The Sources of the 1545 Old Prussian Language Catechisms

Darius Petkūnas


The Teutonic Order in Prussia recognised and acknowledged its responsibility to catechiseboth the German-speaking colonists and the native population. The Reformation made noradical changes to these requirements, but gave them serious attention. During the 1540s tothe 1560s, several Catechisms for the non-German subjects of the Duke of Prussia were preparedand published in Königsberg, including three in the Old Prussian language. The editorof the first and second Old Prussian-language Catechisms published bilingual books, with theGerman Catechism on the left-hand page, and the same text on the right-hand page in the OldPrussian language. Reinhold Trautmann established that the source of the Decalogue in thesebooks was Luther’s 1531 Small Catechism. However, he had difficulties confirming the sourcesof the remaining four parts of the Catechism, since he found a number of words and phraseswhich could not be identified as coming from Luther’s Catechisms. The article elaborates onTrautmann’s thesis that the source of the German Decalogue is Luther’s 1531 Enchiridion. Inaddition, it argues that the sources of the remaining parts of the Catechism were German-languagecatechetical and liturgical texts that were circulating in Prussia at that time.

KEY WORDS: Duchy of Prussia, catechisation, Old Prussian language, Martin Luther.

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