Martin Luther is inevitably linked to the Reformation. Most Protestants are familiar with his posting of the 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. On the other hand, word of the dream of Elector Friedrich III didn’t get around as well. He had already seen the monk coming, but didn’t know it.
Inhalt / Content
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This event is considered the beginning of the Reformation and should still be known to most Protestants. However, this extremely important milestone in history is only treated as an anecdote from that time. The Reformation, or Protestantism, was buried in time for the 500th anniversary on October 31, 2017, and today we no longer celebrate Reformation Day, but Halloween.
Despite the massive exodus from the Evangelical Church, there are still millions who call themselves Protestants. But who of these would still find an answer to the question of what they are actually protesting against? Concerned silence should prevail.
The then patron of Martin Luther, Elector Frederick III, also known as Frederick the Wise of Saxony (01/17/1463 – 05/05/1525) is less well known. He offered Luther shelter from the captors of Rome in a place that was secret at the time. Martin Luther had been excommunicated by the Pope and was considered outlawed. The German Emperor Charles V had prevented a treacherous imprisonment and subsequent assassination of Luther at the Diet of Worms in the same way that had happened to Jan Hus in Constance just over 100 years earlier. The disgrace of Emperor Sigismund’s betrayal of Huss was still too deep in the memories of the “Holy Roman Empire” that were still alive at the time.
The motivation of Elector Friedrich III for taking Luther into care is probably only known to very few. Friedrich was not entirely unprepared for the 95 theses at the Castle Church in Wittenberg. On the night before October 31, 1517, the Elector of Saxony had a dream three times in a row with the same meaning. Friedrich related his dream to his brother, Duke Johann, the very next morning.
“Brother, I must tell you a dream which I had last night, and the meaning of which I should like much to know. It is so deeply impressed on my mind, that I will never forget it, were I do live a thousand years. For I dreamed it thrice, and each time with new circumstances.”
“Havin gone to bed last night, fatigued and out of spirits. I fell asleep shortly after my prayer, and slept calmly for about two hours and a half, I then awoke, and continued awake to midnight, all sorts of thoughts passing through my mind. Among other things, I thought how I was to observe the Feast of All Saints. I pryed for the poor souls in purgatory; and supplicated Got to guide me, my counsels, and my people according to truth.”
“I again fell asleep, and then dreamed that Almighty God sent me a monk, who was a true son of the Apostle Paul. All the saints accompanied him by order of God, in order to bear testimony before me, and to declare that he did not come to contrive any plot, but that all that he did was according to the will of God. They asked me to have the goodness graciously to permit him to write something on the door of the church of the Castle of Wittemberg. This I granted through my chancellor. Thereupon the monk went to the church, and began to write in such large characters that I could read the writing at Schweinitz. The pen which he used was so large that its end reached as far as Rome, where it pierced the ears of a lion that was crouching there, and caused the triple crown upon the head of the Pope to shake.“
“All the cardinals and princes, running hastily up, tried to prevent it from falling. You and I, brother, wished also to assist, and I stretched out my arm; — but at this moment I awoke, with my arm in the air, quite amazed, and very much enraged at the monk for not managing his pen better. I recollected myself a little; it was only a dream.“
“I was still half asleep, and once more closed my eyes. The dream returned. The lion, still annoyed by the pen, began to roar with all his might, so much so that the whole city of Rome, and all the States of the Holy Empire, ran to see what the matter was. The Pope requested them to oppose this monk, and applied particularly to me, on account of his being in my country. I again awoke, repeated the Lord’s prayer, entreated God to preserve his Holiness, and once more fell asleep.“
“Then I dreamed that all the princes of the Empire, and we among them, hastened to Rome, and strove, one after another, to break the pen; but the more we tried the stiffer it became, sounding as if it had been made of iron. We at length desisted. I then asked the monk (for I was sometimes at Rome, and sometimes at Wittemberg) where he got this pen, and why it was so strong. ‘The pen,’ replied he, ‘belonged to an old goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old.“
“I got it from one of my old schoolmasters. As to its strength, it is owing to the impossibility of depriving it of its pith or marrow; and I am quite astonished at it myself.’ Suddenly I heard a loud noise — a large number of other pens had sprung out of the long pen of the monk. I awoke a third time: it was daylight.“
The elector and his brother Duke Johannes were still puzzling over the meaning of the dream, whether they could count on an “enlightened one” like Joseph or Daniel. But the dream had hardly been told to the end when the monk came with the hammer to interpret this dream. With these words J. A. Wyhlie (1808-1890) concluded his account of Frederick’s dream, found in History of Protestantism, Volume 1, pages 242 to 244. Wyhlie affirmed: “The dream is used by all chroniclers of the time Time recorded. Of its truth there is no doubt, however we may interpret it.”
The detail of the “old Czech goose” is particularly interesting. This undoubtedly means Jan Hus, who came from Bohemia a little over 100 years earlier. He was killed in Constance because of such reformatory motivations.”Today you are roasting a goose. But in 100 years a swan will appear that you can neither cook nor roast,” said Jan Hus shortly before his cremation in 1415.
One wonders why this thoroughly impressive and also important event is not held at least as high as the theses actually posted by Luther shortly afterwards. It just can’t be what shouldn’t be. Today, Luther’s theses have long been considered “controversial”. With this vague statement alone, a lot of “Protestants” can be made to doubt. All it takes is a “modern theologian” or scientist expressing his personal suspicions, a fact is already considered “disputed”. Further arguments and counter-arguments follow. However, the intentionally suggested “controversial theory” sticks to the superficial reader. With the decline of Protestantism, the dream of Frederick is apparently no longer relevant.
According to the “character” of the people who also started the Counter-Reformation, it can not only be the eradication of the Reformation but it still has to be vigorously trampled on. A “modified memory” (*1 of history with a simultaneous “revenge campaign” against the former declared opponents. At this point, the Saxons in particular often got in the way of history. Be it the accommodation of the “heretic” Luther, or the bitter resistance against the bloodhound of Rome, the Emperor Charlemagne. There would be enough reasons for the “disgruntled” to really let loose on Saxony with glee.
In the joint letter of the Protestant and Catholic Church “Vom Konflikt zur Gemeinschaft” (“From conflict to community”) (October 31, 2017), Chapter II, page 12, the following statement can be read about the memory of historical events:
“What happened in the past cannot be changed. However, what is remembered from the past and how it is remembered can actually change over time. Memory makes the past present. While the past itself is immutable, the presence of the past in the present is mutable. Looking ahead to 2017, it’s not about telling a different story, it’s about telling that story differently.”