Friday, February 02, 2007

How’s That For a Life’s Work?

In an age when marriage is being challenged from many sides, spare a thought for one Wibrandis Rosenblatt, a woman with a strong commitment to its preservation.

Born into a well-to-do German family in 1504, Wibrandis had the unusual experience of being married to four different men during her life, all of whom she outlived. More than that, three of them were Protestant Church Reformers.

After the death of her first husband (surname Keller), Rosenblatt married Johannes Oecolampadius, a former monk who was strongly influenced by Martin Luther. After organizing religious reform in Berne and Basle (during which time he was assistant to Huldrych Zwingli), Johannes died in 1531.

A year later, Wibrandis had tied the knot with another Reformer, this time the less-well known Wolfgang Fabricius Capito. The marriage had actually been encouraged and the introduction arranged by fellow Reformer Martin Bucer (who was, in turn, to find himself Wibrandis Rosenblatt’s fourth husband a decade later.) More of a conciliator than a theologian, Wolfgang lead the Protestant cause in the city of Strasbourg.

Capito died after 9 years of marriage, and his widow, the irrepressible Rosenblatt, lost no time entering into nuptial bliss with the above-mentioned Bucer. Bucer’s first wife was a former nun, Elisabeth Silbereisen, who on her death bed urged her husband to marry Rosenblatt after her departure.

The fourth and final marriage proved a fruitful one with Wibrandis bearing no fewer than 11 children to Bucer, who in his spare time was kept busy with the work of religious reform in Strasbourg, followed by Cambridge where, alongside Bishop Crammer he contributed to the Book of Common Prayer in his role as Professor of Divinity. His widow had to cope with the indignity of Bucer’s tomb being desecrated when his body was exhumed and burned by the Catholic Queen Mary’s commissioners, who also destroyed his tomb, citing his “heresy” in justification.

Following Bucer’s death in 1551, Rosenblatt (whose actual surname at this point remains one of history’s more inscrutable questions) returned to Switzerland. After nursing her own children and wider household through a bout of plague, Wibrandis Rosenblatt herself contracted the disease and died in 1564.

Call me old fashioned, but it does seem like a richer and more interesting life than one characterized by low-commitment relationships, casual sex, divorce and 1.8 children.

There. I've said it.

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