Katharina & Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk
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Katharina & Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

Baker Books / 2017 / Hardcover

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Product Description

The revolutionary marriage of Martin and Katharina Luther is arguably one of the most intriguing relationships of all time. Offering insights into Christian history and illuminating their profound impact on the institution of matrimony, this riveting biography illustrates how, against all odds, their unlikely union worked---blossoming over time into the most tender of love stories. 320 pages, hardcover from Baker.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: Baker Books
Publication Date: 2017
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0801019109
ISBN-13: 9780801019104

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Publisher's Description

Their revolutionary marriage was arguably one of the most scandalous and intriguing in history. Yet five centuries later, we still know little about Martin and Katharina Luther's life as husband and wife. Until now.

Against all odds, the unlikely union worked, over time blossoming into the most tender of love stories. This unique biography tells the riveting story of two extraordinary people and their extraordinary relationship, offering refreshing insights into Christian history and illuminating the Luthers' profound impact on the institution of marriage, the effects of which still reverberate today. By the time they turn the last page, readers will have a deeper understanding of Luther as a husband and father and will come to love and admire Katharina, a woman who, in spite of her pivotal role, has been largely forgotten by history.

Together, this legendary couple experienced joy and grief, triumph and travail. This book brings their private lives and their love story into the spotlight and offers powerful insights into our own twenty-first-century understanding of marriage.

Author Bio

Michelle DeRusha is the author of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. She publishes a monthly column on religion and spirituality for the Lincoln Journal Star and writes about faith in the everyday on her blog, www.michellederusha.com. She lives with her husband and their two boys in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Displaying items 1-5 of 17
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  1. Joshua Valdez
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    An Excellent One Volume Resource on Katharina and Martin Luther
    September 11, 2017
    Joshua Valdez
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The major Christian publishers have released several strong titles commemorating this monumental anniversary. Michelle DeRusha's Katharina and Martin Luther is one of these works.

    Katharina and Martin Luther consists of eighteen chapters and an appendix:

    1--To the Cloister School

    2--A Nun without a Choice

    3--A Family Rift

    4--The Good Monk

    5--The Road to Damascus and Nail in the Door

    6--Hear This, O Pope!

    7--The Risks of Freedom


    9--Marriage Makeover

    10--Tying the KNot


    12--Hausfrau Extraordinaire

    13--Two Pigtails on the Pillow

    14--A Family Affair

    15--The Noblest, Most Precious Work

    16--In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

    17--'Til Death Did Them Part

    18--A Chancy Thing


    Much has been written about the thunderous reformer, Martin Luther. Some has been written about his wife Katharina. There have been almost no books written about their radical marriage. Michelle DeRusha's purpose in writing Katharina and Martin Luther is to fill this void.

    This book is an excellent resource to learn more about the Luthers, especially Katharina. The book begins by tracing her origins and story. How she was raised and some of her personality is seen in these chapters. What becomes clear is just how perfect of a fit she was for Martin Luther. Next, Martin Luther's well known journey from the monastery to the church door in Wittenburg, to his mantle of reformer is rehashed. Finally, DeRusha gives us a portrait of their marriage. Along the way we are instructed on broader historical developments and given cultural insights. The book concludes with an appendix that is a collection of three letters from the Luthers. The finished product is a great, one volume resource on the Luthers and their marriage.

    DeRusha's purpose was to write about Katharina Luther and Luther's marriage. She has succeeded. This is a well written history of a marriage against the backdrop of the monumental Protestant Reformation.

    I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
  2. The Geeky Calvinist
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Well Written Biography
    May 25, 2017
    The Geeky Calvinist
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    2017 is the 500th anniversary the Protestant Reformation. In the five hundred years since the Reformation begin many biographical accounts have been told of the reformers, from that of Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Zwingli, Knox, and Cranmer, just to name a few. Yet most of these works focus on the life of the reformer, for instance in a biography of Martin Luther the majority of the book with focus on his life and very little would be focused on his marriage to Katharina, a marriage which should be famous but is sadly lost in the shadows of the greatness that was Martin Luther's life. This marriage is explored in great detail in the new book, Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway nun and Renegade Monk, by Michelle De Rusha and published by Baker books.

    Katharina and Martin Luther explores their important marriage, and DeRusha makes it captivating from beginning to end. Without giving the account of their lives away, this work is scholarly yet readable by all. If one just looks at the biography section in the book the this notion can easily be seen. Yet there are some areas which could be expanded upon, yet this would have made the work far too long and extended the basic premise too far. Needless to say this marriage, which was a radical thought at the time, is more or less the expected portrait for marriage in Ministry, having the minister discipling his family and congregants while keeping the most heart-wrenching hearts of his ministry out of the home as much as possible.

