VI.3 The founder: a university professor

VI.3 The founder: a university professor

Why then was this immensely disruptive event so comfortably accomodated within the established structures of the medieval university? 

For one thing, the Reformation was fought out, first and foremost, in the domain of theology. The established curriculum and teaching methods of the medieval university had been developed, in large measure, to serve the Queen of the Sciences.  

Moreover, the first and greatest of the Protestant reformers, Martin Luther (b. 1483), was an academic his entire adult life. He obtained his MA in Erfurt in 1505, began teaching in the new university of Wittenberg in 1508 (only six years after its foundation), and obtained a doctorate in theology there in 1512.

The fact that Luther had obtained the highest academic credentials for teaching theology was central to his carefully cultivated image. The studio of Lukas Cranach the Elder produced hundreds of painted portraits of the great Reformer during his lifetime. The most popular of these, preserved in over seventy extant pained copies, was the one above, which proudly displayed Luther's doctoral cap as a visual representation of his high academic credentials.

Image. Lucas Cranach the Elder, portrait of Martin Luther with doctoral cap (1529), St. Anne's Church, Augsburg.  Source: Wikimedia, Public Domain.  Scores of further copies available in Corpus Cranach: Luther als Gelehrter.

Commentary. Howard Hotson (April 2021)

Further reading. R. W. Scribner, 'Incombustible Luther: The Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany', Past & Present, 110.1 (Feb.1986), 38–68,