The Protestant Reformation was instigated by Martin Luther in the early sixteenth century when most of Europe had become fed up with the Roman Catholic Church.
Martin Luther was a professor and preacher in Germany who had studied religious text intensively. His first criticism of the Catholic Church concerned the practice of indulgences for sins. This was a Catholic tradition whereby forgiveness for sin was for sale. By donating money, the donor's sentence in purgatory was reduced. Luther criticized the idea of buying salvation, saying it was terribly damaging to the religion.
In 1517 Luther nailed Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenburg to challenge the Catholic Church and the authenticity of the pope, as well as the practice of indulgences. Luther believed that the church had strayed from its original doctrines which came straight out of the Bible, thereby creating a wedge between the clergy and churchgoers.
The posting of the Ninety-Five Theses by Luther started a debate that rapidly spread to the rest of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, and Scotland. The writings of others like John Calvin also helped to increase the dissent among Europeans.
As time passed and the different reformers' beliefs coincided, the Protestant religion started forming. The central theme of this reformist faith was the belief that the only religious authority was the Bible itself, not the pope. This changed the structure of the church completely and allowed people to relate more directly to God, without priests and intermediaries.
Eventually the Protestants split up into many sects, like the Luthrans, Calvinists, and Ananbaptists, while the Catholics started a Counter-Reformation, becoming more conservative.
- When Marthur Luther was 22 years old, he returned home from school during a thunderstorm. When a lighting bolt struck close to him, he exclaimed "Help, Saint Anne! I'll become a monk!" He survived and made good on his promise, leaving law school for a monastery.
- The Protestant Reformation was further increased by King Henry VII of England's Split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1529. The king made himself head of England's Church, allowing him to divorce his wife, which the pope disallowed.
- Although there is no evidence of the existence of the original Ninety-Five Theses, many experts think it is not unlikely at all, since at the time, the university's church doors were used to post notices.
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