GEORGE, DUKE OF SAXONY (George the Bearded): Violent opponent of Luther; b. at Dresden Aug., 1471; d. there Apr. 17, 1539. He was the oldest surviving son of Albert the Courageous, ancestor of the Albertine line of sovereigns in Saxony. Although heir to the throne, he was destined for the priesthood, probably under the influence of his mother. One of his teachers in theology was Andreas Proles, the predecessor of Staupitz in the German Augustinian congregation, and widely known as a courageous fighter against the abuses in the order, and as a pious preacher. This education influenced the whole life of George; he became not only a sincerely pious and well-educated man. but also enough of a theologian to have an independent judgment in ecclesiastical matters. As early as his seventeenth year he was entrusted with the government of his country while his father fought in distant lands, and in 1500 he succeeded his father as actual ruler.

George welcomed with sincere joy the Reformation at Wittenberg and the theses of Luther. In the spring of 1517 he declared himself very decidedly against Tetzel, the dealer in indulgences, and branded his practise as fraud. But his very first meeting with Luther, in July, 1518, when Luther, especially recommended by Staupitz, preached in the castle church of Dresden, aroused opposition. By this sermon the duke became aware of the fact that Luther aimed not only at certain reforms of the Church; but, in opposition to ruling Catholicism, announced a new Gospel which was bound to result in a complete rupture with the traditions of the past. Such a revolutionist George decidedly opposed. He was confirmed in his opinion of Luther by the ideas which the latter expressed at the Leipsic Disputation (1519). He had no objection to Luther's bold attacks on the abuses in the Church and found many a truth in his address " To the nobility of the German nation "; but the continual desertion of monks and nuns, the violation of the vow of celibacy, and the disturbances among the peasants fully convinced him that Luther's Gospel was an un-Christian affair, since the Bible teaches that the tree shall be known by its fruits. The fruits of Luther's activity were, in George's opinion, renunciation of all discipline and order, disobedience, violence, and the violation of the most sacred vows; the world can not exist without authority, and only the Church has power to bring about reforms. Landgrave Philip of Hesse, his son-in-law, tried in vain to win him over, especially by the Bible. In spite of his independent character, George seems to have been influenced not a little in his unfavorable attitude toward the new Gospel by his reactionary secretaries, Hieronymus Emser and Johannes Cochlaeus. By the manner of his polemics Emser excited Luther in such a way that his cutting replies against him and the duke can not always be justified. Emser's last work, an emended translation of the New Testament, was intended to compete with Luther's great work, but differed so little from it that it only helped the cause of the Reformation. After having awaited in vain the promised council, Duke George ordered visitations and the reform of monasteries on his own responsibility and tried to abolish abuses, but his efforts were not successful. He made his life-work a vain struggle to stem the tide of the Reformation, and his failure was the more tragical as it isolated him from his people and even from his own family. The end of his life was saddened by the prospect that after his death the new Gospel would enter his country freely and openly, since his brother Henry, the heir to the throne, hard adopted the Lutheran cause. George's last attempt to save his country for Romanism by ceding it to Ferdinand, the Roman king, was frustrated by the opposition of the estates of Meissen and by his sudden death.

(F. W. Dibelius.)

Bibliography: H. Welek, Georg der Bartise, Brunswick, 1900; F. Gess, Kloatervisitalionen des Herzog Georgs, Leipsic, 1888; idem, in ZKG, 1888; ideuu4 Akten and


Briefe cur Airehenpolittk Herzog George son Sachsen, Vol. i., 1517-24, Leipsic, 1905; articles in the Neues Archiv f�r sachaische Geschichte by Friedenaburg, B riafuedrsel awischen Herzog Georg and Philipp won Hessen, 1885; by Gese, Leipzig and Wittenberg, 1895, and by E. Branden burg, Herzog Heinrich der Fromma, 1898; K. Menaing, Bilder aus der aachaischen Geschichte, Dresden, 1902; Schaff, Christian Church, vi. 178, 181, 292, 587; Cambridge Modern History, vol. ii., The Reformation, pp. 135, 141, 183-252.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely