Elector Fredrick’s inventory of relics in lists 17,443 items, including a twig from Moses’ burning bush, hay of the holy manger, and milk from the Virgin Mary. Money was paid in order to venerate these relics in the Church of All Saints (the Wittenberg Castle Church) and thus escape years in purgatory. Two years later, the collection will exceed 19,000 pieces. A diligent and pious person who rendered appropriate devotion to each of these relics could merit 1,902,202 days worth of penance (an earthly equivalent of time otherwise spent in Purgatory) removed by indulgences. In 1531, Luther would comment: “It is claimed that the head of St. John the Baptist is in Rome, although all histories show that the Saracens opened John’s grave and burned everything to powder. Yet the pope is not ashamed of his lies. So with reference to other relics like the nails and the wood of the cross — they are the greatest lies.”[1]

Meanwhile (in 1518-19), also in Wittenberg (at the Leucorea [2]), Dr. Martin Luther continues his second series of lectures on the Psalms.


Commentary on Psalm 8:2. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 

[excerpt continued from yesterday] … Therefore, let it be our [task] only to offer up our mouth to the Word, and let it be God’s to accomplish the work and to give the increase. For example, Christ told his disciples, when he sent them, that they would find an ass and a foal — which they had not seen and of which they knew nothing — and yet they went and fetched the ass and the foal, though they were in this ignorance about them.[Matt. 21:2 ff.]

Therefore, laying aside foolish confidence (as if we could do anything towards cooperating with the Word in the hearer!), let us rather give ourselves to continual prayer that God would himself, without us, accomplish in the hearer what he speaks by the preacher. For it is he that speaks and he that hears and works all in all: we are only his instruments and able neither to give nor to receive anything, unless he himself gives and receives. Hence Ps. 68:18, with a word attentive to the honor of God, says, “You ascended on high, … receiving gifts among men.” But note that the apostle says, “… gave gifts to men.”[Eph. 4:8]

Now, if the ministers of the Word were like these, it would without doubt be effectual and powerful and would not be spoken forth in vain; as it is said in Is. 55:11: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” Observe the words, “that which I purpose,” not that which the minister purposes. And, “and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it,” not in them to whom the minister (in his rash illusions) shall send it. Hence, there is a most perilous thing both ways: either to teach the word of man under the name of the Word of God, or to hurl the pure Word of God, according to merely our own whims and feelings. Each of these monstrous perversions has held the church at this day under the most oppressive tyranny.

For this reason, therefore, let every person who is set over the people of Christ in the ministry of the Word be humble and fear, and let him study — by purity of prayer, more than by industrious strength — to deliver the Word free, pure, and simple, just as it is, committing unto God both his [the preacher’s] own tongue and the souls of the hearers. For it is a decreed truth that there is no master in the church of God but he who says, ”One is your master, even the Christ.”[Mt. 23:10] And in Ps. 60:6, “God hath spoken in his holiness,” that is, in his sanctuary, which is the church. But where men or Satan speak, there without doubt is a brothel and synagogue of Satan.[Rev. 2:9; 3:8-9] For as the Word is, so are the people, so is their God, so is their worship, so is their faith, so is their conscience, so are their works, and so are all that belongs to them. Therefore, all things are wrought in men by the Word alone. (Second Lectures on the Psalms, published as Operationes in Psalmos, “Works on the Psalms”, beginning in Mar 1519)


[1] Table Talk No. 1272: recorded between December 14 and 28, 1531.

[2] The University of Wittenberg. Leucorea is the Greek translation of “Wittenberg” (leukos = white; oros = mountain).

Wittenberg Reliquary Book
Wittenberg Reliquary Book (1510) Lucas Cranach, the Elder. Printed by Johannes Grunenberg. A catalog of Frederick’s relic collection: the sequence of woodcuts walks pilgrims through every stage of the yearly viewing. The pages shown depict Mary Magdalene’s hair, nineteen particles of Saint Cecilia, and other relics.

One thought on “By the end of 1518

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