, including in this translation). But as the article continues, the practice falls off. I attempted to make the practice more uniform throughout.
  4. He mentions nothing of the few hundred Salzburg emigrants who sailed overseas and founded two different settlements named Ebenezer in Georgia, U.S.A. – the first along Ebenezer Creek in 1734 and the second along the Savannah River in 1736, after the first site failed.
  5. Erdmann has a palpable Protestant bias. True, it is not wrong to write with bias. Contrary to the opinion of many historians, there is such a thing as a correct historical bias, and strenuous attempts to write completely unbiased history will inevitably result in completely uninteresting and unreadable history. However, the bias ceases to be helpful when it affects one’s presentation of the facts and casts doubt on the veracity of the material. Erdmann’s strong bias calls the factuality of several of his anecdotes into question, especially toward the end.

In reading this article, it will help the reader, first of all, to familiarize him- or herself with the geography of the Archbishopric of Salzburg (today western Austria) – which purpose I hope the map inserted below will serve. The Salzach River (somewhat redundant, since Ach comes from the Latin aqua meaning water) with its many mountain tributaries was more or less the backbone of the territory.

Secondly, it will help to orient oneself southward instead of northward when thinking of the territory geographically. Since Salzburg, the capital city of the archbishopric, was in the northern part of the country, with the Salzach flowing down toward the city from the Central Alps in the south and southwest, this is also the way the Salzburg mind and the mind of the German foreigners to the north oriented themselves. “Going up” in the archbishopric generally meant going down on a map, and vice versa. As Mack Walker points out in The Salzburg Transaction, this separation, distance-wise and geographical formation-wise, was certainly one of the chief contributors to the failure in communication, or in helpful communication, between prince-archbishop and subjects. It also doubtless contributed to the surprise and sensation when the subjects were expelled, as hundreds and thousands of people, hitherto both out of sight and out of mind, came pouring down out of the mountains to give the Western world a religious wakeup call.

Soli Deo Trinitati Sanctissimae gloria:

Johann Baptist Homann, The Principality and Archbishopric of Salzburg in the Holy Roman Empire (Nuremberg, 1716). I have superimposed symbols representing places mentioned in this article. Key: PROVINCES (sym. white dotted ovals): Salzburggau (T), then (L to R) Pinzgau, Pongau, Lungau. VALLEYS (sym. green mountain, L to R): Tux(er), Ziller (mentioned in “Sources and Literature” at the end), Krimmler Achen, Defereggen, Fusch, Gastein. DISTRICT SEATS (sym. black courthouse, T to B): Mühldorf, Werfen, St. Johann, Radstadt, Wagrain, Gastein, Windisch-Matrei. OTHER CITIES or market towns (sym. orange city silhouette, L to R): Mittersill, Altötting, Schellenberg, Dürrnberg, Schwarzach, Schladming in Styria. The SALZACH River is represented by the two blue symbols, and the city of SALZBURG with its Fortress Hohensalzburg by the castle. Note that clicking on the image will take you to a higher definition close-up where the symbols are not included.

The Evangelical Salzburgers

Salzburgers, the Evangelical. Fairly early in the beginning of the Reformation period, the bright light of the gospel had already broken into the marvelously beautiful and majestic Alpine region of the Archbishopric of Salzburg with its four chief divisions. From the time of Charlemagne these divisions bore the names Salzburggau, Pinzgau, Pongau, and Lungau.1 The good news that people are saved only by the grace of God in Jesus Christ had especially found a glad reception among the down-to-earth, honest people living in the gorgeous Salzach Valley and the numerous adjoining valleys to the south, particularly the Krimmler Achen,2 Fusch, and Gastein Valleys, from the archiepiscopal seat of Salzburg right up to the vast, rocky wall of the High Tauern Mountains with their snow-capped peaks and far-flung glaciers. This populace was made up of tillers of the soil, shepherds, foundry workers, miners, and merchants. We know that early Hussite teachings had already infiltrated these valleys and were welcomed with full approval by their spiritually active inhabitants, who were dissatisfied with the church’s superficiality. As proof of the wide dissemination of these teachings, Archbishop Eberhard III already felt compelled in 1420 to issue a stern decree in order to suppress the “Hussite heresy” that had infiltrated his archbishopric. Both through the early reformatory writings of Luther and through Saxon miners who had sought and found work in the renowned ore and rock salt mines and in the marble quarries, the first news of the dawning of the new day made its way into these mountain valleys. There the seed of the pure word of God found fertile soil in minds that were open and receptive to the truth.

Albrecht Altdorfer (?), Archbishop Cardinal Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, oil on vellum on mahogany wood, 1529.

The Archbishop of Salzburg, Matthäus Lang, son of a respected citizen of Augsburg, had formerly been elected chancellor by Emperor Maximilian I on account of his diplomatic abilities and the diplomatic services he had rendered to the emperor, and as such had then been elected as provost of the Cathedral of Augsburg under imperial influences, before being promoted to archbishop and cardinal. At first the archbishop did not adopt a hostile attitude against the reformatory movements proceeding from Wittenberg; indeed, he did not have much interest in religion. He was a jovial man of the world, who at times would even condescend to a little dancing and was not exactly particular about the laws of Christian morality. He could certainly also make an appearance as a man-at-arms, as he did in 1523, when he personally came riding into his archiepiscopal seat on horseback, decked out in shining armor and a military tunic with vibrantly accented slits, at the head of several companies of trained soldiers, in order to suppress an uprising among the people that was occasioned by an overly harsh tax burden and was threatening to do him personal harm. But at first he sided with the humanistic party, for whom Luther’s emergence in opposition to indulgences and ecclesiastical abuses was not unwelcome, and who nevertheless were far removed from the deep religious roots from which the inauguration of Luther’s reformation was proceeding. Already in 1513 Lang had taken the side of the humanists over against the Dominicans in Cologne who had launched a crusade of extermination against Johann Reuchlin and Hebrew literature. Paolo Sarpi aptly characterizes Lang’s early religious stance when he says in Book 1 of his Tridentine history that the archbishop considered a reformation of the mass to be fitting, the ecclesiastical laws about fasting to be unnatural, and the liberation of Christians from the yoke of human regulations in general to be right and reasonable, but he simply could not get past the fact that “a miserable monk” was undertaking the reform; that was insufferable to him.3

Frantz Dückher, Saltzburg, copperplate engraving, 1666. The city is viewed from the north with Capuchin Mountain in the foreground on the left, the Salzach River dividing the city, and Fortress Hohensalzburg, the symbol of the archbishop’s power, on the hill in the background overlooking the city. The Benedictine Abbey at St. Peter is represented by the two lower steeples to the immediate right of the taller twin steeples of the Salzburg Cathedral. The tallest single steeple, to the right of the abbey, belongs to the Franciscan Church.

Toward this “miserable monk” the haughty archbishop, who was skilled in all the diplomatic arts of both the political and ecclesiastical spheres, at first did not adopt an unkind attitude. He allowed Luther’s writings access to his territory. Luther himself still had enough of a favorable opinion of him in 1519 that, after his negotiations with Karl von Miltitz, he repeatedly names the Archbishop of Salzburg as one of the bishops to whom he would like to surrender his case for an arbitrational verdict (de Wette, Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, nos. 108, 112, 115).4 That same year Lang called Johann von Staupitz to be his court chaplain, the man who had shone the first gospel ray into Luther’s soul through his spoken consolation and had defended and strengthened Luther in Augsburg in 1518 over against Cardinal Cajetan. Staupitz subsequently resigned his post as vicar general of the Augustinian Order, and a few years later Lang even prompted him to leave this order and join the Benedictine Order and become the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey at St. Peter in Salzburg (1522). Lang took Paul Speratus into his personal service by calling him to be the cathedral preacher at the archiepiscopal cathedral. Speratus had met with hostility as the chapter preacher in Würzburg on account of his undaunted, vigorous proclamation of the evangelical truth, and had been banished from there as a result. And in Salzburg Speratus proclaimed the gospel with the same outspokenness and the same results. Urbanus Rhegius of Langenargen on Lake Constance, who had been given an excellent humanistic education, was banished from Augsburg and preached “the unknown path of true repentance” in Hall and Innsbruck and, as a roving fugitive, carried the torch of the pure gospel through the Etsch and Inn Valleys to the Tux(er) and Defereggen Valleys belonging to the Archbishopric of Salzburg. The superstitious devilry in Altötting, which was promoted with a miracle-working image of Mary for the purpose of profiteering from pilgrimages to that Bavarian town in the Salzburg diocese, compelled Wolfgang Russ, originally from Ulm, to testify to the evangelical truth there. Johann Staupitz was not a man of bold action. He never decisively stepped forward to confess and testify to his deeper life of faith in God’s grace as the only source of salvation, even though Luther had been permitted to draw the comfort of divine grace so deeply and fully from that life of faith when his own life of faith was just beginning, as Luther repeatedly acknowledges in gratitude towards his spiritual father.

The thoroughly worldly minded archbishop soon confronted the testimony of the evangelical truth as an adversary, after Rome directly granted his wishes for the unconditional right of patronage for certain bishoprics annexed to his diocese. He succeeded in loosening the inner bond between Staupitz and Luther, the bond of faith and evangelical disposition that Staupitz knew had earlier connected himself to the reformer. Lang was so successful that Luther repeatedly and bitterly complains about this estrangement by Staupitz from his person and his cause. Staupitz was a peace-loving man, bottling up his evangelical faith, and Lang knew how to bring his activity to a standstill, as far as any observable spreading of the gospel was concerned. At the behest of a higher authority, Lang even asked him, since he had been accused of heresy because of his connections to Luther, for a formal declaration against Luther’s heresy. Staupitz could not and would not provide one directly, but in a sense it was still produced in reality by his submission to the judgment of the archbishop. Luther wrote to him about this in bitter grief: “I fear that you are hovering in the middle between the pope and Christ… [Y]our submission shows me a completely different Staupitz from the proclaimer of grace and the cross I once knew” (de Wette, no. 292).5 In the quiet of the abbey Staupitz most likely continued to share Luther’s writings with his monks. Other than that, he did not come out publicly with reformatory thoughts, words, or deeds in any way, while the archbishop was coming out more and more viciously against the evangelical movings and shakings by persecuting the preachers of the gospel. In reference to this, Luther writes to Staupitz: “It doesn’t pain me and your best friends that you have become a stranger to us, so much as it does that you have become the property of that monster, your cardinal. The world can scarcely endure his tyrannical raging, but now you are forced to endure it in silence. It will be a miracle if you do not run the risk of denying Christ” (September 17, 1523; de Wette, no. 530).6 When Staupitz died (1524), St. Peter’s Abbey recovered no small number of writings by Luther and other reformers. These were collected from his estate and burned in the abbey courtyard.

The archbishop saw the powerful influence that the zealous preachers were exerting on the people and now began launching vehement persecutions against them. Already in 1520 Paul Speratus had to yield to his vicious proceedings, and Speratus found no support in Johann Staupitz. In the dedication of his work On the Noble Vow of Baptism and Others, addressed to the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg, and dated September 16, 1524, Speratus says the following about the occasion of his departure: “That fierce behemoth and wide-eyed leviathan, who sits there in his nest as if in a paradise, could no longer tolerate or endure me, but tried whatever he knew and could until he finally bit me off of himself. What I mean is that I was crying too loudly in his ears against his unrighteous mammon, which is his only god and helper in need. …” Another undaunted witness to the gospel was born in the archbishop’s immediate environs and became his court chaplain and father confessor in Staupitz’s place, namely Stephan Kastenbauer, or Latinized, Agricola. Having come to the evangelical persuasion through Luther’s writings, he preached against the abuses of the Roman Church. For that he was thrown into the dungeon in Mühldorf on the Inn River. When he remained unwavering in his confession, a devilish plan was hatched. He was supposed to be transferred to a tower filled with gunpowder along the Salzburg city wall and be blown into the air with it once he was inside, since they wanted to give the people the impression that fire had fallen from heaven on the heretic. But the slow match was thrown in prematurely and the explosion went off too soon, while Agricola was still on the way to the tower. The hired murderer was unnerved and confessed the foul plan to the people. After a three-year custody Agricola was released and went to be an evangelical preacher in Augsburg.

