Katharina von Bora

Joachim von der Heiden (fl. 16th century).
Ein Sendtbrieff Kethen von Bhore Luthers vormeynthem Eheweybe, sampt eynem Geschenck freuntlicher Meynung tzuuorfertigt. Dartzu eyne Bedingung auff der Wittenberger Lesterschrifft.
Leipzig: Valentin Schumann, 1528.
(BRA2051)

Following his separation from the Catholic Church, and in the midst of continuing theological controversies, Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora (1499–1552) in 1525. A former nun, she came to embody two very different roles in Reformation-era society: she was seen both as Europe’s most notorious “renegade nun” and as the model housewife for Lutheran clergymen. Born to a family of minor nobility in Saxony, von Bora was sent to the Benedictine convent of Brehna at the age of five. Intelligent and articulate, she became dissatisfied with monastic life, especially after Protestant reforms became a topic of discussion within her convent. In 1523 she conspired with several other nuns to escape from Brehna to Wittenberg. There she became a follower of Luther, and on June 13, 1525, she and Luther were married. Between 1526 and 1534 the couple had six children.

The Catholic establishment was scandalized by von Bora’s departure from her monastic vows. This publication by Joachim von der Heiden, a Leipzig University professor, urged her to repent and return to her monastic seclusion: 

“Woe unto you, poor misguided woman, not only that you have been led from light into darkness, from God’s grace into His disfavor, from holy monastic devotion into a damned and shameful life, but also because you left your convent dressed in lay clothes, like a dancing girl, and went to Wittenberg and cast your eyes on that rascal, Luther, and lived with him in flagrant immorality, and finally took him for your husband; by this breach of faith to your bridegroom Christ you became faithless and perjured. . . . Think of your eternal punishment, and speedily leave this devilish life . . . and repent your past sins, as did the fallen Mary Magdalene.”

Joachim von der Heiden (fl. 16th century).
Ein Sendtbrieff Kethen von Bhore Luthers vormeynthem Eheweybe, sampt eynem Geschenck freuntlicher Meynung tzuuorfertigt. Dartzu eyne Bedingung auff der Wittenberger Lesterschrifft.
Leipzig: Valentin Schumann, 1528.
(BRA2051)