Indulgences: buying souls
1517 (age 33) - Dominican monk Johannes Tetzel began selling indulgences in Juterborg and Zerbst, small towns beyond the borders of Saxony, not far from Wittenberg. Tetzel was a showman. He arrived with trumpeters, an armed guard, bells, candles and flags. Staging his show in the nave of a church, Tetzel displayed a brass-bound chest, a stack of printed indulgences, an enormous cross and a banner with the papal crest. Tetzel banged a drum and launched into a chilling description of souls writhing in purgatory: "Listen." he said, "to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, saying, 'Pity us. Pity us. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance. Will you delay our promised glory?'" To further entice his gullible listeners to make purchases he devised a catchy slogan, "As soon a coin in coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs."
Among his customers were some of Luther's parishioners. Luther, the parish priest, noticed fewer people coming to confession. Upon learning about Tetzel's activities he preached against indulgences and wrote Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.
Printed indulgence certificate signed by Johannes Tietzel (Tetzel). The German text reads, "In the authority of all the saints, and in compassion towards you, I absolve you from all sins and misdeeds, and remit all punishment for ten days."
Spring 1517 - At Wittenberg University, Luther began a year-long lecture series on the letter to the Hebrews.
October 31, 1517 - Luther posted his Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, which came to be known as The 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg's Castle Church, which functioned as a bulletin board for the university. His intent was to spur debate among the scholarly community. Initially, there was little response.
The doors of Wittenberg's Castle Church today. The church was seriously damaged by fire in 1760 after a French bombardment during the Seven Years War. The church was quickly rebuilt, and later (1885-1892) further restored. In 1858, to commemorate the 375th anniversary of Luther's birth, the doors were replaced with ones of bronze with the original Latin text of the 95 Theses.
Also on October 31, 1517 - With characteristic audacity Luther sent letters to Bishop Schulze of Brandenburg and Albrecht, the new Archbishop of Mainz, responsible for the religious life in their territories. Luther assumed they would want to know about abuses and included copies of his 95 Theses (propositions/points of debate), asking that they by studied. Albrecht forwarded the theses to Rome suspecting them of heresy.
Luther wrote: "Under your most distinguished name, papal indulgences are offered over all the land for the construction of St. Peter ... I do not so much complain about the quacking of the preachers which I haven't heard, but I bewail the gross misunderstanding among the people which comes from these preachers ... Evidently the poor souls believe that when they have bought indulgence letters they are assured salvation. They are likewise convinced that souls escape purgatory as soon as they have placed a contribution in the chest ... The first and only duty of the bishops is to see that the people learn the gospel and the love of Christ ... for on no occasion has Christ ordered that indulgences should be preached ... what a horror, what a danger for a bishop to permit the loud noise of indulgences among his people, while the gospel is silenced.
Soon after they were posted the Theses were translated from Latin into German and given to a Wittenberg printer. Luther's thoughts proved timely, striking a nerve with a ready audience. In an amazingly short time — two weeks — they spread throughout Germany, within two months throughout Europe. It was one of the first events in history profoundly affected by a revolutionary new technology: the printing press with moveable metal type, invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1439.
I only intended to submit [the Theses] to a few close friends for discussion ... I wanted to publish them, only if they met with approval. But now they are being printed and spread everywhere far beyond my expectation ... Still, the spread of my Theses shows what people everywhere really think of Indulgences.
December 1517 - With indulgence sales falling, Johannes Tetzel lost no time in hitting back. Helped by his Dominican friends, he countered Luther with 106 theses of his own defending the papacy and classifying Luther as an enemy of the church.
March 26, 1518 (age 34) - Disputation at Heidelberg began, a debate on Luther's ideas at a meeting of the Augustinian chapter. Luther joined the debate in April. Several of the brothers accepted his way of thinking.
Summer 1518 - In response to Luther's ideas the Papal court in Rome began an inquisition and Luther was tried in his absence on charges of heresy.
August 1518 - Wittenberg University was allowed to add seven chairs to its faculty. The chair in Greek was awarded to then 21-year-old Philipp Melanchthon, who became Luther's close friend and collaborator.
