1538 (age 54) - Luther's health deteriorated. He suffered from "the stone" (probably kidney stones), moderately severe arthritis, heart problems and ever present digestive disorders. His poor health began to affect his work and his writing volume declined dramatically.
1539 (age 55) - Luther wrote On the Councils and the Church.
Since the pope, with his following, simply refuses to convoke a council and reform the church, or offer any advice or assistance toward that end, but boastfully defends his tyranny with crimes, preferring to let the church go to ruin, we ... must seek counsel and help elsewhere and first of all seek and ask our Lord Jesus Christ for a reformation.
November 1, 1539 - Katharina Luther suffered a miscarriage. Luther spent as much time as possible beside her bed. People all over the Lutheran world prayed for her.
1541 (age 57) - Luther wrote the hymn Lord Keep us Steadfast in Thy Word. Luther's health was particularly bad. The ulcer on his leg reopened. He had throat and ear infections, as well as continuing problems with kidney stones, arthritis, heart problems and digestive disorders. Luther's writing grew increasingly coarse, sometimes vulgar.
September 20, 1542 (age 58) - Magdelena Luther (age 13) died. A grieving Luther said,
Beloved Lena, you will rise and shine like a star, yea, like the sun.
Winter 1542 - Luther suffered severe depression. He mourned
his daughter's death, saw the plague sweeping through
Wittenberg, believed the faithlessness of his fellow Germans was
a sign of the End Tines. He wrote his will and thought of his own
January 4, 1543 (age 59) - Luther wrote Against the Jews, also known as Of the Jews and their Lies. He repeatedly quoted the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:34, where Jesus called the Jewish religious leaders "a brood of vipers and children of the devil." 20 years earlier, Luther advised kindness toward the Jews in That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, but with the aim of converting them to Christianity. When his efforts at conversion failed, he grew increasingly bitter. His attitudes reflected a tradition which saw Jews as a rejected people guilty of murdering Christ. He considered Jews blasphemers and liars because they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
Excerpt from the official statement by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on Luther's anti-Jewish statements:
In the spirit of truth-telling, we who bear his name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther's anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther's own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations ... We particularly deplore the appropriation of Luther's words by modern anti-Semites for the teaching of hatred toward Judaism or toward the Jewish people in our day.
In answer to the question, "Did Martin Luther's anti-Jewish writings inspire Adolf Hitler to carry out the Holocaust?" Dr. Paul Maier said,
There is a difference between Luther the young man who wrote Jesus Christ Was Born Jewish, and Luther the irritable old man who suffered from kidney stones and wrote, Against the Jews and Their Lies. In his younger days, he complained about the treatment the Jews received at the hands of the church. He was sure that when the Gospel was preached to them, they would come flocking to it. That didn't happen. In later life, Luther lashed out at the" hardhearted, incorrigible" Jews. Unlike Hitler, though, Luther had no problem with their racial makeup, only with their religious beliefs ... He never advocated their extermination. Hitler would have to look elsewhere for that.
1544 (age 60) - Palace church in Torgau consecrated by Luther, the first Protestant church; Sweden made Lutheranism the official state religion and banned Catholic worship.
March 25, 1545 (age 61) - Luther wrote Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil. The language was the most vehement and vulgar Luther ever wrote. To accompany it Luther commissioned a series of political cartoons by Lucas Cranach defaming the pope and Rome.
...when a desperate, wicked, cunning knave puts on the mask and name of Christ or St. Peter and gains such an advantage that the Christians fear him and flee ... he has won and does what he likes, commits one rascality after another, particularly when God's wrath allows the devil to lift and push him along.
July 9, 1545 - After news reached Luther that a church council was expected to open in Trent, Italy, Luther wrote:
The Pope shouts that we are heretics and that we must not have a place in the council ... indeed Satan reigns, all of them are so totally mad that they condemn us and at the same time ask for our consent.
July 28, 1545 - Luther became angry and disillusioned with Wittenberg and wanted to move. He told Katharina to sell their goods. The university, Philipp Melanchthon and the burgomaster persuaded him to stay.
1545 - Bible in Low German published, Luther's final revision of his High German Bible, first published in 1534.
December 13, 1545 (age 62) - After years of negotiations, diplomacy, numerous false starts and delays Pope Paul III opened a church council at Trent, in northern Italy. It consisted of 3 sessions, spanning 16 years, but was only engaged in talks for four and a half years. Luther looked at the council with skepticism and held that it was impossible to reform the unreformable.
January 17, 1546 (age 62) - Luther was called to mediate a dispute between Gebhard and Albert, two counts of Mansfield, that threatened his siblings' families continuing in the copper mining trade.
January 23, 1546 - Luther left Wittenberg for Mansfeld. His health was especially poor and Katie Luther begged him to wait until spring. But he would not listen, believing the conflict threatened the work of the Reformation. A busy three weeks followed. Luther listened to the counts and their lawyers argue; he preached four sermons, distributed communion and helped ordain two pastors.
February 17, 1546 - Negotiations reached a successful conclusion.
Luther looked forward to returning home to Wittenberg. But, that
evening he experienced chest pains. His friends attempted to
Thursday, February 18, 1546, 2:45 a.m. Luther, age 62, died of heart failure in Eisleben, his birthplace, surrounded by his three sons and several friends. A portrait artist captured his image at death and Justus Jonas recorded all the events over the previous 24 hours. The room he died in eventually became a memorial.
Bed where Martin Luther died.
Death portrait of Martin Luther
February 20, 1546 - Luther's coffin was moved to Wittenberg.
February 22, 1546 - Luther's funeral was held in the castle church in Wittenberg. He was buried in the Castle Church.
Luther's last written words on a scrap of paper found on his table (translated from Latin):
Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles ... We are beggars: this is true.
Tomb marker over Luther's burial place in Wittenberg's Castle Church.
Emperor Charles Strikes a Non-Fatal Blow
April 1547 - Soon after Luther died, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V brought his Spanish troops across the Alps and defeated the forces of the Schmalkaldic League at Mulburg. He then marched across Katie Luther's farm at Zulsdorf, destroying everything in his path, then moved into Wittenberg. The Reformation appeared to be over. But, Charles couldn't finish it off.
January 1552 - Maurice of Saxony, known as the "Judas of the Reformation" for changing sides at Mulburg, reasserted himself. Under his leadership, he and his fellow German princes formed an alliance with Henry II of France and chased Charles V out of Germany.
August 1552 - Peace of Passau. Weary from three decades of religious civil war, Charles V guaranteed Lutheran religious freedoms. The Protestant princes taken prisoner during the Schmalkaldic War were released. The Peace of Passau effectively ended Charles V's lifelong quest for European religious unity.
September 1555 - Peace of Augsburg, a treaty between Charles V and the forces of the Schmalkaldic League, basically said that the people of each German state would follow whichever religion their prince followed. Those who did not wish to conform to the prince's choice were given time to migrate to different regions in which their choice, Lutheran or Catholic, was accepted. Charles was unhappy about compromising with Protestants but, after decades of conflict the Lutheran church had legal recognition.
1555 - Holy Roman Emperor Charles V abdicated and retired (1556) to the monastery of Yusteto, Spain. But, he took an active interest in politics until his death in 1558.