Around the same time another preacher of the gospel made his appearance in Salzburg, Matthäus the priest. On account of his Lutheran heresy he was to be led to Mittersill to be thrown in the dungeon for lifetime imprisonment there. While the officers escorting him were carousing in an inn in Schellenberg (today Marktschellenberg), he was set free by two peasant youths. The archbishop had these young men imprisoned in the main stronghold of Fortress Hohensalzburg and then early one morning led down through the vineyard into the meadow of the abbot of St. Peter in the Nonntal, where they were secretly beheaded. When the executioner was hesitating because the condemned prisoners had not been legally convicted, the archbishop’s official said, “Do as I tell you; let the prince and the authorities answer for it” (Zauner, Chronik von Salzburg 4:380-382).7

Frantz Drückher, Radtstatt, copperplate engraving, 1666.

In Radstadt, the chief stronghold of the archbishopric, a former Franciscan monk, Georg Schärer (or Scherer), had proclaimed the gospel since 1525 with the happy approval of the residents and those who poured in from the surrounding neighborhood to listen to him. He was asked to recant. When he remained steadfast, he was beheaded on April 13, 1528. He was the first martyr for the gospel.8 Certainly, for a number of successive years beginning in 1525, some thirty more persons of both sexes were executed by methods of torment that were slow and terrible. But these people were not confessors of Luther’s doctrine, but Anabaptists (s. Veesenmeyer in C. F. Illgen, ed., Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie 2/2:243ff), people who got so lost in fanaticism that they ended up rejecting the basic truths of the gospel. These Anabaptists called themselves Gardening Brothers, because they rejected all traditional worship in temples of stone made by human hands and held their religious assemblies in gardens out in the open. Against better knowledge, the enemies of the gospel put not only these religio-ethical aberrations, as they developed among those poor people whose religious needs had been shamefully neglected on the part of the church, but also the rebellious activities of the Peasants’ Revolt, which extended to Salzburg, on the same plane as the evangelical-reformatory movement, so that they could brand the latter as a revolt against the authorities and a rebellion against the ecclesiastical and civil estates and could persecute it violently. The archbishop himself was threatened by the miners, when they rallied at the churches of Salzburg at the call of the alarm bell to demand relief from their oppressive circumstances. They triumphantly surged up to the archiepiscopal Fortress Hohensalzburg and expertly besieged it, until they were forced to bow to the might of the Swabian League. They did so, yet not without first obtaining very generous terms for the suspension of their siege. Thus the archbishop was filled with ever-increasing hostility and hatred toward the relentlessly advancing reformatory movement. He sought at first to eliminate its heads and leaders who lived in his diocese (Sprengel) using harsh and violent measures. But he also instigated or tolerated persecutions against all those among the common people who adhered to the message of the gospel, received the Sacrament in both kinds, and raised their voices against the ecclesiastical abuses that he himself had once condemned over against Rome. In connection with this ruthlessly hostile attitude of his toward the evangelical movement in the Archbishopric of Salzburg, it is worth mentioning the remark he made in 1530 at the Diet of Augsburg. He said, “Why would you even try to reform us priests? We priests have never been good. In this affair there are only four possibilities: the first, that we follow you Lutherans—that we don’t want to do; the second, that you Lutherans yield to us—that you say you cannot do; the third, that we reconcile the two paths—that is impossible; which leaves then only the fourth, that each party think of how to do away with the other one.” So fight to the death! That was the watchword.

The title page from Paul Speratus’ 1524 German translation of Martin Luther’s 1523 work De instituendis ministris Ecclesiae (left), and the first page of Speratus’ accompanying dedication “to each and every pious Christian in Salzburg and Würzburg” (right).

Speratus, who continued to keep in contact with the evangelicals in Salzburg territory from afar, is no doubt alluding to their dangerous situation in the letter he wrote to accompany Luther’s writing How People Should Choose and Arrange for Ministers of the Church,9 which Speratus translated and dedicated to them. In his letter to them he speaks of the Antichrist’s pester-police and jailers, who were sitting on their necks and by whom no one needed to be disturbed. But it also testifies to the extensive reach that the reformatory movement had already gained among the people when he advises them to procure the necessary edification from God’s word in their spiritual need on their own by combining like-minded families, yes, even to have their children baptized by the head of the household.

In spite of all the oppressions and persecutions that extended to all the evangelicals in the Salzburg valleys under the successors of Matthäus Lang, the evangelical movement continued its advance, to the dismay of those in power in the church. And it did so precisely through adherance to Paul Speratus’ advice, who had encouraged the evangelicals to put the universal priesthood of believers into practice by appealing to the most holy concerns of the salvation of souls and Christian fellowship. In vain were the evangelical preachers banished; in vain were the administrators of the evangelical fellowships that organized according to Speratus’ directive expelled; in vain were visitations orchestrated, e.g. in 1555, in order to track down and punish the heretics. There were cases where clergymen would exchange their celibacy for marriage, but then such a step would be punished by the church authorities as gross immorality, even as blatant concubinage among the clergy continued to be tolerated. The demands of the people for the cup in the Lord’s Supper grew louder and louder, and Archbishop Johann Jacob let himself be coerced into permitting the cup also to the laity. But a short time later, in 1571, he likewise saw himself forced by higher powers to forbid the giving and receiving of the cup again, on pain of banishment and dishonorable burial. For Rome was keeping a sharp eye on this revolution—a term people also liked to use here for the reformatory movement.

Kasper Memberger the Elder, Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (r. 1587-1612), painting, 1589. The archbishop is perhaps best known today for the beautiful mistress he kept, Salome Alt, with whom he fathered 15 children.

It had gained so much ground in Salzburg territory that Archbishop Wolf Dietrich felt compelled by this concern to travel to Rome to obtain instructions there. After returning, he issued a “Reformation Mandate” on September 3, 1588, which commanded all the residents of the city of Salzburg who were “antagonistic to the only saving religion” either to return to the Catholic faith or to leave the country within a month. They were, however, still permitted at this point to sell their real estate and to convert their property into money before their departure. He was able to take the loss of many wealthy people in stride by saying, “Better to have a country pure in faith than one with great treasures.” But when almost all of the wealthy and well-to-do people preferred to emigrate rather than return to the Catholic Church, a second mandate was issued which declared their goods to be confiscated.

The result of this was that not a few of the most well-to-do residents emigrated to Austrian lands and the imperial free cities in Franconia and Swabia, while others held fast to Luther’s doctrine even as they maintained outward membership in the Roman Church, while certainly still others let themselves be alienated from the evangelical faith and did public penance in the Salzburg Cathedral with candle in hand and returned to the Roman Church. Under the succeeding archbishop, Markus Sittich, this so-called Reformation Mandate, which had in part only applied to the city of Salzburg, was expanded from 1613 to 1615 to include all of Salzburg territory, since the number of those confessing the evangelical faith had steadily escalated everywhere. Throughout the Pongau people would leave the Catholic churches standing empty and make the trip over to Schladming in Styria to take part in the Lutheran service there and to receive Word and Sacrament in the Lutheran manner. Luther’s writings and the devotional and instructive writings of other theologians, such as Urbanus Rhegius and Cyriacus Spangenberg, were being devoured by individuals everywhere. They were also eagerly read in the frequent gatherings for edification which the evangelicals joined both in certain chief locations where they were already in the majority and in secret sites on secluded farms or in deep mountain valleys. The more spiritual needs were met in such reading- and prayer-gatherings, the less people were inclined to take part in Catholic services, to receive the Supper in one kind, to have masses read for the dead, and to invoke the saints. Yes, in Radstadt those in the evangelical camp were so convinced of the justice of their new religious conviction that they even tried, by way of the prefect there, to petition the archbishop himself to give them preachers of the pure gospel.

The archbishop did not fail to take increasingly drastic countermeasures to suppress the evangelical movement. He dispatched Capuchin monks to bring the renegades back to the church. In Radstadt two monks took especially great pains to do so. But to no avail. People ridiculed them “as rotten, stale fish.” Neither there, nor in Wagrain, nor in the districts of Werfen, St. Johann, and Gastein did the archiepiscopal emissaries accomplish anything with their incentives and threats. Then more stringent decrees were issued: Those who were evangelically minded had to return to the old faith within four weeks or fourteen days,10 or else be banished from the country and forfeit their goods. At the same time a search for and confiscation of evangelical books was ordered, as well as incarceration for those disseminating them. Finally, soldiers were sent to the places inhabited mostly by evangelicals in order to root out the heresy completely. Through protracted, costly billeting and perpetration of all sorts of atrocities against the evangelicals, not a few of them, being not yet sufficiently anchored in the faith for a public martyrdom, were forced into a visible return to the Roman Church, even as they secretly retained their anti-Roman views. But a considerable number also went into exile and forfeited property and possessions in order not to deny the faith. Approximately 600 evangelically minded people left Radstadt and the surrounding area and went over into Austrian territory and to Moravia, where a milder treatment of evangelicals was observed at that time. Of the approximately 2500 persons in the valleys and mountains of Gastein, there were perhaps only 300 who let themselves be intimidated into declaring that they would live and die on the Roman Catholic faith. The archbishop believed that the heresy had been entirely rooted out, and proclaimed a special festival of thanksgiving and celebration.

But the outward appearance had deceived him. The public gatherings for edification certainly ceased. Spies and policemen made it impossible for the evangelical preachers to go around from valley to valley. But many who outwardly associated with the Catholic Church out of fear and compulsion fed their souls in private and in secrecy between their four walls by reading Holy Scripture and the magnificent devotional writings of the evangelical church, which they had kept hidden and saved from confiscation, together with Bible and hymnal, in the ground, under the floorboards, in cellars, in lofts under hay and straw, or in concealed cabinets. Children were secretly instructed in the faith of their fathers. After those persecutions were over, the evangelical truth once again quietly began to spread out still further within Salzburg territory.

Joannes Jenet, Archbishop Paris von Lodron, copperplate engraving, 1627.

That especially took place under the mild governance of Archbishop Paris Hadrian, during his long and peaceful rule (1619-1653). The horrors of the Thirty Years’ War did not affect Salzburg territory. Behind the protective wall of its mountains, the gospel quietly spread out further, as the population enjoyed a long religious and civic peace and an undisturbed well-being. And the Peace of Westphalia worked to the evangelicals’ advantage: While the territorial prince was granted the authority to expel subjects of a dissenting faith from his province, any atrocity on his part was prevented by the stipulation that those expelled were to be permitted three years’ time to get their affairs in order and sell their real estate (Article V, Sections 34-37).11 At the Diet of Regensburg in 1653, the ambassadors of the Protestant estates established an agency, known as the Corpus Evangelicorum, whose responsibility, among other things, was to uphold the rights guaranteed by the Peace.12

