The Augustinian monastery (see image above) became influential in the intellectual and religious life of late medieval Germany because of its outstanding teachers and theologians Henry of Friemar (died 1340), Herman of Schildesche (1357) and Jordan of Saxony or Quedlinburg (died 1370 or 1380).
Two Erfurt Augustinians were invited preachers at the Council of Constance in 1414-1418, which led to the end of the Great Western Schism.
In the fourteenth century Erfurt was not only the commercial powerhouse of all of Thuringia but also, with about 18,000 inhabitants, was Germany’s largest city.
Before joining the Order of Saint Augustine in 1505, Martin Luther had attended its prestegious university from 1501 onwards to become a Master of Arts graduate. He has been attributed with the comment, “For a good education, go to Erfurt!”
Founded in 1389, Erfurt was the third university established in Germany, preceded only by Heidelberg and Cologne.
By the year 1500 the Augustinian convento at Erfurt was the leader of the twenty-seven houses participating in the Augustinian observant movement in Germany, to which Erfurt had contributed since 1474.
There was a good spirit of regular religious observance in the Augustinian convento at Erfurt, and its financial situation was sound.
In 1503 Johannes von Staupitz, was elected vicar general of the German observant houses of the Order of Saint Augustine. He moved to Erfurt in July 1506, and began his association with Martin Luther, which is described on another page of Augnet.
When Martin Luther entered the Erfurt house as a novice in 1504, there were over fifty Augustinians living there. Luther made his first profession of religious vows at the end of his novitiate late in 1506, and was ordained to the priesthood six months later in February or April 1507.
Soon afterwards he began his study of theology at the Order’s studium generale at Erfurt. By the spring of 1508 Luther was teaching there as well as studying. By the winter of 1508 Luther was transferred to teach at Wittenberg. In the autumn of 1509 he returned to Erfurt to lecture at the University of Erfurt.
During his years as an Augustinian at Erfurt, Luther was diligent in his community obligations and practices.
This was attested to both by Augustinians who later became Lutherans as well as by those who remained in the Order.
Much later in 1532 Luther praised his Augustinian novice master of 1505 as having been “a truly admirable man and without doubt a true Christian under the detestable cowl.”
(Continued on the next page.)