Martin Luther and the Unicorn Horn

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Melchior Adam, The Life and Death of Dr. Martin Luther (London, 1643), 109.

Martin Luther, the leading figure of the Protestant Reformation, spent his last three days on earth working. He delivered a sermon that in part encouraged Jews to convert to Christianity or be expelled from German lands. The following day he traveled to negotiate for the protection of his family’s copper trade. ¬†Luther fell ill the day after the negotiations were completed and he continued to feel poorly through the day and evening. According to the sixteenth century German historian Melchior Adam, that “after supper, when he [Luther] went aside to pray, as was his custome, the paine in his breast began to increase: whereupon by the advice of some there present, he tooke a little Vnicornes horne in wine.”

Luther most likely drank the wine doused with unicorn’s horn because the horn (alicorn) was believed to be a medicine that could treat a number of deadly diseases.

Luther died at 3am the next morning.

 

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Melchior Adam, The Life and Death of Dr. Martin Luther (London, 1642).

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