Title page of the 1595 Nuremberg edition of Habermann’s popular prayer booklet

But in spite of all this, these rights were trampled underfoot in Salzburg territory under Archbishop Maximilian Gandolf. In 1683 a congregation of secret Lutherans, consisting of simple miners and farmers, was discovered by Jesuit spies in the Defereggen Valley, located on the southern border of the archbishopric along the border of the Tyrol, encircled and secluded by high mountains. In spite of all the earlier tracking down and persecuting of heretics under Archbishop Markus Sittich, this congregation had preserved and anchored themselves in their evangelical faith through covert gatherings for edification and by secretly reading the Bible, the postils of Luther and Spangenberg, and other devotional writings, especially Urbanus Rhegius’ Spiritual Medicine13 and Johann Arndt’s True Christianity14 and Little Garden of Paradise,15 and by singing and praying from Starck’s and Habermann’s prayerbooks,16 while outwardly following the forms and customs of the Catholic Church. The violent measures taken against them, the fervent attempts at conversion by the Capuchin monks who were incited against them, and the judicial persecutions on the part of the prefect of the district of Windisch-Matrei had the opposite effect of what was intended. Under the guidance of one of their fellow members, Joseph Schaitberger from Dürrnberg by Hallein, a simple miner firmly grounded in the faith and truly enlightened by the Spirit of God, they now resolutely stepped out into the open with their profession of the pure gospel without flinching, and bravely and dauntlessly refused to participate in Catholic services, masses, or pilgrimages. The archbishop cunningly attempted to get them to be considered as a special sect, belonging neither to the Augsburg nor to the Reformed confession, so that the aforementioned stipulations of the Peace of Westphalia would not apply to them. But when their representatives, Joseph Schaitberger among them, were summoned to appear in Hallein and then in Salzburg, they did not let themselves be confused by the tricky questions that were posed to them.17 They openly and freely professed the doctrine of Luther and the Augsburg Confession. They were detained in prison for a long time, at the same time being harassed by the Capuchins with their threats and attempts to convert them. All efforts at persuading them to recant were in vain. Then they were released, but required by the archbishop to deliver him a written presentation of their faith. Joseph Schaitberger prepared this as clearly and thoroughly as it could possibly be; he was well versed in the Bible, deeply grounded in evangelical knowledge, and well-informed by Luther’s writings of the contrast between Roman and Lutheran doctrine. He delivered it to the archbishop with the request that they be left undisturbed in their worship and returned the children of whom they had been robbed. With this presentation the archbishop in his cunning had gotten what he wanted. In the simple, evangelical-biblical confession of the faith of these people, he had the proof of their heresy and their apostacy from the church in his hands in black and white. Now he felt justified in taking the cruelest measures. He deprived them of their mining income, forbade them from selling their family properties, had their Bibles and evangelical books taken away and burned, and tried to frighten them with heavy fines and penal labor. To no avail. The vast majority refused to be rattled in their religious allegiance or flinch in their profession of the Augsburg Confession. Only a small number of the weaker ones let themselves be induced into a sham retreat to the Catholic Church. Then the archbishop issued that cruel edict, driving those who refused to recant out of the country in the middle of the harsh winter of 1685 and forcing them to leave their children and their belongings behind. The poor mothers cried for their children in vain; nearly 600 children in total were held back. Married couples were torn apart; children and infants were taken away from their grieving fathers and mothers to be brought up in the Catholic faith. In troops of 50 to 60 people, the miserable outcasts marched over the snow-covered mountain passes, poverty-stricken, robbed of the most basic necessities, in severely cold weather, in order to find refuge in Ulm, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Frankfurt am Main, and even further into Swabia and Franconia. According to the later testimony of Johann Martin Zandt, an ambassador from Württemberg, not including those who escaped secretly, 429 known persons emigrated with government passes from the Defereggen Valley alone, and there were 311 children and a fortune of 6000 Gulden withheld just from them, while the total number of emigrants amounted to more than 1000. Zandt obtained his information on this execrable treatment by the archbishop from the records of the high court in Salzburg in 1688, when by order of his duke he had to investigate the case of the expellees on location.

Portrait of Joseph Schaitberger, sketched by P. Decker ad vivum and printed by Martin Engelbrecht in 1732

Joseph Schaitberger, the spiritual father and leader of the Salzburg exiles, found asylum in Nuremberg, where, separated from his children, he eked out a living with his wife as a woodworker and wire-drawer. But he recognized and exercised his spiritual calling, to which he had been directed by God, by sending repeated, Spirit-anointed circulars to his fellow believers back in his homeland to strengthen and establish them in their faith and to refresh them in their sufferings with the comfort of the gospel. A page of core and vital church history was written by this simple miner through his spiritual and pastoral works; they cannot be read without deeply moving the heart and eliciting an emotion both poignant and joyful. He is the author of the gripping exile’s hymn, which has also been incorporated into evangelical hymnals. It reflects every aspect of the distress experienced by those witnesses to the faith and their rich, gospel-centered comfort in his simple, touching words. It reads in part: “I am an exile, sadly banned— | This my new designation— | From cherished home and fatherland— | God’s Word the sole causation. • Yet I, Lord Jesus, contemplate | Your like humiliation. | If I now you must emulate, | Fulfill your inclination. • With your will, Lord, I shall agree, | In patience persevering. | I shall subscribe to your decree | Willingly, without fearing. • Time now, in Jesus’ name, to leave; | All has from me been taken. | Yet I know one day I’ll receive | The glorious crown of heaven. • So step I from my house away | New, foreign streets to wander. | But Lord, my children! Forced to stay! | I sigh and sob to ponder. • If in this vale of tears I must | Live in prolonged privation, | In heaven God will give, I trust, | Far better habitation.”

Title page of the enlarged 1710 Schwabach edition of Schaitberger’s Evangelical Circular

He made repeated circular trips through the Salzburg valleys at great risk in order to strengthen in faith and in patience his oppressed fellow believers who had stayed behind. In vain he sought to recover his two daughters. The older one, already married by now, set out for Nuremberg to persuade her father to return to the Roman Church. But the opposite happened. In the process of her endeavor she herself was brought to the evangelical faith by her father, and from then on she stayed with him to help support him. For his fellow believers in the homeland he was and remained the blessed lay preacher and spiritual shepherd through his numerous circular letters, which he addressed to them concerning truths of the faith and questions pertaining to Christian living. They deal with, e.g., the narrow way of the cross on which pious children of God should follow after Christ, the spiritual Christian mirror, and the evangelical art of dying of the children of God. All of these circulars were printed together and comprise in this collection the famous Evangelical Circular (Evangelischer Send-Brief) by J. Schaitberger (1702).18 Next to Luther’s and Spangenberg’s postils and Johann Arndt’s True Christianity, it was the most treasured devotional book of the Salzburgers. The emigrants would later ask for it often as they were passing through Augsburg: “Hobts kain Schaitberger? [You don’t by chance carry a Schaitberger?]” Besides his exile’s hymn, two of his other hymns, “Du Spiegel aller Tugend [O mirror of all virtue]” and “Jesu meine Lieb’ und Leben [Jesus, my love and life],” were especially dear to the Salzburgers. He died in Nuremberg in 1733 at age 76, after the magistrate had removed all cares from his waning years by providing him with a place to live in the hospital of the Carthusian monastery.

Jacques Vaillant, Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg, oil on canvas, c. 1680.

While an outcry of indignation over the cruel treatment of the Salzburg Protestants rang throughout evangelical Germany, Friedrich Wilhelm, “the Great Elector” of Brandenburg, was the first Protestant prince to espouse their cause against the archbishop and to reproach him for his grave injustice (February 12, 1685). But it had just as little effect as the repeated, earnest objections of the evangelical estates in Regensburg. One marvels at how warmly the elector welcomed sectarian and rebellious people in foreign countries.

The rule of that cruel persecutor’s successor, Archbishop Franz Anton, from 1709 to 1727 was a more peaceful period for the evangelical Salzburgers. During this period the evangelical religious life regained strength in the Salzburg valleys, effected by the reading of the best evangelical writings and Schaitberger’s circulars, which made the rounds from congregation to congregation, and in particular by the numerous gatherings for prayer and edification that were now tolerated. But the battle was renewed all the more vehemently and cruelly under the frivolous, avaricious, pleasure-seeking Archbishop Leopold Anton Baron von Firmian beginning in 1727. The old oppressions and persecutions were repeated, which showcase the same sorry spectacle again and again: extortion of ostensible conversions through the cunning and wiles of the Jesuits; seizure and burning of Bibles and devotional writings; utterly false accusations of those who steadfastly confessed the evangelical faith as dangerous rebels and insurgents; lengthy incarceration of unyielding witnesses to the faith in prisons that jeopardized health and life, e.g. at the High Fortress above Salzburg and at the castle in Werfen; imposition of exorbitant, harsh fines; deprivation of work in the mines, workshops, marble quarries, and forests; occupation of evangelicals’ homesteads and houses by executive soldiers; and forced emigration minus belongings and children, who had to be left behind. The evangelicals were treated with particularly fierce hostility for refusing to give the proper response to the greeting prescribed by the pope in 1728. The greeting was, “Blessed be Jesus Christ,” and the response was, “from now into eternity.” They would not make themselves complicit in the sinful misuse of Jesus’ name that they saw in the greeting, since Rome had promised 200 days of indulgence from purgatory for each time it was used.

Copperplate engraving of the Diet of Regensburg held from January 10-20, 1663

But all these sufferings steeled the courage of these poor people. They put up brave resistance to the attempts, made with deep guile and great might, to bring them back to the Roman Church, and they devoutly and firmly stuck together as a single evangelical nation of brothers. The two farmers Hans Lerchner and Veit Bremen, from the districts of Radstadt and Werfen respectively, were the first to bemoan their distress to the evangelical estates in Regensburg in January 1730 and to ask them to intercede with the archbishop so that those banished might be permitted to sell their property and bring their belongings and children along.19 But the Corpus Evangelicorum, an ecclesiastical agency that was already paralyzed by its tedious business routine, was unsuccessful in its negotiations with the archiepiscopal ambassadors and with the archbishop himself. Their objections to his violation of the already mentioned paragraphs of the Peace of Westphalia were in vain. Incited by the Jesuits, the archbishop consistently stuck to the strategy he had once affirmed with an oath after a few glasses of wine, exclaiming that he would have the heretics out of the country and that thorns and thistles would grow in their fields.

In 1731 the evangelicals formed a coalition to dispatch a number of delegates to Regensburg from the districts of Radstadt, Wagrain, Werfen, St. Johann, and Gastein with a new grievance concerning their unjust, cruel treatment and with the petition that either they be granted freedom of conscience and evangelical preachers or that they be permitted to sell their belongings and emigrate with wife and children. But the delegates waited in vain in Regensburg for their grievance and petition to be settled. In the meantime the archbishop knew how to use cunning to bring them unreservedly out into the open with their profession of the pure gospel and their testimony against Rome. That way he could gauge the extent of the movement and the number of heretics, and take his additional measures accordingly. Under the appearance of a favorable disposition, he announced in the districts from which the grievance had proceeded that the case of the complainants would be investigated by a commission. The commissaries sent from Salzburg issued a summons that all who did not wish to belong to the Roman Church should appear before them. Having answered the summons, the evangelicals now declared to them that they would be obedient and subservient to the archbishop as their sovereign in all secular matters, but in regard to their faith they were compelled to beg him to grant them freedom of conscience, since in religious affairs one must obey God more than men. And when they were asked to which of the three publicly recognized confessions they belonged, they testified unanimously that they were evangelical Lutheran Christians. The commissaries now further required them to submit a list of all their names within three days. How astonished they were, then, as was the archbishop, when the number of Protestants recorded in the lists within that three-day deadline came to more than 20,000.

The archbishop now felt that much more compelled to exert all guile and might to root out the heresy. So the evangelicals also now had to band together that much more firmly, in order to defend their faith as one man. Approximately 300 men assembled on August 5, 1731, in the small market town of Schwarzach as representatives of the entire host of witnesses. Around a round table, on which a saltcellar had been placed, sat the elders of the congregations; the rest formed a large circle all around them. One of them now solemnly called for the contracting of a life-and-death covenant of loyalty to the evangelical faith. Then they all, one by one, stepped forward and dipped their oath fingers20 into the salt, touched the salt to their mouths, then swore with right hand raised toward heaven that they would adhere to the evangelical faith even to the point of death. And they did this with reference to the statement in 2 Chronicles 13:5, which says that Jehovah contracted a “covenant of salt” with David and his sons. Afterward the men knelt down to pray and committed the cause of their religious covenant to the Lord.

