Martin Luther Essay Reformation Sunday

This week, people across the world are celebrating Halloween. But Tuesday, many people of faith marked another, far less spooky, celebration. October 31 was the 500-year anniversary of the day Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 theses — objections to various practices of the Catholic Church — to the door of a German church. This event is widely considered the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

The event was celebrated across Germany, including in Luther’s native Wittenberg (T-shirts for sale there proudly proclaim, “Protestant since 1517!”), as well as by Protestants of all denominations worldwide. As the inciting incident for the entire Reformation, Luther’s actions came to define the subsequent five centuries of Christian history in Western Europe and, later, America: a story of constant intra-Christian challenge, debate, and conflict that has transformed Christianity into the diffuse, fragmented, and diverse entity it is today.

This week, Twitter has been full of users discussing Reformation Day. Some have used the opportunity to post jokes or funny memes about their chosen Christian denomination. Others are debating Luther’s legacy, including discussing the degree to which he either created modern Christianity as we know it or heralded centuries of division within Christian communities.

While Reformation Day is celebrated annually among some Protestants, especially in Germany, the nature of this anniversary has brought debate over Luther and the Protestant Reformation more generally into the public sphere.

So what exactly happened in 1517, and why does it matter?

What started as an objection to particular corruptions morphed into a global revolution

While the Catholic Church was not the only church on the European religious landscape (the Eastern Orthodox Churches still dominated in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia), by the 16th century, it was certainly the most dominant. The church had a great deal of political as well as spiritual power; it had close alliances, for example, with many royal houses, as well as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, which at that time encompassed much of Central Europe, including present-day Germany.

The church’s great power brought with it a fair degree of corruption. Among the most notable and controversial practices of that time was the selling of “indulgences.” For Catholics of that time, sin could be divided into two broad categories. “Mortal sin” was enough to send you to hell after death, while “venal sin” got you some years of purifying punishment in purgatory, an interim state between life on earth and the heavenly hereafter.

By the 16th century, the idea that you could purchase an indulgence to reduce your purgatorial debt had become increasingly widespread. Religious leaders who wanted to fund projects would send out “professional pardoners,” or quaestores, to collect funds from the general public. Often, the sale of indulgences exceeded the official parameters of church doctrine; unscrupulous quaestores might promise eternal salvation (rather than just a remission of time in purgatory) in exchange for funds, or threaten damnation to those who refused. Indulgences could be sold on behalf of departed friends or loved ones, and many indulgence salesmen used that pressure to great effect.

Enter Martin Luther. A Catholic monk in Wittenberg, Luther found himself disillusioned by the practices of the church he loved. For Luther, indulgences — and the church’s approach to sin and penance more generally — seemed to go against what he saw as the most important part of his Christian faith. If God really did send his only son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the sins of mankind, then why were indulgences even necessary? If the salvation of mankind had come through Jesus’s sacrifice, then surely faith in Jesus alone should be enough for salvation.

In autumn 1517 (whether the actual date of October 31 is accurate is debatable), Luther nailed his 95 theses — most of the 95 points in the document, which was framed in the then-common style of academic debate, objections to the practice of indulgences — to a Wittenberg church door.

His intent was to spark a debate within his church over a reformation of Catholicism. Instead,Luther and those who followed him found themselves at the forefront of a new religious movement known as Lutheranism. By 1520, Luther had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. Soon after, he found himself at the Diet (council) of the city of Worms, on trial for heresy under the authority of the (very Catholic) Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. At that council, the emperor declared Luther to be an outlaw and demanded his arrest.

Political, economic, and technological factors contributed to the spread of Luther’s ideas

So why wasn’t Luther arrested and executed, as plenty of other would-be reformers and “heretics” had been? The answer has as much to do with politics as with religion. In the region now known as Germany, the holy Roman emperor had authority over many regional princes, not all of whom were too happy about submitting to their emperor’s authority.

