This is part 2 of a series by Justin Taylor about the married life of the great reformer, Martin Luther. Enjoy…Paul S.
Link to Part 1
When Martin Met Katie
by Justin Taylor | Tuesday October 5th, 2010
The Black Cloister
No one knew that Leonhard Koppe’s horse-drawn covered wagon, leaving Marienthron Monastery on Easter night in 1523, carried 12 stowaway nuns crammed into empty, smelly fish barrels. Three of the nuns immediately returned to their families, and the remaining nine were transported to the former Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg—the “The Black Cloister”—where Luther lived with his stinky bed and upset stomach.
Luther went to work helping these young women. He asked friends for money to help them with food and clothing, and soon he was able to help six of them reunite with their family, find a husband, or secure a job.
Katherine von Bora
One of the three remaining was Katherine von Bora—a 24-year-old who basically grew up in the monastery and whose family no longer wanted her. Luther eventually found her a temporary home with his friends the Reichenbachs. She soon fell in love with a wealthy university student home on summer break. They talked of marriage, but when he returned to school he refused to answer her letters, leaving her crushed.
Luther remained Katherine’s advocate. Sometimes his help was appreciated (like when he wrote a letter to the rich college kid encouraging him to get back together with Katherine), and other times he was less than helpful (like when he tried to set her up with a sixty-year-old pastor-friend!). As for Martin and Katherine, there were no romantic sparks. Luther—who seems to have had no thoughts he did not verbalize—considered her to be too proud and snobbish.
But something changed. Two years after orchestrating the escape of the nuns and meeting Katherine for the first time, marriage began to seem like a real possibility for him. On a trip he wrote Spalatin and joked about the possibility of being married. Then he mentioned the possibility to his parents. Luther’s dad was especially excited at the possibility of having grandchildren.
In Defiance of the Devil and All His Adversaries
The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, may have been a taunt. Hieronymus Schurrf wrote: “If this monk [Luther] were to take a wife, then all the world and the very devil would laugh, and [Luther] himself would ruin everything that he had created.” Soon after, Luther wrote a letter to another friend offering the first indication that he was serious about marriage. “If I can arrange it, I will marry Kate in defiance of the devil and all his adversaries.” A couple weeks later he wrote to another correspondent, “I am ready. I believe in marriage.”
Having prayed through the decision, Luther popped the question, proposing to Katherine on June 13, 1525. And in the world’s shortest time of engagement, they decided to get married that night.
To be continued.