Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
Faces of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Parents
Hans and Margarethe Luder
In our last post, we were introduced to a good friend of Martin Luther, Lucas Cranach. Besides being a good friend and supporter, Cranach provided us with many images of Martin Luther that we can still enjoy because Lucas Cranach was also a renowned artist. This time, we will get acquainted with some very important people in Luther’s life: his parents, Hans and Margarethe Luder. Both Hans and Margarethe were born around 1450 in Germany, a part of the Holy Roman Empire. They were married in 1479. During his lifetime as a reformer, Martin changed his last name to “Luther.” It is thought that he looked at the Greek word ‘elutherius’ which means “freedom,” and wanted his name to reflect this freedom as offered through the Gospel. See John 8:31-32.
Hans Luder was the son of a peasant farmer, but he was not eligible to inherit any of his father’s farm land, so he moved his family to Eisleben in Germany. It was here that their son, Martin was born. Because the child was baptized on November 11, the Feast day of St. Martin, this is the name he received. The Luders had 8 children and Martin was their second child. While Martin was still a baby, Hans moved his family again, this time to Mansfield. He began working in the copper mines in Mansfield, but was able to advance his position, and with the help of Margarethe’s family, he raised the money needed to become the owner of six copper mines and other businesses. Copper mining was a risky business, but Hans and Margarethe worked hard all their lives and were well respected in Mansfield.
As parents, Hans and Margarethe loved their children, but were very strict in their parenting. Equally strict were the schools Martin attended in Mansfield. Beatings, both in school and at home, were common. As an adult and parent himself, Martin Luther advocated for education reforms and treated his own children very tenderly.
Martin attended his pre-university school years in Eisenach and while there, he stayed with a man named Heinrich Schalbe. In Herr Schalbe’s home, Martin was treated like a son and he later recalled these years as being very pleasant. There are stories about Martin Luther’s family being so poor that he was forced to sing for his supper at times, but in reality, though not rich, Martin Luther’s family was respected and could take good care of their children.
Hans Luder wanted his son, Martin to study to become a lawyer as this would add to the prestige of their family. He looked forward to the time when his son, Martin, would graduate from university and begin work as an attorney, but in 1505, while traveling, Martin was caught in a severe storm and fearing for his life, he vowed to become a monk. In just a few months, Martin sold all his possessions and joined the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. This was certainly not the future Hans and Margarethe had planned for their son! In fact, Hans considered all monks to be lazy. It took many years for them to make peace with Martin’s decision. For several years Hans and Margarethe had no contact with Martin and it was only in 1525, when Martin and Katharina Von Bora were married that they reconciled. Before he died, Hans Luder left a large donation to the University of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther taught as an Augustinian monk. Hans Luder died in 1530 and Margarethe died in 1531.
From the Trinity Lutheran Church Faribault April, 2017 Newsletter
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