One such prince, Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, “kidnapped” Luther after his trial to keep him safe from his would-be arrestors. In the years following the trial, and the spread of Luther’s dissent as the basis for a Lutheranism, Protestantism often became a means by which individual princes would signal their opposition to imperial power. And when a prince converted, his entire principality was seen to have converted too. This led, for example, to the catastrophic Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648, in which conflict between pro-Catholic and pro-Lutheran German princes morphed into a pan-European war that killed up to 20 percent of Europe’s population.

As it happens, the term “Protestant”began as a political rather than theological category. It originally referred to a number of German princes who formally protested an imperial ban on Martin Luther, before becoming a more general term for reformers who founded movements outside the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, Luther was able to spread his ideas more quickly than ever before due to one vital new piece of technology: the printing press. For the first time in human history, vast amounts of information could be transmitted and shared easily with a great number of people. Luther’s anti-clerical pamphlets and essays — which were written in German, the language of the people, rather than the more obscure and “formal” academic language of Latin — could be swiftly and easily disseminated to convince others of his cause. (The relationship between Luther and the printing press was actually a symbiotic one: The more popular Luther became, the more print shops spread up across Europe to meet demand.)

Luther’s newfound popularity and “celebrity” status, in turn, made him a much more difficult force for his Catholic opponents to contend with. While earlier would-be reformers, such as John Hus, had been burned at the stake for heresy, getting rid of someone as widely known as Luther was far more politically risky.

Luther’s success, and the success of those who followed him, is a vital reminder of the ways politics, propaganda, and religion intersect. Something that began as a relatively narrow and academic debate over the church selling indulgences significantly changed Western culture. Luther opened the floodgates for other reformers.

Although Luther can be said to have started the Reformation, he was one of many reformers whose legacy lives on in different Protestant traditions. Switzerland saw the rise of John Calvin (whose own Protestant denomination, Calvinism, bears his name). John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Each denomination of Protestantism had its own specific theology and approach. But not all Protestant reformations were entirely idealistic in nature: King Henry VIII famously established the Church of England, still the state church in that country today, in order to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn.

Nearly all Protestant groups, however, shared Luther’s original objections to the Catholic Church — theological ideals that still define the Protestant umbrella today.

The most important of these is the idea that salvation happens through faith alone. In other words, nothing — not indulgences, not confession or penance, not even good works — can alter the course of a person’s salvation. For Protestants, salvation happens through divine grace received through faith in Jesus Christ. The second of these is the idea that biblical Scripture, and a person’s individual relationship with the Bible, is the most important source of information about God and Christian life. (This is in stark contrast with the Catholic Church, in which a wider body of church teaching and church authority play a major role.)

While it would be too simplistic to say that Protestants as a whole favor individualism and autonomy over established tradition, it’s fair to say that most Protestant traditions place a greater premium on individuals’ personal religious experiences, on the act of “being saved” through prayer, and on individual readings of Scripture, than do Catholics or members of orthodox churches.

Other differences between Catholic and Protestant theology and practice involve the clergy and church. Protestants by and large see the “sacraments,” such as communion, as less important than their Catholic counterparts (the intensity of this varies by tradition, although only Catholics see the communion wafer as the literal body of Christ). Protestant priests, likewise, are not bound by priestly celibacy, and can marry.

That said, for many Christians today, differences are cultural, not theological. Earlier this fall, a study carried out by the Pew Research Center found that average Protestants more often than notassert traditionally Catholic teachings about, among other things, the nature of salvation or the role of church teaching.

Protestantism today still bears the stamp of Luther

Today, about 900 million people — 40 percent of Christians — identify as Protestant around the world. Of these, 72 million people — just 8 percent — are Lutherans. But Lutheranism has still come to define much of the Protestant ethos.

Over the centuries, more forms of Protestantism have taken shape. Several of them have had cataclysmic effects on world history. Puritanism, another reform movement within the Church of England, inspired its members to seek a new life in the New World and helped shape America as we know it today. Many of these movements classified themselves as “revivalist” movements, each one in turn trying to reawaken a church that critics saw as having become staid and complacent (just as Luther saw the Catholic Church).

