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zum Inhalt springen Melanchthon Monument in Lutherstadt Wittenberg © Michael Bader, IMG Sachsen-Anhalt


"I would rather die than be separated from this man."

Philipp Melanchthon about Martin Luther

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560)

When it comes to the "how?" and "why?" of the Reformation, experts are unanimous: It never could have happened without Philipp Melanchthon. A formidable "right-hand man", Melanchthon was Luther's best friend and favorite intellectual sparring partner. Fiercely intelligent, he attended Heidelberg University at age 12 and went on to study everything from mathematics and law to astronomy and philosophy. By the time he was 21, he had already published many works, including a guide to Greek grammar (1518). Obviously quite taken with the Greek language, he even changed his German name "Schwartzerdt" ('black earth') to the Greek equivalent: Melanchthon.

Melanchthon Monument in Lutherstadt Wittenberg © IMG Sachsen-AnhaltMelanchthon and Luther © LutherCountry

Hired by the University of Wittenberg as its first Professor of Greek, he soon came under Luther's influence and switched to theology. Despite a 14-year difference in age, the two formed a fast and unshakable bond. While Melanchthon's lectures often drew 600 students at a time, he was known to be less charismatic than Luther; however, he was more organized than his mentor, who could be impulsive and emotional. At a time when Christianity was in turmoil, Melanchthon stayed cool, calm, and collected, preferring reason to passion and always looking for areas of agreement with fellow Christians.

When Luther was called to Augsburg in 1530 to defend his controversial teachings, it was Melanchthon who drew up the so-called Augsburg Confession. Of the 28 articles of Lutheran faith, the first 21 confirm the foundations of Lutheranism, while the last seven pinpoint the major differences between Lutheranism and the Roman Catholic Church. Sixteen years later, Melanchthon led the German Reformation movement after Luther's death. Ever the conciliator, he searched for common ground after Lutherans were defeated at the Battle of Muehlberg in 1547. His concessions led hardline Lutherans to denounce him as a traitor. He is also known for reforming the German education system. Philipp Melanchthon died in Lutherstadt Wittenberg in 1560 and was buried next to Martin Luther, determined to remain at his side even in death.

Would you like to follow in the footsteps of Melanchthon? Then check out our recommended tour or visit Melanchthon's timeline for further information about his life.