Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

Their revolutionary marriage was arguably one of the most scandalous and intriguing in history. Yet five centuries later, we still know little about Martin and Katharina Luther's life as husband and wife. Until now. Against all odds, the unlikely union worked, over time blossoming into the most tender of love stories. This unique biography tells the riveting story of two e...

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Title:Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk
Author:Michelle DeRusha
Rating:
ISBN:0801019109
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:320 pages

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk Reviews

  • David Frye
    Jan 03, 2017

    Some authors display courage in their choices of topics, others by the frank honesty of their self-disclosure, and others by daring to traverse terrain through which many writers have traveled before them.

    , through her work on

    , falls into the third category. If one were to pick the historical figures to whom the most linear feet of library shelves have been devoted, then, in some order near

    Some authors display courage in their choices of topics, others by the frank honesty of their self-disclosure, and others by daring to traverse terrain through which many writers have traveled before them.

    , through her work on

    , falls into the third category. If one were to pick the historical figures to whom the most linear feet of library shelves have been devoted, then, in some order near the top of the list, one would name Jesus, Martin Luther, and Abraham Lincoln.

    This year marks the quincentennial of the Protestant Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther’s decision to propose reforms of various practices of the Roman Catholic Church. In the five hundred years that have elapsed since 1517, the consequences—both intended and unintended—of that watershed event have touched most facets of modern Western civilization.

    But who was Martin Luther, the man at the center of the debate? This book’s novel and distinctive answer reframes this often-asked question. The author makes a quick and convincing case that one cannot understand the event or the man without grasping the character of his life. And one cannot understand his life without coming to appreciate his marriage. Finally, one cannot understand his marriage without getting to know Katherina von Bora, the former nun with whom Martin, the ex-monk, forged the first marital partnership that one could call a modern, Western marriage.

    The reader of

    will turn its pages eagerly as the portrait of the couple comes to life. Martin’s life and thoughts persist in copious, written records, making the challenge in sketching his contribution one of selection. On the other hand, the author’s work creates a kind of biographical–paleontological portrait of Katharina. It’s as if the author has found a scattering of shards—only eight letters from Katharina’s hand survive—and reconstructs the woman’s life from those shards and from judiciously selected studies of the lives of sixteenth-century women generally and women religious particularly.

    The delight in reading this book comes in the experience of watching the portrait of the relationship take shape and then comparing the couple’s marriage with contemporary relationships. The experience is like seeing the echoes of the faces of grandparents in the still-changing features of their grandchildren. While

    is a biography, amply researched and documented, the author has found a way to vivify her findings and the book’s subjects by telling their shared story and drawing out its implications. This approach makes the book become a page-turner.

    The celebrations and dissections of the Reformation, arguably one of the most significant historical events of the last millennium, will only increase in number as the year proceeds. If you want to begin your journey to appreciate this event’s influence on modern society and your own daily life from a place grounded in history and blooming with insights, then

    ’s

    is an excellent place to start.

    Note: The author included me in a team of readers who received copies of the book before its release.

  • Sonja
    Jan 14, 2017

    This book was especially fascinating to me, for several reasons. First, I am a German genealogist, and having done my own family research find connections to the Luther family through one of my lines. As a result, I too, did a lot of research on Martin Luther. I also had many ancestors from the province of Sachsen, where the book and the lives of this couple took place, who were pastors in the Lutheran church. Through my own research, I found that many of my Lutheran pastor ancestors knew Martin

    This book was especially fascinating to me, for several reasons. First, I am a German genealogist, and having done my own family research find connections to the Luther family through one of my lines. As a result, I too, did a lot of research on Martin Luther. I also had many ancestors from the province of Sachsen, where the book and the lives of this couple took place, who were pastors in the Lutheran church. Through my own research, I found that many of my Lutheran pastor ancestors knew Martin Luther, befriended him and experienced some of the trials of the Reformation, as did he.

    So that being said, I was amazed at the amazing research that must have been required for this book. It was really so interesting to see what type of lives the monks and the nuns had and experienced. And what a remarkable and strong man Martin Luther was to so strongly work to bring about religious reform and freedoms.

    A remarkable book and I feel so fortunate to have been able to read this.

    I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for my honest review, which I have given.

