« Albert the Great Albert of Prussia Albert of Riga »

Albert of Prussia

ALBERT OF PRUSSIA.

Early Life and Conversion to Protestantism (§ 1).

Intercourse with Luther and Melanchthon and Aid to the Reformation (§ 2).

Progress of the Reformation (§ 3).

Reorganization of Ecclesiastical Affairs (§ 4).

His Visitation and its Consequences (§ 5).

Ordinances of 1540 and 1544 (§ 6).

Later Efforts in Behalf of the Reformation (§ 7).

1. Early Life and Conversion to Protestantism.

Albert, margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, last grand master of the Teutonic order, first duke of Prussia, founder of the Prussian national Church, was born at Ansbach (25 m. s.w. of Nuremberg) May 17, 1490; d. at Tapiau (23 m. e. of Königsberg) Mar. 20, 1568. He was the third son of the Margrave Frederick the Elder of Brandenburg-Ansbach, received a knightly education at various courts, and was made a canon of the Cologne Cathedral. In 1508, with his brother Casimir, he took part in the Emperor Maximilian’s campaign against Venice. He was elected grand master of the Teutonic order Dec. 15, 1510, was invested with the dignity of his office in 1511, and made his solemn entry into Königsberg in 1512. His efforts to make his order independent of Poland (to which it had owed fealty since the peace of Thorn, 1466) involved him in a war with the Polish king, which devastated the territory of the order until a truce for four years was made in 1521. Albert then visited Germany and tried in vain to obtain the help of the German princes against Poland. While attending the Diet of Nuremberg in 1522-23 he heard the sermons of Andreas Osiander (whom he afterward called his “father in Christ”), and associated with others of the reformed faith in that city. By such influence, as well as by the writings of Luther from the year 1520, he was won to the new teaching and openly avowed his convictions.

2. Intercourse with Luther and Melanchthon and Aid to the Reformation.

In June, 1523, he addressed a confidential letter to Luther, requesting his advice concerning the reformation of the Teutonic order and the means of bringing about a renewal of Christian life in its territory. In reply Luther advised him to convert the spiritual territory of the order into a worldly principality. In Sept., 1523, he visited the Reformer at Wittenberg, when Luther again advised him, with the concurrence of Melanchthon, to put aside the foolish and wrong law of the order, to enter himself into the estate of matrimony, and to convert the state of the order into a worldly one. This interview was the beginning of an intimate connection between Albert and the two Reformers of Wittenberg, and was immediately followed by Luther’s Ermahnung an die Herren Deutschen Ordens falsche Keuschheit zu meiden und zu recten ehelichen Keuschheit zu greifen. With the advice and help of Luther, Albert provided pure Gospel preaching for his capital by calling thither such men as Johann Briessmann and Paulus Speratus. Johannes Amandus, called about the same time as Briessmann, while a popular and gifted preacher, proved a fanatic and agitator, and was obliged to leave the city and country in 1524. His place was taken by Johannes Poliander. Authorized by Albert, Bishop George of Polentz, who favored the Reformation, sent learned men to preach through the country; and evangelical writings, supplied by Albert’s friend, Georg Vogler, chancellor of his brother at Ansbach, were carefully disseminated. At Christmas, 1523 George of Polentz openly embraced the new faith; and the next year, with the consent of his sovereign, he advised the ministers not only to preach the pure Gospel, but also to use the German language at the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. At the same time he recommended the reading of Luther’s writings, and declared excommunication to be abrogated.

3. Progress of the Reformation.

The cause made steady progress in Königsberg. Briessmann delivered free lectures to the laity and ministers, aiming to promote a knowledge of the gospel; Speratus preached to large crowds; and a newly established printing-office published various evangelical writings, especially the sermons and pamphlets of Briessmann and Speratus. Abuses and unevangelical elements in divine service and in the inner constitution of the churches, images and altars serving the worship of saints, the multitude of masses and the sacrifice of the mass, were abolished. A common treasury was established for the aid of the poor. The reformatory movement acquired new impetus from the conversion of a second Prussian Prelate, Erhard of Queiss, bishop of Pomesania, who, under the title Themata issued a Reformation-programme in his diocese for the renewal of the spiritual life on the basis of the pure Gospel. The most important of all, however, was the carrying out of Luther’s advice with regard to the transformation of the territory of the order into a hereditary secular duchy under the suzerainty of Poland, after the period of the truce had expired and peace had been made with Poland. On Apr. 10, 1525, the formal investiture of Albert as duke of Prussia took place at Cracow, after he had sworn the oath of allegiance to King Sigismund. Toward the end of the following month he made his solemn entry into Königsberg and received the homage of the Prussian Prelates, the knights of the order, and the states. On July 1, 1526, he was married in the castle of Königsberg to the Danish princess Dorothea, like himself a faithful adherent of the Gospel.

