16 January 1463 A.D. Fredrick III Born—Elector of Saxony & Protector of Luther and German Reformation
Frederick the Wise
"Time, perhaps, will show if I have been a good diviner" (Frederick the Wise, 1517)
Frederick the Wise is remembered as the man who saved Martin Luther from the fury of the Catholic Church.
Frederick was born in Hartenfels Castle, Torgau in 1463, the first son of the Elector Ernst of the House of Wettin. In 1486 he succeeded his father, together with his younger brother John, as sovereign of Ernestine Saxony.
He was a man of peaceful conciliation and kept his territory out of all warfare during his reign.
In 1502 he founded the University of Wittenberg where Martin Luther taught. During Luther's lifetime Wittenberg was the home and intellectual centre of the reformation movement of which the sovereign was a reliable protector, although only active in the background.
At a crucial period for the early Reformation, Frederick protected Luther from the Pope and the emperor, and took him into custody at the Wartburg castle after the Diet of Worms (1521), which put Luther under the imperial ban. His repertoire of diplomatic stalling tactics stood their test; the opponents never finding a weak point. He saw Luther as unjustly persecuted because Luther could not be found guilty of any real crime.
Frederick, however, had little personal contact with Luther and remained a Catholic, although he gradually inclined toward the doctrines of the Reformation.
Frederick, as was his habit, formed his own opinion after exact consideration of the state of affairs by his advisers and listening to the opinion of a recognized expert, in Luther's case Erasmus von Rotterdam.
Frederick died at his hunting lodge in Lochau in 1525.