Photo A Torgau is an important town in Reformation history for a variety of reasons. A 16th saying was "Wittenberg is the mother, Torgau is the wet nurse of the Reformation" (quoted in Hoffman, 189). Among the reason for its importance is its claim to have "the first Protestant church" (see below for more information). Photo A is a close-up shot of one of the four angels holding up the free-standing altar in this first of all Protestant churches.

Facts and Photos

Luther visited Torgau more than forty time. In this home (photo B) Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and Jonas gathered in1530 to write the Torgau Articles, which was one several documents used by Philip Melanchthon when he drafted the Augsburg Confession. Photo B
Photo C Hartenfels Castle, built by Elector Frederick on the bank of the Elbe River in the 1530s (photo C), is considered one of the most important example of German Renaissance architecture. Photo D shows the bear pit at the entrance (similar in structure and purpose of a moat), still in use. Photo D

Photo ELuther preached for the consecration of the chapel in the castle, that "first Protestant church," in 1544. Concerning the chapel (photo E), Hoffman writes: "For the first time, the spirit of the Reformation found architectural and artistic expression. The altar . . ., the focal point of the room, consists of a slab carried by four angels. This new altar style, a simple table instead of a reliquary, is directly attributable to Luther and the Reformatory conception of Communion" (190).

Torgau is also the city in which Katherine von Bora Luther died. Kittelson writes about the misery in her life after Luther's death: "The years that followed were bitter for Katie. The Schmalkald War broke out the same year Luther died. She was forced to flee Wittenberg and all her property was destroyed. Her own prince was imprisoned and she could depend only on King Christian III of Denmark. She did return to the city, but then had to flee again. She returned once more during the summer of 1552, only to be driven away by the outbreak of the Plague. The wagon she was riding in tipped over and threw her into a canal, and she died at Torgau on December 20, 1552" (299).

Photo FShe is buried in St. Mary's church in Torgau (photo F) and her gravestone is on the north side of the chancel (photo G). Ironically, before the Reformation the church was under the patronage of the monastery in Nimbschen, from which Katherine escaped in 1523. For more about the Katherine von Bora's early life, go to the page on Nimbschen.

Photo G




 One of my most vivid memories from the 1950s black and white movie about Martin Luther is the scene with Martin and Katie in which he is explaining to her why it's impossible for them to marry. After each of his arguments, Katherine, seated demurely, looks at him with those gorgeous bedroom eyes and says submissively, "Yes, Doctor Luther." The film cuts to the next scene, their wedding, making it clear that the man who stood firm against emperor and pope was putty in the hands of this remarkable woman. If ever a woman lived up to the model wife described in Proverbs 31:10-31, she did. A few examples will suffice:

"The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain" (v. 11).  Luther trusted her so much that he made her the sole beneficiary in his will, an extraordinary act in the 16th century.

"She rises while it is still night and provides food for household and tasks for her servant girls" (v. 15). Katherine managed a household of 8 to 12 family members, 8 to 12 live-in servants, and 20-30 live-in students!

"She considers a field and buys it. . ." (v.16). Katherine and Martin purchased an entire farm in Zulsdorf, which she managed herself.

Unfortunately, all our knowledge of this remarkable woman comes only from secondary sources. Nothing survives of letters she wrote to Martin (although his letters to her are extant), and no one thought to record her words at the dinner table, unless they related to something the famous doctor said. That we have as much information that we do about her indicates how incomparable she must have been.