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Personalities & Contemporary Witnesses

Lucas Cranach the Elder


Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born in the Upper Franconian town of Kronach in 1472, the son of an artist. Upon completing his service as apprentice to his father, Lucas Cranach went on the road as a journeyman. Vienna was his first stop before he was appointed in 1505 as official painter to the court of Frederick the Wise of Saxony in Wittenberg. In the years that followed, Lucas Cranach developed his workshop into a versatile artistic manufacture.

It is here that he became friends with Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. Cranach and his wife were witnesses to Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora's wedding and he was Godfather to the couple’s first son, Johannes. Apart from his workshop, Cranach also ran an apothecary, a printing press and a book shop as well. Cranach was one of the richest and most highly respected citizens of Wittenberg. He served on Wittenberg's town council for many years and also held the office of mayor a number of times. In 1547, his employer, Duke John Frederick the Magnanimous (der Großmütige), was defeated by imperial troops at the Battle of Mühlberg and taken prisoner. Two years later, Cranach accompanied the Duke to his new residential palace at Weimar. In the meantime, Cranach had passed his workshop from which up to five thousand paintings are said to have hailed on to his son, known to us as Lucas Cranach the Younger.Lucas Cranach the Elder passed away on 16 October 1553, at what was then the  advanced age of 81, in his daughter’s home in Weimar, where he was buried at St. James's Cemetery (Jakobsfriedhof). Cranach was not just the most typical painter of the Reformation. His drawings were included in texts of the Reformation making him a vital contributor to the spiritual debate of his time.

“I enjoyed painting Luther and painted him often. My favourite painting of him is when he was in hiding in Wartburg Castle under the alias Junker Jörg. Back then Martin had a full beard and had let his Roman tonsure grow in. That was the last time he was ever seen with a full beard. We became friends just a short time after Luther had come to Wittenberg to take up his post as a professor. I helped him woo Katharina and later on my wife and I were witnesses at their wedding. Back then, people called it scandalous that a former monk was marrying an escaped nun. But Martin didn’t care at all about what was being said. I also became the Godfather of Johannes, Luther’s eldest son.


Born on 4 October 1472 in Kronach, Upper Franconia
Died on 16 October 1553 in Weimar
Friend of Luther
Godfather of Luther's eldest son

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