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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

05 May 2017
  + Frederick III, Elector of Saxony +
5 May AD 1525

Frederick the WiseFrederick the Wise (Friedrich der Weise), elector of Saxony from 1486 to 1525, was Martin Luther's sovereign in the early years of the Reformation. Indeed, were it not for Frederick, there might not have been a Lutheran Reformation. Born in Torgau in 1463, he became so well known for his skill in political diplomacy and his sense of justice and fairness that he was called "the Wise" by his subjects.

Though he probably never met Luther face-to-face, Frederick repeatedly protected and provided for him. In all likelihood he saved the reformer from a martyr's fate. Even in earlier days, Frederick unknowingly contributed to the Reformation, for in 1512, Vicar-General Johannes von Staupitz of the Augustinian Order came to the Elector, asking him to subsidize the expenses of the promising but poor scholar-monk as a means of strengthening Frederick's prized university in Wittenberg.

While he never made public renunciation of Roman Catholicism, Frederick refused the pope's demand to extradite Luther to Rome for a heresy trial in 1518. When Emperor Charles V declared Luther an outlaw in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, Frederick provided sanctuary for Luther at the Wartburg castle.

John the SteadfastFinally, at the end of his life, the elector gave the clearest indication of his beliefs and sympathies. On his deathbed, Frederick received the Lord's Supper in both kinds — a clear confession of the Evangelical faith.

Frederick received great encouragement in his support of Luther and the Evangelical Reformation from his brother John, who wholeheartedly embraced the Reformation in its early years. Upon Frederick's death, Duke John became Elector of Saxony. John's nickname was "the Steadfast" — indicating how he continued his brother's protection and encouragement of the Reformation.

Frederick's life illustrates many of the rapid changes sweeping across Europe during the Renaissance and Reformation. He went from being a collector and venerator of relics — and a believer in meritorious human works — to one who trusted in God's salvation given by grace through faith in Christ.

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