Of these reform and revivalist movements, perhaps none is so visible today in America as the loose umbrella known as evangelical Christianity. Many of the historic Protestant churches — Lutheranism, Calvinism, Presbyterianism, the Church of England — are now classified as mainline Protestant churches, which tend to be more socially and politically liberal. Evangelical Christianity, though, arose out of similar revivalist tendencies within those churches, in various waves dating back to the 18th century.

Even more decentralized than their mainline counterparts, evangelical Christian groups tend to stress scriptural authority (including scriptural inerrancy) and the centrality of being “saved” to an even greater extent than, say, modern Lutheranism. Because of the fragmented and decentralized way many of these churches operate, anybody can conceivably set up a church or church community in any building. This, in turn, gives rise to the trend of “storefront churches,” something particularly popular in Pentecostal communities, and “house churches,” in which members meet for Bible study at one another’s homes.

The history of Christianity worldwide has, largely, followed the Luther cycle. As each church or church community becomes set in its ways, a group of idealistic reformers seeks to revitalize its spiritual life. They found new movements, only for reformers to splinter off from them in turn.

In America, where mainline Protestantism has been in decline for decades, various forms of evangelical Protestantism seemed to flourish for many years. Now evangelicals — particularly white evangelicals — are finding themselves in decline for a variety of reasons, including demographic change and increasingly socially liberal attitudes on the part of younger Christians. Meanwhile, social media — the printing press of our own age — is changing the way some Christians worship: Some Christians are more likely to worship and study the Bible online or attend virtual discussion groups, while in other churches, attendees are encouraged to “live-tweet” sermons to heighten engagement.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

But if the history of Lutheranism is anything to go by, we may be due for another wave of reformation before too long.

Reformation Day is a ProtestantChristian religious holiday celebrated on October 31, alongside All Hallows' Eve (Halloween) during the triduum of Allhallowtide, in remembrance of the onset of the Reformation.

According to Philip Melanchthon, 31st October 1517 was the day GermanmonkMartin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Electorate of Saxony in the Holy Roman Empire. Historians and other experts on the subject argue that Luther may have chosen All Hallows' Eve on purpose to get the attention of common people, although this has never been proven. Available data suggests that October 31 was when Luther sent his work to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz. This has been verified; nowadays, it is regarded as the start of the Reformation alongside the unconfirmed (Melanchthon appears to be the only source for that) nailing of the Ninety-five Theses to All Saints' Church's door on the same date.

The holiday is a significant one for both Lutheran and Calvinist churches, although other Protestant communities also tend to commemorate this day. The Catholic Church recognized it only recently, and often sends its official representatives in ecumenical spirit to various commemoration events held by Protestants. It is lawfully and officially recognized in some states of Germany and sovereign countries of Slovenia and Chile. In addition, countries like Switzerland and Austria provide specifics in laws pertaining to Protestant churches, while not officially proclaiming it a nationwide holiday.


In 1516–17, Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar and papal commissioner for indulgences, was sent to Germany to raise money to rebuild St Peter's Basilica in Rome.[1]

On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther wrote to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, protesting against the sale of indulgences. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", which came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses.[2] Hans Hillerbrand writes that Luther had no intention of confronting the church, but saw his disputation as a scholarly objection to church practices, and the tone of the writing is accordingly "searching, rather than doctrinaire."[3] Hillerbrand writes that there is nevertheless an undercurrent of challenge in several of the theses, particularly in Thesis 86, which asks: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?"[3]

Luther objected to a saying attributed to Johann Tetzel that "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory [also attested as 'into heaven'] springs."[4] He insisted that, since forgiveness was God's alone to grant, those who claimed that indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error. Christians, he said, must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.