August 5, 1518 - Emperor Maximilian I denounced
Luther as a heretic
August 7, 1518 - Luther summoned to Rome within sixty days to answer charges against him.
Cardinal Cajetan vs. Luther
August 23, 1518 Pope Leo X denounced Luther as a heretic (one who no longer believed and taught as the church did) and ordered his representative, Thomas Cardinal Cajetan, to meet with Luther at the governing council (Diet) at Augsburg in southwestern German, and demand he retract his position on indulgences.
October 12-14, 1518 - The meeting began with Luther showing great respect toward the cardinal but it soon turned contentious. It was made more difficult by the fact that neither had great respect for the other. Cajetan observed that Luther had "ominous eyes and wondrous fantasies in his head," while Luther remarked that Cajetan was "an evasive, obscure and unintelligible theologian." Luther wrote home that the cardinal was no more fitted to handle the case than an ass to play on a harp.
The cardinal reminded Luther that the pope was the interpreter of Scripture and that he was above a council, above everything in the Church.
Luther retorted, "His Holiness abuses Scripture. I deny that he is above Scripture."
The cardinal bellowed that Luther should leave and never come back unless he was ready to say, "Revoco" — "I recant." Luther refused.
October 20, 1518 - Word reached Luther that Cajetan was planning to arrest him. The gates of the walled city were guarded. With help from some his supporters Luther escaped. On the one-year anniversary of posting his 95 Theses he arrived back in Wittenberg a hunted man and placed himself under the protection of Elector Frederick III ("Frederick the Wise") of Saxony. Luther wrote a letter to Pope Leo stating that Cajetan had not treated him fairly and that he would still retract his statements if he could be shown his errors from the Bible.
November 9, 1518 - Pope Leo X issued the Papal bull, Cum Postquam ("When After"), defining the church's doctrine of indulgences. It directly contradicted Luther's position.
*bull (so-called because it was sealed with a red seal or bulla)
December 18, 1518 - Luther was ready to go into
exile. But Elector Frederick chose not to banish him, despite
requests by the pope (via his representative Carl von Miltitz) to do
January 4, 1519 (age 35) - Luther began interview with papal chamberlain Carl von Miltitz in Altenburg.
January 6, 1519 - Luther ended his interview with
Miltitz. He made certain concessions: to send a letter of apology to
the pope, and to lay his case before Matthas Lang, the archbishop of
March 3, 1519 - Luther wrote a letter to Pope Leo X stating that it was not his intention to undermine the authority of the pope or the church.
June 27, 1519 - Luther and Andreas Karlstadt debated Johann Eck in Leipzig on the issue of indulgences and the authority of the pope and the Roman church. The debate between two prominent universities, Ingolstadt and Wittenberg, drew hundreds of students. Luther's boldest assertion was that Matthew 16:18 ("you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church ") does not confer on Popes the exclusive right to interpret scripture, and that neither Popes nor church councils were infallible. Luther denied that membership in the Roman Catholic Church was necessary for salvation.
June 28, 1519 With the help
of the wealthy Fugger banking family Charles I, the 19-year-old king of Spain,
defeated the candidacy of Francis I of France and was elected Holy
Roman Emperor, succeeding his grandfather Maximilian I. He took the
title Charles V.
July 14, 1519 - Luther finished his debate, convinced that Eck won. The Luther-Rome dispute began to grow. Luther's ideas became difficult to ignore. During the Leipzig debate a scornful Eck applied a new name to those who criticized Rome. He called them "Lutherans," and meant it as an insult. Luther was horrified that any church would be named after him. He preferred "evangelical," from the Greek euangelion "belonging to the Gospel."
August 10, 1519 - Five ships under the command of Ferdinand Magellan of Spain embarked on an attempt to sail around the world.
Early October 1519 - Luther declared himself
to be in fundamental agreement with Jan Hus, who advocated church reform a century earlier
1520 (age 36) - Luther began an intensive period of writing. He also completed A Brief Form of the Ten Commandments; A Brief Form of the Creed; A Brief Form of the Lord's Prayer, which he believed contained the essentials for salvation as revealed in the Bible.
