Friday, 31 March 2017

Philip Melanchthon, the Praeceptor Germaniae (Germany)

Philip Melanchthon was a reformer and close friend of Martin Luther. He is said to have been the intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation and is known as Praeceptor Germaniae (Teacher of Germany), as he was an influential designer of educational systems.



Philip Schwartzerdt was born in Bretten on 16th February 1497 as oldest child of the superintendent of the princely armoury and the mayor's daughter. His grandfather organised an extensive education for the boy with teachings in Latin and frequent discussions with perambulating scholars. In 1508 his father and grandfather died in quick succession.

The Melanchthonhaus in Bretten was built on the site of his birth house.
It houses a museum

After their death Philip and one of his brothers moved to Pforzheim. Their he went to a prestigious Latin School and also started to learn Greek. The famous humanist and scholar Johann Reuchlin became his patron and also gave Philip the humanistic name Melanchthon, a Grecization of his name Schwartzerdt.

Left column second picture from the top: Johann Reuchlin Memorial
In October 1509 Philip Melanchthon moved to the University of Heidelberg. Due to his previous knowledge the studies were not a problem and in June 1511 he made his baccalaureus artium.


Afterwards he went to the University of Tübingen where he studied the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) and also devoted himself to Latin, Greek and Hebrew. In 1514 the magister degree was conferred to Melanchthon. In Tübingen he also worked for the first time as tutor and also released his first own publications. In 1518 he heard Martin Luther during the Heidelberg Disputation and decided to go to Wittenberg.

500 years University of Tübingen (issued 16-08-1977)

In 1518 Frederick the Wise donated a professorship for Greek language at the University of Wittenberg and after Johann Reuchlin refused, the honour was accorded to Philip Melanchthon. With his inaugural speech he impressed the audience which also included Martin Luther. Hereafter Melanchthon became a very popular professor and with the collaboration of Luther and Melanchthon the University of Wittenberg became one of the most important universities in Europe. He acquired the baccalaureus biblicus in 1519 and was afterwards allowed to deliver theological lectures. In 1520 Melanchthon was unwantedly married, but soon came to appreciate his new life. In 1530 he wrote the Confessio Augustana. Despite offers from other universities Melanchthon stayed in Wittenberg until his death and in 1536 Elector John Frederick I sponsored a house befitting the rank of the professor and his family. In 1560 Philip Melanchthon died in Wittenberg.

The Melanchthonhaus in Wittenberg houses a museum and
is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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