    Katharina was a strong woman who helped a a great theologian teach the word of God through her ministry to her husband, this is the case with most Christ centered marriages with minsters and their spouse. In this she helped others to seek God where he may be found and Aid in helping others Proclaim it to any and all who'll hear. I hope that my spouse and I taking note of what the losers did in focusing on Christ as the center of their relationship, so that my marriage and all who read this work will fulfill their purpose to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

    This book was provided to me free of charge from Baker Books Publishing in exchange for an unbiased, honest review.

    Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway nun and Renegade Monk

    2017 by Michelle DeRusha

    Publisher: Baker Books

    Page Count: 320 Pages

    ISBN: 978-0801019104
  3. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Together through the Doorway of Marriage
    March 21, 2017
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    For Martin Luthers fifty-seventh birthday, his wife designed, commissioned, and then presented to him a carved doorway for their home. Its elegance incorporated numerous features that demonstrated Katharinas knowledge of and devotion to her husband; however, there is no way that she could have realized how completely appropriate her gift would be. Michelle DeRushas biography demonstrates that the radical marriage of Katharina and Martin Luther was itself a threshold into a new way of understanding marriage, and it opened the way toward a more biblical expression of the life of two-shall-become-one.

    By the time Martin and Katharina began their unlikely life together, Martins theological shot heard round the world had already set off the Reformation in Western Europe, and both the bride and the groom had already logged decades of life in cloistered communities. For Martin, this had been by choice and against the wishes of his family, while Katharina had been placed in a convent by her father at the age of six.

    Leaving the monastery was controversial for Martin, but there was no question that his gifts and background would pave his way into a well-defined role within his new freedom. Things were not so simple for a 16th-century woman. In addition to the fact that single women were not even recognized as citizens in Germany, Katharina was, by birth, a member of the landed-gentry and, therefore, ineligible to pursue employment of any kind. Her only option for survival was marriage at the ripe old age of twenty six.

    Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but Katie von Bora showed no signs of of caving to desperation, and she made it abundantly clear that she had no intention of marrying just anyone. At one point she even boldly suggested that she would consider marrying Luther . . . if she were asked. Why she considered a forty-two year old man (who, at any moment, could be found guilty of heresy and burned at the stake) to be a good catch is anyones guess.

    From the grooms perspective, Luthers decision to tie the knot with Katharina was as reasoned and deeply theological as his basis for untying the knot with the Catholic church. While he cited pleasing his father and antagonizing the pope as desirable outcomes of marriage, it seems that, primarily, he chose marriage out of love for Christ and a desire to model the redeemed Christians relationship to God. With such an unusual beginning, it is not surprising that the Luthers marriage paved new ground.

    From Martins Perspective

    Marriage ousted Martin from his ivory tower. Michelle DeRusha records many of the idealistic or cavalier statements from his single days, and they were clearly made by a curmudgeonly man with no idea how to manage life on this planet. He waxed eloquent (and inaccurate) on topics ranging from the role of women in the home to something he called bridal love, but when married life began in earnest, there was no sign at all that he could actually live by his own tenets.

    From the outset, Katharina dealt with all things practical including the management of and the procurement of supplies for the abandoned monastery the Luthers called home and which functioned more like a bed and breakfast than a family dwelling. Martin trusted Katharina with the delivery of his manuscripts to the printer, and he left most of the business side of his work in her capable hands.

    Marriage tested and clarified Martins theology, for this marriage of convenience actually grew into a relationship based on love and mutual respect, showing him again and again that a love for others, as much as a love for God, was at the core of his beliefs. The Protestant Reformation would have happened without the marriage of Luther and Katharina. But Luther would not have been the same Reformer without Katharina.

    From Katharinas Perspective

    Katharinas escape at age twenty-four from the convent where she had lived since the age of six gives us a clue as to the mettle of this woman for whom,up to this point, every single life decision had been delivered to her as a fait accompli. While marriage to Martin Luther handed Katharina the key to citizenship and an established role in society, it was her own determination by which she walked through the open door of their home and immediately set things in order.

    The new Mrs. Luther took some getting used to in Martins circle of friends and colleagues, and, while she spoke with respect to her husband, she would not be bullied into becoming a shadow in her own home. Her curious and lively mind found its way into participation in the theological discussions that were standard fare around her table while she prepared and served what must have been huge quantities of food.

