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John Frederick

(Johann Friedrich; 1503–54). Called “the Magnanimous” (Ger. der Grossmütige) because of his spirit and bearing under misfortune. B. Torgau, Prussia; son of John* the Constant; educ. by G. Spalatin*; early supporter of M. Luther*; went with his father to Diet of Augsburg 1530 (see Lutheran Confessions, A). Elector of Ernestine Saxony 1532–47. Impulsive; not a far-sighted politician. Unity of the Schmalkaldic* League suffered from disagreements bet. John Frederick and Philip* of Hesse, leaders of the League; e.g., John Frederick took a strict Luth. position, Philip favored union with other evangelicals; John Frederick disliked Philip's bigamy. He set aside the 1541 election of RC J. v. Pflug* as bp. Naumburg-Zeitz and substituted N. v. Amsdorf,* an avowed Luth. He antagonized Maurice,* duke of Saxony, 1542, by unilaterally trying to introd. the Reformation into the city of Wurzen, whose see was under joint protection of electoral and ducal Saxony; war bet. the 2 Saxonies was averted only by efforts of Luther and Philip. He was suspicious of colloquies and rejected papal overtures for a council. Helped drive Heinrich II (the Younger; 1514–68; duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel; RC) from his duchy 1542. Failed to support the Cologne Reformation (see Hermann von Wied). Did not attend diets and similar meetings from the diet (or convention) of the ev. states at Schmalkald 1537 (he had asked Luther for a positional paper; result: the Schmalkaldic Articles [see Lutheran Confessions, B 2]) to the 1544 Diet of Speyer.* When Charles* V prepared to attack the Schmalkaldic League, John Frederick was duped and was slow in taking counter-measures. With the outbreak of the Schmalkaldic* War July 1546, John Frederick left his realm with an army to engage the imperial forces, but returned when Maurice, who had joined the cause of Charles V, invaded electoral Saxony. John Frederick reconquered most of his land, repelling Maurice, but was defeated and captured by imperial forces at Mühlberg April 24, 1547. Condemned to death by Charles V; sentence commuted to life imprisonment when Wittenberg surrendered; released 1552 by Maurice (who had defeated and almost captured Charles V and forced him to conclude the Convention of Passau*) but did not regain title.

Reorganized the U. of Wittenberg 1535–36; benefactor of U. of Leipzig; laid the plans for the U. of Jena (founded 1558). WGT, LP

See also Alva, Duke of.

B. Rogge, Johann Friedrich, Kurfürst von Sachsen, genannt “der Grossmütige” (Halle, 1902); W. G. Tillmanns, The World and Men Around Luther (Minneapolis, 1959), pp. 300–302.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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