1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/John, Elector of Saxony

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JOHN (1468–1532), called the Steadfast, elector of Saxony, fourth son of the elector Ernest, was born on the 30th of June 1468. In 1486, when his eldest brother became elector as Frederick III., John received a part of the paternal inheritance and afterwards assisted his kinsman, the German king Maximilian I., in several campaigns. He was an early adherent of Luther, and, becoming elector of Saxony by his brother’s death in May 1525, was soon prominent among the Reformers. Having assisted to suppress the rising led by Thomas Munzer in 1525, he helped Philip, landgrave of Hesse, to found the league of Gotha, formed in 1526 for the protection of the Reformers. He was active at the diet of Spires in 1526, and the “recess” of this diet gave him an opportunity to reform the church in Saxony, where a plan for divine service was drawn up by Luther. The assertions of Otto von Pack that a league had been formed against the elector and his friends induced John to ally himself again with Philip of Hesse in March 1528, but he restrained Philip from making an immediate attack upon their opponents. He signed the protest against the “recess” of the diet of Spires in 1529, being thus one of the original Protestants, and was actively hostile to Charles V. at the diet of Augsburg in 1530. Having signed the confession of Augsburg, he was alone among the electors in objecting to the election of Ferdinand, afterwards the emperor Ferdinand I., as king of the Romans. He was among the first members of the league of Schmalkalden, assented to the religious peace of Nuremberg in 1532, and died at Schweidnitz on the 16th of August 1532. John was twice married and left two sons and two daughters. His elder son, John Frederick, succeeded him as elector, and his younger son was John Ernest (d. 1553). He rendered great services to the Protestant cause in its infancy, but as a Lutheran resolutely refused to come to any understanding with other opponents of the older faith.

See J. Becker, Kurfürst Johann von Sachsen und seine Beziehungen zu Luther (Leipzig, 1890); J. Janssen, History of the German People (English translation), vol. v. (London, 1903); L. von Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (Leipzig, 1882).