On This Day…

…in 1520, Martin Luther publicly burned the papal edict demanding he recant his 95 Theses and other public grievances against the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther was a German Catholic priest originally of the Augustinian order, and a professor of theology. Most importantly, he was also a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Luther was already growing frustrated with the Catholic church, but it was the sale of papal indulgences in 1516 that tipped him over the edge. Indulgences were partial remissions of purgatorial atonement (basically – they knocked a few years off your time in purgatory), granted in return for good deeds. In 1516, this list of ‘good deeds’ now included donating money to the church to help them rebuild  St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The rich could now literally buy their way out of purgatory.

Appalled by this, Luther wrote to his bishop protesting against the sale of indulgences and allegedly also pinned his ‘Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences’ on the door of Wittenberg Church in Germany. This set in motion a chain of events that led to Luther being excommunicated from the Catholic church, establishing his own Lutheran religion and activating a long anticipated Protestant Reformation in the process.

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