George, Duke Of Saxony Essay, Research Paper
George, Duke of Saxony was one of Martin Luther’s greatest opponents. He was the son of Duke Albrect and the Bohemian princess Zedena; he was originally destined for the clergy, which meant he has obtained higher education including Latin. At the age of seventeen he was called upon to govern in place of his father during the latter’s absence in the Netherlands, a task that he approached with a sense of high duty, and diligence, and a feeling for order, right, and thrift. His government was exemplary, and his family life a happy one. After his father’s death in 1501, he became Duke of Saxony.
When Luther initially posted his attack on indulgences in 1517, George did not immediately oppose him. He was very much aware of the need for reform and spoke out against abuses in the monasteries and those surrounding the granting of indulgences. “What Luther writes is not altogether untrue nor uncalled for. In fact these matters need speaking out about and holding up to the light. If no one mentioned the evils in the Church, the very stones would cry out in the end”( Simon 223). In his pursuit of the truth he sponsored the Leipzieg debates in 1519, between John Eck, a leading German theologian, and Luther. He was shocked however, when Luther seemed to advance the views of John Hus, and from then on he was a strong opponent of the Lutheran heresy.
As Luther became a defined heretic and split with Rome, George turned against the reformers. One of the Church’s strongest supporters in Germany, he did all he could to prevent the spread of Lutheranism into his territories. Even so, he did not lose sight of the fact that there was a great need for reform within the Church. When the German princes of the Empire presented the Emperor with a list of grievances at the Imperial Diet of Worms in 1521, George included twelve additional complaints of his own against the indulgences and annates.
His opposition to Luther steadily increased as the Protestant movement grew. To counter Luther’s translation of the Bible, he ordered his secretary to prepare a new translation. To this work George added a staunchly orthodox preface. He added also a ban not merely on the works of Luther but on those of Lutheran sympathizers. He banished those of anti-Catholic views from the Duchy of Saxony and even delivered unfaithful ecclesiastics to the bishop of Merseburg, and Apostates were denied the right of church burial.
George was a strong advocate of a universal council that would define beyond doubt Christian doctrine and introduce long overdue reforms. Until such a council would be convoked, he sought to introduce reforms in his own lands. To this end he made formal appeals to Rome for the right to make formal visits and investigations of the monasteries in the duchy. However, since the Curia was not yet ready he did not receive the authority he sought. Thus the reforms he was able to introduce, such as the consolidation of half-empty monasteries and the supervision of monastic lands turned over to the secular authority, had little effect saving off the tide of Protestantism sweeping across northern Germany (
Though he united with most Protestant princes, the most notable being his cousin Frederick the Wise and his less exalted brother-in-law the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, to put down the Peasant’s Revolt in 1525. He was also one of the main organizers and supporters of the League of Dessau, also in 1525. The League of Dessau was a group of German princes who defended the interest of the Church against the encroachments of the reformers and their secular allies. In 1533 the League of Halle with George again playing a prominent part on the organization superseded it. The League of Halle in its turn gave birth to the Holy League of Nuremburg in 1538. This League was dedicated to the preservation of the religious peace of Nuremburg, which temporarily prevented open war between growing hostile parties.
One of George’s greatest disappointments was that he died without sufficient assurance that the Duchy of Saxony along with his other holdings would remain Catholic. The premature death of both of his sons meant that George’s land would go to his brother Henry who had converted to Protestantism. A belated but unsuccessful attempt was made by the Duke in 1539 to secure his brother a promise to give up his Lutheran beliefs as a condition to the inheritance.
During his lifetime he had obtained the canonization of the medieval Bishop Bennoit Meissen to construct a fortification against Luther’s influence in his territory. Had ordered the printing of a German version of the New Testament that, although based on Luther’s translation, promulgated Catholic teachings, and had been involved in a continuous exchange of controversial writing with Luther. He aspired to reform the church by leaving the papacy intact but finally could not halt Luther’s Reformation.