Archbishop Leopold Anton Baron von Firmian

They resolved to send a delegation to the emperor21 in Vienna. But the 21 delegates were arrested on the way and brought back to Salzburg for lacking passes and for this “act of rebellion” against their sovereign. In Salzburg they received cruel treatment as insurgents and rebels. In vain had the evangelical ambassadors in Regensburg made new remonstrances with the archbishop’s ambassadors against the unjust treatment of the Salzburg Protestants. They could not expect any help from the emperor. Then the evangelical ambassadors turned to their princes with the request for their intervention. Of these, it was the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I who immediately stepped in for the cause of the oppressed with intense religious zeal. In an order dated October 23, 1731, he assigned his ambassador, Baron von Danckelmann,22 in conjunction with the rest of the evangelical ambassadors, the task of threatening the Archbishop of Salzburg, by way of his ambassadors, with countermeasures against the Catholic subjects in evangelical lands. The king also had the baron add the assurance that he was prepared to implement these countermeasures at once, once they had been decided upon by the Corpus Evangelicorum. However, due to the incompetence and impotence of this agency, no decisive steps were taken on behalf of the ever more harshly persecuted Protestants. The cruelties against them were renewed. The evangelical estates now complained to the emperor over the illegal actions of the archbishop. The emperor answered that he had already warned him to observe the imperial laws. Then, in disdain and defiance of everyone, the archbishop issued his infamous Emigration Proclamation (Emigrationspatent)23 dated October 31, 1731, in which all evangelicals were publicly ordered to move out of the country, under the charge of holding public gatherings for edification contrary to the archbishop’s prohibition, and under the false accusation of contracting a seditious covenant for the extermination of the Catholic religion and calumniating this religion along with their sovereign. All non-settled persons, domestic servants, day laborers, mine workers, foundry workers, and lumberjacks over 12 years old were dismissed from their jobs without pay, effective immediately, and had to vacate the country within eight days. The burghers and artisans were deprived of their citizenship and professional licenses, effective immediately, and together with all settled persons had to sell their real estates and houses and then clear out within a period of 1-3 months. The proclamation’s aim was the economic ruin of the propertied people and the forced conversion of those who were dependent and lived from hand to mouth through their work. But with few exceptions they stood their ground. The non-settled were hoping to gain a deferral until spring through the intercession of the evangelical estates, but in vain. They were mercilessly driven out into the winter cold. The settled obtained a deferral until St. George’s Day, April 23, 1732, as the final deadline, but they were so harassed and persecuted by soldiers, district officials, and priests in the meantime that a good portion were already deserting the country in the middle of the winter. The negotiations of the evangelical estates of Germany, which were constantly being conducted with the archbishop and his ambassadors from the Regensburg base, and the intercession with the emperor by the Protestant powers outside of Germany on behalf of the hard-pressed Salzburgers were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, by God’s providence, they did receive comfort and aid in their distress, which by now had intensified in the extreme, through the King of Prussia.

Two 1732 Prussian coins commemorating the Salzburg Emigrants. Rf. endnote 24 for source information. Actual comparative size not reflected.

A Prussian commemorative coin from the year 1732 shows on the front the portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm I. On the back it shows the arrival of the Salzburgers in Prussia with wife and children, opposite them the figure of Prussia in military attire with a shield, and above them the radiant eye of God. The inscription beneath them reads: “GÆD. DER SALZB. EMIGRANTEN. 1732.” (Commemorating the Salzburg Emigrants, 1732), and encircling the scene are the words of Genesis 12:1: “GEHE IN EIN LAND DAS ICH DIR ZEIGEN WILL” (Go into a land that I will show you) (Spies, Münzbelustigungen 1:217-218).24 The poor Salzburgers with no country saw it as God’s guidance and the answer to their prayers when the Prussian king granted them refuge in his country and thereby put an end to every illusion of rescue on the part of the evangelical estates, on which their hopes had hitherto been based.

Already in November 1731 two of their delegates had set out for Berlin in order to invoke the king’s assistance in their great distress, Peter Heldensteiner and Nikolaus Forstreuter. They and their fellow countrymen had been slandered by the Catholics as heterodox sectarians. But an examination of them ordered by the strictly religious king and conducted by his consistorial councilors Johann Gustav Reinbeck and Michael Roloff revealed, to the king’s great satisfaction, their articulateness and firmness in the evangelical faith. They proved themselves to be genuine allies of the Augsburg Confession, all Roman Catholic lies notwithstanding, and the king informed them that even if several thousand were to come into his lands, he would welcome them all; give them house and farm, fields and pastures out of supreme favor, love, and pity; and treat them as his own subjects.

Antoine Pesne, Friedrich Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, oil on canvas, after 1733.

Now in February 1732, as the persecutions in Salzburg were at their worst, the king issued a proclamation in which he declared that he would lend his evangelical brothers and sisters in the faith, who were being so fiercely oppressed and persecuted, a kind and helping hand and welcome them into his lands out of Christian, kingly pity and heartfelt compassion. He had not merely implored the archbishop to grant them free departure and to consider them as his prospective subjects, but he was also imploring all the princes and estates of the empire to let them have free, safe, and undetained passage through their lands and to render them that which a Christian owed his neighbor, so that they could continue their arduous journey. Moreover, he was even going to have his commissaries in Regensburg and Halle count out traveling money for them—5 groschen per man per day; 3 groschen, 9 pfennig per woman or maid per day; and 2 groschen, 5 pfennig for every child per day. If these people who were henceforth his subjects were denied free departure or wronged in their goods and chattels in any way in their forsaken homeland, he would demand an accounting and ensure redress. He threatened to sequester equivalent Catholic property belonging to the monasteries of Magdeburg and Halberstadt for any loss they experienced. Following Prussia’s lead, Denmark, Sweden, and the States-General of Holland threatened similar countermeasures. The king ordered that the emigrants be escorted to their new homeland on the most direct routes. In troops large and small they now marched through German lands, after the king had dispatched a special commissary in the person of his councilor Johann Göbel to receive them and to guide their platoons to Regensburg.

Johann Georg Schreiber, Salzburg Emigrants Departing from Leipzig on September 5, 1732, engraving, 1732. The composer Johann Sebastian Bach was employed as the St. Thomas Cantor in Leipzig at the time and may have witnessed this scene, which took place about 1 km to the southeast of St. Thomas Church.

Everywhere they went, once they had set foot on evangelical soil, they received a joyful welcome and were sent on their way with the most touching tributes and demonstrations of love. Church services were arranged in the marketplaces, in the churches, and on the country roads to accompany their reception. The poor, helpless, and weak were all rendered assistance and relief that one can only dream of. They were seen off on the successive stages of their migration amid festive services, hymn singing, prayers, and blessings. And when, in a short period of time, not just several thousand – 4000 initially – but more and more thousands kept on setting out for Prussia, the king did not grow weary of it. In response to a petition asking that he might also take pity on the additional thousands who did not know where else they could set foot while staying together with their countrymen, he wrote in his own hand: “That’s just fine! God be praised! What grace God is showing to the House of Brandenburg in this! For God is certainly the one behind this.” He commanded the commissary to admit as many as would come, even if it were 10,000. But it did not stop there either. The city of Berlin became the rallying point for those who had come that way on various routes and the place where everyone sought to outdo the tenderhearted brotherly love that had been shown to the migrants thus far. And from April 30, 1732, through April 15, 1733, via that city alone, no less than 14,728 exiles advanced towards Lithuania, their new homeland in far-eastern Prussia. When the first drove of emigrants had arrived in Potsdam in an orderly file on April 29, 1732, singing their hymns, the king, who had himself just arrived, had them ushered into his palace courtyard and had them report on their journey and the commissary’s guidance. When the report given was favorable, he also asked his court preacher to report to him on the condition of their faith and their doctrine. In fact, he himself examined some of them on the truths of the Christian faith and was stunned by their clear answers grounded in Holy Scripture. For instance, the king asked a 14-year-old boy who had left his father and mother for the sake of the evangelical faith how he could justify the action he had taken. The boy answered, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). And when the king went on to ask how he was going to manage without father and mother, the boy immediately answered, “Father and mother forsake me, but the Lord takes me in” (Psalm 27:10). The king was delighted with the impression the pilgrims made on him, and he lavished gifts on them and in particular had a whole bunch of cloth for clothing distributed among them in Berlin. When it was time for them to depart, he called out to them, “It’s going to be alright now, children. It’s going to be alright with us.” On June 25 of the same year he saw another drove of Salzburg emigrants marching along on the road between Potsdam and Berlin; he found himself in that vicinity while out on a hunt. He immediately headed their way and began to converse with them, particularly about the hymn with which they had been keeping step, and he asked them to sing him the tune, “In God, my faithful God, | I trust when dark my road; | Though many woes o’ertake me, | Yet he will not forsake me.” The commissary remarked that they could not take up the songs with their proper melodies, because they were unfamiliar to them. Then, to everyone’s amazement, the king himself started in. Little by little they all joined in and continued past the king singing the song. And the king called out after them, “Go with God!”

Johann Michael Franz and Johann Georg Ebersberger (Homann’s Heirs), Prussian Lithuania, 1735. I have superimposed dots with different-colored centers to identify important cities more easily: Memel (today Klaipėda; aqua), Tilsit (today Sovetsk; brown), Ragnit (Neman; silver), Georgenburg (Jurbarkas; green), Insterburg (Chernyakhovsk; black), and Gumbinnen (Gusev; pumpkin). All of these cities except Georgenburg and Gumbinnen were district seats, and the districts were named after them. The lake in the southeast corner is the Wischtiten or Wystiter See (today Lake Vištytis). The map also includes an inset of the newly laid out Gumbinnen city plan, since a considerable number of Salzburg emigrants settled there. Note that clicking on the image will take you to a separate site where you can zoom in much closer.

One drove followed the next. Even those who were still weak and wavering in the faith left their Salzburg homeland behind to exchange it for Lithuanian territory, strengthened and emboldened by the assistance the Prussian king was giving. The poor exiles received much comfort and strengthening in their faith as they passed through the German lands and cities, but their loyalty to the faith and martyrdom for the gospel also redounded in turn to the shame, revitalization, and strengthening of German Protestantism. The sight of these droves of honest people marching along with their hymns and holding their services on the country roads, trusting in God with simple, childlike faith, was a powerful testimony to the faith for evangelical Germany, and it did not fail to produce a revitalizing and uplifting effect. And how their distress aroused and stirred up everwhere not just such genuine edification but also Christian brotherly love! At the instigation of the King of England,25 a public collection for them was organized in all evangelical countries, which brought in 900,000 gulden. There were competing efforts between southern and northern Germany to welcome and retain them and to prepare a new homeland for them. Many young people quickly formed intimate connections, and many a young female exile found happiness by joining a German household or family. All the essentials of the story of the young couple in Göthe’s lovely epic poem, “Hermann und Dorothea,” actually happened when the exiles passed through the Altmühl Valley in Franconia, except that the poet portrayed the scene against the political background of the French Revolution instead of the original religious background on which it is based.

The emigrants preserved Christian humility and modesty amid the many tributes and accolades that were bestowed upon them everywhere. They stuck to strict discipline among themselves and admonished each other to show Christian dignity, simplicity, and self-abnegation in the face of the demonstrations of love that could at times be a bit obtrusive and extravagant; they wanted to keep any harm from threatening their inner life. It was with this in mind, e.g., that one of their most respectable leaders said, as he was witnessing the tokens of love that were being heaped on them in Berlin, “Stop, you are doing way too much for us! We must thank God and ask him to keep us in the grace in which we stand. I am very concerned that many of us will be spoiled by the kindnesses being showered on us. Everywhere we are praised way too much. We are not confronted enough with our failings and sins. Our young people cannot handle this. May God in his grace please keep us from falling!”

They humbly and politely declined nearly all the invitations they received to settle in the various regions and cities through which they traveled. They wanted to remain together under the scepter of the Prussian king who had been the first to open his country to them and to welcome them as his subjects and children. They wanted to remain as they found themselves reassembled in Berlin, their great rallying point, after the long separation caused by their departure from Salzburg and by their variously routed passage through Germany. From Berlin they proceeded to their new, remote homeland. More than 20,000 Salzburg colonists populated the broad plains of Lithuania, which were empty and desolate as the result of a terrible plague. The sacrifices that the king made for their reception and colonization were more than richly repaid through the blessing bestowed upon that poor land by receiving these diligent, industrious, intelligent, shrewd, firm-in-faith, and truly God-fearing Salzburg emigrants. In 1882 their grateful descendants, as loyal subjects, sent a salute of homage from Lithuania to their beloved Emperor and King Wilhelm, whose ancestor 150 years earlier had been the instrument that God used to fulfill his words, “Go into a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), and to do so precisely through that numerous host of staunch witnesses to the faith from the Archbishopric of Salzburg.

Johann Georg Schreiber, Salzburg Emigrants Arriving at Königsberg in Prussia, engraving, 1732. Today Königsberg is Kaliningrad, the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.

