“The Madame of the New Pig Market” – Kittelson on Luther

I mentioned previously that I had read this book and found some of its material interesting enough to share with you, gentle readers. This will be the final installment.

This is a portion of Kittleson’s discussion of Katharina von Bora, otherwise known as “Katie Luther” (the title of Kittelson’s section), Luther’s ex-nun frau. I always find insight into the personal life of important figures to be very interesting, and Kittelson provides a very engaging discussion. Be sure to go look up the whole thing. The below gives you a taste for the humor involved in the Luthers’ relationship, as well as for how Luther could act a bit petulant vis-à-vis his better half.

James M. Kittelson, Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career (Fortress, 2003), 282.
Rage, ability, and the importance of the issues at hand—these things kept Luther productive to the very end. Yet without the person of his wife Katie, the mature Luther would be incomprehensible.

There can be little doubt of Luther’s genuine love and high affection for Katie. In mid-1540 he was urgently called to Weimar because Melanchthon, who was on his way to the religious colloquy at Hagenau, had suddenly fallen deathly ill. Luther was gone for about six weeks. He addressed his first letter home “to my dearly beloved Katie, Mrs. Doctor Luther, etc., to the Madame of the New Pig Market, personal.” He announced that Melanchthon had recovered and that “I wish humbly to inform Your Grace that I am doing well here. I eat like a Bohemian and drink like a German, thanks be to God, amen.” When writing Katie, jokes were always at Luther’s fingertips. But Katie may not have appreciated the first pun in this letter. In German a “new pig market”—the name of the field they had just purchased—could also refer to a brothel, which would make of Katie a “madam” indeed.

Katie was in fact taking care of business at the New Pig Market. As a result, she may not have received Luther’s letters. In any event, she did not answer them. Two weeks passed and he asked her to please write to him. Almost two more weeks passed without word and he became a bit testy. “I am not sure whether this letter will find you at Wittenberg or at the Pig Market; otherwise I would like to write about more things.” He hoped that when he came home, she would have “a good measure of beer” waiting for him. It is not known whether either Katie or the beer was present when he arrived.

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