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.
Albertus Magnus was a friar, bishop, and philosopher. Regarded by some as the greatest German theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Albertus' writings have inspired the iconography of the archivolts and tympanum of the 13th-century portal of Strasbourg Cathedral. Remembered for his contribution to academics, several education institutions have been named after Albertus Magnus.
Elizabeth, the daughter of Hungarian king Andrew II, was married at 14 but lost her husband to a plague in Italy at 20. She then joined the Third Order of St. Francis and opened a hospital for the poor. She is revered as the patron saint of the homeless.
Katharina von Bora was a former nun, whose marriage with German professor of theology, priest, Augustinian monk, author and composer Martin Luther, a seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation, set a model for clerical marriage, permitting Protestant clergy to marry. She is often regarded to have played a key role in Reformation as she helped in defining Protestant family life.
Sixteenth-century pope Adrian VI remains the only Dutch to have been a pope and was the last non-Italian pope till John Paul II’s election after over 400 years. He wished to reform the Church but wasn’t able to do much, as he was strongly opposed by many, including Italian cardinals.
Pope Leo IX went down in history as one of the most significant popes, due to his role in the Great East-West Schism of 1054, which separated the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. His idea of reforming the church including the removal of evils such as clerical marriage.
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.
Initially the owner of a furniture business, Martin Franz Julius Luther later joined the Nazi Party. He had been the advisor to Joachim von Ribbentrop. In 1947, a discovery of documents proved he had been part of the Wannsee Conference that had planned the Final Solution for the Jewish genocide.
Saint Ansgar, or Oscar, was a medieval missionary and the first archbishop of Hamburg. He had been sent to evangelical missions in Denmark and Sweden. His frequent travels for work earned him the nickname the Apostle of the North. He was made a saint by Rembert, his successor.
Apart from being a rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach, or Reb Shlomo, mesmerized people with his musical talent. “The singing rabbi,” known for his Hasidic-style songs, was also associated with the Baal teshuva movement. Following his death, scores of women accused him of sexual harassment. He also inspired the musical Soul Doctor.
Born into one of the noblest Austrian families, Nikolaus Zinzendorf devoted his life to the welfare of the poor. Recognized as a distinguished leader of the Moravian church and a reformer of the Pietist movement, he created a worldwide missionary network that he hoped would sustain an ecumenical Protestant movement.
Therese Neumann was 20 when she had her first major hysterical episode, after suffering a shock following a fire outbreak. She later often experienced incidents of stigmata, in which her eyes began to bleed and wounds began appearing on her body, mimicking the injuries of Christ.
Counted as the first German pope, Pope Gregory V reigned for less than three years. A member of the Salian dynasty, he is said to have acted as a representative of the Holy Roman Emperor in Rome. His pontificate, which started in May 996 and ended with his death in February 999, was historically one of the most unsettled periods.
Bruno of Cologne was the founder of the Carthusian Order. He personally founded the first two communities of the order. Not much is known about his personal life except that he studied theology in Reims. Most likely ordained a priest in 1055, he soon became the head of the Episcopal school. He was much respected as a teacher.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
24 Jacob Emden
An outstanding scholar and a prolific writer, Jacob Israel Emden was a leading German Rabbi, mostly remembered for his fierce opposition to the Shabbatean movement and his bitter dispute with Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschütz. Also interested in secular works, he had 31 works to his credit, five of which were published posthumously.
Duke Carl Alexander of Wurttemberg had been part of the German army in World War I. He escaped Nazi Germany and moved to Switzerland and later to the U.S. Remembered for his relentless work to help German Jews and refugees move to the U.S., he had also been an FBI spy.
26 Rupert Mayer
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.
Tenth-century bishop Ulrich of Augsburg went down in history as the first saint to be canonized by a pope. He had been a mediator in the conflict between King Otto I the Great and his rebel son Liudolf. He is revered as the patron saint of weavers, among others.
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.
Born to a Hebrew professor in Russian Empire, Israeli Zionist leader Nahum Goldmann studied in Germany, where his father worked with renowned Zionists. He later founded the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland. He often spoke about his support for peace between the Arabs and Israelis.
German-born Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Analayo was ordained in Sri Lanka, where he also completed his PhD in Satipatthana-sutta. He has taught courses on Buddhism at the University of Hamburg. He also organizes medication classes and has co-founded the Āgama Research Group. His notable written works include From Craving to Liberation.