    Martin and Katharina were a parenting team, and the death of their oldest daughter nearly undid them both. Michelle DeRusha shares numerous clarifications about life in early modern times, but the most poignant is the harsh reality that 16th-century parents formed bonds with their children that were every bit as deep as those of 21st-century parents even though their children died at an alarming rate.

    It is revealing of attitudes of that day that only eight of Katharinas letters were saved none of which were addressed to Martin, but which, sadly, document the hard path of her widowhood as she wrote to friends and acquaintances to call in favors or to remind people of their responsibility for her and her children after Martins death in 1546. Katharinas final years must have been haunted by a sinking sensation of deja vu, for the very same traditions and expectations that had made her life as a young single woman so perilous were still in place to make her life as a widow untenable. The eras idealized model of a meek and silent widow assumes that someone would have already made practical provision for her. Unfortunately, Martin failed to do that, so it was up to Katharina to make her own way, and she did but it wasnt easy, and the stress and privation likely led to her demise at the age of fifty-three.

    It is timely to consider this biography of a marriage in the year that marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, for the truth from Romans 1:17 that fueled the up-ending of Martin Luthers theology continues to leave its mark on the way we view marriage within the context of the Gospel to this very day. When Martin and Katharina, his rib, walked together through the doorway of marriage, Martin wrote that they had embarked upon a chancy thing for marriage does not always run smoothly. Five hundred years later, thats still true. And it is also true that there is grace for this and that the righteousness which is of God, by faith is available in Christ for those who commit their lives (and their marriages) to Him by grace alone.


    This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  4. Rachel
    Whitehall, PA
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Expertly Balances Fact, Analysis, and Keeping the Reader Engaged
    March 6, 2017
    Whitehall, PA
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Years ago I read Kitty, My Rib by E. Jane Mall and was delighted by the story of Martin and his ex-nun wife, Katharina. But I never knew what was fact and what was fiction in that book.

    Until now.

    Michelle DeRusha in Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk has done a phenomenal job telling the story of this world-changing marriage.

    The book focused on both Martin and Katharina equally which was not easy to do since Martin wrote so much himself and has been written about so often. On the contrary, all we have in Katharinas own hand is eight letters. And they are mostly business.

    But I still came away from the book feeling like I knew Katharina as a person...or at least what she could have been like. Mrs. DeRusha didnt make hasty assumptions about how Katharina may have been thinking and feeling at different points in her life. Instead, she analyzes the possibilities. How did Katharina feel when she was dropped off at the convent when she was 6 years old? Did she see it as an adventure? Or did she dearly miss her family?

    I also felt like the book did a terrific job explaining daily life during the time period and how the Reformation changed the world. This enabled me to put myself in the shoes of a commoner in Wittenburg and understand what Martins reforms would have meant for my life.

    Not many biographers are able to balance fact and analysis while at the same time keeping the reader engaged. But Michelle DeRusha has expertly done so in Katharina and Martin Luther. I look forward to reading whatever she will write in the future.
  5. Clay
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Martin Luther's wife
    February 20, 2017
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

    by Michelle DeRusha

    Marriage changes things! Being from a western culture, I chose my bride. Ive known others from other cultures who have been paired by their parents or a matchmaker. No matter the culture, marriage changes things!

    DeRushas contention is that the marriage of Martin and Katharina was one of duty on Martins part, and necessity on Katharinas part. Though they married under less than ideal circumstances, through time, they came to depend on each other in ways unlike other relationships of their time.

    To quote the author, She [Katharina] first came to him as a burden, a woman abandoned and unwelcome in the world. But what was once a burden grew into an unexpected grace that surprised and delighted Luther with the richness of its gifts.

    DeRusha details her assertion about Katherina through a recounting of the marriage and the cultural and religious mores that existed during that time. Katharina was unlike other wives of her time. She provided Luther with comfort, a family, income, and security in a world that lacked much.

    Katherina has been criticized for her arrogance and aloofness. It is probably unjustified since she ran a household of six of her own children along with four who were adopted. She managed a brewery, vineyard, farm, and a forty-room hotel. In and through it all, she was a confidant of Luthers and participated actively in his life.

    The retelling of the story of Katharina von Bora makes for fascinating reading. If nothing else, it highlights the changes (advances) in cultural mores and the status of women and marriage. A careful reading of the book is well worth the short time it would take you.

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