Martin Luther (1483-1546)
The Reformation started in Germany and it was led by Martin Luther. Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483. Luther was educated at the University of Erfurt. He became a monk in 1508. In November 1510 he visited Rome.
He was shocked to see the worldly life led by the Roman clergy. In 1512 he received his doctorate in theology from Wittenberg University. He began his career as a professor of theology in the same university. Thereafter, Luther began a systematic campaign for the removal of evils of the Church.
In 1517, Pope Leo X sent John Tetzel to Germany to sell indulgences for the purpose of raising money to renovate the Saint Peter 's Church at Rome. An indulgence was originally meant a promise given to a sinner for the remission of punishment if he repented and confessed his sins. But Pope Leo X used the sale of indulgences to raise money. Therefore, Luther opposed the practice of the sale of indulgences. When John Tetzel visited Wittenberg, Luther listed the abuse of indulgence in his 95 theses and nailed it to the doors of the church. Pope Leo X got alarmed and excommunicated Luther in January 1521. Luther burnt this order in public.
Then the Pope appealed to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to punish Luther for his writings against the Church. But Luther had the support of the German princes. However, he appeared before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in April 1521. Luther was proclaimed guilty. But before his imprisonment, he was escorted by his friends and kept at Wartburg Castle. There he translated New Testament from original Greek into German language. He published his most popular book, the Small Catechism, in 1529. Luther led a life of seclusion till his death in 1546.When the rural people of Germany joined this religious protest it became the Peasants' War of 1524-1525. The revolt of peasants was suppressed with an iron hand. Many peasants were massacred. In the Diet of Spires which met in 1526, the religious question was raised again by the German princes. The Diet gave permission to the princes to choose their own religion. But, Emperor Charles V revoked this decision in 1529. Therefore, the German princes drew up a protest and they came to be known as 'Protestants'. It was only in the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, formal approval was given by the Emperor to the princes either to remain Catholic or Lutheran. It gave recognition only to Lutheran sect and not to Zwinglianism or Calvinism.