October 31, 2014
Artifact: Martin Luther Medal
Size: 76 mm (diameter); 7 mm high
Significance: This medal is just one of over 600 Reformation coins and medals in the CHI collection. It was cast to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth. The medal touches on a number of aspects of Luther’s life, from being a professor of theology in Wittenberg to his work to reform the church. Today we remember the work of Luther to return the church to a foundation of sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura (by grace alone, by faith alone, by Scripture alone).
Obverse: Born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483, Luther is depicted on the medal in his academic hat and robe around the year 1529. Not only had he sparked the Reformation by posting his Ninety-five Theses on the church doors on this day in 1517, but in the subsequent twelve years Luther had stood up for his beliefs at the Diet of Worms, translated the Bible into the German language while in hiding for his life and published the Small and Large Catechisms. It is likely that by 1529 he had already composed the staple Reformation Day hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
Reverse: The back of the medal speaks to Luther the reformer with the image of a swan. John Huss, an early reformer, stated before he was martyred that they might roast “the goose,” the meaning of Huss’s name in Bohemian, but after him would come a swan. Luther is often referred to as the swan that carried on Huss’s reforming work.
The back also features Luther’s seal, the Luther Rose, which is a symbol of his theology. The cross on the heart symbolizes faith in Christ crucified, while the heart on the rose indicates that faith brings joy, comfort and peace into bloom. “He lives!” in Latin surrounds the rose and proclaims Christ’s resurrection. The final piece, the ring, shows that we live eternally through Him.
The text on the back reads: “I believe that there is on earth through the whole wide world no more than one holy common Christian Church.” This is from volume two of Luther’s Works and demonstrates that Luther did not intend to split the church but to reform it. No matter what denomination, we are still one priesthood of believers in Christ Jesus, our Savior.
Additional copies of this medal are available in the CHI lobby shop. Contact 314-505-7900 or email the receptionist if you are interested in purchasing the medal.
(The information about the medal was taken from the brochure that accompanies the medal.)