Katherina Von Bora escaped on April 14! It was 1523.
The Protestant Reformation was under way, and a letter reached Martin Luther that nine nuns wanted to leave the convent in Torgau, Germany – could he help them? So Luther arranged for his friend, Leonard Koppe, to deliver smoked herrings to the cloister … and according to W Peterson, those nuns hid themselves in the empty barrels (Martin Luther Had a Wife, page 21). JH Alexander might be more accurate when he says the escapees were hiding behind the barrels.
In any case, three of the nuns returned to their parents, Luther found husbands for the others … except Katherina Von Bora. He married her himself – on 13 June, 1525. She was 26 and he was 42.
By this unexpected development, pressed upon Luther by his father and friends, the once celibate monk became a keen advocate of married life. The family which Katie created for Luther became a model for German households for centuries to follow.
She transformed the Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg where Luther had been given place to base his ministry. She cleaned up the monastery and brought some order to Luther’s daily life.
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“Before I married,” Luther later wrote, “no-one had made my bed up for a year. The straw was rotting from my sweat.” Now that had to change. Katie, he tells us, even gave him a pillow!
It was a happy marriage – though the Reformer did say on one occasion that if he ever married again, “I would hew me an obedient wife out of stone”. But when he spoke of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians he called it “my Katherina Von Bora”, for it was the portion of Scripture closest to his heart.
Six children were born in the Luther household and they adopted four more.
Among Luther’s quoted comments on marriage are the following: “My Katie is in all things so obliging and pleasing to me that I would not exchange my poverty for the riches of Croesus.” “There is no bond on earth so sweet, nor any separation so bitter, as that which occurs in a good marriage.” Luther viewed marriage as a school for character. Family life helped train Christians in the virtues of fortitude, patience, charity, and humility.
Katie managed the family finances and released Luther’s mind for his writing, teaching, and ministering. Luther called her the “morning star of Wittenberg” since she rose at 4 a.m. to care for her many responsibilities: vegetable garden, orchard, fishpond, and barnyard animals, even butchering them herself. She brewed beer, bred cattle and leased land for cultivation. During Luther’s frequent illnesses Katie helped him with great medical skill.
And Katherina (“Kitty, my Rib”, he sometimes called her) died in 1552, having survived her famous husband. She had fled to Torgau, to escape a plague in Wittenberg.
Her last words were, “I will stick to Christ as a burr to a top coat”.
More information about Katherina and Luther can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/katherine-von-bora
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com
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