Frederick III, Elector of Saxony - Biography

Biography

Born in Torgau, he succeeded his father as elector in 1486; in 1502, he founded the University of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon taught.

Frederick was among the princes who pressed the need of reform upon Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and in 1500 he became president of the newly formed council of regency (Reichsregiment).

Frederick was Pope Leo X's candidate for Holy Roman Emperor in 1519 — the pope had awarded him the Golden Rose of virtue on 3 September 1518 — but he helped secure the election of Charles V. Frederick ensured Luther would be heard before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and subsequently secured an exemption from the Edict of Worms for Saxony.

By 1518 Frederick's castle church contained 17,443 holy relics, including a piece of Moses' burning bush, parts of the holy cradle and swaddling clothes, thirty-five fragments of the true cross, and the Virgin Mary's milk. A diligent and pious person who rendered appropriate devotion to each of these relics could merit 1,902,202 years worth of penance (an earthly equivalent of time otherwise spent in Purgatory, removed by indulgences). Two years later, the collection exceeded 19,000 pieces.

He protected Martin Luther from the Pope's enforcement of the edict by faking a highway attack on Luther's way back to Wittenberg, and hid him at Wartburg Castle following the Diet of Worms.

Frederick died unmarried at Lochau, a hunting castle near Annaburg (30 km southeast of Wittenberg), in 1525 and was buried in the Schlosskirche at Wittenberg with a grave by Peter Vischer the Younger. He was succeeded by his brother Duke John the Constant as Elector of Saxony.

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