Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25, 2012

Historical Battles: Where were the Lutherans?

Has it ever seemed as if Lutherans completely dominated the religious scene during the early 16th century and Martin Luther’s ministry, then, after his death, faded into history with only brief cameos? I thought so until I began to tentatively study the Thirty Years’ War. This is a conflict schoolchildren are taught very little, if anything, about, and I had never thought to delve deeper until I began to wonder *where* all the Lutheran greats were? Where were the John Calvins of Lutheranism after Luther’s death? I knew, of course, about Philipp Melanchthon and Martin Bucer and other reformers, but I thought there had to be more.

Then this man popped out at me.

Gustavus Adolphus

His name was Gustavus Adolphus, born in Sweden in 1594. I had heard of him only in passing but I knew he was the King of Sweden during the Thirty Years’ War and that he had a prominent place in war lore. Also, he was Lutheran. So I searched out a quick biography. He was apparently king during the “Swedish Golden Age” (no, I had never heard of that either!) and was a brave and well-trained intellectual giant of a man who seemed indestructible . . . at least until his death, which occurred in 1632.

Known as one of the greatest soldiers of the 17th century, he was called the “Father of Modern Warfare” and could command any branch of the army with seemingly no trouble. Keeping in mind that the 17th century was known for religious warfare even more than the 16th had been --- and that land and politics were also involved in the Thirty Years’ War, which made for an interesting scramble between Lutherans, Calvinists, and Catholics --- he had quite a job to maintain.

So, what happened in the Battle of Lutzen where Gustavus Adolphus was killed? Of the many battles that devastated European soil, it ranked among the worst and was one of the most influential in determining the course of the war. It all began when Catholic leader Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein (a name and a half!) made the mistake of believing that the Protestant factions would undertake no more action for the year, it being mid-November. Then came Gustavus Adolphus and his men. 

It was to be Adolphus’ last charge. He rushed forward like a lion of God, urging on his stead like in the cavalier stories of old. But he could no longer find his men, and he was going on blind. A few well-placed bullets stilled his spirit and catapulted him into the heavenly realm. This Lutheran lion was finally free from the sorrows of unending warfare. I always like to end my biographies with snatches of “the person,” traits as opposed to life events. Gustavus Adolphus was certainly brave, and quite intelligent. He was a staunch Lutheran in a time when declaring one’s religious affiliation was very important. 

His wife Maria Eleanora of Brandenburg, who died twenty-three years after her husband, gave Gustavus Adolphus a daughter named Christina. Little Christina was only six when her father died. Adolphus and Maria Eleanora had had three other children, all of whom were either stillborn or died in infancy. Adolphus’ son Gustav, born of a mistress, was sixteen when he lost his father.

And what became of Gustavus Adolphus’ earthly form? He was buried near Stockholm, Sweden, in the Riddarholmen Church. After his death the theories began circulating that his involvement in the Thirty Years’ War was only due to politics and land and had nothing to do with religion . . . which, following the case of many countries, that may well have been mostly true. Yet despite his reasons for fighting, and despite personal sins, he was a proud Lutheran and a good Protestant hero.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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