Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Katie's Last Years

Today is the commemoration of Katherine Von Bora Luther, Martin Luther's famous "Katie".

Okay so we all know the story of her escape in the pickle cart.  (Although Father Anonymous is such a spoil sport about these stories he probably will refute them). I personally love the way she refused all the husbands Luther tried to throw her way and said she'd only have him.  

It's kind of a love story in a more real sense.  No great romance at the start, Luther married her more to set an example than anything else.  But they grew to love each other and faced life together, she bore six children, one died at birth and a daughter died at aged 13.  They also raised four orphans.  She cooked and cleaned, gardened, brewed beer and held her own against Luther himself.

But her last years are really sad.  When Luther died in 1546 she was left with no income and asked to move out of the abbey they lived in while she still had children at home.  Although she refused, she ended up having to flee the Smacaldic war.  When she was able to return her properties were ruined by the war and she and her children lived in poverty.  Then when the plague broke out she had to move again.  She was badly injured when a horse was injured in the move.  She died a few months later at the age of 53 on December 20, 1552.  Because of the war she could not even be buried by her husband in Wittenberg and was buried far away in Torgau.

I'm but a stranger here,
Heav'n is my home;
Earth is a desert dread,
Heav'n is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heav'n is my fatherland,
Heav'n is my home.


  1. Er. Um. Er. I don't have access to any documents one way or another, but there's a website devoted to her run by the Concordia Historical Institute which says, "Despite the legends, there is no evidence that the nuns hid in [pickled] herring barrels or changed clothes."


    I'm tempted to throw off some cheap shot about our friends in Missouri, but this is the sort of thing they usually get right.

    Still, she's a hero of the Reformation, one way ot another.

  2. humph. My philosophy about that and many other legends is whether or not they really happened, they are still true.

  3. I'm tempted to say two things about Katie Von Bora Luther and the barrels of pickled herring.

    1) It's just the sort of story that would have been made up along the way and reported in a lives of the saints book during the preceding centuries, be it to illustrate some idea or to pump up a saint to make him or her even more attention grabbing (and maybe not without a little bit of an intention to attract more pilgrims, gifts, money, and prestige).

    2) Are we sure the story wasn't made up in order to make pickled herring seem like a good Lutheran thing to eat, either to boost the herring guild or to justify trotting it out every Christmas in Lutheran households?

    But I'm not sure if I'd want to say either... :-)