‘Wrong is done to the word of God if, in the same sermon, one spends as much or more time on indulgences as on the word of the Gospel’
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Disputatio pro declaratione Virtutis indulgentiarum
The 95 Theses
Nuremberg, Hieronymus Höltzel, 1517
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses caused turmoil in European Christianity and paved the way for the rise of Protestantism. The Theses, written in Latin in1517, were not aimed at dividing the Church but were intended to provoke academic and theological discussion within a small circle of erudite theologians.
Luther held a doctorate in theology. He was a monk at the Augustinian friary in Erfurt before becoming a preacher at the Wittenberg parish church. By criticizing the theological concepts of his time, Luther sought to restore the image of the pope. However, his convictions on salvation prompted him to oppose the sale of indulgences introduced by Pope Leo X to finance the construction of St Peter’s Basilica. The Theses were pinned to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle church – although there is no proof that this famous incident actually took place – and then sent to the Archbishops of Mainz and Brandenburg. They were printed in Leipzig, Basel and Nuremberg where Hieronymus Höltzel was extraordinarily productive. The Theses provoked a scandal in Germany: they were widely circulated, translated into German and eventually read in church. Only four complete first editions have survived.
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