Johann Friedrich I (Saxony)

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Elector Johann Friedrich, portrayed in 1531 by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Ä.
Signature Johann Friedrich I. (Saxony) .PNG

Johann Friedrich I of Saxony , also called Friedrich the Magnanimous , (born June 30, 1503 in Torgau , † March 3, 1554 in Weimar ) from the house of the Ernestine Wettins was elector and duke of Saxony from 1532 to 1547 and after the loss the electoral dignity from 1547 until his death now only duke of the Ernestine part of the country . In the city of Jena , where he founded the university that still exists today , he is known as Hanfried .


Elector of Saxony

Johann Friedrich I of Saxony, portrait around 1550 by Tizian ( Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna)
Posthumously 1578 by Lucas Cranach the Elder J. created paintings - easily recognizable scar withdrew Johann Friedrich I as a leader of the Protestant troops in the battle of Muhlberg to
Johann Friedrich's coat of arms (woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder , 1546)

Johann Friedrich I was the eldest son of the Saxon Elector Johann the Constant (1468–1532) from his first marriage to Sophie (1481–1503), daughter of Duke Magnus II of Mecklenburg . Johann Friedrich married on February 9, 1527 in Torgau Sibylle (1512–1554), daughter of Duke Johann III. von Jülich-Kleve-Berg , to whom he had been engaged the year before.

Johann Friedrich promoted the Reformation like his uncle and father before him . He consolidated the regional church and promoted the University of Wittenberg . From 1539 he set up new consistory to regulate the administration of church property.

During the time of Saxon coin separation , the joint coinage agreed in the Leipzig main division in 1485 between the Ernestines and Albertines was temporarily suspended from 1530 to the end of 1533. Under Johann Friedrich, the former mint community with George the Bearded came into force again in 1534 .

In 1534 he intervened in the feud of Hans Kohlhase against the knight of Zaschwitz by annulling a compromise agreement that had been made in the meantime.

As leader of the Schmalkaldic League , he was at the head of the Protestants . Politically little talented and physically disadvantaged by his considerable weight and his propensity for alcohol, Johann Friedrich was stubborn and not very statesmanlike. As patron of the diocese of Naumburg , he replaced the Catholic Bishop Julius von Pflug , who was legitimately elected by the chapter, with the Lutheran Nikolaus von Amsdorf , which encouraged the emperor to take steps against the Reformation. Similar unauthorized procedures as in Naumburg were considered by Johann Friedrich for the Wurzen monastery , which was under joint patronage with his cousin Duke Moritz von Sachsen , which led to the estrangement of both princes.

In 1542, Johann Friedrich issued a Turkish tax regulation on April 15 , "the Turk to resist".

At the Reichstag in Speyer in 1544, after a long refusal, Emperor Charles V confirmed Johann Friedrich's marriage contract and the Saxon succession in the two lines of the House of Wettin.

Schmalkaldic War and Captivity

Due to its attacks against Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and the capture of Duke Henry imposed Emperor Charles V on July 19, 1546 Reichsacht about Johann Friedrich I and the members of the Schmalkaldic League. In the Schmalkaldic War that followed, his Lutheran cousin, Duke Moritz of Saxony, sided with the emperor and invaded Electoral Saxony. The Kaiser remained victorious in the battle of Mühlberg . Johann Friedrich was captured by imperial troops on the Lochauer Heide on April 24, 1547 . On May 10th, Johann Friedrich was sentenced to death. He heard the verdict very indifferently during a game of chess with his friend Ernst von Braunschweig-Grubenhagen . The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after the intercession of influential princes (including Moritz). Johann Friedrich lost the electoral dignity and a large part of his lands to Moritz von Sachsen.

Despite this defeat, he remained optimistic and had the Hunting Lodge built while still in captivity . Also during his imprisonment, Johann Friedrich had the high school founded in Jena as a replacement for the lost Wittenberg State University , but it was not elevated to the University of Jena by Emperor Ferdinand I until 1558 after his death . The prisoner steadfastly refused attempts by Emperor Charles to persuade Johann Friedrich to accept the Augsburg interim , which is why his detention was tightened.

