Scientists trawl through his household waste
The ex-monk’s claim of poverty stand dismissed
Berlin: German scientists have reconstructed an extraordinarily detailed picture of the domestic life of Martin Luther, the 16th-century reformer and father of Protestantism. This they did by trawling through his household waste uncovered during archaeological digs on sites where he used to live.
Beer tankards, grains of corn, cooking pots, even his toilet are among the finds dug up during the five-year project in the three places in Germany he spent his life. The items include his wife’s golden wedding band, a collection of 250 silver coins and the medicines used to treat his various ailments from angina to constipation.
Some of the finds have upset the Protestant church in Wittenberg where the ex-monk lived with his wife, the ex-nun Katharina von Bora, and their six children. It has termed “religiously irrelevant” evidence that the family used to throw dead cats into the rubbish bin and that the nails Luther used to secure his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, which led to his ex-communication from the Catholic Church and launched the Reformation, were in fact drawing pins.
Protestants from around the world are expected to flock to an exhibition at the history museum in Halle, where some of the discoveries will go on display.
Despite the widespread belief that Luther lived in poverty, evidence suggests he was a well-fed man weighing in at a hefty 150 kg when he died in 1546 at the age of 63. A search through the kitchen waste offers proof that the family ate well. There are clues that they regularly dined on roast goose and the tender meat of piglets, while during fasting periods they tucked into expensive fish including herring, cod, and plaice. Partridge and song-birds often graced the Luthers’ dinner table.
The claim by historians which will arguably be most upsetting for followers is the recently uncovered written evidence that it was not, as thought, a lightning bolt which led to the then 21-year-old’s spontaneous declaration he wanted to become a monk. Rather, it was his desperation to escape an impending arranged marriage. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008
6 months ago