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When Martin Luther, already nearly forty-two years old, married Katharina von Bora on 13 June 1525, the reactions among his contemporaries were by no means all positive. Indeed, some comments were indignant or even downright malicious! Even his friend Philipp Melanchthon was critical, chiefly because he thought Katharina had ensnared Luther. What finally prompted Martin Luther to ask for Katharina von Bora’s hand in marriage was probably an episode he’d heard from his friend Nicolaus von Amsdorf – who was also well acquainted with Katharina. When Katharina discovered that she was supposed to marry university rector Kasper Glatz (a miser and evidently a generally unpleasant chap to boot), she told Nicolaus that if she was going to marry anyone, it would have to be either him or Dr Luther. Nicolaus told his friend Martin – and the rest is history.

The wedding is likely to have taken place as follows. The couple first became officially engaged in front of their friends and colleagues at the cloister at some time after 5pm on the evening of 13 June 1525. The following morning, a modest wedding breakfast was held with a small group of people. Breaking with convention, instead of getting married in church the very next day, they waited until 27 June. To the sound of pealing bells and the music of minstrels from the cloister, the wedding procession probably began at 10am along Collegienstrasse to the town church, where the ceremony was conducted by parish priest Johannes Bugenhagen. Then the couple, along with their well-wishers, would have returned to the cloister for the wedding party. The ceremony of the dances of honour will have been held in the town hall in the afternoon. In the evening, the happy couple met their guests again for dinner at the cloister.

Little is known about the Luthers’ first few weeks of marriage. At any rate, Martine Luther took a break from his lectures, sermons and correspondence. Later he spoke with fondness about the “kissing weeks” as he called them. Then again, he is not thought to have been a particularly stormy lover. To Amsdorf he wrote: “I can’t say I’m burning with desire, but I do love my wife.” Subsequently, he summed up the new phase of his life by saying that he no longer had to be alone at table and enjoyed waking up to a pair of plaits beside him.

From ‘Luthers Hochzeit’ by Volkmar Joestel. Reproduced by kind permission of publisher Drei-Kastanien-Verlag.

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