Originally published in German in 1906, The Mother of the Reformation presents a compelling portrait for those desiring to know more about this quietly influential Reformation character. Mark DeGarmeaux brings the warmth of Kroker’s writing to a new generation of those interested in the Reformation and especially Katie, the woman behind the hammer.
The excerpt below details the quick wedding plans.
Luther Chooses Katie
For old Hans Luther it was no different than if he had buried a son when the message came that his Martinus had entered the monastery. “My son,” he had said when he first saw him again, “don’t you know that you are supposed to honor your father?” And when the young monk objected that a heavenly call had led him to the monastery, the old man answered dryly: “What if it was only a ghost that was with you!” What a joy it must have been for him to hear then that his son had left the monastery. With what pride as well, with what concern in quiet Mansfeld he would have followed the earth-shattering path of Doctor Martinus from Wittenberg to Worms, and to the Wartburg and back to Wittenberg! His son’s teachings had grown in his heart. When he was later asked on his deathbed by Pastor Michael Cölius whether he also believed in it, his last words were: It would have to be a very sad person, who would not believe it.
A hard, tough man from lower Saxony, Hans Luther had gotten ahead by a life full of work. And now he was completely content to have a benevolent God for the world to come, and for this world a faithful, industrious wife, and pious, obedient children. He wished the same happiness for his son, and, as we hear from Luther, this desire of his father, yes, his express demand that he should marry, had a crucial influence on his decision. A few days after his visit with his parents, in a letter to Doctor Rühel on May 4, he called Katie his Katie for the first time and declared his sincere intent to marry her, to spite the devil, before he died.
The next weeks, however, were not suitable for carrying out marriage plans. They were filled rather with the storm of the Thuringian peasant revolt. But already on May 5 the princes, who nevertheless bore the chief blame for the rebellion by their harsh oppression and abuse of the rural people, were able to squelch them in the massacre of the battle at Frankenhausen, and even afterwards through cruel punishments. In those crucial days also came the death of Fredrick the Wise, who was succeeded as Elector by his brother John the Steadfast.
It had fallen over Germany like a frost in springtime, and although the seed, which Luther had sown already, stood strong enough to withstand the tempest, nevertheless he was afraid of having to start all over. He probably would have waited to marry even longer in this troubled time, when vile gossip induced him to move quickly. Ugly rumors were spread about him and Katie. They were blatant lies, as Melanchthon also attested, but lies can swell like an avalanche. To stop all the slander, Luther married Katharine von Bora on June 13, a surprise to even his closest friends, but carefully observing the usual customs of the land.
In the museum at Braunschweig, where one can see Luther’s gold Doctor’s ring, Luther’s wedding ring is kept as well, a golden double ring with a tall little box. A diamond is inlaid in the upper surface, the symbol of steadfast faithfulness; as well as a ruby, the symbol of pure love. The little box can be moved aside just like the double ring, and then inside, under the diamond, one sees the letters MLD (Martin Luther, Doctor) and under the ruby the letters CVB (Catharina von Bora). On the inside of the two rings are the words:
Since this ring and Luther’s Doctor’s ring had earlier belonged to the house of the Saxon prince, there is no reason to doubt their authenticity. Katie’s wedding ring is also genuine, kept in the city-historical museum in Leipzig. It displays a ruby in the center, and on both sides the crucified Christ and the instruments of the Passion. Inside the ring are the words: “D. Martinus Lutherus, Catharina u. Boren” and underneath: “13 June 1525.”
From The Mother of the Reformation: The Amazing Life and Story of Katharine Luther, pages 64–65, 71 © 2013 Mark E. DeGarmeaux, published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To order The Mother of the Reformation, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit www.cph.org.