KATHARINA VON BORA


With or without her husband, Katharina was a woman of faith, stature, and conviction that often moved her to action.  Katharina was born into a poor but noble family in the German state of Saxony.  When her mother died, little “Katie,” at around five years old, was sent to a Benedictine convent school near Halle.  At age ten she was transferred to a Cistercian nunnery in Nimbschen, and in 1515, at the young age of 16, was consecrated as a nun.


Katharina lived as a nun for the following eight years, but as an intelligent woman and deep thinker, she could not ignore the news of Dr. Martin Luther and his campaign to reform the wayward teaching and practices of the Church. 

 “When Katherine was seventeen, Dr. Luther had come as near to their convent as Grimma, six miles away, and reports of his sermons in that church seeped into the convent. One of the nuns was Magdalene von Staupitz, niece of the vicar-general of the Augustinians, the man who gave Luther his first Bible with the words, “Let the study of the Scriptures be your occupation.” From this had stemmed Luther’s conversion and devotion to the Bible. Magdalene had received some of Luther’s writings and had eagerly imbibed the Reformed doctrines. She gradually and secretly drew as many as eight other nuns to her way of thinking. Katherine was one of them. Over their endless embroidery, patient distilling of herbs, and so on, they contrived to whisper together, and were alert to every bit of ecclesiastical news from the outside world.”

The escape of Katharina and eleven other nuns on Holy Saturday in 1523 is an exciting story and only the beginning of many courageous decisions and actions she would need to take during her life as the wife and widow of Dr. Luther.  The reformer’s many houseguests, moods of depression and other physical ailments, endless travels for the sake of the Church, and of course his time in hiding at Wartburg Castle, provided endless challenges for this devoted wife and mother.  Testifying to her perseverance in life, Kenneth Taylor wrote:

 “At his death Luther had been receiving a pension annuity from King Christian III of Denmark. King Christian III continued the pension after Luther’s death, making the payments to Katie. When the pension stopped coming in 1548, two of Luther’s colleagues sought to get the pension restored, to no effect. Katie took up the cause in letters to King Christian III in 1550 and 1552, to which the king finally assented. Katie was clearly a force to be reckoned with, a bit like the New Testament’s persistent widow.”