National Geographic : 1983 Oct
N CORNELIA'S SOCIETY, where boys and girls receive state-supported education but the state's needs deter mine career choices, it is easy to over look how special Martin's training was in an age when few got any schooling at all. At seven Martin began Latin school in Mansfeld, where he learned the internation al language of scholarship, government, and the church. At 13 he first tasted city life, 40 miles north on the Elbe River in bustling commercial Magdeburg, and in his teach ers, the lay Brethren of the Common Life, saw examples of simple unformalistic piety. Then, in "my beloved city of Eisenach," he exulted in music as a choirboy and showed such scholastic aptitude that his fa ther, "by his sweat and labor," sent him to one of Germany's oldest and most famous universities-Erfurt, opened in 1392. In "many-towered Erfurt," a large, handsome city in his day and ours, "Martinus Ludher ex Mansfeld" matriculated in 1501, taking his bachelor's degree in the minimum 18 months. At 21, mind stimulated by the clas sics, rhetorical skills honed on scholastic debate, Martin received his master's degree amid torchlit academic splendor. Clearly the father's investment had paid off. Now Martin would study law, prepare himself for a distinguished career, perhaps as jurist, city magistrate, prince's counselor. A favorable marriage would secure the fam ily's future. But a personal crisis impelled Martin to break off law studies in the first semester. Rebellion against parental ambitions? A son feeling forced into an uncongenial career? knees the Sacred Stairs believed to have been trod by Jesus in Jerusalem.This obeisance released a soul from purgatory.On October 31, 1517, Luther published his 95 theses; this misnumbered edition appearedonly weeks later (below left).