German monk Martin Luther challenged the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the authority of the pope, in his Ninety-five Theses, and was thus excommunicated. His German translation of the Bible enriched the German culture, and his marriage set an example for clerical marriage. His teachings are now known as Lutherans.
German-Dutch clergy Thomas à Kempis is largely believed to be the author of Imitatio Christi, or Imitation of Christ. Part of the Devotio Moderna, or the Modern Devotion movement, he was the son of a blacksmith and had moved from Rhineland to the Netherlands, where he was inspired by Gerard Groote’s followers.
Son of a top Nazi official, laicized Roman Catholic priest Martin Adolf Bormann found shelter in a church after Germany lost the war. Ordained as a priest, he later served in Congo before leaving the ministry to become a teacher of theology. After retirement, he began traveling across Germany and Austria, talking about the horrors of Nazi rule in schools.
German Roman Catholic nun Anne Catherine Emmerich was born on a farm and initially failed to join any religious community due to her poor financial conditions. She later received the stigmata and experienced visions of the Virgin Mary and Passion of Jesus. Her visions apparently inspired the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ.
Widely regarded as the founder of Intentionalism, or act psychology, German philosopher Franz Brentano was also a Roman Catholic priest. He also taught philosophy at the University of Würzburg and the University of Vienna and penned the iconic works Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint and Inquiry into Sense Psychology.
One of the most significant theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner was a disciple of Martin Heidegger at the University of Freiburg. His works such as Spirit in the World and Hearers of the Word showcase the Roman Catholic doctrine and its many interpretations.
Georg Ratzinger was a German musician, conductor, and Catholic priest. He is best remembered for his work as the conductor of the cathedral choir of Regensburg, Regensburger Domspatzen. The older brother of Pope Benedict XVI, Georg Ratzinger achieved notoriety when he turned a blind eye to the issues of young choir members who were sexually abused under his directorship.
Heinrich Kramer was a German inquisitor and churchman. He is best remembered for his book Malleus Maleficarum, which describes witchcraft and methods to successfully exterminate witches. Heinrich Kramer played an important role in instituting the period of witch trials, which spanned from 1400 to 1782.
Michael von Faulhaber was a senior Catholic prelate and Archbishop of Munich from 1917 to 1952. He was a co-founder of the Amici Israel, a priestly association that strove for Jewish-Christian reconciliation. During the Nazi era, he was involved in drafting the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge. He recognized the Nazi government as legitimate and preached against communism.
Poppo, who later came to be known as Pope Damasus II had initially served as the bishop of Brixen. However, Damascus II had the shortest papal reign in history, as he passed away of malaria just 23 days after assuming papacy. He was the third German to have been the pope.
Norbert of Xanten was not just the archbishop of Magdeburg but also established the order of Premonstratensian. He is revered as the patron saint of the Kingdom of Bohemia and of safe childbirth. He also defended Pope Innocent II and influenced the German ruler to defend him.
German rabbi and spiritual leader Leo Baeck remains a symbol of liberal Jewish thinking of the Nazi era. He is best remembered for The Essence of Judaism and This People Israel, the latter of which was penned by him while in a Nazi concentration camp.
Apart from being a Benedictine monk, Rabanus Maurus was also a talented author and is remembered for his 22-volume encyclopaedia On the Natures of Things. He enriched German language and literature and this gained the nickname Teacher of Germany. His works also include translations and commentaries.
Pope Victor II was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1055 until his death in 1057. A son of the Swabian Count Hartwig of Calw, he was appointed bishop of Eichstätt as a young man. He became the pope following the death of Pope Leo IX.
Saint Wolfgang, who was the bishop of Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany, had been a teacher for many years initially. Considered one of the 3 great 10th-century German saints, he became a hermit in his later life. He is the patron saint of carpenters and of ailments such as paralysis, strokes, and stomach diseases.
Though he initially studied both chemistry and economics, Romano Guardini later became a priest. He later also served the University of Berlin as its chair of philosophy in religion but was forced to resign by the Nazis. He later also taught at the University of Munich.
German mystic Heinrich Suso was a significant leader of the Friends of God movement. Best known for his work Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, he faced a lot of issues for his support of mystic Meister Eckhart. He apparently practiced austerity by wearing a shirt with 150 nails inside it.
Johann Eck was a German theologian and Catholic counter-reformer who was one of Martin Luther's most prominent theological opponents. He also contributed as an educator, working at the University of Ingolstadt as a professor of theology.
Suidger, better known as Pope Clement II, had initially served as the bishop of Bamberg. He ushered in many reforms and brought in regulations against simony. His death after a trip to Germany was attributed to poisoning with lead sugar, probably by the supporters of his successor, Benedict IX.
Christoph Scheiner was a Jesuit priest, astronomer, and physicist. He is credited with inventing the pantograph which he demonstrated in Munich after he was invited by Duke William V of Bavaria. Several schools and streets in Germany are named after him. A lunar crater is also named in his honor.
Among the many positions held by Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg, the most notable were those of the arch-chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire and the archbishop of Mainz. Though he wished to establish a national German church, his wishes were toned down by the pope.
It is unfortunate that German Lutheran clergyman Johann Albrecht Bengel is only remembered for his work on Greek New Testament. One of the greatest biblical scholars, he was also a devout Christian, who founded Swabian Pietism. He was also a pioneer in the modern textual criticism, in scientific exegesis and in modern eschatological study.
Hieronymus Bock was a Lutheran minister, credited with helping the philological scholasticism of medieval botany to evolve into modern science by categorizing plants according to their structural similarities. His major work, New Kreuterbuch, not only includes detailed description, but also careful illustrations of around 700 plants. For a time he also served as the physician to the prince of Zweibrücken.
Twelfth-century German bishop Saint Benno was imprisoned for opposing King Henry IV. Though deposed initially, he later reconciled and was restored. He is revered as the patron saint of the city of Munich and of fishermen and weavers. His images show him holding a fish with keys between its gills.
Seventeenth-century German theologian Johann Arndt is remembered for his Lutheran ideals and is said to have influenced Philipp Jakob Spener, who pioneered Pietism. Of the many works penned by him, one of the most significant was Four Books on True Christianity, which later influenced many religious books.
Benedictine monk Regino of Prüm is best known for his two-volume chronicle of the period between Christ’s birth and the early 10th century, Chronicon. The abbot of Prüm, he later headed the monastery at Saint-Martin. He also advocated for a reform of church music and penned a collection of canons.
Eugen Drewermann is a German theologian, peace activist, church critic, and former Catholic priest. Drewermann's work is considered important and has been translated into over 12 languages. Over the years, Eugen Drewermann has received several prestigious awards such as the Herbert-Haag-Prize, Erich Fromm Prize, and International Albert Schweitzer-Prize.
Twentieth-century bishop of Münster, Clemens August Graf von Galen, a figure of Catholic resistance, strongly opposed the Nazi T4 program of euthanizing the sick and the physically and mentally disabled. He escaped being executed, as the Nazis had planned to hang him after winning World War II, which never happened.
Samson Raphael Hirsch is best remembered as the pioneer of the Neo-Orthodox school of Judaism. He also opposed Reform Judaism and their application of historical techniques in the study of religious texts. The Nineteen Letters on Judaism, written under the pseudonym Ben Uziel is his most notable work.
German Catholic priest Rupert Mayer is remembered for his lifelong opposition to Nazism. He had been an army chaplain during World War I and had earned the nickname The Limping Priest after losing a leg to a grenade attack. The Nazis had sent him to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.