  • Deidra
    Jan 30, 2017

    Only eight letters remain that were written by Katharina von Bora, the woman who would become Martin Luther’s wife. There wasn’t much information to go on as Michelle DeRusha set out to introduce us to this woman who worked beside her husband—a man who, in many ways, saw her as his equal—during a time of transition and, what some might consider, upheaval, in the church. But Michelle has made the story come alive! Do not be fooled into thinking this is some dry, dull, historical piece that you’ll

    Only eight letters remain that were written by Katharina von Bora, the woman who would become Martin Luther’s wife. There wasn’t much information to go on as Michelle DeRusha set out to introduce us to this woman who worked beside her husband—a man who, in many ways, saw her as his equal—during a time of transition and, what some might consider, upheaval, in the church. But Michelle has made the story come alive! Do not be fooled into thinking this is some dry, dull, historical piece that you’ll have to slog through. With rich detail and a truly delightful cadence, Michelle sets the story of this runaway nun and renegade monk into an historical context and presents the players as people you will come to know and appreciate as their story unfolds.

    This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the church, ushering the Reformation. It’s easy to look at an act such as that, at a time such as the one we’re in now, and wish we had some of that gumption; some of that pluck. But Martin and Katharina, as you’ll see in the book, were ordinary people, with ordinary concerns and cares, hopes and fears, who simply did they best they could with the time they were given. For those of us who dream of modern-day revolutionaries, this book is the perfect historical examination of the extraordinary results of faithfully living out our ordinary days, with fidelity, a good sense of humor (we can thank Martin for some of the chuckles in these pages), a great deal of resourcefulness, and a sliver of faith.

  • Jennie W
    Jan 23, 2017

    The first thing I saw, when I opened the book was her book dedication to her dad "the most Lutheran Catholic I know" I thought I think I am going to like this book, as I have Lutheran and Catholic roots, so it gave me a chuckle!!

    This book is the story of a famous couple most of us know, Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who knew at that time in history what an impact these two made to our church and not only that, they are an example of what a marriage should be and represent. "Together, th

    The first thing I saw, when I opened the book was her book dedication to her dad "the most Lutheran Catholic I know" I thought I think I am going to like this book, as I have Lutheran and Catholic roots, so it gave me a chuckle!!

    This book is the story of a famous couple most of us know, Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who knew at that time in history what an impact these two made to our church and not only that, they are an example of what a marriage should be and represent. "Together, this legendary couple encountered tremendous adversity and preserved in the face of hardship. They experienced joy and grief, triumph and travail in their twenty-one years together. In short, they were human, which means they were flawed and fallible, just like the rest of us." You will read about how their unlikely union happen 500 years ago and just how "chancy" it was, as you know she was a run-away nun and Martin a renegade monk! You will feel for how she was raised and basically given away at a young age, you will cry with them at losing their child, and mourn with her when Martin died. More than that, this book is so well written, the details, the history! Michelle DeRusha, the author, keeps you from putting the book down! Michelle, did her research when she wrote this book! I love how she included so many details (living conditions, marriage customs, childbirth and raising, church history/theology). This book is so intriguing and interesting to read. I don't think I have ever read such a great biography, usually they are kind of dull, but this has life to it! So if you enjoy reading biographies, have never read a biography, or are interested in some church history from one of the most famous couples, you will want to read this book and then add it to your library.We can learn so much from them about faith, love, and life today! I have already decided this book will be future reading for my kids in our homeschool!

  • victoria
    Jan 25, 2017

    KATHARINA & MARTIN

    LUTHER

    The Radical Marriage of a

    Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

    By Michelle DeRusha

    Forward by Karen Swallow Prior

    This book was a very interesting to read not like a normal life love story as we all know and we can not find easily from the regular textbook too. A former nun named Katharina and Martin Luthers’ individual living life story of their unlikely marriage. This will be a most of love story an unique biography of the remarkable people of there legendry couple. The Aut

    KATHARINA & MARTIN

    LUTHER

    The Radical Marriage of a

    Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

    By Michelle DeRusha

    Forward by Karen Swallow Prior

    This book was a very interesting to read not like a normal life love story as we all know and we can not find easily from the regular textbook too. A former nun named Katharina and Martin Luthers’ individual living life story of their unlikely marriage. This will be a most of love story an unique biography of the remarkable people of there legendry couple. The Author, Michelle DeRusha remind us about how the grace of Christ truly affects our life since today. I highly recommend everyone must read this book.

    “ I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers in exchange for this review “

  • Valerie
    Jan 29, 2017

    I learned more than I thought possible about the roots of modern Christianity in this captivating book by Michelle DeRusha. Better yet, though, it was like reading a historical romance while learning about the epic shift in church and gender roles. I wish I had better words to more accurately describe how much I enjoyed this easy read that left me wishing there were more!

