Born to Reform

He lived from 1483 to 1546; in the full scope of history, merely a speck in time …

but few have changed the world—reformed the world—like Martin Luther did in his 62 years.

Luther’s Family

To understand Luther’s roots, you start with where every person’s roots are first planted, nurtured, and grown: with his parents and their upbringing.

Martin’s father, Hans, was from a peasant farming family; his mother, Margarethe, from an educated, well-off family. Hans left the family home in Mohra to work in the copper mines in Eisleben, and with the help of his wife’s established family, rose from working the mines to owning the mines.

Why ‘Martin’?

Following the Church tradition, Martin was baptized a Catholic the day after his birth, on November 11, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours.


By all accounts, Hans and Margarethe were strict in their discipline. This was illustrated by Luther when he said, "For the sake of stealing a nut, my mother once beat me until the blood flowed" and "My father once whipped me so hard I ran away; I hated him until he finally managed to win me back." Lesson: There are repercussions for wrongs, but there also is forgiveness.

On the Move

While Martin was still an infant, the family moved to Mansfield. Determined to give Martin the best education, his parents sent him to schools in Mansfield, Magdeburg, and finally Eisenach to prepare Martin for university and a career as a lawyer.

School Boy

In 1501, he continued pursuit of his career at the University of Erfurt, from which he received his Master of Arts in philosophy in 1505.

“Help me! And I will become a monk!”

July 2, 1505

Returning to Erfurt after visiting his family, Luther was caught in a severe storm, with violent thunder and lightning. In the midst of the storm, after having been knocked to the ground by a particularly violent strike of lightning, Martin prayed to St. Anne and vowed: “Help me! And I will become a monk!”

And on July 17, Luther entered the Black Monastery in Erfurt, much to the disappointment of his father.

The 95 Theses


When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.


This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.


Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.


The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.


The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.


The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.


God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

A Wanted Man

A man of conviction, Luther spends the next five years debating and defending his stance, facing the consequences of his challenge to religious authority but never relenting in the foundation of his belief: it’s all about Jesus.

Katharina von Bora

In contrast to the turmoil of the previous five years, Luther’s life starts to slide into normalcy. In 1522, he returns from Wartburg Castle, and the ban on him is lifted. He immerses himself in his writing and his Reformation movement, and meets and marries Katharina von Bora

Painter of the Reformation

The Writings of Martin Luther

With the printing press allowing for effective mass communication—think of how social media has changed the way we communicate to the masses today—Luther is able to distribute his message in his writing.

  • 1522: Luther translates the New Testament into German, and it is publishing on September 21.
  • 1524: Achtliederbuch (A Book of Eight Hymns), the first Lutheran hymnal is published by John Walter and Luther.
  • 1527: Luther writes “A Mighty Fortress”
  • 1529: Luther publishes the Large Catechism in April, and the Small Catechism in May.
  • 1534: The First complete edition of Luther’s Bible commentaries is published.
  • 1538: Luther’s Smalcald Articles are published.
  • 1539: The first volume of Luther’s collected works is compiled.

Luther to his death

The Reformation had begun as a seed in Martin as a child, had matured in him during his schooling, and come to fruition when he nailed up the Ninety-Five Theses. The Reformation had taken hold.

In 1546, Luther died—but the Reformation didn’t.

Diet of Augsburg

His Last Sermon

Luther's Death