According to Philipp Melanchthon, writing in 1546, Luther "wrote theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517", an event now seen as sparking the Reformation.[5] Some scholars have questioned Melanchthon's account, since he did not move to Wittenberg until a year later and no contemporaneous evidence exists for Luther's posting of the theses.[6] Others counter that such evidence is unnecessary because it was the custom at Wittenberg university to advertise a disputation by posting theses on the door of All Saints' Church, also known as "Castle Church".[7]

The Ninety-five Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German, printed, and widely copied, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press.[8] Within two weeks, copies of the theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months throughout Europe.

Luther's writings circulated widely, reaching France, England, and Italy as early as 1519. Students thronged to Wittenberg to hear Luther speak. He published a short commentary on Galatians and his Work on the Psalms. This early part of Luther's career was one of his most creative and productive.[9] Three of his best-known works were published in 1520: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian.

The parish order for the New Church in Regensburg states that the Reformation of the city is to be observed the first Sunday after October 15, every year. This document may be from 1567, however the dating is uncertain.[citation needed] The 1569 church order in Pomerania states that the Reformation was to be observed on St. Martin's Day, which falls on November 11. The hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, celebrated throughout the Protestant areas of Germany, was observed from October 31 to November 1, 1617, but a standard annual observance began much later, sometime after the two hundredth anniversary commemoration in 1717.


It is celebrated among various Protestants, especially by Lutheran and Reformed churches. Due to ecumenical movements, some other Christian groups tend to acknowledge or co-participate in church services celebrating the Reformation Day. That includes the Roman Catholic Church, as well as various Protestant denominations that are neither Lutheran nor Reformed, i.e. lack a connection to religious events of the 16th century Europe.

In the United States churches often transfer the holiday, so that it falls on the Sunday (called Reformation Sunday) on or before October 31, with All Saints' Day moved to the Sunday on or after November 1.[citation needed]

Roman Catholic attitudes[edit]

On 31 October 1999, officials of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification regarding some of the issues at the root of the Reformation. While this statement was praised for helping clarify centuries of misunderstanding, a number of scholars, especially Protestant converts to Catholicism, starting around the 1990s, have been criticizing the Reformation for being unbiblical and unfaithful to the doctrines and practices of the early Church.[10][11][12]

In 2013, the Joint International Commission between representatives of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation published a report entitled "From Conflict to Communion" anticipating the forthcoming "Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017", which noted that "in 2017, Lutheran and Catholic Christians will commemorate together the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation".[13] The "common commemoration" was a year-long remembrance concluded on Reformation Day 2017.[14]


Ten years after the indulgences have been destroyed; in memory of this we both drink and are comforted at this hour.

Martin Luther to an unidentified friend on November 1st, 1527

Three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Reformation, observed by the American Lutheran Church on October 31st, 1867. God's word and Luther's doctrine pure shall to eternity endure.

Inscription on medals made for the occasion in 1867 by the Lutheran Normal School at Addison, Illinois, United States

In Germany, with the Reformation only ending more or less around 1648, and continued Catholic-Protestant animosity all over Europe well into the early 20th century, almost all of the following Reformation anniversaries were tainted by anti-Catholicism and nationalism: in 1617, the celebration of faith concentrated on Lutheran orthodoxy, and in 1717, too, the event focused on the liberation from the papal rule. Luther was celebrated as God's elected tool against the slavery of the new Roman Babylon. In 1817, the victory over Napoleon influenced the celebrations and lead to the anniversary's national orientation: Luther became the German hero and the ideal role model for the bourgeoisie; he was depicted time and again in festive parades and popular prints. The “German Luther” also drew wide attention in 1917 during the First World War when nationalist themes were still recurring; at the same time, serious research of Luther's theology gained increasing importance.

When the Lutheran areas of West Germany celebrated the Reformation anniversary in 1967, 450 years after the posting of the theses, the event took place during an “ice age” in the relationship between the state and the church in East Germany. This became clear through the attempt to secularise the Reformation with the concept of the “early bourgeois revolution” and through the pointed marginalisation of events organised by the church, for example by means of holding celebrations of the October Revolution at exactly the same time. In the Federal Republic of Germany there were only local celebrations, organised by the churches of the respective states. A central church event in Wittenberg on October 31, 1967, was held in order to keep up at least a pretence of an all-German Evangelical Church.

