Reformation Day, October 31st, celebrates the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the University of Wittenberg’s chapel door. Martin Luther is well-known for his influence in religious reform. He was inspired to post these complaints on the door because he was fed up with Pope Leo X, and other religious officials, selling indulgences in the name of God to people who feared they would not receive salvation in Heaven (which was practically everyone during the 16th century). Indulgences were sold as a form of impunity from sins by the Catholic Church, and many people purchased these because they were told, and believed, that they would be absolved from sin and get into Heaven.
The 95 Theses influenced Europe profoundly. Within just a few months, copies of the text had practically circulated throughout the entire continent. They had come a long way from the chapel doors he had initially posted them on in Wittenberg, Germany. Ultimately, Martin Luther changed the course of religion and remains to be one of the most influential figures in Western history.
His influence was admirable because he challenged some of the most powerful rulers in Europe at that time by not recanting his writings and accusations against the Church. Even after being summoned before an imperial diet assembly in 1518 in Southern Germany, and then again before the papal commission in Rome in 1520, Luther refused to recant his opinions both times. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, signed an edict for all of Luther’s writings to be burned, and finally, Luther was officially excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X in 1521.
Martin Luther’s bold writings laid the foundation for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Largely, Luther’s texts are famous because they were an incursion of the church’s corruption, and the pope’s abuse of power and scripture, in a time where the Church possessed much of the political power in Europe. Not only did these texts revolutionize the course of religion, but they also began the reforms of European culture. His largest contribution to theological history was probably his insistence that the Bible should be translated from Latin to other languages, such as German and English, so that it would be available for common folk to read. Prior to this, it was rather beyond the pale for common people to read the bible, and many people were not able to, because it was written in Latin, rather than a language such as English, French, or German. Luther’s perseverance in emphasizing these reforms were truly revolutionary in his day and are still recognized for their profound impacts in theological and political history.
Please check out Sullivan Library’s display case to read more about Martin Luther, and the Protestant Reformation. Additional books pertaining to this topic or those related can be found in the stacks, and their call numbers can be accessed through the Library’s Search Catalog.
History.com Staff. “Martin Luther and the 95 Theses.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/martin-luther-and-the-95-theses.