  • Kathy
    Jan 30, 2017

    JANUARY 30, 2017 BY HOLY VACATION QUEEN LEAVE A COMMENT

    Katharina & Martin Luther – A Book Review

    Katharina and Martin Luther

    I’m addicted to memoirs and biographies,and fascinated by Christian history and daring women, so I jumped at chance to review Michelle DeRusha’s, Katharina & Martin Luther, about a ‘radical marriage of a runaway nun and a renegade monk’. This well-crafted book reads more like suspense story than a historical account of two fascinating people in the Middle Ages who ch

    JANUARY 30, 2017 BY HOLY VACATION QUEEN LEAVE A COMMENT

    Katharina & Martin Luther – A Book Review

    Katharina and Martin Luther

    I’m addicted to memoirs and biographies,and fascinated by Christian history and daring women, so I jumped at chance to review Michelle DeRusha’s, Katharina & Martin Luther, about a ‘radical marriage of a runaway nun and a renegade monk’. This well-crafted book reads more like suspense story than a historical account of two fascinating people in the Middle Ages who changed history. Michelle, a gifted writer, finds an eloquent balance in presenting facts within a well-structured, intriguing storyline that kept me wanting more as I finished each chapter. Sleepy and up way past my bedtime, I found myself reading ‘just one more page‘.

    I knew some of Martin Luther’s influence on Christianity that launched the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, including his radical rejection of the Catholic Church due to its power and corruption in seeking indulgences – getting people to purchase a free ticket from punishment of sin. I knew less about his years as a monk and his harsh asceticism, his spiritual awakening, and being excommunicated by the Pope for his unfolding conflicting theologies. I knew little about his influence on clerical marriage, marriage ceremonies as we know them today, and his high esteem for marriage and sexuality as God-appointed. I knew nothing of Katharina, little about girls women in the Middle Ages, or of this fascinating marriage portrayed in Katharina and Martin Luther — a book that opened wide the door into another world of the Middle Ages and a pivotal point in Christian history.

    As a filmmaker, I appreciate Michelle’s cinematic writing bringing the reader into the heart of the 16th Century Europe, into the intimacy and immediacy of a scene such as a flickering of candlelight on the wall, a breath, and detailed sense of place and time. Although, little is known about Katharina due to scant correspondence and the fact that women weren’t even considered citizens unless married, historians believe Katharina was born in 1499 into the von Bora family of lower nobility. We soon learn she’s sent to a cloister at five-years-old, alleviating financial burdens of her father, common for many families with daughters, a practice Martin Luther later considered a disgrace.

    Katharina’s early years in a Benedictine cloister were rich in education and comfort, however at 9-years-old she moved to a more austere, isolated Cistercian cloister, far from the world where she mostly lived a life of industrious silence and obedience with strict daily practices and duties that allowed little sleep. Michelle’s writing drew me into the isolation Katharina must have felt as such a young girl, sparking a quiet outrage that raised questions for me about the cloister’s oppressive spiritual practices imposed by the invisible, yet powerful ghost of the Catholic Church lurking somewhere in the backdrop.

    I won’t offer too many more details because I don’t want to spoil the fun! Just to say Katharina and Martin Luther is a daring escapade of two ‘rebels with a cause‘ challenging the authority of the Catholic Church, a story of scandal and rebellion and history changing material that delights, educates and entertains. It’s also sexy in an odd, Middle-Ages sort of way, as these two heretics, a former monk and nun, break the chains of the rigid sexual ethics of the Catholic church. Readers even get to glimpse the consummation of their marriage on their wedding night!

    I warmed to the industrious, strong-willed, intelligent Katharina — amazed by her talents and perseverance: planting fields, butchering livestock, catching fish, preserving foods, hauling water, chopping wood, selling cows, brewing beer, caring for an often ill Martin, concocting herbal remedies, hospitality to an ongoing stream of guests, care-taking a distressed property, being given (by Luther) all financial responsibilities, and more. I leave wondering if she was the ultimate Proverb’s woman (Proverb 31 is a woman who can do it all- She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands; She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens; She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard, etc.). Or was she more of like a slave under the patriarchal expectations of wifely duties of her time – not much different from cloister life? I’m still contemplating this question.

