Frederick III of Saxony - Encyclopedia




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FREDERICK III. (1463-1525), called "the Wise," elector of Saxony, eldest son of Ernest, elector of Saxony, and Elizabeth, daughter of Albert, duke of Bavaria-Munich (d. 1508), was born at Torgau, and succeeded his father as elector in 1486. Retaining the government of Saxony in his own hands, he shared the other possessions of his family with his brother John, called "the Stedfast" (1468-1532). Frederick was among the princes who pressed the need of reform upon the German king Maximilian I. in 1495, and in 1500 he became president of the newly-formed council of regency (Reichsregiment). He took a genuine interest in learning; was a friend of Georg Spalatin; and in 1502 founded the university of Wittenberg, where he appointed Luther and Melanchthon to professorships. In 1493 he had gone as a pilgrim to Jerusalem, and had been made a knight of the Holy Sepulchre; but, although he remained throughout life an adherent of the older faith, he seems to have been drawn into sympathy with the reformers, probably through his connexion with the university of Wittenberg. In 1520 he refused to put into execution the papal bull which ordered Luther's writings to be burned and the reformer to be put under restraint or sent to Rome; and in 1521, after Luther had been placed under the imperial ban by the diet at Worms, the elector caused him to be conveyed to his castle at the Wartburg, and afterwards protected him while he attacked the enemies of the Reformation. In 1519, Frederick, who alone among the electors refused to be bribed by the rival candidates for the imperial throne, declined to be a candidate for this high dignity himself, and assisted to secure the election of Charles V. He died unmarried at Langau, near Annaberg, on the 5th of May 1525.

See G. Spalatin, Das Leben and die Zeitgeschichte Friedrichs des Weisen, edited by C. G. Neudecker and L. Preller (Jena, 1851); M. M. Tutzschmann, Friedrich der Weise, Kurfiirst von Sachsen (Grimma, 1848); and T. Kolde, Friedrich der Weise and die Anfdnge der Reformation (Erlangen, 1881).

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