The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

I
EARLY DAYS AT HOME AND SCHOOL

THE family from which Martin Luther sprang was of Thuringian peasant stock. It belonged to the tough and vigorous race dwelling on the north- western slope of the great ridge that cuts across central Germany from the southeast and forms a boundary line of historical importance. Many sources have contributed to the population of this rugged country. Archaeological finds in the valleys point back as far as an interglacial age. Since then waves of many migrant peoples have swept around and over the forested hills and left traces in the settlement and culture of the region. In prehistoric times the Frankish invasion halted at the western slopes, but many of this tribal group filtered through to mingle with the Thuringian stock. The racial character of the population is, as it was in the later Middle Ages and for many centuries before, of prevailingly Alpine type: stocky of figure, brown of eyes and hair and somewhat brownish in complexion, tough and elastic in body.

The village of Möhra, lying in the forest which overhangs Eisenach and its plain, was the focus of the clan of Luther, or Luder. This clan embraced a number of families. So numerous, indeed, were the Luthers that when Martin, on his return from Worms in 1521, made a visit to the home of his forefathers, he found that his relatives filled the whole neighborhood.1 Like other small peasant proprietors of the region, the Luthers were not subject to the exactions that afflicted the rural classes in southern and southwestern Germany in the later fifteenth century. Under the mild rule of the Saxon electors the Thuringian villages enjoyed a considerable measure of local selfgovernment. Nevertheless, families were large and their lives were a constant struggle for existence. Custom did not permit peasant farms to be divided, and the many sons were forced to fend for themselves.

One of these was Hans Luther, the father of Martin. As a young man he

____________________
1
Letter from Luther to Spalatin, May 14, 1521, W AB, II, 338, ll. 55f.

-3-

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The Revolt of Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - Early Days at Home and School 3
  • 2 - The Schoolboy Abroad 20
  • 3 - Early Years at the University 32
  • 4 - The Scholastic Learning 47
  • 5 - Entrance into the Cloister 66
  • 6 - The Novitiate Year 79
  • 7 - Brother Martin of the Eremites 91
  • 8 - Student of Theology 104
  • 9 - The Young Lecturer 128
  • 10 - The Journey to Rome 161
  • 11 - Professor and Preacher at Wittenberg 179
  • 12 - Interpreter of Augustine and Paul 203
  • 13 - The Final Break with Scholasticism 224
  • 14 - The Attack on Indulgences 245
  • 15 - In Battle with the Dominicans 272
  • 16 - The Hearing at Augsburg 288
  • 17 - An Attempt at Compromise 305
  • 18 - The Leipzig Disputation the Prelude 327
  • 19 - The Leipzig Disputation the Combat 349
  • 20 - The Leipzig Disputation the Aftermath 368
  • 21 - A Battle of Polemics 395
  • 22 - Humanistic Friends and Allies 415
  • 23 - Growth as Teacher and Preacher 436
  • 24 - The Rising Tide of Revolt 463
  • 25 - The Attack on the Sacraments 479
  • 26 - The Break with Rome 491
  • 27 - Appeal to the Secular Classes 507
  • 28 - The Final Break with Church Tradition 524
  • 29 - The Bull and the Counterattack 539
  • 30 - Book-Burning on Rhine and Elbe 562
  • 31 - Prelude to the Diet at Worms 587
  • 32 - The Diet in Session 614
  • 33 - Martin before the Diet 649
  • 34 - Refusal to Compromise 670
  • Conclusion 693
  • List of Abbreviations 694
  • Selected Bibliography 695
  • Index 715
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