Sources and Literature

Accurate Marching Map of the Salzburg Emigrants (Nuremberg: Peter Conrad Monath, 1732)

  • Johann Georg Schelhorn, De Religionis Evangelicae in Provincia Salisburgensi Ortu Progressu et Fatis Commentatio Historico-Ecclesiastica (Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1732); translated into German and supplemented by Friedrich Wilhelm Stübner (ibid.)
  • Johann Jacob Moser, ed., Derer Saltzburgischen Emigrations-Acten (Frankfurt and Leipzig: Johann Paul Rothens, 1732)
  • Gerhard Gottlieb Günther Göcking, Vollkommene Emigrations-Geschichte Von denen Aus dem Ertz-Bißthum Saltzburg vertriebenen Und größtentheils nach Preussen gegangenen Lutheranern, part 1 (Frankfurt and Leipzig: Christian Ulrich Wagner, 1734); part 2 (ibid., 1737)
  • Samuel Urlsperger, Ausführliche Nachrichten Von der Königlich-Groß-Britannischen Colonie Saltzburgischer Emigranten in America, part 1 (Halle: Waysenhaus, 1741); part 2 (ibid., 1746). Note (trans.): These two volumes contain the first through twelfth of the 18 total continuations of Urlsperger’s Nachrichten or reports.
  • Johann Baptist de Caspari, Aktenmäßige Geschichte der berühmten salzburgischen Emigration, trans. Fr. Xav. Huber (Salzburg: Mayersche Buchhandlung, 1790)
  • Karl Panse, Geschichte der Auswanderung der evangelischen Salzburger im Jahre 1732 (Leipzig: Leopold Voß, 1827). Note: includes a list of sources.
  • Georg Veesenmeyer, “Etwas zum Andenken an die Auswanderung der Evangelischen Salzburger im Jahre 1732, und von den Wiedertäufern im Salzburgischen im sechzehnten Jahrhunderte” in Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie, ed. Christian Friedrich Illgen, vol. 2, part 2 (Leipzig: Verlag von Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1832), pp. 243-258
  • Friedrich Stehr, Die Vertreibung und Auswanderung der evangelisch gesinnten Salzburger und ihre Aufnahme in Preußen (Königsberg: Hartung’sche Hofbuchdruckerei, 1831)
  • Christian Ferdinand Schulze, Die Auswanderung der evangelischgesinnten Salzburger, mit Bezug auf die Auswanderung der evangelischgesinnten Zillerthaler (Gotha: Carl Gläser, 1838)
  • Johann Karl Friedrich Obstfelder, Die evangelischen Salzburger, ihre Auswanderung nach Preußen und ihr Durchzug durch Naumburg 1732 (Naumburg: Louis Garcke, 1857)
  • Theodor Krüger, Die Salzburger-Einwanderung in Preußen mit einem Anhange denkwürdiger Aktenstücke und die Geschichte des Salzburger-Hospitals zu Gumbinnen nebst dem Statute desselben (Gumbinnen, 1857)
  • Carl von Kessel, “Die Vertreibung der Protestanten aus Salzburg im Jahre 1732” in Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie, ed. Christian Wilhelm Niedner, vol. 23, no. 2 (Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1859), pp. 235-274
  • Rudolf Baxmann, “Die Vertreibung der Evangelischen aus dem Erzstifte Salzburg” in Protestantische Monatsblätter für innere Zeitgeschichte, ed. Heinrich Gelzer, vol. 16 (Gotha: Justus Perthes, 1860), pp. 194-206
  • Ludwig Clarus, Die Auswanderung der protestantisch gesinnten Salzburger in den Jahren 1731 und 1732 (Innsbruck: Vereins-Buchhandlung & Buchdruckerei, 1864)

Endnotes

1 Erdmann, or perhaps his editor, had Turgau for Lungau, but this is incorrect. In more recent times, the northern Salzburggau has been subdivided into the Flachgau and the Tennengau. Gau means province.

2 Erdmann simply had Achen, which appears to be the older, simpler name of the Krimmler Achen (see e.g. A Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany, rev. 9th ed. [London: John Murray, 1864], pp. 354-355).

3 Erdmann cited p. 90, but I was unable to identify the edition to which he was referring. The quote is found on p. 60 of the 1621 Frankfurt Latin edition (Historiae Concilii Tridentini Libri Octo); p. 62 of the 1622 “new edition” in Latin; p. 228 of the 1761 German Halle edition (Historie des Tridentinischen Concilii, erster Theil); p. 102 of the 1757 Italian “London” edition (Istoria del Concilio Tridentino, tomo primo; actually printed in Lyon or Geneva); and p. 52 of the 1676 English London edition (The History of the Council of Trent).

4 Erdmann cited the volume, no. 1, and the page numbers: 208, 213, and 216, respectively.

5 I have supplied the citation here (vol. 1, p. 558), since Erdmann omitted to do so. My translation is of Erdmann’s somewhat free German rendition of Luther’s Latin.

6 Erdmann cited the volume and page number: 2, 408. Regarding the translation, rf. endnote 5. Cf. Luthers Works (AE) 49:48-49; no. 135.

7 I have reproduced this account from Zauner in greater detail, since Erdmann, by abridging it, gave the impression to those unfamiliar with the geography of western Austria that the carousing, liberation, and beheading all took place in and around Mittersill.

8 This statement needs to be qualified in order to stand. Schärer does appear to have been the first martyr for the gospel in the Archbishopric of Salzburg. Christ himself identifies Abel and Zechariah as martyrs in the Old Testament (Luke 11:50,51). Many consider Stephen to be the first Christian martyr in the New Testament period (Acts 7:54-60), though an argument could be made on behalf of the holy innocents of Bethlehem for that title (Matthew 2:16-18). In the time of the Reformation, Luther himself considered the Augustinian monks Hendrik Vos and Johannes van den Esschen to be the first martyrs for the sake of the gospel, saying, “I thought I would be the first to be martyred for the sake of this holy gospel, but I am not worthy of it” (rf. Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation, pp. 102-103). They were burned at the stake in Brussels on July 1, 1523, almost five years before Georg Schärer’s beheading, and Luther penned his first hymn in their memory (cf. LW [AE] 53:211ff).

9 Rf. St. Louis Edition of Luther’s Works, vol. 10, cols. 1548ff. In the American Edition, this work is titled Concerning the Ministry (vol. 40, pp. 3ff).

10 Apparently referring to separate decrees

11 Rf. Peace of Westphalia Texts and Translations (accessed 27 Dec 2017).

12 While the Corpus Evangelicorum was organized as a corporation and agency of the Empire at the 1653 Diet, the diet that convened in Regensburg ten years later (1663) never dissolved, out of fear that the Emperor, who now (as of the Peace of Westphalia) had to abide by all its decisions, would no longer convene a diet, he being the only one who could legally do so. The 1663 Diet thus became a perpetual diet until the Empire fell in 1806. Erdmann’s original sentence, which includes “ever since 1663,” may refer to the perpectual efficacy of this agency beginning in that year.

13 First edition titled Seelenn ärtzney für gesund vnd krancken zu disen gafärlichen zeyten (Augsburg: Alexander Weyssenhorn, 1529).

14 First edition, consisting of the first of the eventual four books, printed in 1605 in Brunswick. All four books printed together in 1610 under the title Vier Bücher Von wahrem Christenthumb (Magdeburg: Joachim Böel).

15 First edition published in Magdeburg in 1612. A 1625 edition bears the title Paradiß-Gärtlein Voller Christlicher Tugenden (Strasbourg: Paulo Ledertz).

16 Erdmann is doubtless referring Johann Friedrich Starck’s immensely popular Tägliches Handbuch, but erroneously so. These Defereggers cannot have been acquainted with that book, since Starck had only been born three years earlier and his famous work was not published until 1727. The other reference is to Johann Habermann’s (or Avenarius’) Christliche Gebett für allerley Noth und Stände der ganzen Christenheit (1st ed.: Wittenberg, 1567). It underwent a second edition that same year and was frequently reprinted thereafter. It was often called simply Habermanns Betbüchlein (Habermann’s prayer booklet), and it is commonly recognized as the highest-selling Lutheran prayer book in history.

17 Throughout Schaitberger, a resident of Dürrnberg, is associated with the evangelical Defereggers, even though they were certainly involved in separate, even if related, incidents. Dürrnberg is separated from the Defereggen Valley by more than 100 miles.

18 Erdmann has 1708, and there was perhaps another printing that year, but the first printing appeared in 1702. The more well-known second edition, the Newly Enlarged Evangelical Circular (Neu-vermehrter Evangelischer Send-Brieff), made its debut in 1710 (see picture of title page above).

19 Erdmann has “so that those banished might be permitted to go and retrieve their wives and children,” which falsely gives the impression that a) Lerchner and Bremen had already been banished, and b) that those banished were also deprived of their wives in some cases.

20 The thumb, index finger, and middle finger of the right hand

21 Charles VI, r. 1711-1740.

22 Carl Ludolph Baron von Danckelmann, privy councilor to the king and only 32 years old at the time

23 This is usually inaccurately translated “Edict of Expulsion” with obvious Protestant bias. It certainly was an edict of expulsion, but that is not how the archbishop wished to present it.

24 Johan Jakob Spies, Die brandenburgischen historischen Münzbelustigungen, part 1 (Ansbach: Hofbuchhandlung, 1768). Erdmann mistakenly gives the date of the inscription as 1737. He also mistakenly cites p. 210. Pages 209-210 do feature another 1732 coin commemorating the Salzburg emigrants, with Friedrich Wilhelm’s portrait on the front and the words of Psalm 37:5 encircled by a garland on the back (see coin pictures above).

25 George II, r. 1727-1760, more properly titled the King of Great Britain

Luther Visualized 20 – Final Days

Luther’s Final Days

Luther’s Death House Museum, Andreaskirchplatz 7, Eisleben (2005). This has been an officially, though erroneously, designated memorial site since 1863.

Even though the quality of his work declined in his waning years, Martin Luther ended his life well.

His last actions show that he ended his life serving his neighbors in love. He spent the last days of his life at the end of January and beginning of February 1546 trying to help disputing counts resolve their differences in the city of Eisleben.

His last written words, found on a slip of paper in his pocket on February 16, show that he ended in humility:

1) No one can understand Vergil in his Bucolics and Georgics [poems about the life of a shepherd and a farmer], unless he has been a shepherd or farmer for five years.
2) No one (as I see it) will understand Cicero in his letters unless he has been active for 25 years in some prominent commonwealth.
3) Let no one think he has sufficiently tasted the Holy Scriptures, unless he has governed the churches for a hundred years with the prophets.

Enormous therefore is the phenomenon of
1) John the Baptist,
2) Christ, and
3) the apostles.

Do not tamper with this divine Aeneid [Vergil’s epic masterpiece], but bow down and adore its very footprints.
We are beggars; this is true.

And his last spoken words show that he ended trusting in his Savior. On the night of February 17, he suffered pains and tightness in his chest. He woke up at about 1 a.m. on February 18 and expressed matter-of-factly that he was going to die in the city where he had been born and baptized. He recited several Bible passages—John 3:16, Psalm 68:20, and especially Psalm 31:5, which he spoke three times in rapid succession: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit; you have redeemed me, God of truth.”

When he became very still, Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius addressed him loudly as it was perhaps approaching 2:30: “Reverend Father, are you ready to die standing firmly on Christ and the doctrine that you have proclaimed?”

Luther rallied his strength and spoke a distinct “Yes,” then fell asleep for the final time. At about 2:45 he grew very pale under his face, his feet and nose grew cold, and he took a deep but gentle breath and gave up his spirit peacefully.

Martin Luther’s Headstone (© Red Brick Parsonage, 2013). The Castle Church was being renovated when this photo was taken.

His mortal remains are still buried in a coffin almost eight feet beneath the floor under the pulpit of the Castle Church. It is humbling to stand in front of it and to ponder how the triune God used this frail, sinful human instrument. Those who believe in the Savior of the world as Luther did know that, if they were suddenly to collapse and die, right there in front of his grave or anywhere else on earth, their eternal destination is not in question. Heaven is their home, and it has nothing to do with them being such good people. By nature they deserve hell just like Luther and everybody else. But because of the good news of righteousness graciously given that was restored to its proper place through Luther, they know that they are not going to get what they deserve. They are going to get what their Savior has won for them.

Melanchthon’s words are true in more than one way: Et mortuus vivit. Even dead, he lives.

Luther’s Actual Death House

During his final days in Eisleben, Luther stayed with his friend Johann Albrecht, the city clerk. After Luther’s death, the house quickly developed into a popular pilgrimage destination. Visitors would bring pieces of his deathbed back home; these shavings were allegedly used by some to treat toothache. Since these superstitions were reminiscent of the relics cult that Luther had condemned, the evangelical theologians in Halle put an end to them in 1707 by unceremoniously burning Luther’s deathbed and having the house closed to the public.

