Fredrick was born January 17th 1463 to the Elector of Saxony. At that time Germany was ruled by an emporer, but was composed of many different states which were very independent. Saxony was one of the major provinces of Germany. Fredrick suceeded his father in 1486, at the age of 23, and he continued in that position for 39 years. He was known as Fredrick the Wise, and was a good ruler.
However, his most important role began near the end of his life as he protected the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther began the Reformation while he was a teacher at Wittenburg University, which Fredrick had founded. It became a place which was very influential through the teaching of Luther and others. When the Pope and the Emporer ordered Luther to be arrested and executed, Fredrick saved his life by hiding him in Wartburg Castle for several years. He refused to obey the Pope’s orders to kill Luther and prevented others from doing so. Though he did not abandon all of the false doctrines of the Catholic church, he inclined toward the Reformation and God used him to protect Luther and the other leaders of the movement in Germany. He died May 5th, 1525. D’Aubigne said this of his death:
Meanwhile the cause of the Reformation itself appeared as if it would perish in the gulf that had swalled up the liberties of the people. … [T]he aged elector of Saxony, that man whom God had raised up to defend the Reformation against all dangers from without, descended to the tomb. … The doctrine of the Gospel was no longer to him that sword which attacks error, following it up wherever it may be found, and after a vigorous contest tripumphing over it at last; it fell upon his heart like the dew, or the gentle rain, filling it with hope and joy. Fredrick had forgotten the present world: he saw nothing but God and eternity.1
1. J. H. Merle D’Aubigne. History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century. (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Sprinkle Publications, 2003) volume 3, book 10, p. 199-200