107

4. Reorganization of Ecclesiastical Affairs.

A reorganization of ecclesiastical affairs on the basis of the existing episcopal constitution now took place. The two bishops, George of Polentz and Erhard of Queiss, who were separated from Rome by their evangelical faith and reformatory activity, married. As the first evangelical bishops they confined themselves to purely ecclesiastical functions—ordination, visitation, inspection, and the celebration of marriage. The duke, as evangelical sovereign, felt himself obliged in publicly professing the Reformation and reserving the right to call a diet for regulating the affairs of the Church, to issue a mandate (July 6, 1525) requesting the ministers to preach the Gospel in all purity and Christian fidelity, and to testify against the prevailing superstition, as well as against the widespread godless and immoral drunkenness, lewdness, cursing, and frivolous swearing. The first diet to regulate the affairs of the Church was held in Dec., 1525, at Königsberg. The result was the Landesordnung, which regulated the appointment and support of ministers, the filling of vacancies, the observance of the feast-days, the appropriation of moneys received for the churches, for pious foundations, and for the poor. The Landesordnung contained also regulations for divine service, drawn up by the bishops and published by Albert (Mar., 1526) under the title Artikel der Ceremonien und andere Ordnung.

5. His Visitation and Its Consequences.

For the better regulation of existing evils, Albert, in agreement with the bishops, appointed a commission of clerical and lay members, to visit the different parishes, to investigate the life and work of the ministers, and, where necessary, to give them instruction and information. The result of this visitation, the first in Prussia, was such that in a mandate dated Apr. 24, 1528, Albert recommended the two bishops to continue such visitations in their dioceses and to impress upon the ministers their task with reference to doctrine and life. That such supervision might be permanent he ordered the appointment of superintendents. For the benefit of the many non-Germans, the ministers were supplied with translators of the preached word. Albert recommended Luther’s Postilla as pattern for the preaching of the Gospel and caused a large number of copies to be distributed among the ministers. He also ordered quarterly conferences under the presidency of the superintendents, and in July, 1529, he authorized the bishops to arrange synodical meetings, at which questions pertaining to faith, doctrine, marriage, and other matters of importance to the pastoral office were considered. He induced Speratus (who had succeeded Queise as bishop of Pomesania) to prepare an outline of doctrines, which was published under the title Christliche statuta synodalia, and distributed among the ministers as the sovereign’s own confession, as is indicated by the preface, dated Jan. 6, 1530. This precursor of the Augsburg Confession the bishops assigned to the ministers in 1530 as their canon of doctrine. It was of special importance during a crisis brought on by the duke. Influenced by his friend Friedrich von Heideck, he favored the teachings of the enthusiast Kaspar Schwenckfeld, whom he met at Liegnitz, and gave appointments to his adherents. The new ordinances of the bishops were at first not heeded. A colloquy held at Rastenburg in Dec., 1531, under the presidency of Speratus brought about no satisfactory results. Luther’s representations, at first unsuccessful, finally evoked the duke’s prohibition of the secret or public preaching or teaching of the enthusiasts; at the same time he stated that he allowed his subjects liberty in matters of faith, since he would not force a belief upon the people. His eyes were finally opened by the Anabaptist disorders at Münster (see Münster, Anabaptists in) and he saw the political danger of such fanaticism. In Aug., 1535, he issued a mandate to Speratus enjoining him to preserve the purity and unity of doctrine. He renewed his assurance to his brother, Margrave George, “that he and his country wished to be looked upon as constant members in the line of professors of the Augsburg Confession,” and to this assurance he remained faithful to the end.

6. Ordinances of 1540 and 1544.

In 1540 Albert issued an ordinance treating of the many evils in the life of the people and their cure, and another concerning the election and support of the ministers, their widows and orphans, as a supplement to the Landesordnung of 1525. Assisted by the two bishops, he made a tour of inspection in the winter of 1542-43 to obtain a true insight into the religious and moral condition of the country. Toward the end of this tour, he issued (Feb., 1543) a mandate in the German and Polish languages, exhorting the people to make diligent use of the means of grace and admonishing those of the nobility who despised the word and the sacrament. Each house had to appoint in turn an officer to keep watch, from an elevated place, over the church attendance. Besides the Sunday pericopes the minister was to spend a half-hour in explaining the catechism. During the week devotional meetings were to be held in the houses, at which the people were to be examined as to their knowledge of the word of God. To maintain the episcopal constitution Albert, in a memorandum of 1542, assured the continuance of the two ancient bishoprics with the provision that godly and learned men should always be chosen for them. To promote Church life he issued an Ordnung vom äusserlichen Gottesdienst und Artikel der Ceremonien (1544), supplementing the Artikel of 1525. To improve the service in the churches he required the schools to train the children in singing, and had a hymn-book prepared by Kugelmann, the court band-master.

