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Personalities & Contemporary Witnesses

Frederick the Wise


Frederick the Wise

Frederick III was born in 1463 in Hartenfels Castle in Torgau, the first son of Elector Ernest of the House of Wettin. By 1486, he had already succeeded his father as ruler of the family lands. A promoter of the arts and sciences, during his reign, Frederick managed to keep his territory out of war. He built both the Castle and the Castle Church, transforming Wittenberg into his seat of power. In 1502, he also founded a university in the city – the birthplace and centre of the Reformation. Although Frederick’s Catholic faith was deeply rooted, he recognised the need to reform the Papal church.

Frederick’s greatest historical merit lies in his protection of Martin Luther. He refused to recognise the judgement passed by Rome in 1518 that Luther was a heretic and assured the accused safe-conduct to the Imperial Diet at Worms in 1521. Upon Luther’s condemnation, he had him brought to Wartburg Castle. Frederick’s inconspicuous work behind the scenes played an essential role in enabling the Reformation to spread. During the Peasants’ Revolt, the prince opposed the idea of annihilating the rebels. In fact, he was of the opinion that the demands of the peasants be met. Frederick died at his hunting lodge in Lochau in 1525. It was only on his deathbed that he allowed the Eucharist to be administered to him in the Protestant manner.


Born on 17 January 1463 in Torgau
Died on 5 May 1525 in Lochau
Elector of Saxony, patron of the Reformer Martin Luther

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