January 9, 1520 - Rome restarted the inquisition against Luther and his ideas.
March 15, 1520 - Rome sent a letter to Johann Staupitz, the vicar of Luther's monastic order, ordering him to restrain Luther or be dismissed. Two months later Staupitz resigned his position. He joined the Benedictines in 1522, and became Abbot of St. Peter's, Salzburg.
May 1520 - Luther wrote his Treatise on Good Works.
The first and highest, the most precious of all good works is faith in ,we do that we may work the works of God?" He answered: "This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent."
June 26, 1520 - Luther published On The Papacy in Rome, his first major treatise in the nature of the church, in response to a treatise, in German, by Franciscan monk Augustine Aveld of Leipzig, who felt it was his duty to refute Luther and defend the papacy. Aveld stated that it was foolish to argue against the authority of Rome and its jurisdiction over the entire church. A furious Luther wrote:
This, then, is the matter in question: Whether the papacy in Rome, possessing the actual power over all of Christiandom, as they say, is derived from divine or from human order ... No one says "I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Roman church, the communion of Romans ... when [Christ] said to Peter three times, "Tend my sheep," he had previously asked him three times whether he really loved him; and Peter answered three times that he loved him. So it is clear that where there is no love there is no tending. The papacy must be love or it is not tending [the sheep] ... no one can tend the sheep unless he loves Christ ... I only ask that anyone who wants to get at me should be armed with Scripture...
In 1520 Luther wrote three major publications summarizing his views:
June 1520 - In the first of the three, The Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther attacked the three walls erected by the Roman church to protect itself from reform: Wall 1: Secular authority has no jurisdiction over the church. Wall 2: Only the Pope is able to explain Scripture. Wall 3: Only the Pope can call a general church council.
June 11, 1520 - Luther received an offer of protection from 100 knights.
Sixty Days and Counting
June 15, 1520 - Pope Leo X issued bull against Luther: Exsurge Domine (Latin "Arise O Lord") condemning 41 statements in Luther's writings as "poisonous, offensive and misleading for godly and simple minds."
Cover of the Papal bull Exsurge Domine
Luther had 60 days to recant or face excommunication. In Catholic doctrine, in which salvation is only available through the church, excommunication amounted to eternal damnation.
July 20, 1520 - Luther finished writing Appeal to the German Nobility.
September 1520 - Johann Eck posted the papal bull throughout Saxony.
October 6, 1520 - Luther wrote the second of his major 1520 publications, The Babylonian Captivity for the Church. It compared the captivity of the church by Rome to the captivity of the Jews in Babylon in 597 BC. Luther attacked the denial of the cup to the people, the mass as a sacrifice and the seven (as opposed to two) sacraments. Angry in tone, it was the first time Luther forthrightly accused the Pope of being the Antichrist. It set Luther irrevocably against Rome.
October 10, 1520 - Luther received the papal bull, though he probably knew about it as early as late September.
Mid-October 1520 - At the University of Erfurt, students ripped up a copy of the papal bull and threw it into the Elbe River. But, university officials took no action against them.
November 12, 1520 - Luther's books were burned in Cologne. Burning of his books in other cities followed shortly thereafter.
November 20, 1520 - Undaunted, Luther wrote the third of his major 1520 writings, Freedom of the Christian Man. Unlike his other major books its style and language were uplifting, reassuring:
A Christian is a free lord, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all ... We are justified (made right with God) by faith alone; salvation cannot be earned by good works. Good works follow from that faith. The tree bears fruit, the fruit does not bear the tree.
Luther attached a copy to an open letter of apology to Pope Leo X:
I understand that I am accused of great rashness, and that this rashness is said to be my great fault, in which, they say, I have not spared even your person. For my part, I will openly confess that I know I have only spoken good and honorable things of you whenever I have made mention of your name ... I have truly despised your see, which is called the court of Rome. Neither you nor anyone else can deny that it is more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was. As far as I can see, it is marked a completely depraved, hopeless, and notorious godlessness ... You would all perish by poison, before you could undertake to decide on a remedy. It is all over with the Court of Rome; the wrath of God has come upon her to the uttermost. She hates councils, she dreads to be reformed...