In 1726 Eusebius Christian Francke, a cantor, historian, and amateur theologian, having already published a history of the Countship of Mansfeld in 1723, drew up a Versuch einer Historischen Beschreibung der Hauptstatt der Graffschaft Mannßfeld und weltberühmten Geburthsstadt Lutheri Eißleben (Attempt at a Historical Description of Eisleben, the Chief City of the Countship of Mansfeld and World-Renowned City of Luther’s Birth; manuscript in the Eisleben City Archives). In this work he identified the house at what is today Andreaskirchplatz 7 as Luther’s death house. However, he confused the house of Dr. Philipp Drachstedt, in which Luther had died, with the house of his son, Barthel Drachstedt, a mere 50 meters away. Though Francke’s work was never published, a later local chronicler consulted it and used its information towards the end of the century, thus legitimizing the error.

King Wilhelm I of Prussia bought the mistakenly identified house in 1862 and his government subsequently established it as a Luther memorial. The government also commissioned art professor Friedrich Wilhelm Wanderer in 1892 to oversee the renovation of two rooms in the museum, which were thought to be the ones mentioned in Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius’ report of Luther’s death. Wanderer was to see that these rooms were period-correct in style and filled visitors with a sense of reverence for the man who had supposedly died there.

In the late 1960s a chemist and amateur historian named Franz Rämmele was in the Eisleben Museum doing some research on the history of the Department of Central Labor of the Wilhelm Pieck Mansfeld Combine VEB (German abbreviation for Publicly Owned Company). He came across an ancient city plan which showed a street where Luther’s Death House should have been. Resolving to the get to the bottom of the mystery, he eventually synopsized his findings in an essay that he submitted to the museum for safekeeping; he also gave a copy to the Institute for Monument Preservation and filed another in the Mansfeld Combine Archives. Word began to spread in the city that Rämmele had discovered that Luther had actually died in the Socialist Unity Party of Germany’s district administration office for the Mansfeld Combine. The First Secretary of the administration, Ernst Wied, saw the rumors as an attack on the political party, which consistently painted Luther in a negative light. He summoned Rämmele and “made it clear that Luther already had a death house,” though Rämmele later claimed that the secretary’s fears were unfounded, because he never had any intention of publishing his findings.

In 2001 Dr. Eberhard Eigendorf caused a stir with his self-published work, Gab es in Eisleben Wohnschlösser der Mansfelder Grafen? In welchem Hause verstarb der Reformator Martin Luther am 18. Februar 1546? (Were There Residential Castles for the Counts of Mansfeld in Eisleben? In What House Did the Reformer Martin Luther Pass Away on February 18, 1546?) Both Eigendorf and Rämmele came to the same conclusion, that Martin Luther died at what is now Markt 56. The original building has long ago burned down. Today the site is occupied by the Hotel Graf von Mansfeld, a well-rated restaurant and hotel.

Nevertheless, the mistakenly identified building continues to serve as the official museum commemorating Luther’s final days on earth. In 2013, after a two-year renovation, it reopened with a permanent exhibition called “Luther’s Final Path.”

Sources
Andreas Ranft, ed., Sachsen und Anhalt: Jahrbuch der Historischen Kommission für Sachsen-Anhalt (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2003), vol. 24, p. 251

Burkhard Zemlin, “Martin Luthers Sterbehaus: Uralter Stadtplan hat stutzig gemacht” (accessed 4 December 2017)

E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times: The Reformation from a New Perspective (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950), pp. 745-752

Eusebius Christian Francke, Historie der Grafschafft Manßfeld (Leipzig: Jacob Schuster, 1723)

Franz Kadell, “Das echte und das falsche Sterbehaus” (accessed 4 December 2017)

Luther Visualized 18 – Physical Appearance

Lutherstadt Eisleben, “Sterbehaus” (accessed 4 December 2017)

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 369-382

Weimarer Ausgabe 48:241; 54:479ff, esp. 489ff

Luther Visualized 19 – In Decline

Luther’s Decline in Old Age

Left: Luther’s most infamous work, On the Jews and Their Lies (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1543). Right: Luther’s probably second-most infamous work, Against the Papacy in Rome, Instituted by the Devil (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545). For more on the accompanying woodcut by Lucas Cranach, see #8 below.

Luther historians like Martin Brecht would have us “guard against too hastily explaining Luther’s actions in the last years of his life as the grumpiness of an old man.” But those who think this is too easy or simple an explanation have not fought the fight Luther had to fight or experienced his frustrations and disappointments. (Rf. Daniel Deutschlander’s brilliant treatment of the Christian’s struggles in the so-called golden years in The Theology of the Cross, pp. 187-193. Luther’s struggles were compounded many times over.) In a letter to Jakob Probst, bishop of Bremen, dated March 26, 1542, he wrote, “I am exhausted by age and work, ‘old, cold, and sorry to behold’ (as they say).” He closed by saying, “I have had enough of this life, or more accurately, of this extremely bitter death.”

Nevertheless, increasing cantankerousness in advancing age is an explanation, not an excuse. Two of his mounting frustrations in particular got the better of him in these years.

That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew (Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach and Christian Döring, 1523).

Luther and the Jews
In 1523 Luther had written That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew. In addition to defending himself against false rumors in it, he also attempted to win the Jews of his day as converts to the Christian gospel. He suspected that the reason more Jews hadn’t converted to Christianity up to that point was because the only Christianity they had been able to convert to was that of the pope and his followers. “[T]hey have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs and not humans; they have afforded them nothing more than to insult them and take their property. … I hope that, if we deal with the Jews in a friendly way and give them careful instruction from Holy Scripture, many of them will become true Christians and return to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs.”

Luther then went on to demonstrate patiently and thoroughly that the Christian faith was indeed the faith of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs. He thought it enough to convince the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah; the teaching of Jesus’ divinity could wait for the time being. “For they have been led astray so badly and for such a long time that we must proceed cautiously with them… If we want to help them, then we must not practice the pope’s law with them but the law of Christian love, receiving them cordially and permitting them to trade and work with us. That way they will acquire the occasion and opportunity to be with us and around us and to hear and witness our Christian teaching and living.” He even joked that the papists might now begin to denounce him as a Jew as a result of the book.

Judensau, sandstone relief on the exterior of the parish church chancel in Wittenberg, c. 1304 (© Red Brick Parsonage, 2013).

Indeed, this book is remarkable when placed in the context of Luther’s thoroughly anti-Semitic culture. To this day you can visit the parish church in Wittenberg and see an anti-Semitic sandstone relief on the southeast corner of the building, called the Judensau or Jewish Sow, which preceded Luther’s arrival in Wittenberg by more than 200 years. It depicts Jewish boys suckling from a sow – an unclean animal in the Jewish religion (rf. Leviticus 11:1-8) – and a Jewish rabbi looking into the sow’s rear end to read the Talmud. This characterizes the world in which Luther grew up, lived, and worked.

But Luther’s hopes for the conversion of many Jews – hopes he also expressed in a letter he wrote to his friend Bernhard, a baptized Jew, in May or June 1523 – were not realized, and he grew increasingly frustrated with them on the whole. In part, his disappointments were fueled by reports and rumors about the Jews originating with Jewish converts to Christianity. After receiving and reading an unidentified treatise containing a dialogue between a Jew and a Christian in an attempt to convert Christians to Judaism, Luther penned On the Jews and Their Lies (pictured at the head) at the end of 1542. The first two sections were relatively tame, but the third section is now infamous. In view of the frightful rumors surrounding their activity and their supposedly negative effect on the economy, Luther advised the following (directly quoted from the book):

  1. to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn…
  2. that their houses also be razed and destroyed. … Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies.
  3. that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings…be taken from them.
  4. that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.
  5. that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.
  6. that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. … Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest.
  7. putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… But if we are afraid that they might harm us or our wives, children, servants, cattle, etc., if they had to serve and work for us…then let us emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc. [further proof of the anti-Semitic world in which Luther lived], compute with them how much their usury has extorted from us, divide this amicably, but then eject them forever from the country.

Martin Sasse, Regional Bishop of Thuringia, ed., Martin Luther on the Jews: Away with Them!, a 1938 pamphlet defending the events of the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht).

Not surprisingly, this work was later utilized by Hitler and the Nazis to try and attract Christians to their cause.

On the one hand, it is folly merely to equate Luther’s religious post-judice (frustration resulting from the Jews’ rejection of the gospel) with Hitler and the Nazi leaders’ racial prejudice (fundamental disdain for the Jewish ethnicity). On the other hand, especially if we are Lutheran, we must acknowledge two things:

  1. The deep contradiction in Luther’s own theology, not only when compared to what he condemned and advocated in his earlier and better 1523 work, but also when compared to his previous assertions about the distinction between Church and State and the roles of each. For example, in his Admonition to Peace (1525) he had written that “no ruler ought to prevent anyone from teaching or believing what he pleases, whether it is the gospel or lies. It is enough if he prevents the teaching of sedition and rebellion.” But in On the Jews and Their Lies Luther tries to defend and advance Christ’s kingdom using the power of worldly government, even though Christ himself said his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).
  2. Even supposing that it were biblical to enlist the power of the State in defending and advancing Christ’s kingdom, Luther’s advice in this work would still be unchristian and abominable. How could such treatment ever win hearts, which is what Christianity is always after?

Luther and the Pope
This series has already covered Luther’s biblical conviction of the papacy as the Antichrist. In February and March 1545 Luther gave full, unrestrained vent to his pent-up frustrations with the pope, who had already convoked the Council of Trent (rf. woodcut #3 below). The result was Against the Papacy in Rome, Instituted by the Devil (pictured at the head), printed at the end of March.

While he was working on this book, he also designed a series of ten depictions of the papacy—not in the sense of drawing them himself, but in the sense of describing what he wanted artist Lucas Cranach to produce for him. He also composed a short poem, consisting of two distichs, to accompany each one. Cranach then created the woodcuts according to Luther’s designs and had them published with a Latin title at the top and Luther’s poem at the bottom of each. Today this collection of woodcuts is called Abbildung des Papsttums, or Portrayal of the Papacy. They consist of the following, with Luther’s corresponding poem as the caption of each:

1. Birth and Origin of the Pope – A she-devil gives birth to the pope and cardinals. In the background on the right Megaera, one of the Furies in Greek mythology (the Furies executed the curses pronounced on criminals), serves as the baby pope’s wet-nurse. Alecto, another of the Furies, serves as his nursemaid, rocking him and feeding him honey. Tisiphone, the last of the Furies, teaches the toddler pope to walk. Luther himself criticized Cranach for depicting the pope’s birth so crudely, saying that he should have been more considerate of the female sex.

Hier wird geborn der Widerchrist
Megera sein Seugamme ist:
Alecto sein Kindermegdlin
Tisiphone die gengelt jn.

2. The Monster of Rome, Found Dead in the Tiber River in 1496 – This was actually a reprint of a 1523 woodcut by Cranach. The births of freaks or “monsters” in Luther’s day were viewed as evil omens or signs (informative post on this here). So when Melanchthon found out about an alleged monster that had been found dead in the Tiber River in 1496 with head of a donkey, the body of a woman, the skin of a fish, different kinds of feet, and so on (see all the details in the woodcut), and shared it with Luther, Luther of course took it as a sign that God was telling people what the bishop of Rome had become. This depiction was commonly called der Papstesel, the pope-ass, which also unfortunately became the common way not a few German evangelicals referred to the pope.

Was Gott selbs von dem Bapstum helt
Zeigt dis schrecklich bild hie gestelt:
Dafür jederman grawen solt
Wenn ers zu hertzen nemen wolt.

3. The Pope Gives a Council in Germany – The council initially announced in 1536 (the announcement that prompted the Smalcald Articles of 1537) was finally convened by the pope in Trento—a city at the time in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation—in December 1545, the now infamous Council of Trent. However by that time Luther and his followers had given up all hope of a council correcting Roman doctrine and practice and restoring the relationship between the Roman Church and the Lutherans. Here the pope giving a council is depicted as him riding a sow with a handful of his own waste in his hand, which the sow sniffs at greedily and to which the pope gives his paternal blessing. Basically Luther is saying that the pope views Germany as a sow which he can ride as he wishes and to which he can feed his waste—namely whatever decisions the council would render—and the pope expects Germany to be happy with all of it.