50th anniversary[edit]

According to some sources, Reformation Day has been commemorated since 1567. Exact dates for the holiday varied until after the two hundredth celebration in 1717 when October 31 became the official date of celebration in Germany and later expanded internationally.[16][17]


In 1617, the celebration of faith concentrated on Lutheran orthodoxy.[18] In early 1617, the Lutheran duke and elector John George I of Saxony received a politically delicate dispatch. The University of Wittenberg asked for permission to celebrate the memory of its former lecturer Martin Luther. The duke agreed and made the commemoration obligatory for all of Electoral Saxony. The worship services and sermons were, however, all prewritten and prescribed in detail and provided as a recommendation to other Protestant regional rulers as well. They did not want any trouble with the Catholics.[19] In the end, the Reformation was celebrated in 1617 in nearly all of the Protestant territories of the Holy Roman Empire, and members of the Protestant Union and others following its lead all celebrated together on the first Sunday in November. As Wolfgang Flügel, an expert for Reformation jubilees and a researcher with the Society for Reformation History of the University of Halle-Wittenberg explains: “Competition and crises were decisive in the realization and content of the 1617 celebrations.” The historian Heinz Schilling speaks of “confrontation for the sake of preserving one’s own identity”.

200th anniversary[edit]

After the Thirty Years' War ended in 1648, it made a horrendous impact, with observations in 1717 being largely anti-Catholic.

300th anniversary[edit]

1817 anniversary was largely nationalist in outlook, being impacted by some of the most important events in human history: the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and political and territorial rearranging of Europe with the Congress of Vienna.

400th anniversary[edit]

1917 anniversary was held amidst the First World War. The theme of "German Luther" was rather silenced, marked by Germanophobia throughout the Anglo-Saxon world. In Germany, the anniversary was celebrated with nationalist elements.

499th anniversary[edit]

On Reformation Day in 2016, Pope Francis of the Catholic Church traveled to Sweden (where the Lutheran Church is the national Church) to commemorate the Reformation at Lund Cathedral, which serves as the seat for the Lutheran bishop of Lund.[20] An official press release from the Holy See stated:[21]

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Roman Catholic Church joint event will highlight the 50 years of continuous ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts of this collaboration. The Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of 500 years of the Reformation is structured around the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness. The aim is to express the gifts of the Reformation and ask forgiveness for division perpetuated by Christians from the two traditions.[21]

An ecumenical service was presided over by Bishop Munib Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation, Martin Junge, the General Secretary of the LWF, as well as Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church.[22] Representatives from the Anglican Communion, Baptist World Alliance, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Salvation Army also participated in the predominantly Lutheran and Roman Catholic event.[23] Pope Francis, in a joint statement with Bishop Munib A. Younan, stated that "With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give a greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the church's life".[24]

500th anniversary[edit]

October 31, 2017 was an official holiday in all of Germany.[25] As a legal basis, German states which usually do not celebrate Reformation Day annually passed legislation or made regulations. These states are Baden-Württemberg,[26] Bavaria,[27] Berlin,[28] Bremen,[29] Hamburg,[30] Hesse,[31] Lower Saxony,[32] North Rhine-Westphalia,[33] Rhineland-Palatinate,[34] Saarland[35] and Schleswig-Holstein.[36]

In the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America hosted an event to commemorate the Reformation in the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, 29th October.[37]

In Germany, representatives from Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and Bremen have concluded a decision has to be made by state parliaments on whether to make Reformation Day a permanent official holiday in these respective states.[38] Proclamations about this were passed in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, while Lower Saxony and Bremen still await their own votes on the matter.

