Besides Halloween, today also marks another holiday: Reformation Day. On October 31st, 1517
(warning: auto-playing video) Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses
to the door of Schlosskirche
in Wittenberg, Germany essentially starting the Protestant Reformation.Johann Tetzel
, a Dominican priest, was sent by Pope Leo X to Germany to sell indulgences as a way of financing the renovation of St. Peter's Basilica
. Whoever received an indulgence did not have to undergo penance for a sin that was forgiven. "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs." (a popular saying by Tetzel)
Martin Luther did not agree with the selling of indulgences along with several other practices. He wrote what he called the Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
but it became popularly known as The Ninety-Five Theses
(Project Gutenberg, file also contains original Latin). On the Vigil of All Saint's Day, Luther wrote a letter
to archbiship Albert of Mainz and Magdeburg
(listed as "Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz") which included a copy of his Theses. He then nailed a copy to the door of Castle Church
that same night. However nailing it to the door was not an aggressive act but was meant to start scholarly debate. The chuch door commonly acted as a bulletin board and since Luther's Theses were written in Latin, only the clergy could read it. In January of 1518 it was translated to German and quickly spread.
The Archbishop never responded to the letter but instead sent it to the Pope. After several debates and attempts to quiet Luther, the papal bull Exsurge Domine
(trans: "Arise, O Lord") was issued on June 15, 1520 demanding Luther retract some of his statements. Luther did not comply and publicly burned the bull in Wittenberg on December 10 and then wrote Why the Pope and his Recent Book are Burned and Assertions Concerning All Articles
. On January 3, 1521 Pope Leo X issued Decet Romanum Pontificem
(link to Word doc) (trans: "It Pleases the Roman Pontiff") which excommunicated Luther from the Roman Catholic Church.
Emporer Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire was directed to by the Pope to try Luther as he was a threat to the nation. So Luther was summoned to the Diet
which lasted from January 28-May 25, 1521. During his defense is when he reportedly said one of his famous quotes, "Here I stand. I can do no other. May God Help me. Amen." However the first two sentences are not believed to have actually been said by Luther. On May 25 the Edict
was issued declaring Luther an outlaw. It was planned that Luther would be captured as he left Worms, however Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony abducted Luther to safely hide him in Wartburg Castle
. While at the castle Luther continued to write and translated the New Testament into German.
Luther went on to continue spreading the Protestant Reformation by writing, giving sermons, and organizing churches. He died
at the age of 62 on February 18, 1546 and was buried underneath the pulpit of Castle Church.