Philipp Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon mit seiner Büste

Philipp Melanchthon is named Praeceptor Germaniae (Germany's teacher) and renowned as an important companion of Martin Luther.

He reformed the education system and was an outstanding professor in the history of the Wittenberg University.

The life of Philipp Melanchthon

Portrait des Philipp Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon, the son of the armorer Georg Schwarzerdt, was born in Bretten on 16 February 1497. Melanchthon is the Greek form of the name Schwarzerdt, which means “Black Earth”.

After his father’s death, Melanchthon left his home town to attend the Latin School in Pforzheim. He studied ancient languages (Greek and Hebrew) with the support and patronage of not only the school’s principal, Simmler, but also the philosopher Johannes Reuchlin. Melanchthon’s name is listed in the Heidelberg University student register of 14 October 1509; he graduated with Baccalaureus Atrium on 10 June 1511. 1512 Melanchthon continued his studies in Tübingen. He gained a Master’s degree on 25 January 1514 just before the age of seventeen, a distinction that obliged him to teach. His first major academic achievement was the collected edition of Terence’s comedies.

Philipp Melanchthon - Germany's teacher

On Johannes Reuchlin’s recommendation, Frederick the Wise appointed Philipp Melanchthon to Wittenberg University in 1518, where - as professor of Greek - he specialized not only in ancient languages but also on mathematic, astronomy and astrology. 500 years later, in 2018 we remember the life and work of the important reformer of Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

In Wittenberg, Melanchthon became increasingly interested in theology and enrolled on a course in theological studies. He was awarded the Baccalaureus Biblicus on 19 September 1519 and started lecturing on the Bible. Melanchthon’s outstanding theological works included the Loci communes and the Confession of Augsburg (the first official declaration of the Lutheran faith).

Philipp Melanchthon also made a major contribution to the reorganization and design of the education system. He worked tirelessly to set up municipal schools and to re-establish and reform universities. Through him, Wittenberg University became a model for Protestant university education. Even during his lifetime Melanchthon was known as Praeceptor Germaniae (Germany’s teacher). In Wittenberg Melanchthon married Katharina Krapp, daughter of the mayor and robe-maker Hans Krapp. Katharina and Philipp were of similar age and had four children.

Philipp Melanchthon died in his Wittenberg study on 19 April 1560. The room was fully restored in late 19th century style in 1997. Together with the garden, it is a highlight of any visit to Melanchthon’s house.