Katharina – Fortitude

Written by Margaret Skea
Review by Alan Pearson

This is a truly heart-warming story of a woman’s life as she marries and raises a family in Wittenberg, Saxony. The story begins in 1525 after her marriage to Martin Luther, the renegade cleric who has turned Christendom on its head. Katharina herself is also something of a renegade after leaving a convent to seek a freer life. The life that she chooses brings her six children, and Martin is a loving father to them all. He holds classes and turns the Lutherhaus into a college where converts from far and wide come to sit around the large family table and discuss their new theology.

Thrifty Katharina is watching the purse-strings, and with a woman’s wile, she convinces Martin to allow them to rent rooms in their large house. Martin’s other talent of horticulture allows them to grow their own vegetables to feed them with.

They also attract the attention of Catholics, who see the marriage of Martin and Katharina as evil and claim that their first child will be the Antichrist. This puts a strain on their friends and family, who for the most part support them, even though they are sometimes at odds with Martin’s teachings.

There is tragedy in the Lutherhaus, too, when two of their girls die, one in infancy and the other at thirteen. Plague also sweeps through the country, and Katharine and her friends care for the sick. Katharina is a strong woman, but she is tested by these events, and when Martin’s health begins to fail just as his responsibilities in the new church increase, she is sometimes at her wits’ end. Margaret Skea has brought home the fragility of life in the 16th century, but she also shows the love that remains and grows stronger for those who survive. A beautiful story.