This is our second installment on the life, legacy, and thought of Martin Luther, and we are looking at Luther’s early life in Eisleben. Luther’s parents, Hans and Margarethe Luder, came to Eisleben from the town of Mora, where Hans’ father owned a farm. When Hans’ father died, the farm passed to Hans’ older brother. Hans had a choice: he could either stay on the family farm and work for his older brother, or he could strike out on his own. He chose the latter.
The Luther family owned something like six different farms in that region. Later in his life, Luther would go back and visit Mora, and when he got there he said that Luthers owned half that region. Curiously enough, Mora would show up again later in Luther’s life. After the Diet of Worms, Luther was heading back to Wittenberg when he was kidnapped at the behest of Frederick the Wise and taken to Wartburg Castle. The kidnapping took place right outside Mora.
In 1483, Hans and Margarethe Luder moved to Eisleben, and on November 10, they had a son. The next day, they walked out the front door of their two-story home with its Gothic style and its timbered second story, and they walked about a hundred and fifty meters into the church of Saints Peter and Paul. There, the boy was baptized. November 11 was the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, so the boy was named Martin. He later Latinized his last name, so instead of Luder it became Luther. His family was a very pious family. Not only did they have him baptized, but they also took him to Mass regularly.
Hans and Margarethe came to Eisleben to make a living through mining. Copper had been discovered nearby, leading to a bit of a boom in the 1480s. Hans realized quickly that he was not alone in his quest for wealth, and he found it hard to make his way among all the others in Eisleben. So, they moved to Mansfeld, where Martin ended up spending his childhood. There in Mansfeld, Hans and Margarethe did well for themselves. By the end of his life, Hans was the supervisor on record for about five mines. After about a decade in Mansfeld, Hans was appointed to the town council.
Eisleben at the time of Luther’s birth was a Catholic town. In fact, all of the towns in the region were. It was really the only church; you could be pagan or you could be a member of the Roman Catholic Church. But by the time of Luther’s death in 1546, Eisleben had been captured by the Reformation. And it was in large part through Martin Luther, who was born there on November 10, 1483.