Two New Volumes From Ellert & Richter Verlag on Luther

Matthias Gretzschel
Martin Luther
His Life and Places of Work

978-3-8319-0642-0The effects of the life and work of the Wittenberg Reformer Martin Luther were universal, but he spent most of his time in the electoral principality of Saxony, which as a result of his life and work became the “mother country of the Reformation”. The theologian and journalist Matthias Gretzschel approaches the Luther phenomenon by tracing Luther’s fortunes along the stations of his life: from Eisleben in the county of Mansfeld where he was born via his schooldays in Eisenach to his entry into the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt as a monk, from Wittenberg where he nailed his theses to the church door to the Leipzig Debate, from his appearances before the Diet of Worms to his “protective custody” in Wartburg Castle where he translated the New Testament into German. The later journeys that he made from Wittenberg to promote the Reformation are also documented. In the second part of the book Luther sites in Germany are presented in alphabetical order with detailed information and up-to-date photos of each town or city. The focus is on authentic places where Martin Luther lived and worked, many of which have already been refurbished for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. They are the churches in which he preached, houses where he lived or stayed, and Luther monuments and exhibitions. The other main sites of the cities and towns in question are also presented. With more than 250 illustrations, a chronology and an index.

And

Martin Treu
Am Anfang war das Wort
Martin Luther und die Reformation in Europa

978-3-8319-0639-01517 veröffentlichte ein Wittenberger Professor 95 Thesen gegen den Missbrauch des Ablasses. Daraus entstand eine Bewegung, die weder Martin Luther noch irgendein anderer voraussehen konnte: die Reformation. Eine umstürzende Veränderung weit über die Grenzen der Kirche hinaus. In Sachsen zuerst, dann in weiten Teilen Deutschlands und schließlich in ganz Europa veränderten sich Kirche und Kultur, Staat und Gesellschaft. Wie und wo das geschah, erzählt der Autor auf knappem Raum in leicht verständlicher Sprache. Die Verhältnisse in Wittenberg werden ebenso geschil- dert, wie die Entwicklungen im Deutschen Reich. Gleichzeitig werden die Reformationen in der Schweiz und den Niederlanden als Ausgangspunkt der zweiten großen Strömung neben Luther gewürdigt. Schließlich finden sich auch die Veränderungen in der katholischen Kirche, die zu ihrer neuzeitlichen Gestalt führen.

Both of these books present interesting details about Luther which readers may not have found in other sources.  So, for instance, the first volume by Gretzschel, in English, gives readers nothing less than a fully illustrated guided tour of Luther’s life and locales.  Scarcely does a page pass which isn’t gorgeously illustrated in full color prints and reproductions.

Accordingly, when one comes to the point in the discussion where Luther is summoned to appear at the Diet of Worms the reader is provided a portrait of Charles V, a copy of the summons to Luther, a portrayal of the city, a number of pictures of Luther statues from the famous ‘here I stand’ episode, and a copy of the edict denouncing Luther, along with precise descriptions of the events portrayed.

But that’s just the first part of the book.  The second part is an alphabetical listing of every place which played a part in Luther’s life from Altenburg to Zwickau and each place is lushly illustrated as was the case in the first part of the book.

The third part of the volume offers a chronology of Luther’s life and this is followed by an index and a listing of photo credits.

The second book, this time in German, also provides a biography of Luther and is also richly illustrated.  But unlike the former volume, which ends at Luther’s death, the volume in hand takes the further step of describing the influence of Luther not only in Germany but across Europe as well as his Reformation reached as far as England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Austria, and numerous other lands.  It also discusses the events of the Augsburg Interim and the Council of Trent.  For this reason the work by Treu can be viewed as a very helpful continuation of the work of Gretzschel.

2017 will continue to see dozens of volumes about Luther and about his Reformation spring from the presses of Germany and North America (and other lands as well).  For persons interested in dipping their feet in the Luther-an waters, these two books are the perfect ‘wading pool’.  They are not so technical that beginning ‘swimmers’ will drown but they are not so shallow and insubstantive that readers will feel unchallenged or uninformed once they have waded through them.

These books are, in a word, ideal introductions to Luther’s life.  Not least because they are so wonderfully illustrated, but more importantly because they are both so well written.