Portrait of John Frederick I (1503-1554), Elector of Saxony (1532-1547), Duke of Saxony (1547-1554)
Johann Frederick I (German: Johann Friedrich auch Friedrich der Großmütige; 30 June 1503 in Torgau – 3 March 1554 in Weimar), called Johann the Magnanimous, was Elector of Saxony (1532-1547) and head of the Schmalkaldic League. Johann Frederick was the eldest son of Elector Johann by his first wife, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. His mother died fourteen days after his birth, on 12 July 1503. He received his education from George Spalatin, whom he highly esteemed during his whole life. Spalatin was Martin Luther's friend and advisor and thus, through Spalatin's schooling, Johann developed a devotion to the teachings of Martin Luther. His knowledge of history was comprehensive, and his library, which extended over all sciences, was one of the largest in Germany. He cultivated a personal relationship with Martin Luther, beginning to correspond with him in the days when the bull of excommunication was first issued against the Reformer, and showing himself a convinced adherent of Luther. He carefully observed the development of the reformatory movement. He read Luther's writings, urged the printing of the first complete (Wittenberg) edition of his works, and in the latter years of his life promoted the compilation of the Jena edition. At the Elector castle at Torgau, he constructed a chapel specifically designed to be a Lutheran place of worship and invited Martin Luther to deliver the inaugural sermon. During the second diet of Speyer (1529) he temporarily assumed the reins of government in place of his father. The intrigues of Archduke Ferdinand induced him after the diet to draw up a federal statute for the Evangelical estates, which shows that he was more decidedly convinced of the right and duty of defense than his father. He accompanied the latter to the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, signed with him the Augsburg Confession and was active in the proceedings. His attitude did not remain unnoticed, and won him the emperor's dislike. In 1532, Johann Frederick succeeded his father as elector. In the beginning he reigned with his half-brother, John Ernest, but in 1542 became sole ruler. Chancellor Brück, who for years had guided the foreign relations of the country with ability and prudence, remained also his councilor, but his open and impulsive nature often led him to disregard the propositions of his more experienced adviser, so that the country was in frequent danger, especially as John Frederick was not a far-sighted politician.
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