December 10, 1520 - When Luther learned of the burning of his books in Cologne and other cities, he gathered a group of students outside Wittenberg's Elster Gate and burned his copy of the bull Exsurge Domine and other papal documents, including books of church law and books written by his enemies.
January 3, 1521 (age 37) - Luther was excommunicated by the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem ("It Pleases the Roman Pontiff"):
... it gives us grievous sorrow and perplexity to say this: the slave of a depraved mind, has scorned to revoke his errors within the prescribed interval and to send us word of such revocation, or to come to us himself; nay, like a stone of stumbling, he has feared not to write and preach worse things than before against us and this Holy See and the Catholic faith, and to lead others on to do the same. He has now been declared a heretic.
A Diet at Worms
January 1521 - Diet (an official governing council) of Worms convened, the first real test of the recently elected emperor Charles V. Five problems had to be dealt with: 1. Charles wanted the Pope's blessing for his coronation and needed money from the German princes. 2. Frances I of France kept him in check and he needed both money and troops to counter him. 3. The German princes wanted Charles to appoint a council to rule whenever he was absent. 4. The princes presented him with a list of complaints against the pope and wanted them to be dealt with. 5. Last, but not least, there was the Luther problem.
February 1521 - Elector Frederick III "the Wise" of Saxony, where Luther lived, believed Luther was being treated unfairly. He reminded emperor Charles that the constitution empire, which he signed at his coronation, said that no German would be taken out of Germany for trial. He also agreed that no German be outlawed without first receiving a fair hearing.
March 6, 1521 - Emperor Charles V summoned Luther to appear before the Diet ("dee-it" from Latin dies, meaning "day"), at the ancient city of Worms (pronounced "vorms") in southwest Germany. He promised Luther safe conduct.
April 6, 1521 - Luther began the journey to Worms, stopping along the way to preach in Erfurt, Eisenach, Gotha and Frankfurt. Traveling with him was fellow professor Nikolaus von Amsdorf. As Luther approached Worms he was warned to hurry back to Wittenberg. He answered:
Though there was as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs, I will go there.
April 15, 1521 - Luther entered Worms in triumphal procession. A large crowd gathered to cheer him.
Gate on Nibelungen bridge, the symbol of Worms
April 17, 1521 - First hearing of the Diet of Worms began. An official of Trier, Johann Eck (not the same man who debated Luther in Leipzig) asked if a collection of 25 writings displayed on a table was Luther's and if he was ready to acknowledge their heresies. The documents probably included the 95 Theses, Resolutions Concerning the 95 Theses, On the Papacy at Rome, Address to the Christian Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. Luther requested more time for a proper answer, and was given until the next day.
April 18, 1521 - During the second hearing of the Diet, Luther said,
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. According to tradition, Luther then said the famous words: "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
Painting depicting Luther speaking before emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms.
April 24, 1521 - Elector Frederick the Wise informed his brother John about his decision to support Luther.
April 25, 1521 - Diet of Worms was dismissed. Luther left the negotiations room and said, "I am finished."
Luther had been granted a safe conduct to travel to and from the hearing, but remembering how a similar promise had been violated in the case of Jan Hus, Luther's friend George Spalatin, secretary to Elector Frederick, advised him to escape before he too was seized and executed. The next day Luther left Worms for Wittenberg.
May 4, 1521 - Luther's carriage was halted by armed horsemen. Elector Frederick, who left the Diet of Worms early because of illness, anticipated the outcome and arranged Luther's "abduction." Luther was seized and taken to the Wartburg, a fortress overlooking Eisenach.
The Wartburg, high on a hill outside Eisenach.
