The Protestant Reformation
Today’s Focus
• How did abuses in the Catholic Church spark
widespread criticism?
• How did Martin Luther challenge Catholic
authority and teachings?
Setting the Scene
• During the Renaissance, the Church came
under fire.
• Christians at all levels of society accused the
clergy of corruption and worldliness.
• One peasant compared the Clergy to “wicked
wolves”, saying “Instead of saving the souls of
the dead and sending them to Heaven, they
gorge themselves at banquets after funerals”.
Abuses in the Church
• Beginning in the Middle Ages, the Church
became caught up in worldly affairs.
• Popes competed with Italian princes for
political power
• They fought long wars to protect the Papal
States against invasions by secular rulers.
• They fought against powerful monarchs who
tried to take control of the Church within their
The Pope
• Like other Renaissance rulers, the pope
maintained a lavish lifestyle.
• Popes were also patrons of the arts.
• They hired painters and sculptors to beautify
Pope Leo X
• To finance these projects, the Church increased
fees for services such as marriages and baptisms.
• Some clergy also promoted the sale of
• Indulgence: a lessening of the time a soul would
have to spend in purgatory, a place where souls
too impure to enter heaven atoned for sins
committed during their lifetimes.
• In the Middle Ages, the
Church had granted
indulgences only for good
deeds, like going on a
• By the late 1400’s,
indulgences could also be
exchanged for money
gifts to the Church.
• Many Christians protested such practices,
especially in Northern Europe.
• Christian Humanists such as Erasmus urged a
return to the simple ways of the early
Christian Church.
• They stressed Bible study and rejected what
they saw as the worldliness of the Church.
• What are the major differences between a
• Identify ONE major problem in society today.
If you were president, how would you
REFORM this problem? What changes would
you make?
Luther’s Protest
• In 1517, protests against Church abuses
erupted into a full-scale revolt.
• The man who triggered the revolt was a
German monk and professor of theology,
Martin Luther
• As a young man, Luther prayed and fasted and
tried to lead a holy life
• He grew disillusioned with what he saw as
Church corruption.
• At last, an incident in the town of Wittenberg
prompted him to take action.
• In 1517, a priest named Johann Tetzel set up a
pulpit on the outskirts of Wittenberg.
• He offered indulgences to any Christian who
contributed money for the rebuilding of the
Cathedral of St. Peter in Rome.
"As soon as a coin
in the coffer rings /
the soul from
purgatory springs"
• Tetzel claimed that purchase of these
indulgences would assure entry into heaven
not only for the purchasers, but for their dead
relatives as well.
• “Don’t you hear the voices of your dead
parents and other relatives crying out?” he
95 Theses
• To Luther, Tetzel’s actions were the final straw
• He drew up 95 theses, or arguments, against
• He argued that indulgences had no basis in the
Bible, and that the pope had no authority to
release souls from purgatory.
• Argued that Christians could be saved only
through faith.
• He posted his arguments on the door of the
Church in Wittenberg.
Luther vs. The Church
• Almost overnight, copies of the
95 theses were printed and
distributed across Europe
• Stirred furious debate
• The Church called on Luther to
recant, or give up his views.
• Luther refused.
Luther vs. The Church
• Instead of recanting. Luther developed even
more radical new ideas.
• Before long, he was urging Christians to reject
the authority of Rome and the Pope.
• Because the Church would not reform itself,
he wrote, it must be reformed by secular
Luther vs. The Church
• By 1521, the Pope excommunicated Luther.
• Later that year, the new Holy Roman emperor,
Charles V, called Luther to stand before a
group of German princes, at Worms.
• Called the Diet of Worms
Diet of Worms
• Luther expected to defend his writings, but
instead, the emperor simply ordered him to
• Again, Luther refused.
• Charles V declared Luther an outlaw, making it
a crime for anyone in the empire to give him
food or shelter.
• One prince hid him at a castle in Wartburg.
• Luther remained in hiding for nearly a year.
• Throughout Germany, thousands hailed him
as a hero.
• They accepted his teachings, renounced the
authority of the pope.
Warburg Castle
The Wartburg room where Luther translated the New Testament
into vernacular (German).
An original first edition is kept in the case on the desk
Luther’s Teachings
• 1. Rejected Church doctrine that good deeds
were necessary for salvation.
• Believed that salvation could be achieved
through faith alone.
Luther’s Teachings
• 2. Luther held the Bible as the only source of
religious truth.
• He denied other authorities, such as Church
councils or the pope.
Luther’s Teachings
• 3. Luther rejected the idea that priests and the
clergy had special power.
• All Christians had equal access to God through
faith and the Bible.
• Luther translated the Bible into German
vernacular so that ordinary people could
study it by themselves.
Other Changes
• Rejected 5 of 7 sacraments because the bible
didn’t mention them.
• Banned indulgences, confession, pilgrimages,
and prayers to saints.
• Simplified rituals.
• Permitted clergy to marry.
• Luther’s doctrine became known as
Lutheranism, and the churches as Lutheran
• Lutheranism was the first protestant faith.

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