Katharina von Bora was born on 29 January
1499 to an impoverished family of the lower nobility. She spent her
first few years living on her parents' farmstead surrounded by pleasant
countryside. But, at the age of five, financial circumstances dictated
that she should be placed in a religious institution. Thus she grew up
and was educated to be a nun.
Discipline was strict in the cloister if the necessities of life were,
at least, adequate. By the early 1520's, however, the thoughts and
ideas of one Martin Luther had started to penetrate the walls of the nunnery.
Katharina found herself sympathetic to those thoughts and ideas and
determined to escape to follow the Protestant path. This she achieved
though being caught trying to escape could incur the death penalty,
beheading, both for attempting escapees and anyone trying to help
them. Back in the secular world, after having spent most of her
childhood and all of her adolescence cloistered, she became the wife of
the leader of the Protestant revolution, Martin Luther. She moved with
him into the Black Cloister in Wittenberg, where Luther had originally
resided as a monk. Here they built up a great home, entertained many
guests and took in many children and adults both rich and destitute.
Katharina, while her husband worked at his theology, worked tirelessly
to grow and produce the food needed by this large household, acquiring
land and holdings to do so. She also bore her husband six children of
which four lived to adulthood. Alas, her husband died in 1546 and she
was left to continue with the household on her own. This would have
been task enough in itself, but others, principally Chancellor Brück,
would have her activities curtailed. On top of that she also needed
to flee war and the plague. It was during the flight from the latter when an
accident with the horses pulling her wagon taking her and her children
to a safer place occurred which led to her death. This story is skilfully told by D
Albrecht Thoma, patching together information from many sources.
Original German title: "Katharina Von Bora: Geschichtliches Lebensbild"