Spalatin, Georg

Spalatin, Georg the friend of Luther and chaplain of the elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony, a leading, Reformer and judicious superintendent of the churches, was born A.D. 1484 at Spalt, in the diocese of Eichstadt, whence was derived the name Spalatin, his real name being Burckhardt. He attained his baccalaureate at Erfurt in 1500, and from 1501 was a fellow student with Luther. In 1502 he was made master at Wittenberg, but soon returned to Erfurt, where he became tutor (1505) in a patrician family, and first learned to know the Bible, a copy of which he purchased at great cost. He was ordained priest in 1507, and stationed in the parish of Hohenkirchen, near Gotha; and a year later was called to assume, in addition to his parochial duties, the functions of teacher in the neighboring convent of Georgenthal. His reputation had, however, already extended beyond the narrow limits of the field of labor to which he was assigned;, and he was called to the electoral court in 1509 to assume charge of the education of the young crown prince, John Frederick. Two years later he exchanged his place at court for the post of tutor to Otto and Ernest of Brunswick-Lineburg, the elector's nephews, who were then students at Wittenberg; and at the same time he was appointed by his patron canon of St. George's in Altenburg. From this period dates the intimate friendship between Luther and Spalatin and between Spalatin and other Reformers, e.g. Melancthon, Justus Jonas, Link, Bugenhagen, Amsdorf, etc. His relations with the elector likewise became more intimate, so that his advice and assistance were sought when the latter founded the Church of All-Saints at Wittenberg, and the university library (1512), and he was made librarian. In 1514 Spalatin was appointed chaplain and private secretary to the elector, and immediately became one of the most influential personages of the electoral court. He placed himself and his influence unreservedly at the service of the Reformation, and became the medium through which Luther was wont to influence the elector. Rome recognized his power, and every important measure of the time showed traces of his shaping hand. He has been charged with timidity and an excessive fondness for peace; but all his actions show that he was possessed of a noble and upright character, and governed wholly by inflexible and fervent religious principle. Both as a man of affairs and as a literary character he established for himself an unequivocal reputation among his contemporaries. In the former capacity he accompanied his patron to the Diet of Augsburg in 1518, to the election of emperor in 1519, the coronation of Charles V in 1520, the Diet of Worms in 1521, the Diet of Nuremberg in 1523 and 1524, conducting the electoral correspondence and participating in the progress of events either directly or by means of counsel and influence. In literature his attention was fixed principally on historical studies, particularly on the history of Germany; and he wrote, Christliche Religions-Hindel, or Religionssachen, beginning in 1518 (subsequently published by Cyprian under the title Reformations-Annalen), besides undertaking the collection of materials for the history of the popes, emperors, and dukes, and electors of Saxony, so that he became known as the "Saxon historiographer." On the death of the elector Frederick, in 1525, Spalatin was appointed by John the Constant to the post of evangelical superintendent of Altenburg in connection with the diocese of Altenburg. He now married Catharine Heidenreich, and established a home at Altenburg. In 1526 he attended the Diet at Spires, in the suite of the elector. During 1527 to 1529 he participated in a visitation of the churches and schools. In 1530 he was present at the Diet of Augsburg, and in 1531 at Cologne, where a protest against the election of Ferdinand as king of Rome was premeditated. At the Convention of Schweinfurt in 1532 he contributed materially towards the securing of the Reformation in that vicinity. Such incessant labors, added to a constant literary activity and the unceasing demand on his strength made by his prince and the churches, impaired his health and necessitated his release from a portion of his multifarious duties. He was, however, sent to Weimar in 1533, when the papal legate Rangoni visited that place in order to initiate measures for the calling of a council. In 1534 we find him journeying with the elector through Northern Germany, and in the following year through Bohemia and Moravia to Vienna, where the elector John wished to make his peace with Ferdinand. He was present at the renewal of the Smalkald League, and then went to Venice to make purchases for the library of Wittenberg; and, on his return, participated in the settling of the Wittenberg Concord. In 1537 he signed the Articles of Smalkald, and undertook the visitation of the Church at Freiberg. He then attended the Convention of Zerbst, and defended the claims of his prince to the county of Magdeburg. He was finally selected to attend the proposed convention at Nuremberg in 1539, which was to complete the Concord initiated at Wittenberg, and to share in the visitation of the churches of ducal Saxony, now under the rule of duke Henry. From this time he was confined to the vicinity of his home; but continued abundant in labors, literary and official, until he died, Jan. 16, 1545. His widow followed him Dec. 5, 1551. The MS. remains of Spalatin are preserved at Weimar and Gotha; and portions of his works have been published in different, but always faulty and incomplete, editions. A new edition, under the title Georg Spalatin's Historischer Nachlass und Briefe, was undertaken by Neudecker and Preller, and the first volume appeared in 1851. The style of Spalatin as a writer was simple, but wanting in attractive qualities. His works are, however, rich in documentary records. In addition to those already indicated, they include a number of poetic productions, in which considerable ability is displayed. See Schlegel, Histor. Vitoe G. Spalat.

Theologi, Politici Primique Historici Sax. (Jena, 1693); Wagner, G. Spalatin u. d. Reform. d. Kirchen u. Schulen zu Altenburg (Altenb. 1830).

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