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Two contemporary accounts of Martin Luther

This book presents a contemporary, eyewitness account of the life of Martin Luther translated into English. Johannes Cochlaeus (1479–1552) was present in the great hall at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521 when Luther made his famous declaration before Emperor Charles V: ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen’. Afterward, Cochlaeus sought Luther out, met him at his inn, and privately debated with him. Luther wrote of Cochlaeus, ‘may God long preserve this most pious man, born to guard and teach the Gospel of His church, together with His word, Amen’. However, the confrontation left Cochlaeus convinced that Luther was an impious and malevolent man. Over the next twnety-five years, Cochlaeus barely escaped the Peasant's War with his life. He debated with Melanchthon and the reformers of Augsburg. It was Cochlaeus who conducted the authorities to the clandestine printing press in Cologne, where William Tyndale was preparing the first English translation of the New Testament (1525). For an eyewitness account of the Reformation—and the beginnings of the Catholic Counter-Reformation—no other historical document matches the first-hand experience of Cochlaeus. After Luther's death, it was rumoured that demons seized the reformer on his death-bed and dragged him off to Hell. In response to these rumours, Luther's friend and colleague Philip Melanchthon wrote and published a brief encomium of the reformer in 1548. Cochlaeus consequently completed and published his monumental life of Luther in 1549.

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An introduction to his life and work

suggested that Cochlaeus received his first pastoral assignment with the charge to attack Luther, and that his ferocity was, at least in part, motivated by desire for additional support from his patrons, who may have included the influential Fugger family from Augsburg.5 Cochlaeus was a deacon in Frankfurt, his first clerical position, when the Diet of Worms was held in 1521. He attended as an assistant to Crown Prince Richard von Greifenklau, and had his own debate with Luther – possibly by tracking him down at the inn where he was staying – the proceedings of which he

in Luther’s lives
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Wendelstein in the region of Nuremberg, Germany. A thoroughly educated humanist and pedagogue, Cochlaeus was also an ordained Catholic priest. Conservative, zealous, and personally ambitious, he placed himself in the forefront of the early Catholic reaction against Luther and the reformers. In 1520, Cochlaeus entered the fray with responses to Luther’s Address to the Nobility of the German Nation and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. On 18 April 1521, Cochlaeus was present in the great hall at the Diet of Worms when Luther made his famous declaration before Emperor

in Luther’s lives

work. Melanchthon’s part of the narrative stops at 1521. It is followed by the official account of the proceedings of the Diet of Worms, and that is in turn followed by a eulogy Melanchthon delivered before an academic assembly. Instead of dismissing this arrangement of texts as a poor substitute for a continuous narrative, we might see the use of the Worms narrative as a record that accentuates the heroic character of Luther’s stand before the Empire. Like a Passion narrative from the New Testament or one of the ubiquitous hagiographies of the later Middle Ages, the

in Luther’s lives
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Association and distinction in politics and religion

3 Top people are different: association and distinction in politics and religion Association and distinction in the leadership of religion and politics In 1521 Martin Luther, appearing before the Diet of Worms, declared that he was bound ‘by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.’ 1 It was a statement which illustrated the extreme contradictions involved in the

in Cultivating political and public identity

This chapter enumerates the life and works of Dr Martin Luther, from the perspective of his lifelong antagonist Johannes Cochlaeus. It notes some peculiarities during his stay with the Monastery of the brothers of St Augustine, either from some secret commerce with a Demon, or from the disease of epilepsy; fraud after he was made Doctor in Theology; controversies in indulgences; and attacks he raised against the doctrine of the Roman church. It suggests that by his cunning, as he complained that he was unjustly pressed by his adversaries and driven into public, Luther gained the greatest favor for himself, not just among the simple people, but also among many grave, learned men, who believed in his words through genuine simplicity. Meanwhile, Cochlaeus, for the sake of asserting and confirming the truth of the Catholic faith against any heretics, also published several books in Latin, criticizing Luther and Phillip Melanchthon.

in Luther’s lives