Duke of Saxony

Johann Friedrich's return from captivity and his final years (unknown painter before 1630; German Historical Museum Berlin )

After five years of imprisonment, and thanks to the Passau Treaty since September 1, 1552 freed again, Johann Friedrich resided in Weimar during the last years of his life . His territory expanded when he inherited his brother Johann Ernst von Coburg . Again there were disputes with Elector Moritz, as Johann Friedrich continued to use the electoral title and the corresponding coat of arms (see Gotha Mint ). On February 24, 1554, all disputed points between Elector August von Sachsen and Johann Friedrich were settled in the Naumburg Treaty . Shortly before his death, Johann Friedrich was granted some offices with Altenburg and the title of “born elector”. The former elector signed the contract the day before his death.

Johann Friedrich is buried at the side of his wife Sibylle in the city ​​church in Weimar. His Protestant feast day is March 3rd . He was nicknamed "the magnanimous " for his commitment to the Reformation and as a patron of Martin Luther .


Stone tablet at Friedenstein Palace (Gotha)
Monument on the Jena market square
2 Mark - commemorative coin for the 350th anniversary of the university's founding in 1908 (Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach) with the depiction of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous ( obverse )
5 Pf - special stamp of the GDR Post 1958 with the seal of the Jenenser University

Even during his lifetime, Johann Friedrich I was the subject of extensive image propaganda with an increasingly Reformation orientation. The types of portraits created for this in Lucas Cranach's workshop and disseminated in various media had a lasting impact on the perception of Johann Friedrich's personality and were received well into the 20th century. In the first years of the reign, the intention predominated to establish the young elector in triptychs as the successor to Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast . Later, the individual representations in the electoral regalia gained weight. After the defeat in the Schmalkaldic War, the presentation of the scarred duke as a Protestant martyr was often in the foreground. In later centuries, the types of portraits were taken up depending on the intention of the representation.

The Schmalkaldic Bundestaler Johann Friedrichs and Philipp von Hessen, co -minted from 1542 to 1547, show the bust of the elector in an ermine cloak with shouldered sword and the armored hip image of the landgrave with a command baton on the opposite side.

A foam coin by Matthes Gebel († 1574) dates from 1551, on the front of which there is a bearded half-left portrait with a scar on the left cheek from the Elector's battle at Mühlberg. On the back is a triple helmeted coat of arms without the heart shield with the course swords.

In the 16th century, a stone tablet was made with his portrait as the elector; it is now in the east facade of Friedenstein Palace and was supplemented by the allegorical depiction of the wheel of fortune.

As an opponent of Hans Kohlhase, Heinrich von Kleist assigned him an important role adorned with fictional features in his free adaptation of the historical material, the novella Michael Kohlhaas published in 1810 .

The " Hanfried ", the monument to the founder of the high school, Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous, stands on the Jena market square . It was created by Friedrich Drake and erected in 1858 for the 300th anniversary of the university.

In 1908, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Friedrich Schiller University, two silver coins with denominations of 2 and 5  marks were minted in the Grand Duchy of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach , showing a bust of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous with a sword and an ermine .

Since 1993, an American football club in Jena has been called Jena Hanfrieds based on the name of the elector.


Johann Friedrich had the following children from his marriage to Sibylle von Jülich-Kleve-Berg :

⚭ 1. 1555 Princess Agnes of Hesse (1527–1555)
⚭ 2. 1558 Countess Palatine Elisabeth von Pfalz-Simmern (1540–1594)
⚭ 1560 Countess Palatine Dorothea Susanne von Pfalz-Simmern (1544–1592)

Remembrance day

His feast day is March 3rd in the Evangelical Name Calendar .


Web links

Commons : Johann Friedrich I. (Saxony)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gottfried August Arndt: Archive of Saxon History , Part 2, Verlag Weidmanns Erben und Reich, Leipzig 1785, pp. 317–332 digitized version , accessed on January 27, 2015.
  2. ^ Johann Sebastian Müller: Of the electoral and princely house of Saxony Ernestin and Albertine lines, Annales from Anno 1400 to 1700 , Gleditsch 1701, p. 106
  3. Michael Enterlein, Franz Nagel: Catalog of the representations of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous . In: Joachim Bauer, Birgitt Hellmann (ed.): Loss and profit. Johann Friedrich I. Elector of Saxony . Hain-Verlag, Weimar 2003, ISBN 3-89807-058-1 , pp. 119-292.
  4. Habich I, 2, 1245. Unicum, silver: 47.2 mm, 53.93 gr.
predecessor Office successor
Johann the Steadfast Elector of Saxony
Johann the Steadfast Duke of Saxony
Johann Friedrich II.