At the age of 22, Frederick assumed his father’s title of elector of Saxony. He had multiple castles, including locations in Torgau, Wittenberg, Coburg and Wartburg. Some of these would be important in Luther’s life.

Frederick was a Catholic with an extensive relic collection! Among his relics were fragments of the cross, the cradle, the swaddling cloths and others. Eventually Frederick had more than 19,000 relics. What was the reason for all of these relics? He had been taught that venerating relics would aid in getting to heaven. But they were also a tourist attraction and made him money.

Frederick also believed in indulgences. He used some of the money from indulgences to build a bridge near Torgau and to fund the building of his university at Wittenberg. He employed a monk named Johann Tetzel to sell indulgences. Tetzel came around again in 1517 selling indulgences for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But Frederick wasn’t ready for that.  He didn’t want German money to go to Rome!

Tetzel conducted business just over the border. Enter Luther. Luther found out and was outraged. And he posted his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517.

Later in 1521, Frederick arranged to have Luther “kidnapped” and hid him in the Wartburg castle after the Diet of Worms.

Frederick the Wise, Owner of 19,000 Relics

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