Saw du must dich lassen reiten.
Und wol sporen zu beiden seiten.
Du wilt han ein Concilium
Ja dafür hab dir mein merdrum:

4. The Pope as Doctor of Theology and Master of the Faith – Luther’s own biting poem beneath this woodcut says it all: “The pope alone can interpret the Scriptures and sweep out error—just as much as the ass alone can play the pipes and understand the notes correctly.”

Der Bapst kan allein auslegen
Die schrifft: und jrthum ausfegen
Wie der Esel allein pfeiffen
Kan: und die noten recht greiffen.

5. The Pope Thanks the Emperors for the Immense Benefits He Has Received – Pope Clement IV is depicted as beheading Conradin of Hohenstaufen (1252-1268), King of Sicily and Naples. Clement doubtless did not perform the execution himself, but was responsible for it. Luther used this as a metaphor for the pope’s ingratitude for all the benefits that had been given to the papacy by the emperors over the years.

Gros gut die Kaiser han gethan
Dem Bapst: und ubel gelegt an.
Dafür jm der Bapst gedanckt hat
Wie dis bild dir die warheit sagt.

6. Here the Pope, Obedient to St. Peter, Pays Honor to the King – This woodcut, not pictured here, also was not included in some editions of the collection. It shows the pope placing his foot on the neck of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and so the title is clearly sarcastic. The apostle Peter says to submit to kings and honor them (1 Peter 2:13,17), but the pope, who is the supposed successor of St. Peter, does the opposite. Luther’s accompanying poem reads: “Here the pope openly shows by his deeds that he is the enemy of God and men. What God creates and wants to have honored, the most holy man tramples with his feet.”

7. The Just Rewards of the Most Satanic Pope and His Cardinals – In his poem, Luther said that if the pope and cardinals were to receive what they deserved in the form of earthly punishment (and not just the eternal punishment they can anticipate), this is what it would look like. The pope (on the far right) and three cardinals hang from a gallows. Because of their blasphemies against God and his word, their tongues are nailed to the gallows next to their heads (the hangman is in the process of nailing the pope’s tongue to the crosspiece). Demons receive their souls and carry them away.

Wenn zeitlich gestrafft solt werden:
Bapst und Cardinel auff erden,
Jr lesterzung verdienet het:
Wie jr recht hie gemalet steht.

8. The Kingdom of Satan and the Pope (2 Thessalonians 2) – This is by far the most famous of the woodcuts, since it was also used for the title page of Against the Papacy in Rome, Instituted by the Devil. The pope, with long donkey ears, sits enthroned in the jaws of hell and is waited on by various demons.

Jn aller Teufel namen sitzt
Alhie der Bapst: offenbart jtzt:
Das er sey der recht Widerchrist
So in der schrift verkündigt ist:

9. Here the Kissing of the Pope’s Feet Is Taunted – The pope is holding his ban or excommunication, which is emanating rays. In order to avoid having the ban fall upon them, these two peasants have been summoned to kiss the pope’s feet in repentance. Instead they curse his ban (“Maledetta” is Italian for “damned or accursed thing”), turn around to leave, moon him (in his poem, Luther calls this showing the pope the “Bel vedere,” Italian for “beautiful sight”), and pass gas at him as they go.

Nicht Bapst: nicht schreck uns mit deim bann
Und sey nicht so zorniger man.
Wir thun sonst ein gegen wehre
Und zeigen dirs Bel vedere.

10. The Pope Is Worshipped As an Earthly God – On a podium (altar?) decorated with the papal keys (which, however, are mere skeleton keys, showing that they have no power, because the pope does not use them according to Christ’s institution) sits an inverted papal tiara or crown. A peasant is defecating into it, while another one gets ready to do so. Luther’s poem for this woodcut reads: “The pope has done to Christ’s kingdom as they are treating his crown here. ‘Pay her back double,’ says the Spirit [in Revelation 18:6]. ‘Go ahead and fill it up’ [a play on his own translation of Rev 18:7]—it is God who says so.” To paraphrase: After all the “crap” the pope, as fallen Babylon, has given you true Christians, put twice as much crap in his crown for him to wear.

Bapst hat dem reich Christi gethon
Wie man hie handelt seine Cron. (Apo. 18)
Machts jr zweifeltig. spricht der geist
Schenkt getrost ein: Got ists ders heist

It will come as no surprise that, as went the woodcuts, so went the book. Luther speaks the truth, but he does so in such incredibly crude and indefensible ways that he must fall under the apostle Paul’s judgment of being “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Here is a characteristic excerpt:

This, this, this is how one should lie and blaspheme if he wants to be a real pope. Dear God, what a completely and exceedingly brazen and blasphemous lying yapper the pope is. He speaks just as though there were no one on earth who knew that the four chief councils, and many others besides, were held without the Roman Church. Instead he thinks this way: “Since I am an uncivilized ass and do not read books, then there must not be anyone in the world who reads them. But when I sound out my assy braying – Hee-aw! Hee-aw! [German: Chika, Chika] – or if I just let out an ass fart, then they had better regard it all as an article of faith. If not, then Saints Peter and Paul, yes, God himself will be angry with them.” For God is not God anymore; there is only the Ass-God in Rome, where the great, uncivilized asses (the pope and the cardinals) ride on asses that are better than they.

It should go without saying that no Lutheran wears that badge because he worships Luther or thinks he was inspired by the Holy Spirit or without sin. Lutherans wear that badge because of Luther’s Christo-centric theology with its emphasis on grace, faith in Christ, and the authority of Holy Scripture.

Sources
Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, ed., Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, fünfter Theil (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1828), pp. 450-452 (no. 2056)

Woodcuts and distichs from Abbildung des Papsttums in Ein Buch allerlei Rüstung von der Hand darein zu schreiben geistlich und weltlich, pp. 42-59

Helmar Junghans, Wittenberg als Lutherstadt, 2nd ed. (Union Verlag Berlin, 1982), picture #10

Helmut T. Lehmann and Eric W. Gritsch, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 41:257ff

Helmut T. Lehmann and Walther I. Brandt, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1962), 45:195ff

Helmut T. Lehmann and Robert C. Schultz, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 46:22

Helmut T. Lehmann and Franklin Sherman, eds., Luther’s Works, trans. Martin H. Bertram (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 47:121ff, esp. pp. 137,268ff

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), pp. 112-113

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 229-235, 333-351, 357-367

Martin Luther, Das Jhesus Christus eyn geborner Jude sey (Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach and Christian Döring, 1523)

Martin Luther, Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545)

St. Louis Edition of Luther’s Works 20:1822-1825

Luther Visualized 18 – Physical Appearance

Martin Luther’s Physical Appearance

Luther historian E. G. Schwiebert wrote that Lucas Cranach’s “zeal in reproducing the Reformer outstripped his talent,” and called it “most regrettable” that Luther was never sketched or painted by a more talented artist like Albrecht Dürer or Hans Holbein the Younger (p. 571). However, while Cranach’s reproductions are not exactly photographic, he and the members of his studio were certainly not lacking in skill.

Apart from Cranach’s reproductions of the man, which began in 1520, there was, to our knowledge, only one earlier depiction of him, an anonymous woodcut (#9 below) on the title page of Ein Sermon geprediget tzu Leipßgk uffm Schloß am tag Petri un pauli ym .xviiij. Jar / durch den wirdigen vater Doctorem Martinum Luther augustiner zu Wittenburgk (A Sermon Preached at the Castle in Leipzig on the Day of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Year [15]19 by the Worthy Father, Doctor Martin Luther, Augustinian in Wittenberg), printed by Wolfgang Stöckel in Leipzig. Both this woodcut, originally printed in reverse, and another anonymous woodcut, not included in this post, are consistent with Schwiebert’s assertion that for “the first thirty-eight years of his life [up until 1521] he was extremely thin” (p. 573). The latter woodcut is consistently depicted but erroneously cited in Luther biographies (e.g. Schwiebert, p. 574, where he calls it the “earliest known likeness” without citation or proof, and Brecht, vol. 1, p. 412, where he gives an erroneous source, as evidenced from the actual source he cites, whose woodcut is based on #1 below).

As for the reproductions originating with Cranach and his studio in Wittenberg during Luther’s lifetime (#8 excepted), they can be classified into 8 groups (medium and year[s] that the depictions originated and flourished in parentheses):

  1. Luther the Monk (copper engraving, 1520; variously copied and embellished by a number of artists)
  2. Luther the Doctor of Theology (paintings, c. 1520; copper engraving, 1521)
  3. Luther as Junker Jörg (paintings and woodcut, 1521-1522)
  4. Luther the Husband (paintings, 1525 & 1526)
  5. The Classic Luther (paintings, 1528-1529)
  6. Luther the Professor (paintings, 1532-1533)
  7. Luther the Aging Man (paintings, 1540-1541)
  8. Luther on His Deathbed (painting based on Lukas Fortennagel’s sketch of the dead Luther, 1546)

The other three visual depictions included below are the already mentioned anonymous woodcut (#9), a sketch of Luther lecturing by Johann Reifenstein (#10), and Fortennagel’s already mentioned painting (#11). Scroll down beneath the engravings, woodcuts, and paintings for more on Luther’s appearance.

1. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk, copper engraving, 1520. The caption reads: “The eternal images of his mind Luther himself expresses, while the wax of Lucas expresses the perishable looks.”

2. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther with Doctor’s Cap, copper engraving, 1521. The caption reads: “The work of Lucas. This is a transient depiction of Luther; the eternal depiction of his mind he himself expresses.”

2. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk with Doctor’s Cap, oil on panel, c. 1520 (erroneous “1517” in the upper left-hand corner); housed in a private collection. These paintings circa 1520 are lesser known and therefore both are included here.

2. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther, oil on panel, c. 1520, since transferred to canvas; housed in the Lutherhaus Museum in Wittenberg.

3. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther as Junker Jörg [Gentleman George], oil on beechwood, 1521-1522; housed in the Weimar Classics Foundation. Martin Luther likely posed for this painting during his secret trip to Wittenberg in the first half of December 1521, but cf. next image.

3. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther as Junker Jörg, woodcut, 1522. The Latin superscription accompanying this woodcut read: “The image of Martin Luther, portrayed as he appeared when he returned from Patmos [Luther’s own biblical nickname for the Wartburg Castle] to Wittenberg.”

4. Lucas Cranach, Portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, oil on beechwood, 1525; housed in the Basel Art Museum.

4. Lucas Cranach’s Studio, Portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, oil on beechwood, 1525-1526; housed in the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster.

5. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther, oil on panel, 1528; housed in the Art Collections of the Veste Coburg. Cf. the similar painting in the Lutherhaus Museum.

6. Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther, oil on beechwood, 1533; housed in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. The prototype for this painting, done on parchment in 1532 and housed in Drumlanrig Castle in Thornhill, Scotland, is one of Cranach’s boldest and finest depictions of Luther.

7. Lucas Cranach’s Studio, Martin Luther, oil on panel, c. 1541; housed in the Lutherhaus Museum, Wittenberg.

8. Lucas Cranach’s Studio, Martin Luther on His Deathbed, oil on oak, 1546; housed in the Lower Saxony State Museum, Hanover. See commentary above.

9. Anonymous, Doctor Martin Lutter [sic] Augustinian, woodcut, 1519. See commentary above.

10. Johann Reifenstein, Luther lecturing in the classroom, sketch, 1545. The inscription was added in 1546 by Melanchthon. It begins with oft-quoted words of Luther: “While alive, I was your plague; when I die, I will be your death, O pope.” After some obituary-esque information, it concludes: “Even dead, he lives.”

