RATZEBERGER, rāt'se-bārH-er (RATZENBERGER), MATTHÆUS: German physician and lay theologian; b. at Wangen (5 m. e. of Stuttgart) 1501; d. at Erfurt Jan. 3, 1559. He was educated at Wittenberg, and early made the acquaintance of Luther, for whom he cherished a lifelong veneration. He left Wittenberg in 1525 to become city physician at Brandenburg, and there met the electress, whom he is said to have induced to study the writings of Luther. When, however, she fled to Saxony, Ratzeberger's career at Brandenburg was at an end, and he then became physician to Count Albrecht of Mansfeld, while in 1538 he entered the service of John Frederick, elector of Saxony, in the same capacity. He was a medical adviser of Luther, with whom he was apparently connected by marriage, and after the Reformer's death was one of the guardians of his children. Such was Ratzeberger's reputation for theological learning that in 1546 Friedrich Myconius (q.v.) proposed him as one of the speakers at the Conference of Regensburg (see REGENSBURG, CONFERENCE OF). His meddlesome and officious nature [or, perhaps, his conscientious performance of duty] however, brought about his enforced retirement from attendance on John Frederick, whereupon he settled at Nordhausen as a practitioner. In 1550 he removed to Erfurt, where he watched with increasing dissatisfaction the growth of Philippism.
The chief literary production of Ratzeberger was his Historia Lutheri (first edited completely by C. G. Neudecker, Die handschriftliche Geschichte Ratzebergers über Luther und seine Zeit, Jena, 1850). The first part of this work contains a biography of Luther, but its meager and anecdotic character is disappointing, considering that it was written by one who had associated so long and so closely with the Reformer. The second portion is devoted to the Schmalkald War and similar matters. The rancor displayed toward the advisers of the elector, and toward the Wittenberg theologians, especially Melanchthon, renders Ratzeberger's work valueless as history, although it is important for its data on the Gnesio-Lutherans, and, despite its partizanship, for the controversies of the Interim.