7. Later Efforts in Behalf of the Reformation.

Albert continued to correspond with Luther and Melanchthon, and many notes from his hand, remarks on the Psalms and the Pauline epistles, show how deeply he endeavored to penetrate into the Scriptures. To promote Christian culture he established a library in his castle, the basis of the public library founded by him in 1540. For 108 the benefit of a higher evangelical education he established Latin high-schools, and founded at Königsberg a school which in 1544, with the assistance of Luther and Melanchthon, he converted into a university. As first rector he called Georg Sabinus, son-in-law of Melanchthon, but his character rather hampered the development of the institution. A still greater impediment was the appointment, in 1549, of the former Nuremberg reformer Andreas Osiander as first theological professor, his doctrine of justification calling forth controversies (see Osiander, Andreas). After Osiander’s death (1552), his son-in-law Johann Funck gained such influence over the duke that he appointed none but followers of Osiander, whose opponents, headed by J. Morlin, were obliged to leave the country. The political and ecclesiastical confusion finally became so great that a Polish commission was forced to interfere, and in 1566 Funck and two of his party were executed as “disturbers of the peace, traitors, and promoters of the Osiandrian heresy.” The former advisers of the duke were then reinstated.

These painful experiences caused Albert to long for rest and the restoration of peace in Church and country. He recalled Mörlin and Martin Chemnitz, and, in consequence of a resolution of the synod, which met in 1567, to abide by the corpus doctrinæ of the Lutheran Church, he caused them to prepare the Corpus doctrinæ Pruthenicum (or Wiederholung der Summa und Inhalt der rechten allgemeinen christlichen Kirchenlehre-repetitio corporis doctrinæ christianæ) in which the Osiandrian errors were also refuted. This symbol, which was approved by the estates; Albert published with a preface, dated July 9, 1567, in which it was stated that “no one shall be admitted to any office in Church or school who does not approve of and accept it."

After the settlement of the doctrinal questions, a revision of the former church-order was undertaken, the outcome of which was the Kirchenordnung und Ceremonien, published in 1568. The vacant episcopal sees of Pomesania and Samland were filled by the appointment of G. Venediger (Venetus) and J. Mörlin, respectively, after arrangements had been made with the estates as to the election, jurisdiction, and salary of the bishops, whereby the old episcopal constitution of the Prussian Church was established and assured. Thus, notwithstanding the trials of his last years, Albert saw the full development of the Evangelical Church in the duchy of Prussia, and quiet and peace restored before his death. He left a beautiful testimony of his evangelical faith in his testament for Albert Frederick, his son by his second wife, Anna of Brunswick, whom he had married in 1550. His last words were: “Into thy hands I commit my spirit, thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of Truth.”

David Erdmann†.

Bibliography: Sources: M. Luther, Briefe, ed. by W. M. L. de Wette and J. K. Seidemann, 6 vols., Berlin, 1826-73; P. Melanchthon, Briefe an Albrecht Herzog von Preussen, ed. by K. Faber, Berlin, 1817; J. Voigt, Briefwechsel der berühmtesten Gelehrter des Zeitalters der Reformation mit Herzog Albrecht von Preussen, Königsberg, 1841; T. Kolde, Analecta lutherana, Gotha, 1883; P. Tschackert, Urkundenbuch zur Reformationsgeschichte des Herzogtums Preussen, vols. i.–iii. (vols. xliii–xiv. of Publikationen aus den k. preussischen Staats-Archiven, Berlin, 1890). General Literature: D. H. Arnold, Historie der Königsberger Universität, vol. i., Königsberg, 1746; idem, Kurzgefasste Kirchengeschichte von Preussen, ib. 1769; F. S. Bock, Leben und Thalen Albrechts des Aeltern, ib. 1750; L. von Baczko, Geschichte Preussens, vol. iv., ib. 1795; A. R. Gebser and C. A. Hagen, Der Dom zu Königsberg, ib. 1835; L. von Ranke, Deutsche Geshichte im Zeitalter der Reformation, vol. ii., Berlin, 1843, Eng. transl., new ed., Robert A. Johnson, London, 1905 (very good); W. Möller, Andreas Osiander, Elberfeld, 1870; ADB, vol. i.; K. A. Hase, Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und seine Hofprediger, ib.1879 (an elaborate monograph); K. Lohmeier, Herzog Albrecht von Preussen, Danzig, 1890; H. Prutz, Herzog Albrecht von Preussen, in Preussische Jahrbücher, lxvi. 2, Berlin, 1890; E. Joachim, Die Politik des letzten Hochmeisters in Preussen, Albrecht von Brandenburg, 3 vols., Leipsic, 1892-94; P. Tschackert, Herzog Albrecht von Preussen als reformatorische Persönlichkeit, Halle, 1894.

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