Pastor's Blog

Copper Miner’s Son: Martin Luther

Posted under: Reformation — by Leroy Demarest

About 70 years after the death of Hus at the stake, Hans and Margarette Luther had a son, Martin. Martin Luther, or Luder, was born in 1483 in Eisleben, Germany. His family, historically, had been peasant farmers. However, Hans had success as a miner, ore smelter and mine owner. This success allowed the Luthers to move to the town of Mansfeld, where Hans owned rights to a copper mine a year later.

Further success allowed the Luther’s to enroll Martin into school. First Luther went to a Latin school in Mansfeld at age 7 and then, at age 14, he enrolled into a German ‘Brother’s’ school in Magdeburg. The discipline at the school was tough by any standard and Martin would later liken it to Purgatory and Hell. In both schools, Martin appeared to do well and by 1501 headed to Erfurt to university.

Hans, had wanted a better, and easier, life for Martin, and due to mining success was able to send him to train as a lawyer. Martin earned his Baccalaureate in 1502 (not quite equivalent to today’s B.A.). There he had, what we would now consider, a classical education. In preparation for law, Martin studied: Grammar, Rhetoric, Mathematics, Astronomy and other topics. He received his Master’s by 1505 and was preparing to study law as his specific field of training until a stormy summer day changed his direction.

As the story goes, and there is debate as to whether or not it actually happened, as Martin was walking a major thunderstorm arose. Lightning struck near and thunder clapped all around Him. To escape the torrent Martin sought refuge under a tree. It should be noted that even before this, Martin Luther had a greater than average fear of death, God’s judgement, and Hell, though he would say his conversion would come much later. While under the tree he called out to St. Anne. St. Anne was the Catholic Church’s patron saint to miners. Due to his upbringing, it is likely that St. Anne would have been the most common saint and the most oft prayed to saint in the Luther household.

Martin, in his terror, made St. Anne – and by proxy God -a pledge. If she would save him, he would become a monk. Historians have debated whether or not this was already Martin’s plan or if the storm brought out this pledge, but none the less he would soon leave his path to lawyer and leave on July 16th, much to the chagrin of his father, to an Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt.


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