Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517, and the Lutheran denomination bears his name to this day. In addition to being a reformer, he was active in the area of church music.
Luther, the son of Hans Luder and Margarethe (Lindemann) Luder, was born on November 10, 1483, at Eisleben, Saxony. His father, a native of Thuringia, was a copper miner. Luther was educated at Magedburg and Eisenach and received an MA at Erfurt in 1505. After graduation he entered the monastery in Erfurt and was ordained in 1507.
The following year he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Wittenburg, where he lectured on the physics and dialetics of Aristotle. Luther spent much of the year of 1510 in Rome where he was shocked by the corruption of the Church. Upon his return from Rome, he compared the state of the Church with the practices and teachings in apostolic times. In 1512 he received his Doctor of Divinity degree and began to promote a more Biblical theology. On October 31, 1517, he nailed ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church denouncing the church's practice of selling indulgences. He was called to Rome to answer his theses, but the University of Wittenberg kept him from going.
He was branded a heretic by the church and an outlaw by the state. Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony protected him so that he was able to continue his reforming work. Because of Luther efforts, the Bible was brought into the homes of the people in their language. Luther wrote many new hymns of the Reformation himself, but used familiar folk songs, plainsongs and poetry. The "Achtliederbuch" has often been referred to as Luther's hymnal because it contained four of his hymns. See generally: The Musical Reforms of Martin Luther, Charles K. Moss.
Luther died February 18, 1546, in Eisleben, Germany, and was buried at Wittenberg, Germany. Hymnals under Luther besides the Etlich Cristlich lider Lobesang und Psalm 1523/1524 (Achliederbuch), are Enchiridia published in 1514 and Geystliche Lieder published in 1545.
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Ah, Dearest Jesus
All Praise to Thee, Eternal Lord
Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands
Flung to the Heedless Winds
From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
O Lord, We Praise Thee
Savior of the Nations, Come
That Man a Godly Life Might Live
To Shepherds as They Watched by Night
Nun Freut Euch