The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

10
THE JOURNEY TO ROME

FOR the two years or more following the course of lectures on the Sentences contemporary sources regarding Martin's life are silent. No letters or cloister records are at hand. No university annals permit us to follow his work in the faculty of theology. Presumably he went on giving lectures after the winter semester of 1509-10, either on Lombard or on the Bible or both for at least a part of these two years, and there is a probability also that he served the Eremites as subregent of studies at the cloister in association with Professor Nathin. In 1512 he appears again in Wittenberg, sufficiently mature in scholarship and personality to look forward to the doctor's degree and a professor's chair at the university. Within this period an episode occurred about which his memory brightened as middle life approached, and which became a focus of many picturesque statements in the Table Talk, sermons and lectures: the journey to Rome.1

"I would not take one hundred thousand florins for having seen and heard Rome." This declaration of Martin's more than a quarter of a century after the visit indicates the importance which his stay in the Eternal City had assumed in his mind and emphasizes his consciousness of its dramatic character in any account of his own life.2 Succeeding generations of biographers have fully exploited its colorful possibilities; the vivid contrast suggested by the presence of the future antagonist of the Roman Church in the citadel of its power and abuses has stimulated much spirited writing and a great deal of patient research. Nevertheless contemporary sources of primary value are few and a knowledge of the persons and circumstances of the journey is limited to

____________________
1
Luther's recollections after 1531 are the only direct source for knowledge of his visit to Rome. To the collateral evidence regarding the circumstances that brought it about very little has been added since the appearance of Kolde Augustiner-Kongregation in 1879. A great deal of information has been assembled pertaining to the time and especially to things touched on in Martin's reminiscences. This has added to the historical picture without throwing further light on the biographical problem.
2
TR, III, No. 3478 (1536); for a similar idea, though more mildly put, see No. 3582A (1537). The account in Heydenreich's text says "1,000 florins." TR, V, No. 5484 (1542).

-161-

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