Luther Recounts his Youthful Pilgrimage to Rome

Luther, Martin (1483-1546)

Der Hundert vnd Siebenzehend Psalm.

Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1530


Quarto: 19 x 13.4 cm. [34] lvs. Collation: A-G4, H2, I4 (lacks blank I4)

FIRST EDITION THUS, revised from an earlier version of the text, also printed in 1530.

Modern half-vellum. With a beautiful title page border by Georg Lemberger (Luther TE 34). A crisp copy with just a little marginal soiling.

“Luther’s commentary on Psalm 117, printed by George Rhau in October 1530, is a revision of an earlier version printed at the Coburg earlier in 1530. It is dedicated to Hans von Sternberg, who had taken a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and had told Luther about it. The German text includes Luther's German translation of Psalm 117 from the Hebrew O.T.

“This commentary is Luther’s critique of medieval spirituality, and includes an account of his own pilgrimage to Rome. He recommends instead a pilgrimage through the gospels, psalms, and other parts of Holy Scripture –a spirituality of the word- and he commends his own practice of daily devotions, proclaiming himself a student of the catechism.

“Luther also affirms the goodness of temporal government and its laws and the spirituality of everyday work. The monastic life is not superior to all the crafts, trades, and ways of life that exist. Monasteries should be preserved as schools, as they were founded, he argues, to raise young Christian persons, teaching the faith and discipline in order to prepare excellent candidates for Christian offices. The life of the baptized is like being under a heaven or kingdom of grace that the devil and sin can sometimes cloud. In his commentary, the late-medieval development toward a democratization and secularization of spirituality is complete.”(Wengert and Krey)

Luther’s Pilgrimage to Rome:

In his introduction, Luther tells von Sternberg that as much as he enjoyed hearing of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he fears that nevertheless, “we have not made those pilgrimages in the proper spirit.” He then reflects briefly on his own pilgrimage, giving us this marvelous picture of a young Luther, a pious monk, in Rome 20 years earlier:

“When I was in Rome, I was such a holy one that I ran through all the churches and crypts and believed all the stinking lies. Doing about ten masses in Rome, I was almost sorry that my father and mother were still living, for I would have loved to have freed them from the fires of Purgatory with my masses and other excellent works and prayers. There is a saying in Rome that goes like this: ‘Blessed is the mother whose son performs a mass on Sunday in St. John’s.’ How I would have loved to redeem my mother, but the crowds pressed on too hard, and I could not get in, so I ate a smoked herring instead.”

Benzing 2892