31 October 2005

This Day In History

1517 Martin Luther posts 95 theses


Martin Luther, a professor of biblical interpretation at the University of Wittenberg in Germany, nails his 95 revolutionary theses on the door of the Castle Church, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.

In the theses, Luther condemned the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of asking payment--called indulgences--for the forgiveness of sins. He followed up the revolutionary work with equally controversial and groundbreaking theological works, and his fiery words set off religious reformers all across Europe.

In 1521, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther. Three months later, Luther was called to defend his beliefs before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms, where he was famously defiant. For his refusal to recant his writings, the emperor declared him an outlaw and a heretic. Luther was protected by powerful German princes, however, and by his death from natural causes in 1546 the course of Western civilization had been significantly altered.

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