Initially, he had no intention of leading the second permanent schism in Christendom.Although Luther did not start out with the hopes of leading what became the Protestant Reformation, his suggestions to the pope began a series of events that made it somewhat inevitable.
On this day in 1517, the priest and scholar Martin Luther approaches the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nails a piece of paper to it containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation.
In his theses, Luther condemned the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of asking payment, called "indulgences", for the forgiveness of sins.
A number of princes and other supporters of Luther issued a protest, declaring that their allegiance to God trumped their allegiance to the emperor.
They became known to their opponents as Protestants; gradually this name came to apply to all who believed the Church should be reformed, even those outside Germany.
His hope is that the story he has to tell “is one which can shed considerable light on how societies construct their understandings of the past, on how those understandings develop and change over time, and on how scholarly and popular views of history co-exist with each other, as well as combine, collude, and occasionally clash”.
In tracing how - and why - a 'non-event' ended up becoming a defining episode of the modern historical imagination, 1517 explores the multiple ways in which the figure of Martin Luther, and the nature of the Reformation itself, have been remembered and used for their own purposes by subsequent generations of Protestants and others - in Germany, Britain, the United States and elsewhere.
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He refused to keep silent, however, and in 1521 Pope Leo X formally excommunicated Luther from the Catholic Church.
That same year, Luther again refused to recant his writings before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Germany, who issued the famous Edict of Worms declaring Luther an outlaw and a heretic and giving permission for anyone to kill him without consequence.