PRAYER (contemporary language)
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018.
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Last updated: 16 May 2020
ARGULA VON GRUMBACH
SCHOLAR AND CHURCH REFORMER, c. 1554
Argula von Grumbach was born as Argula von Stauff near Regensburg, Bavaria, iin a family who was among the pre-eminent leaders of Bavarian nobility.
Argula is thought to have learned to read fluently at a very young age. When she was ten, her father gave her an expensive and beautifully crafted Koberger Bible in German, despite Franciscan preachers discouraging it, saying Scripture would “only confuse her.” She became an avid student of the Bible, memorizing much of its contents.
In 1515 Argula married Friedrich von Grumbach. He is thought to have had poor health, as he died in 1530. With him Argula had four children, George, Hans Georg, Gottfried and Apollonia. The only child to survive his parents was Gottfried.
Argula become a follower of Luther and had begun a correspondence with Luther and other similar-thinking Protestants.
Bavarian authorities had forbidden reception of Lutheran ideas at the time, and the city of Ingolstadt enforced that mandate. In 1523, Arsacius Seehofer, a young teacher was arrested for Protestant views and forced to recant. The incident would have occurred quietly, but Argula, outraged over it, wrote what was to become her best-known epistle, a letter to the faculty of the university objecting to Seehofer's arrest and exile. The letter urged the university to follow Scripture, not Roman traditions. It also said she had decided to speak out even though she was a woman because no one else would.
Her letter, which was turned into a booklet, provoked a huge reaction, greatly angering the theologians and became nearly an overnight sensation. It went through fourteen editions in two months, and became a bestseller. Argula wrote more letters and copies of the first one to other significant figures.
Unable to control the spread of her ideas, theologians wanted Argula punished, and her husband lost his position at Dietfurt over the controversy. Argula was also called by many offensive epithets by her critics. Argula wrote poems in response to the slander of her, and she continued corresponding with Luther and other Reformers.
Argula was highly controversial, shunned by some of her own family, but she also had admirers for her writings. Although her challenges to the university were largely ignored, and her efforts to promote her Protestant beliefs unsuccessful, Argula was undeterred, continuing writing pamphlets. She engaged in other exceptional activities in this cause, like traveled alone to Nuremberg — which was unheard of for women at that time — to encourage German princes to accept Reformation principles.
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