One of the most important sites of research into the history of the Reformation is the weblog “Study Center for Protestantism” in at the University of Erfurt. Over the next few years, sponsored by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) the Gotha Research Library will expand into a Research and Study Center for the Cultural History of Protestantism in the Early Modern Period.
Today, the weblog placed online 2 photos and transcriptions of Martin Luther’s Gotha Testament of 1537. Luther wrote this testament. You can find a digital facsimile of the document and a transcription here.
The Testament was written in Gotha after a meeting of the Schmalkaldic League, called by Luther’s protector Elector Johann Friedrich to hammer out a statement of belief for the new evangelical church. Because he was suffering from an unbearable kidney infection, Luther was able to have very little impact on the proceedings. By the time he reached Gotha, Luther was quite sure that he would die.
The document begins with Luther’s assertion that his attack on the Papacy was correct and needed to be continued. He hoped that Elector Johann Friedrich “reinen lehr verharren und bleiben” and not be influenced by the Catholic Church. He asked forgiveness from Philipp Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Caspar Cruciger, who he had wronged. He also remembered his wife Katharina, with whom he had spent 12 “fröhlich“ years together. He asked his friends to look after her and their children. The Testament ends with his Confession to Jesus Christ.
If you are not interested in the content, it is worth opening the document just to see handwriting of the 16th century.