    Martin Luther, well, at first I had mixed feelings about Mr. Luther. His outspoken, fearless tactics and clever rants against the injustices of the Catholic Church, inspire and entertain. Yet,”obstinate, rebellious and sharp-tongued”, at times he seems pompous and even irritating — which also makes for a great character, the kind of person needed take on the injustices of the Catholic Church and change history. He conformed to the belief of the time (a belief still today held today in some Christian circles), that wives and husbands have separate roles, and men are head of the household and superior as ordained by God. Martin wrote, “women are created for no other purpose than to serve men”, which made me feel more protective of Katharina– surely she was much more than a servant! Also, I felt irritated by his letters to friends during their early marriage, stating how he really wasn’t attracted to Katharina, although he esteemed her. He wrote to his friend, “I do not love my wife, but I appreciate her“, feeling only that God willed the marriage. Surely, Katharina deserved more!

    Yet, DeRusha goes on to unfold a softer, more loving man who actually deeply respected women, a man fiercely in love with his wife. DeRusha asserts his seemingly misogynist rants about women in his writings, more often part of his typical playful bantering around a table with beer drinking buddies, rarely done without a feisty, outspoken Katharina joining in, holding her own, joining in the fun.

    I warmed to Martin even more as DeRusha unfolds the power of his love, honor, adoration and respect of, “his Kate” –even calling her “Lord”! Many consider Martin Luther a misogynist, but his letters and life with Katharina tell a different story. DeRusha writes, “how he lived with Katharina in their day-to-day life as husband and wife was another thing entirely” — “closely bound to, and dependent on Kate”.

    In the end, Katharina emerged as a powerful force in a marriage surely God-ordained, steeped in a love more rich and intimate than romantic love, an intelligent, strong-willed woman, who alongside Martin Luther, helped change Christian history.

    A big kudos Michelle DeRusha, an enjoyable, enriching read and highly recommended!

  • David Steele
    Feb 01, 2017

    Michelle DeRusha, Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 314 pp. $14.79

    When Baker Publishing gave me an opportunity to read and review Katharina & Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha, I hesitated. For almost twenty-five years, I have studied the life of Luther and researched the finer points of the Protestant Reformation. In 2015, I began a period of research and writing which led to the publication of my book, Bo

    Michelle DeRusha, Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 314 pp. $14.79

    When Baker Publishing gave me an opportunity to read and review Katharina & Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha, I hesitated. For almost twenty-five years, I have studied the life of Luther and researched the finer points of the Protestant Reformation. In 2015, I began a period of research and writing which led to the publication of my book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel Centered Convictions of Martin Luther. So my original hesitation had nothing to do with a lack of interest. Indeed, my interest in Luther has never waned. My only question was this: Would this book add any new insight or reveal aspects of Luther's life that were previously unknown to me?

    Thankfully, I decided to read the book. After only a few pages, I knew that my decision to devour this new book about Luther's life would pay rich dividends.

    First, Michelle DeRusha is an excellent writer. Her writing is clearly linked to the historical data concerning Luther's life and is informed by a wealth of scholarship that she is quick to utilize.

    Second, Katharina and Martin Luther is not your standard fare history book. The book reads like a novel but never sacrifices any of the historical content that readers expect. DeRusha has a gift for making history come alive and draws the reader into the setting she seeks to expose. I often found myself mysteriously transported to the Wittenberg landscape, smelling the fragrance of the countryside, or experiencing the unique tension of the Reformation. The author nicely captures the zeitgeist of the 16th century and strategically guides readers through its hallowed halls.

    Finally, DeRusha skillfully presents the blossoming relationship between Martin Luther and Katharina. Despite the many challenges that this family encountered, one thing remains certain: “The Protestant Reformation would have happened without the marriage of Luther and Katharine. But Luther would not have been the same Reformer without Katharina.”

    Katharina and Martin is thoroughly researched and presented in a winsome way that will no doubt attract a wide range of readers. Highly recommended!

    I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

  • Robin
    Jan 30, 2017

    Loved this book more than I thought I would. DeRusha's style of writing makes Katharina and Luther's story come to life. Even though it's peppered with footnotes, it reads like fiction. If you're like me and didn't realize (or remember) there was a Mrs. Luther, you'll find her story very interesting. She was a women's libber before there was women's lib. And Martin's views on women (and marriage) were very progressive for his time. Be careful - you won't want to stop reading once you start.

  • Amy Sullivan
    Jan 31, 2017

    Dear Michelle DeRusha,

    Stop it. Stop making me stay up late to find out exactly what happens to Katharina after she runs away from the convent. Stop making me think of twenty-two-year-old Martin Luther promising to become a monk if St. Anne protected him. Stop making me wonder about strange wedding nights and plague victims. Just stop making history so engaging! Only teasing. Don't stop. The world needs more books like this.