|November 10, 1483
||Martin Luther is
born in Eisleben, in Germany (Saxony, part of the Holy Roman Empire).
||Luther enters the
University of Erfurt where, in accordance with his father's wishes, he
plans to prepare himself to become a lawyer.
|July 2, 1505
||A bolt of lightening
knocks Luther, still a student at the University of Erfurt, to the
ground and Luther interprets this as a sign that he should become a
monk. Two weeks later, he takes his monastic vows at an
||Luther becomes an
||Luther earns a
degree in Biblical studies from the University of Wittenberg. He
becomes an instructor at the university.
||Luther travels to Rome where he becomes disillusioned with the incompetence, flippancy, and immorality of the Italian clergy.|
||Luther becomes a
professor of theology (the Doctor in
Bible) at the University of Wittenberg.
||Luther studies the
Bible and prepares series of lectures on Psalms, Romans, and
Galatians. Luther gains a new understanding of Paul's message and
begins to see Faith as a gift from God, not as an achievement. He
rejects the prevailing view of a capricious God. The theology of
Paul from this time on is Luther's pole star.
||Pope Leo X begins to
sell indulgences. On October 31, the eve of All Saints Day,
Luther delivers a sermon critical of the practice of selling
indulgences. Remission of sins, in Luther's view, depended on
personal confession and contrition. Luther also doubted the power
of the Pope to release a soul from purgatory.
||Luther, upset with
the practice of selling indulgences, send a letter to Albrecht,
Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, questioning that and numerous other
practices of the Catholic Church. The letter comes to be known as
The 95 Theses.
Although there is some doubt as to the matter, the 95 Theses were
probably also posted on the door of All Saint's Church ("Castle
Church") in Wittenberg. Within a few months, the 95 Theses were
translated from Latin into German and widely distributed throughout
for a chapter meeting in Heidelberg. Despite concerns about his
safety, Luther makes the trip to Heidelberg and is received as a guest
||In a printed sermon,
Luther questions the historical primacy of the Church in Rome and
doubts the Church's power of excommunication. Pope Leo asks
Sylvester Prierias, of the Dominican Order, to draft a reply to Luther
which brands his ideas heretical. Luther receives a citation to
appear in Rome to answer the charge of heresy. Frederick the
Wise, elector of Germany, suggests to the papal legate, Cardinal
Cajetan, that Luther be allowed to answer the charge in Augsburg,
Germany instead of Rome.
interviewed for three days in Augsburg by Cardinal Cajetan.
Luther is told that he must recant his views on indulgences and papal
infallibility, but Luther refuses to do so. Luther proposes that
his case be referred to the universities. He flees Augsburg on
horseback at night after hearing of plans to have him arrested.
||The papal bull Cum Postquam officially defines the
doctrine of indulgences, thus allowing Luther's prosecution for
rejecting established dogma of the Church. The bull eliminates
some of the worst abuses concerning indulgences.
||Luther files an
appeal seeking a review of his case by a general council, which he
claims is above the authority of the pope.
||Frederick the Wise
sends to Cardinal Cajetan calling for a debate on the questions raised
by Luther and indicating that he would not banish Luther, or send him
to Rome, until he is formally convicted of heresy.
||Charles of Spain
becomes Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, a vast region that
||Luther engages in a
theological debate in Leipzig with a chief defender of traditional
Catholicism, John Eck, a professor at the University of Ingolstadt. The
universities of Paris and Erfurt are chosen as judges. The
eighteen-day debate addresses matters ranging from purgatory to
indulgences to the primacy of the Church in Rome.
||Luther publishes a
series of tracts that are considered his primary works: The Sermon on Good Works (May), The Papacy in Rome (June), The Babylonian Captivity
(September), and The Freedom of the
Christian Man (November). The Babylonian Captivity questions
all but two of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.
||Pope Leo X, in the
papal bull Exsurge Domine,
warns Luther that he will be excommunicated unless he recants 41
sentences included in his 95 Theses within sixty days.
||The pope writes to
Frederick the Wise, sending him a copy of the bull and asking him to
take Luther captive unless he recants his heresies.
||Luther appeals to
Caesar, in the person of Charles V, asking that his cause be heard and
arguing that ecclesiastical authorities should be answerable to the
||The day after
receiving a copy of the pope's bull, Luther writes, "This bull condemns
Christ himself." In his letter, he also writes that he is now
"certain the pope is the Antichrist."
||Luther publishes his
answer to the papal bull entitled Assertion
of All the Articles Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull.
Luther publicly burns the papal bull threatening him with
|January 3, 1521
||Pope Leo X
||Charles V receives
Luther's appeal to Caesar and tears it up and tramples on it.
Within weeks, however, concerned with the reaction of the German people
if Luther were to be condemned without a hearing, he reconsiders his
||The emperor sends an
invitation to Luther to come to the Diet meeting at Worms within
twenty-one days to "answer with regard to your books and your teaching."
||Luther enters Worms
in a two-wheeled cart. Two thousand people help escort him to his
before the Diet of Worms, a general assembly of the estates of the Holy
Roman Empire, with Charles V presiding. Luther is to be asked by
the Archbishop of Trier, Eck (but not the Eck of the Leipzig debate),
about the content of his books and his 95 Theses, and whether he stands
by all of what he said. He asks for time to consider his response.
||At his second
hearing, Luther distinguishes between his books, allowing him to make a
statement. On key points, however, he stands firm. He says,
"My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will
not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor
safe. God help me. Amen."
||A committee of
electors privately meets with Luther and tries reach a compromise,
accepting some of his attacks as warranted by gaining Luther's
revocation on other of his points. The committee is unsuccessful
in its efforts.
Worms. A week later, after a staged kidnaping, Luther is taken to
||Charles V presents
the final draft of the Diet of Worms ("The Edict of Worms") that
declares Luther an outlaw, authorizes his arrest, and bans his
literature. The Edict makes it a crime to shelter Luther and
permits anyone to kill Luther without risk of punishment.
||Frederick the Wise
devises a plan (involving a staged abduction by armed horsemen) to
allow Luther to escape arrest. He finds temporary refuge at
returns to Wittenberg and begins a series of important lectures on core
||During the Peasants
War, German peasants revolt against the state and the upper
classes. Luther, in whose name the peasant groups committed some
atrocities, sympathizes with many of the peasants' grievances, but
urges them to obey authorities. He writes a tract
condemning the violence at the devil's work.
Katherine von Bora, a nun who had helped escape from a badly run
||During this period,
most of northern Germany becomes Lutheran, as well as several major
cities in other parts of Germany. Germany is divided into two
camps. Luther is busy during this period writing sermons and
working on building the church and shaping its institutions.
||The Diet of Speyer
reaffirms the Edict of Worms only for Catholic territories and allows
Lutheranism to be tolerated in regions where it could not be
||Luther publishes his
complete translation of the Bible into German.
becoming the dominant faith in Scandinavia and, much later, gaining an
extensive following in the United States. The Catholic Church,
shocked by the Reformation, undertakes a series of reforms of its own
practices and institutions.
||Martin Luther dies
at age 62 in Eisleben. He is later buried beneath the pulpit in
the Castle Church in Wittenberg.