The Life of Martin Luther
Luther's Later Years (1538-1546)

Luther’s Early Years  |  Luther the Reformer  |  Luther the Church Leader  |  Luther’s Later Years 
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1538 (age 54)

Luther's health deteriorates. He suffers from "the stone" (probably uric acid stones), moderately severe arthritis, heart problems, and his ever present digestive disorders. His poor health begins to affect his work. The amount of writing he is able to do begins to drop dramatically.
1539 (age 55)

Luther writes On the Councils and Churches
November 1 Katherine Luther has a miscarriage. Luther spends as much times as possible beside her bed. People all over the Lutheran world are praying for her.
December 10 Luther and Melanchthon issue a theological opinion on the impending second marriage of Philip the Magnanimous. (Philip had no intention of divorcing his first wife first.) They say that though bigamy ought not to be law or general principle, it is permitted in the Mosaic law and not explicitly forbidden in the Gospel. The marriage takes place in March 1540.
1540 (age 56)
February 27 Luther publishes Disputation on the Divinity and Humanity of Christ
1541 (age 57)  [Medallion of Luther at age 57]

Luther writes "Lord Keep us Steadfast in Thy Word"

Luther's health is particularly bad. The ulcer on his leg reopens. He has throat and ear infections, and continues to have problems with uric acid stones, arthritis, heart problems, and digestive disorders.

Luther's polemical writing grows increasingly coarse, sometimes vulgar
1542 (age 58)
September 20 Magdelena, Luther's daughter, dies [picture]
winter Luther suffers from severe depression. He mourns his daughter's death, sees the plague sweeping through Wittenberg, believes the faithlessness of his fellow Germans is a sign of the End Days.  He writes his will and thinks of his own death.
1543 (age 59)
January 4 Luther writes Against the Jews also known as Of the Jews and their Lies
July Luther publishes the Genesis Commentary
1544 (age 60)

Luther publishes a book of sermons
September Luther writes Short Confession of the Holy Sacrament
1545 (age 61)
March 5 Luther writes the preface to the complete Wittenberg edition of the Latin writings.  
March 25 Luther writes Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil. The argument has a basis in logic and Scripture. The language is the most vehement and vulgar Luther has ever written. To accompany it Luther commissions from Lucas Cranach a series of scatological political cartoons defaming the pope and Rome.  [more Reformation political cartoons]
July 28 Luther tells Katherine to sell their goods. He is angry and disillusioned with Wittenberg and wants to move. The university, Melanchthon, and the burgomaster persuade him to stay.
September 9 Luther publishes (in both Latin and German) Against the Thirty-two Articles of the Louvain Theologists
1546 (age 62) [picture of Luther in 1546  another later picture]
January 17 Luther is called to mediate between Gebhard and Albert, the two counts of Mansfield. Six days later he leaves for Eisleben and Mansfield. [picture]
February 17 Luther, surrounded by an audience, dies of heart failure (possibly due to a coronary thrombosis) at roughly 3 AM in Eisleben*.  A portrait artist captures his image at death.  [picture]  The room he died in eventually becomes a memorial.  [picture 1, picture 2, picture 3]
Luther's death mask
death mask
February 18 Justus Jonas writes down all the events in the 24 hours before Luther's death [a partial account]
February 20 Luther's coffin is moved to Wittenberg [picture of Wittenberg in 1546]
February 22
Luther's funeral is held in the castle church in Wittenberg. Johannes Bugenhagen gives the funeral oration.  He is buried in the Castle Church beneath a stone that reads "Here lies the body of Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Theology, who died in his hometown Eisleben in the year of our Lord 1546 on the 18th day of February after having lived for 63 years, 2 months and 10 days." [picture]

Luther’s Early Years  |  Luther the Reformer  |  Luther the Church Leader  |  Luther’s Later Years 
Life of Luther Home  |  Susan Lynn Peterson Home  | 
Timeline Charts of the Western Church

* indicates a site in German.  Altavista has a good translator.  So does Google.

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