11. Lukas Fortennagel, The Dead Luther, sketch, February 19, 1546.

While Cranach did have a virtual monopoly on Luther with regard to visual depictions, there are also written depictions that help us to complete our image of the man. Schwiebert gives the most complete treatment on the subject that I have read:

Vergerio, the papal nuncio, noted that Luther had a heavy, well-developed bone structure and strong shoulders… The Swiss student Kessler accidentally met Luther at the Hotel of the Black Bear in Jena when Luther was returning to Wittenberg from the Wartburg, still dressed as a knight. Kessler wrote in his Sabbata that Luther walked very “erect, bending backwards rather than forwards, with face raised toward heaven.” Erasmus Alber, the table companion, described Luther as well-proportioned and spoke of his general appearance in highest praise. …

One important aspect of his general appearance, noted by every observer, was Luther’s unusual eyes. Melanchthon made a casual remark that Luther’s eyes were brown and compared them to the eyes of a lion or falcon. Kessler, when he became Luther’s pupil, observed that his professor had “deep black eyes and brows, sparkling and burning like stars, so that one could hardly bear looking at them.” Erasmus Alber also likened them to falcon’s eyes. Melanchthon added the observation that the eyes were brown, with golden rings around the edges, as in the case of eagles or men of genius. Nikolaus Selnecker also compared Luther’s eyes to those of a hawk, falcon, fox, and eagle, having a fiery, burning sparkle. …

[Roman] Catholics, on the other hand, saw in these eyes diabolic powers. After the first meeting with Luther at Augsburg, [Cardinal] Cajetan would have no more to do with this man, the “beast with the deep-seated eyes,” because “strange ideas were flitting through his head.” Aleander wrote in his dispatches to the Pope that when Luther left his carriage at Worms, he looked over the crowd with “demoniac eyes.” Johannes Dantiscus, later a [Roman] Catholic bishop, visited Wittenberg in 1523 and noticed that Luther’s eyes were “unusually penetrating and unbelievably sparkling as one finds them now and then in those that are possessed.” His enemies also commonly compared him to a basilisk, that fabulous reptile which hypnotizes and slowly crawls upon its helpless prey. …

Another attribute which greatly enhanced Luther’s physical qualifications as a preacher and professor was his voice. It was clear, penetrating, and of pleasing timbre, which, added to its sonorous, baritone resonance, contributed much to his effectiveness as a public speaker. … Luther’s students enjoyed his classroom lectures because of the pleasing qualities of his delivery. Erasmus Alber added that he never shouted, yet his clear, ringing voice could easily be heard.

Sources
Cranach Digital Archive, combined with the power of Google

E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times: The Reformation from a New Perspective (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950), pp. 571-576

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 318,412

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), Plates between pp. 14 & 15, and p. 378

Luther Visualized 17 – Smalcald Articles

The Smalcald Articles

MS (employed in Lucas Cranach’s studio), The Eighteenth Figure, woodcut, 1534.

This figure was printed immediately above Revelation 13 in the first edition of Luther’s translation of the entire Bible (1534). That chapter first describes a seven-headed beast coming out of the sea, representing civil government in its antichristian aspect, and then a beast coming out of the earth with two horns like the Lamb but speaking like the Dragon, representing the Antichrist himself. About the second beast, the apostle John says, “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast… And he performs great signs so that he even makes fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men” (Rev 13:12,13). Notice that the artist portrayed the beast out of the earth wearing a monk’s cowl and cloak, as Lucas Cranach had in the 1522 New Testament.

At first Martin Luther was befuddled and frustrated about the refusal of the pope and his legates to hear him out and to join him in reforming the church on the basis of clear testimonies of Holy Scripture. But as he continued to study Scripture, he gradually came to a realization of what or whom he was actually up against. This growing suspicion was confirmed for him when on October 10, 1520, he received the pope’s bull (official decree) threatening his excommunication if he did not retract his teachings. The next day he wrote to his friend Georg Spalatin, the elector’s court secretary: “I feel much more free now that I am made certain that the pope is the Antichrist.”

Luther most clearly articulated his views on the Antichrist in the articles of faith he prepared in 1536 in preparation for a council that Pope Paul III had convoked, to be held in Mantua, Italy, in May 1537. Elector John Frederick had asked Luther to compose the articles on the Lutherans’ behalf. He wanted Luther to distinguish between articles of faith in which they could not yield anything without committing treason against God and his Word and articles in which they could perhaps yield something for the sake of Christian love without violating God’s word. But he also asked Luther for a confession that was clearer than the Augsburg Confession with respect to the pope.

Luther finished the rough draft in December 1536 and submitted it to seven other theologians. With very few changes it was unanimously adopted (though Melanchthon gave it a somewhat qualified subscription), and the elector was also pleased with it. The council never took place during Luther’s lifetime, but the confession Luther composed still gained widespread acceptance among Lutheran theologians in the following years. It became known as the Smalcald Articles because it was circulated and read at Schmalkalden by the large number of theologians and scholars that assembled there in February 1537. Even though it was never officially discussed or accepted there due to Melanchthon’s intrigues and Luther’s illness, Johannes Bugenhagen did present it to them for their voluntary, personal subscription after official business had been concluded, and 44 men signed it in all. It received official confessional status when it was included in the Book of Concord of 1580. (You can read it online here.)

MS (employed in Cranach’s studio), The Twenty-First Figure, woodcut, 1534. This image is based on Revelation 17. The great prostitute of Babylon, representing the unfaithful element within the visible Christian church, sits upon the seven-headed, ten-horned beast (Rev 13:1-10). In her left hand she holds “a golden cup…full of abominations and the filth of her adulteries” (17:4). Note also the triple-tiered papal tiara on her head.

The Smalcald Articles stand out in at least three ways. First, Luther presents the doctrine of justification by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone as the core of Scripture from which all other scriptural doctrine emanates and radiates. Second, he also gave a clearer confession about the Lord’s Supper than even the Augsburg Confession did. And third, he also gave a clear confession about the bishop of Rome. He wrote:

[T]here stand all [the pope’s] bulls and books, in which he roars like a lion…that no Christian can be saved without being obedient and subject to him in all that he wishes, all that he says, all that he does. … All of this powerfully demonstrates that he is the true christ of the end times or Antichrist, who has opposed and exalted himself over Christ [cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4]. For he will not permit Christians to be saved apart from his power, even though his power is nothing, neither established nor commanded by God. … Finally, it is nothing but the devil himself at work when [the pope] pushes his lies about masses, purgatory, the monastic life, and human works and worship [cf. Mark 7:6-8] (which is in fact the essence of the papacy) over and against God, and condemns, kills, and harasses all Christians who do not exalt and honor this abomination of his above all things.

Lucas Cranach’s Studio, woodcut opposite Chapter 11 of Revelation in the September 1522 edition of Luther’s translation of the New Testament (left) and the December 1522 edition (right). Note the difference between the beast’s crown in each.

Once Luther was convinced that the Roman papacy was the Antichrist, he wasted no time making it known in his writings and using the artist at his disposal, Lucas Cranach, to reinforce it visually. He had Cranach portray “the beast that comes up from the Abyss” with the triple-tiered papal tiara to accompany Revelation 11 in the first edition (September 1522) of his translation of the New Testament. Probably at the complaint of the Imperial Council of Regency (Reichsregiment), the papal tiara had to be replaced in the second edition (December 1522) by a simple crown.

MS (employed in Cranach’s studio), The Fifteenth Figure, woodcut, 1534. This image corresponds to Cranach’s images from 1522 above.

However, when Luther’s translation of the entire Bible was being prepared for publication in 1534, and the as-yet-unidentified MS from Cranach’s workshop was preparing woodcuts for it based in large part on Cranach’s previous woodcuts, the triple-tiered papal tiara was restored. (See image on the right.)

Christoph Walther, a proofreader and typesetter in Hans Lufft’s print shop in Wittenberg, confirmed that Luther wasn’t just responsible for the translation, but also for much of the artwork:

Luther himself dictated to some extent how the figures in the Wittenberg Bible were supposed to be depicted and portrayed, and demanded that the content of the text be portrayed and depicted in the simplest way, and he would not tolerate anything superfluous or useless that did not benefit the text getting smeared in with the rest.

Lucas Cranach’s Studio, woodcut opposite Chapter 17 of Revelation in the September 1522 edition of Luther’s translation of the New Testament (left) and the December 1522 edition (right). Note the difference between the prostitute’s crown in each. These images were the basis for MS’s The Twenty-First Figure above.

Sources
Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, ed., Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, erster Theil (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1825), pp. 238ff (no. 127), 419f (no. 204), 494f (no. 262)

Friedrich Bente, Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), pp. 109-138

Hans Lietzmann, Heinrich Bornkamm, et al., eds., Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), pp. xxiv-xxvii

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), pp. 46-56

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 95-102,178-185

Stephan Füssel, Die Luther-Bibel von 1534: Ein kulturhistorische Einführung (Cologne: Taschen, 2012), pp. 43-44,61

The September (New) Testament (1522)

The December (New) Testament (1522)

Biblia / das ist / die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch: Das Newe Testament (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1534)

“Die Schmalkaldischen Artikel” in the Weimarer Ausgabe, vol. 50, pp. 160ff, esp. pp. 213ff

Luther Visualized 16 – Busyness and Health

Luther’s Busyness and Ill Health

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Predella of the Reformation Altar in Wittenberg, oil on panel, 1547.

The painting shows Luther preaching, of which he did plenty. From May 1528 to June 1529 and from October 1530 to April 1532, for example, the parish church’s regular pastor, Johannes Bugenhagen, was on leave introducing the Reformation in cities like Brunswick (Braunschweig), Hamburg, and Lübeck, and Luther had to take over his preaching duties in the meantime. Toward the end of 1531, Luther told his table companions, “I am extremely busy. Four people are relying on me, and each one of them was in need of someone all to him- or herself. I’m supposed to preach four times during the week, lecture twice, marriage cases need to be heard and letters need to be written, plus I’m supposed to work on books for publication.”

The pulpit from which Luther preached thousands of sermons in the Wittenberg parish church, today housed in the Lutherhaus museum in Wittenberg (© Red Brick Parsonage, 2013). The two reliefs are of the apostles and evangelists Matthew (left) and John (right).

Several details in the Cranach painting above merit further comment. The writing in Luther’s Bible is indistinct; regardless of his sermon text, he can and ought to point his audience to Jesus (John 5:39). The audience consists of people of every age; the gospel of Jesus is for all (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15; Luke 18:15-17). Cranach painted himself in the front of the male audience; he viewed the message of Christ crucified for sinners as one needed by him first (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15,16). Katy and little Hans Luther are in the front of the female audience; even the reformer’s son needed to be restrained and taught to stay still and listen. In spite of the fact that the great reformer himself is preaching, there are still some in the audience paying attention to the “picture-taker” and not to God’s Word. At his table in the evening of December 26, 1531, Luther told his companions, “My preaching is useless. It’s like a man who sings in a forest to the trees and hears only the glad-sounding echo in return.” And yet, as he went on to say, “although many people badmouth [gospel preaching], it is still good to preach Christ for the sake of the few who do not.”

In addition to the strain of his professional duties and callings as husband and father, Luther also suffered at various times from the following health issues:

  • Periods of depression occasioned by personal doubts, disease and death in his circle of family and friends, disturbances in the church, and the other health problems in this list
  • Constipation
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Ménière’s (pronounced mane-YAIRZ) disease
  • Recurring dizzy and fainting spells (likely caused by the previous)
  • Soreness in his teeth and throat
  • Recurring kidney stones (the most famous instance in February 1537)
  • Gallstones
  • Abscess on the lower part of one of his legs
  • Recurring colds
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe heart attack in December 1536
  • Dysentery
  • Abscess on his neck
  • Recurring headaches toward the end of his life
  • Gout
  • Arthritis
  • Loss of sight in one eye (cataract?)
  • Exacerbation of health issues from ill-advised treatments

Luther had definitely abused his body earlier in his life with, for example, his excessive fasting in the monastery. His life then changed drastically when he got married and went from not taking good care of himself to eating regular homemade meals prepared by his wife—a change to which his body probably never completely adjusted. But ultimately, it was the Lord who used these recurring health issues to keep Luther from becoming conceited, to show him the all-sufficiency of his grace, and to demonstrate that his power is made perfect in weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Sources
E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950), pp. 580,581,748-750

Kurt K. Hendel, Johannes Bugenhagen: Selected Writings, vol. 1 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), pp. 33-53

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), pp. 204-211,429-433

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 21-23,185-188,229-235

Weimarer Ausgabe, Tischreden 1:73, no. 154; 2:417-418, no. 2320