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10 things you didn't know about Martin Luther

Luther
Luther thoroughly approved of drinking and sex
1. Alcohol cures all evils
Luther thoroughly approved even advocated drinking heavily. When a young man wrote to him complaining of despair at the prospect of going to hell, Luther wrote back advising him to go and get drunk. That, he said, was what he did when he felt despair.

2. Let's talk about sex
Luther also thoroughly approved of sex; he said that a woman had the right to take on a lover, if her husband wasn't able to satisfy her in bed - and the husband should look on this with equanimity.

3. Sing me a song
Luther was very keen on music. An accomplished Lute player, he composed countless hymns and he is regarded as one of the most important German composers prior to Bach.

4. Wittenberg: an artists' colony
Wittenberg, where Luther lived for much of his life, was a tiny town in the Germany of that period. And yet Luther found himself living only a few doors away from two of the greatest German painters of the day, Lucius Cranach and his son. The Cranachs are responsible for the series of striking portraits of Luther that still survive.

Luther's wife
The future Mrs Luther escaped a nunnery in a fish barrel
5. The 'Fish Barrel' incident
Luther's wife was an ex-nun who had managed to escape from her convent by hiding in barrel that had once contained pickled fish.

6. The dawn of a new faith
With his translation of the Bible into German Martin Luther attained permanent fame as far as a unification of the German language was concerned. Today some 70 million believers on all five continents are members of the Lutheran Church.

7. The animal activist
Luther was bitterly opposed to hunting. When he was disguised as a knight in the castle of the Wartburg, he refused to take part in the customary pursuit of rabbit hunting. One ran up his leg to escape the dogs, but they still bit through the cloth and killed it.

8. Surrounded by relics
Although Luther objected to the holy relics he discovered in Rome, there were at least as many on his own doorstep. The Castle Church of Wittenberg contained a collection of over 1500 relics including bones of saints and bits of the true cross. Every All Saints day, these would be spread on the grass in front of the church for the local populace to come and gaze at.

9. The most infamous woodworker and gardener of his time
Luther was paid no wage, and took no payment for his services. At the end of his life, with six children, he installed a lathe and learnt woodworking in order to keep the money coming in. He was also a keen gardener, apparently producing fantastic lettuces, beans, melons and cucumbers.

10. Extreme repentance
As a young monk Luther was obsessed with atoning for his sins and went to ridiculous lengths to punish himself. This ranged from extreme self denial and physical and mental tests to self flagellation. One such punishment consisted of lying in the snow, through the night at the height of winter until he would have to be carried back inside.

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