The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

19
THE LEIPZIG DISPUTATION THE COMBAT

MEANWHILE the date fixed for the disputation was approaching. No city in Germany could have been better situated than Leipzig to give resonance to this historical clash of argument. The crossing point of five great highways leading through Germany and equally distant from such peripheral points of the empire as Basel and Danzig, Breslau, and Frankfort, Leipzig lay at the heart of German-speaking lands. The scene of great commercial fairs since the second half of the twelfth century, the city was famed no less for its trade than for its celebrated university, and it enjoyed all the trappings of civic power and culture.1 Martin shared the Wittenberg tradition of hostility which had been aroused by the opposition of the older university at Leipzig to the younger university on the Elbe, a feeling which continued to rankle in his mind throughout the years to come. "The leaders look down on Wittenberg with the old hatred," he warned Link, two decades later, when the latter was considering an invitation to Leipzig. 2

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1
Luther's contemporary, Johann Cochlaeus, who knew the most famous cities in Germany and Italy, calls Leipzig "urbs et mercatu et Universitate insignis". Commentaria de actis et scriptis Lutheri ( Mainz, 1549), p. 13. Elsewhere he states, "eine Stadt dan freilich im gantzen Reich kein Fürstenstat . . . yr gleich ist, in gebewden, in Bürgerlichem Regiment und Wesen, in Gottisdienst, in der Universitet, in kaufhendeln". Auf Luthers Trostbrieff an etliche zu Leipzig ( Dresden, 1533), 1b. (This work was not available to the author for rechecking.) Luther's dislike of Leipzig lasted through life, and in his correspondence both university and citizens are decked with many abusive epithets. He accuses the former of persistent envy and hatred of Wittenberg and denounces the place as a seat of arrogance, greed, and usury. Even after the new theology triumphed there his private opinion remained the same. He calls it a "Sodom, the filthy pool of usurers and evil ones." Letter to Link, Oct. 26, 1539, W AB, VIII, 579. "I hate the Leipzig people . . . as I would hate nothing more under the sun." Letter to Lang, May 15, 1540, De Wette, Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, V, 283. In the last year of his life he still regards the city as "the greediest, haughtiest, and worst Sodom of all." Letter to Amsdorf, Jan. 8, 1546, ibid., p. 773. Many other passages in his letters are equally bitter. See also TR, III, No. 3683 (1538), p. 528, ll. 4 ff.; IV, No. 4168.
2
Letter to Link, Oct. 26, 1539, W AB, VIII, 579, ll. 5 f. For the rivalry between the two universities, see Felician Gess, Leipzig und Wittenberg. Ein Beitrag zur sächsischen Reformationsgeschichte, Neuer Archiv für sächsische Geschichle, XVI ( 1895), 43 ff.

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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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