Known to the media as the Bishop of Bling for his extravagant expenses, German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst made headlines when he spent around $43 million on renovating his home in Limburg, which also had a $300,000 fish tank. He eventually resigned amid a huge controversy.
Remembered as one of the chief figures of German Pietism, August Hermann Francke had also been a professor of theology at the University of Halle. Though criticized by radical Lutherans, his social activism saw him providing education and essentials for the poor at his Francke Foundations.
Tenth-century archbishop of Cologne Saint Bruno the Great, also known as Bruno of Saxony, was the brother of Roman emperor Otto I and the youngest son of Henry the Fowler. He established countless institutions, such as the St. Pantaleon in Cologne. In Otto’s absence, Bruno served as the regent.
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.
Thirteenth-century rabbi and mystic Eleazar of Worms is best known for his copious works such as Sefer Ḥasidim, which offer detailed accounts of the Hasidei Ashkenaz movement of German Jews. His work on Jewish ethics, Ha-Roḳeaḥ, or The Perfumer, earned him the nickname Eleazar Rokeaḥ.
37 George Rapp
Eighteenth-century mystic George Rapp is best remembered as the founder of the religious sect of Rappites, or Harmonists. Initially a weaver in Germany, he later moved to the U.S. to escape persecution. Following his death, his followers decreased, due to the Harmonists’ vow of celibacy and little or no conversion.
Immanuel Jakobovits made headlines when he became the first rabbi to be part of the House of Lords, as Baron Jakobovits. He invited criticism when, in spite of being a Jew, he spoke against Israeli occupation of Arab lands. He was also knighted and made a life peer.
Indian Catholic sister Mary Prema Pierick is the current Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, which was established by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Born Mechthild Pierick, in Germany, Prema was drawn to Saint Teresa’s mission and her simplicity after meeting her in Berlin in her late 20s.
German missionary Johannes Rebmann became the first person to explore Africa from the continent’s Indian Ocean coast and also the first European to discover Mt. Kilimanjaro. Along with his associate Johann Ludwig Krapf, he also stumbled upon Mt. Kenya. His diary later revealed a lot about his experiences in Africa.
German mathematician Michael Stifel was also a staunch Lutheran. He became a monk in his 20s. Apart from explaining algebra in German, he penned Arithmetica Integra, which detailed his work in logarithms. He was also one of the first to have used the + and – signs.
42 Johann Arndt
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.
Bohemian-German rabbi Zecharias Frankel is remembered for his study of the history of Judaism. His version of positive-historical Judaism retained traditional customs but also relied on scientific research to make changes. He was also one of the first Jewish scholars to write on the Septuagint, the Old Testament’s first Greek version.
Born in Eberbach, Conrad Beissel had initially worked as a baker in Heidelberg and later moved to America. Part of the Schwarzenau Brethren, or the German Baptists, he later led his own group of people who formed the German Seventh Day Baptists and observed the Sabbath as a holy day.
It is believed Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller’s father had died when his mother was pregnant with him. Raised by his grandfather, he later grew up to be a Bohemian rabbi. Best known for Tosafos Yom Tov, a classic commentary on the Mishnah, Heller was a Talmudic scholar of the Golden Age.
Eleventh-century German bishop Thietmar of Merseburg is best remembered for penning the history of the Ottonian dynasty, which remains a chief source of information about the age. He is credited with being the first to use the word "Teutonici" to differentiate between Germans and non-Germans in the Holy Roman Empire.
German mystic Barbara von Krüdener, born to a wealthy baron and married to a Russian diplomat, renounced her affluent lifestyle to step into the world of spirituality. She converted many, including Tsar Alexander I, and was a key force behind the Holy Alliance of Russia, Austria, and Prussia.
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.
Josel of Rosheim was a 16th-century German Jewish advocate, or shtadlan, known for his fight for the rights of German Jews. A Czech-French by birth, he had initially been a money lender, apart from being a rabbi. He is also remembered for his efforts to counter anti-Semitism.
Wolfgang Capito was a German Protestant reformer in the Reformed tradition active during the early 16th century. After studying medicine and law, he went on to receive a doctorate in theology. He served as a pastor for a few years and became the cathedral preacher of Basel Minster. Along with Martin Bucer, he drew up the Confessio Tetrapolitana.