Only a few trusted men knew where he was kept. Not even Elector Frederick, who devised the plan, was aware of Luther's location. The ruse allowed Frederick to escape charges of harboring a heretic. Luther hid there for 11 months (May 1521 to March 1522) during which time he grew his hair and a beard and called himself Junker Jorg (Knight George). He referred to the ancient castle, founded c.1067, as "my Patmos."
They have taken away my habit and dressed me in houseman's apparel. I am letting my hair and beard grow. You would be hard put to recognize me, for I no longer recognized myself. I live in Christian liberty, free from all the laws of that tyrant.
Luther disguised as Junker Jorg (knight George)
At the Wartburg Luther was provided a room to continue his studies and writing. He stayed in touch with events in Wittenberg, writing over 40 letters to friends, colleagues and others. In May 1521 he wrote to his friend George Spalatin: "I have nothing to do here and sit around all day as if in a daze. I am reading the Greek and the Hebrew Bibles…"
Luther showed his gentler side when he wrote of enjoying the singing birds, "sweetly lauding God day and night with all their strength." Exulting in the beauty of the nighttime sky he said: "He who has built such a vault without pillars must be a master workman!" He also penned many sermons (more like sermon starters to help preachers reflect on biblical texts), four major papers (On Monastic Vows, On the Abolition of Private Masses, Address to the German Nobility and A Blast Against the Archbishop of Mainz), commentaries on the psalms and the Magnificat, the song of Mary.
But life at the Wartburg was not as rosy as some letters implied. He was ill for months. To Nicholas von Amsdorf at Wittenberg he wrote: “My constipation is bad!” Luther also suffered loneliness and depression. Legend says that while working in his study at the Wartburg Luther threw an inkwell at the devil.
Luther room at Wartburg. Luther’s original ink stain has long since vanished. Many fingers have faded the wall behind the heater in his room, and pilgrims have chipped away pieces as relics.
May 25, 1521 - Edict of Worms was issued. It called Luther a devil in monk's clothing and accused him of destroying the sacraments and encouraging war, murder, robbery and other crimes.
Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.
June 1521 - Meanwhile, back in Wittenberg, Andreas Karlstadt, supported by ex-Augustinian Gabriel Zwilling, embarked on a more earnest program of reform. They attacked the rule that priests, monks and nuns could not marry. To prove the point Karlstadt married a 15-year-old girl. Others left their monasteries to follow his example. Karlstadt also reformed the mass or communion service. He dressed in a simple black robe instead of the usual colorful vestments. Both wine and bread were distributed to the people. From now on, he declared, that the people would not have to fast or attend confession before receiving the Lord's Supper. But, on a more radical level, altars were overturned, images and pictures of saints were destroyed.
September 1521 - Luther began translating the New Testament into German so that all his countrymen could read the word of God for themselves. He worked steadily for three months, carefully translating from Erasmus' second edition (1519) of the Greek New Testament. To aid his work Luther went into nearby towns and markets to listen to people speak, so the butcher, baker and housewife could understand the gospel.
November 1521 - Luther published The Judgment of Martin Luther on Monastic Vows. He assured monks and nuns that they could break their vows without sin, because vows were an illegitimate and vain attempt to win salvation.
December 3, 1521 - Angered by the violence and destruction in the name of reform, Luther secretly returned to Wittenberg, still disguised as Junker Jorg. Though pleased that the people were receiving both bread and wine at communion, he didn't approve of the destructive acts. Back at the Wartburg he wrote A Sincere Admonition by Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion.
December 1, 1521 - Pope Leo X died of malaria, so suddenly that the last sacraments could not be administered; contemporary suspicions of poison were unfounded. He was succeeded by Adrian VI.
December 1521 - Luther began translating the New Testament into German using Erasmus' recently published Greek New Testament.
Reform Takes a Wrong Turn
December 1521 - After Christmas the situation in Wittenberg became even more volatile with the arrival of three zealots from Zwickau (64 miles to the south), the so-called Zwichau Prophets. Philipp Melanchthon was alarmed by their ideas, especially on baptism. Like the Anabaptists (literally "baptize again") the "prophets" taught that people should only be baptized as adults, when they fully understood the meaning of the sacrament. Anyone baptized as an infant must be baptized again. They also preached revolutionary doctrines such as direct command by the Holy Spirit and Christ's imminent return. Many in Wittenberg were swayed by their teachings.
