His Early Life
He was born to a wealthy family in Saxony, Germany in 1483. After studying law, he decided to become an Augustinian monk. He studied theology and became a Professor of Theology at the University of Wittenberg.
The Sale of Indulgences and His 95 Theses
In 1517, John Tetzel arrived in Wittenberg selling indulgences to the local people. Half of the money he raised was for the rebuilding of St. Peters Basilica, with the other half going to the Archbishop of Mainz. Luther was furious. Luther wrote out 95 theses in Latin. His initial aim seemed to be to encourage debate amongst the scholars at the university.
The Response of the Catholic Church
In 1519, after the theses spread, Pope Leo X sent a theologian John Eck to debate Luther in public. In that debate, Luther claimed that the Pope had no more power than anyone else to interpret the Bible. Leo ordered him to recant but he refused. Leo sent him a papal bull threating Luther with excommunication. Luther publicly burned it and was excommunicated in 1521.
The Diet of Worms
The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V called a meeting of worms about Luther in 1521. Luther refused to change his mind. After the diet, Charles issued the Edict of Worms, making Luther an outlaw. Luther's followers protested against this and later became known as 'Protestants'. Luther was to be arrested and punished for heresy. Fearing for him, Prince Fredrick of Saxony arranged a fake kidnapping and hid Luther in Wartburg castle for a year.
His Later Life
Luther married an ex-nun, Catherine von Bora and they had 6 children. He continued to write and preach until his death 1546. His beliefs spread rapidly and had huge consequences for Germany and Europe:
- Many prince's wanted to follow Luther's teachings in their states. War broke out shortly after his death and went on the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, when it was agreed that each ruler would choose the religion in his state.
- The reformation spread throughout Europe.
- Eventually the Catholic Church was forced to address many of the problems Luther raised, by bringing in reforms; this was known as the Counter-Reformation.