On this day when we commemorate Katharina von Bora Luther, we remember her and her friends’ daring escape from the Nimbschen convent, as told in Katharina von Bora: A Reformation Life.
The nuns chose Easter Eve for their escape. . . . The Vigil of Easter brought a change to the routine of Marienthron’s carefully prescribed worship hours. On no other occasion were the sisters permitted to stay up so late. . . . As the others went to their quarters to make up for lost sleep and to be ready for the next morning, 12 nuns were on alert. Katharina and her friends awaited morning—Christ’s resurrection!—in anticipation of their “divine liberation” from the Nimbschen convent. . . .
Early on Easter Sunday 1523, the sisters prayerfully began another vigil. In utter silence and darkness sat Magdalene von Staupitz, Else von Kanitz, Lanita von Golis, Ave Grossin, Fronika von Zeschau, Margarete von Zeschau, Margarete von Schönfeld, Katharina von Bora, Ave von Schönfeld, and three other nuns. What went through their minds as they waited? Perhaps doubts crept in: What if Koppe became lost in the dark, strayed into Duke George’s territory, was intercepted, arrested, and forced to reveal the plan? What if the abbess heard us and came here to stop our escape and punish us? What if the men at the gate . . . ?
Suddenly a sharp sound, like the cracking of a whip, penetrated the walls. It was the appointed sign of the arrival of the escape vehicle. In soundless joy and with trepidation the sisters moved quickly to the garden gate or the lowest part of the cloister wall to be helped into the waiting wagon.
It was a bittersweet departure for the sisters. The oldest, Magdalene, had lived at the convent for decades. The youngest, Katharina and Ave von Schönfeld, had belonged to the cloister for nearly half their lives. But their exodus was also sweet: For the first time in their adult lives, they had made a decision on their own. They had chosen independence. . . .
The fugitives experienced an arduous journey; the wagon planks were hard, and blankets probably were not available to soften the bumps. . . . [But] soon came the faint sound of bells from the church towers of Torgau. They were ringing in Easter. Pushing the canvas cover aside, the sisters could see the outline of the castle, and they knew they were near a safe haven. Torgau was the city of Elector Frederick the Wise, Luther’s protector and sovereign. It is not hard to envision the happiness of Katharina and her sisters when they realized they were free at last.
Devotional reading is taken from Katharina von Bora: A Reformation Life, pages 45–48 © 2002 Rudolf K. Markwald and Marilynn Morris Markwald. Published by Concordia Publishing House.