March 6, 1522 - At grave risk to himself because of the Edict of Worms, Luther left Wartburg accompanied by several knights. Upon his arrival in Wittenberg he entered the pulpit and on successive days preached eight sermons that called for calm and patience.
Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit.
Luther agreed that teachings and traditions that were against Scripture should be changed. But things that helped people worship God, liturgy, art and music, should be kept. He also banished the Zwickau Prophets.
The Gospel Speaks German
Luther brought the draft of his New Testament translation with him from the Wartburg. He reworked it with the help of Philipp Melanchthon, Wittenberg University's resident Greek scholar. By late spring of 1522 it was readied for publication.
May 1522 - Using three presses, 3000 copies of Luther's New Testament, "Das Newe Testament Deutzsch," were printed in secret.
Title page and opening chapter of Matthew of the first printing of Luther’s German New Testament translation, published in December 1522
August 4, 1522 - Martin Luther wrote Contra Henricum Regem Anglicum in response to King Henry VIII of England's Defense of the Seven Sacraments. Neither subtle nor tactful, it cost him most of his support in England.
…But when knowingly and designedly this damnable and offensive worm forges lies against the Majesty of my King in Heaven, it is right for me, on behalf of my King, to spatter his Anglican royal highness with his own mud and filth, and cast down and trample under foot the crown that blasphemes Christ…
September 1522 - Luther's German New Testament was distributed for sale. Known simply as the September Testament, it contained 222 pages. It promoted the understanding of the gospel and standardized the German language. Luther's translation was not literal in the truest sense of the word, because he wanted this Bible to be spoken. Before any word or phrase could be put on paper, it had to sound right to the average German.
1523 (age 39) - 1523 Luther wrote the essay That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew. It was in two parts: In part 1 he demonstrated that Jesus was a Jew, born of a seed of Abraham but conceived by a miracle. Part 2 began with an appeal to deal more kindly with the Jews in hope of converting them, and concluded with an argument from the Bible and history to convince Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property. When they baptize them they show them nothing of Christian doctrine or life, but subject them to popishness and monkery ... I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews, and instructs them carefully with Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians and turn again to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs.
1523 - Johannes Bugenhagen became Wittenberg's
town priest and a theology lecturer at Wittenberg University.
Throughout the years he served as Luther's personal spiritual
1523 - Wittenberg set up a community money box to deal with social services.
March 6, 1523 - Diet of Nurnberg ordered Luther and his followers to stop publishing and outlawed the preaching of anything other than established Roman Catholic doctrine.
Nuns Renounce Their Vows
April (Easter Eve) 1523 - Luther helped nine nuns — Magdalena von Staupitz, Elsa von Canitz, Ave Gross, Ave and Margaret von Schonfeld, Laneta von Goltz, Margaret and Catherine Zeschau and Katharina von Bora — who decided to leave the Cistercian Convent of Nimbschen, near Grimma. They agreed with Luther's earlier publication, The Judgment of Martin Luther on Monastic Vows, in which he assured monks and nuns that they could break their vows without sin, because vows were an illegitimate and vain attempt to win salvation.
Ruins of the Convent of Nimbschen, near Grimma
April 18, 1523 - The General Council of the Diet of Nurnberg instructed the German princes to enforce the Edict of Worms.
June 1, 1523 - Luther published his Forma Missae et Communionis, a description of the Mass as it was celebrated in Wittenberg. It was in Latin, and was largely the traditional Mass with Evangelical touches. Congregational singing and the sermon were in German, but everything else was Latin. Luther expressed the hope that the Mass would soon be celebrated solely in German. He called on poets and musicians to develop appropriate settings.
July 1, 1523 - In Brussels, Belgium two fellow Augustinian monks, Hendrik Vos and Jan van der Eschen, were burned at the stake. Luther was severely shaken, but did not lose heart. To commemorate their martyrdom he wrote the hymn Flung to the Heedless Winds.
