KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER
We cannot talk about the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation without telling Kate’s story. Martin Luther wrote to his spouse with affectionate humor: “To my dear lady of the house, Katherine von Bora Luther, a preacher, beer brewer, gardener.” Sometimes he addressed her as “Lord Katie” or my dear lady of the New Pig Market.” Recalling the story of Adam and Eve, he often called Katherine “my rib.”
Katherine was born January 29, 1499 in Hirschfeld, near Meissen, Saxony a daughter of German nobility. By the age of six she was sent to the Benedictine boarding school after her mother died and her father remarried. Four years later at the age of ten Katherine entered the Cistercian nunnery Marienthron Convent which began her education and leading her on the path to becoming a nun. At the age of 24 in April 1523 she left the convent because of her beliefs in the Reformation about which Martin Luther had been writing and talking. On June 13, 1525 Katherine and Martin were married. Six children were born to this union. She became the “unseen partner” in the Lutherhaus.
Kate was a talented and knowledgeable wife, mother, and advocate for evangelical reforms. Acquainted with tragedy and grief, she exhibited a deep spirituality in her private and family life as she encouraged her husband in times of desperation and doubt and provided for the numerous students and guests to Wittenberg and the parsonage. She was “an extraordinary woman – a genuine servant whose faith and courage stand as an example today.”
Katherine was in reality a strong, assertive business woman. She managed an enormous household selling linen, renting horses, and brewing beer. Her home, a former monastery, was a boardinghouse for university students and guests. Refugees from religious persecution could find shelter there. It was a hospital in times of plague. Many men thought Katherine was too outspoken, but she was a good match for her strong-minded husband. Like Martin, she remained true to her convictions, even when the world had different expectations.
Katharina von Bora Luther passed away on December 20, 1552 at Torgau after a serious accident during her flight from Wittenberg. Her funeral and burial was on December 21 at St. Mary’s Church in Torgau. Her husband Martin had passed away on February 18, 1546, five years earlier. Katie was 53 years of age at the time of her death.