September 14, 1523 - Pope Adrian VI died after 18 months in office. He was best know for initiating the Catholic Reformation (or Counter-Reformation). He was succeeded by Clement VII.
1524 (age 40) - The Third Imperial Diet of Nuremberg renewed the banishment of Luther. By this time, however, he was so popular it was unlikely he would be arrested. He continued his life and work in Germany.
1524 - Luther urged councilmen in all German cities to establish and maintain schools:
A town does not thrive in that it accumulates immense treasures, builds sturdy walls, nice houses, many muskets and suits of armor alone. On the contrary, a town's best and most prosperous progress, welfare and strength, comes from having many excellent, educated, decent, honest and well brought-up citizens.
1524 - Luther began two years of argument with
Desiderius Erasmus. It caused bad feelings and a minor split with
the humanists, who previously welcomed Luther's ideas.
1524 - Luther, with Johann Walther's assistance, published the Wittenberg Gesangbuch, a hymn book for church use. Luther wrote some of the words and tunes, adapted others from popular music. The settings were simple enough that the young could learn them as well.
1524 - Luther published the Erfurter Enchiridion which contained 26 hymns. Between 1524 and 1545, Luther composed and compiled nine hymnals. He wanted hymn books to be used at home and at church. He also advocated the teaching of hymns in schools.
I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy and costly treasure given to mankind by God.
Peasants rose up in southwest Germany, citing Luther's teachings as authority and demand more just economic conditions. They are ready to overthrow the authorities if necessary. Among their leaders was Thomas Muntzer, a Wittenberg-trained theologian, who urged the peasants to show no pity.
May 2, 1525 - Frederick the Wise died. His brother, John the Steadfast, became Elector of Saxony.
May 5, 1525 - Luther wrote Against the Rioting Peasants, a title changed by printers to Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants. He explained the gospel teaching on wealth, condemned the violence as the devil's work, and called for the nobles to put down the rebels:
Let everyone who can smite, slay, and stab [the peasants] secretly and openly. Remember that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel.
Luther justified his opposition to the rebels on three grounds:
All authorities are appointed by God and should not be resisted.
Rebellion, robbery and plundering placed the peasants "outside the law of God and empire," so they deserved "death in body and soul, if only as highwaymen and murderers."
Luther charged the rebels with blasphemy for calling themselves "Christian brethren" and committing sinful acts under the banner of the gospel.
A Wedding and a Disaster
May 13, 1525 - Luther was engaged to Katherine von Bora. Artist Lucas Cranach the Elder presented Luther's marriage proposal.
Previously Katharina had a number of suitors, but none of the proposed matches resulted in marriage. Finally, she told Luther's friend and fellow reformer, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, that she would be willing to marry only him or Dr. Luther. Luther struggled with the idea of marriage because of his oath of celibacy, but he soon realized it was not scriptural and relented.
May 1, 1525 - At the Battle of Frankenhausen, 50,000 peasants died. Before the uprising was quelled, most of that year's crops, hundreds of villages, 1000 castles and monasteries were destroyed. Overall nearly 100,000 died. Protestant ministers were hanged by Catholic princes. The peasants believed they were betrayed by Luther.
June 13, 1525 - Luther married Katharina von Bora. The couple took up residence in the now abandoned Augustinian Black Cloister, given them as a wedding gift by the reform-minded John Frederick, Elector of Saxony.
Portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina Von Bora in 1526, by Lucas Cranach the Elder
July 1525 - The scandal caused by the earlier Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants forced Luther to write An Open Letter on the Harsh Book Against the Peasants in an attempt to reconcile his earlier writings. He remained convinced that the peasants needed to be suppressed, but the princes were too severe and would be punished by God for their behavior.
At one point Luther expressed his thoughts on the unforeseen chain of events that transpired after he posted his 95 Theses:
No good work comes about by our own wisdom; it begins in dire necessity. I was forced into mine. But if I had known then what I know now, ten wild horses would not have drawn me into it.