Legal status[edit]

It is a civic holiday in the German states of Brandenburg, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia. Slovenia celebrates it as well due to the profound contribution of the Reformation to that nation's cultural development, although Slovenes are mainly Roman Catholics. With the increasing influence of Protestantism in Latin America (particularly newer groups such as various Evangelical Protestants, Pentecostals or Charismatics),[39] it has been declared a national holiday in Chile in 2009.[40]

Lutheran church[edit]

Within the Lutheran church, Reformation Day is considered a lesser festival, and is officially referred to as The Festival of the Reformation. Until the 20th century, most Lutheran churches celebrated Reformation Day on October 31, regardless of which day of the week it occurred. Today, most Lutheran churches transfer the festival, so that it falls on the Sunday (called Reformation Sunday) on or before October 31 and transfer All Saints' Day to the Sunday on or after November 1.

The liturgical color of the day is red, which represents the Holy Spirit and the Martyrs of the Christian Church. Luther's hymn, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress is our God"), a paraphrase of Psalm 46, is traditionally sung on this day. It is also traditional in some Lutheran schools for schoolchildren to hold Reformation Day plays or pageants that re-enact scenes from the life of Martin Luther. The fact that Reformation Day coincides with Halloween is not mere coincidence. Halloween, being the Eve of All Saints' Day, might have been an entirely appropriate day for Luther to post his Ninety-five Theses against indulgences since the castle church would be open on All Saints' Day specifically for people to view a large collection of relics. The viewing of these relics was said to promise a reduction in time in purgatory similar to that of the purchase of an indulgence. That Martin Luther intended his Ninety-five Theses to persuade the common people, however, is extremely unlikely, since they were written in Latin, a language which the common people did not understand.

Reformation Day (Reformationsfest) was celebrated in Leipzig in Johann Sebastian Bach's time with a service, for which he composed church cantatas, including Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79 and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80.

Reformed church[edit]

Although not shaped by Luther's doctrine, Calvinist churches throughout the world do not regard the Reformation Day as less important, and celebrate it in a similar manner to Lutherans. The nailing of the Ninety-five Theses sparked the discussion about Catholic beliefs and practices of the day. Reformed theology first emerged with Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland who decided to participate in this European-wide discussion after seeing Luther's postulates; all this would not have happened without the events of 31 October 1517. Theological conversations caught on with French priest John Calvin joining it soon after Zwingli.

Other Protestant churches[edit]

Other Protestant denominations differ in their celebration of this holiday from the Lutheran and Reformed way of honoring the events, to a complete lack of observance.

In 2016, Anglicans from the Diocese of Chile of the Anglican Church of South America participated in the March for Jesus on Reformation Day as a celebration of their Protestant heritage.[43]

The United Methodist Church offers a theological reason for its observance of Reformation Day, stating that:[44]

Our roots are deep in the Anglican tradition: Both John and Charles Wesley were priests in the Church of England. There are a number of reasons we should observe the day. The themes of the Reformation remain the great themes and principles of our own faith today. The great schism that occurred in the church remains with us. Our fractured denominations have entered into dialogue and cooperative activities that have brought us closer together. Today we may observe Reformation Day with a sense of moving toward unity and community. It is an opportunity to repent of the sins and excesses of the past and to celebrate our common faith, even if we still cannot celebrate a common ritual and sacrament. Reformation today can represent healing of old wounds as, together, we all work to build and strengthen Christ's church and love one another as Christ has loved us.[44]


  1. ^"Johann Tetzel," Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007: "Tetzel's experiences as a preacher of indulgences, especially between 1503 and 1510, led to his appointment as general commissioner by Albrecht, archbishop of Mainz, who, deeply in debt to pay for a large accumulation of benefices, had to contribute a considerable sum toward the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Albrecht obtained permission from Pope Leo X to conduct the sale of a special plenary indulgence (i.e., remission of the temporal punishment of sin), half of the proceeds of which Albrecht was to claim to pay the fees of his benefices. In effect, Tetzel became a salesman whose product was to cause a scandal in Germany that evolved into the greatest crisis (the Reformation) in the history of the Western church."
  2. ^"BBC Religion & Ethics – In Pictures: Martin Luther, Wittenberg and the Reformation". 1 January 1970. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  3. ^ abHillerbrand, Hans J. "Martin Luther: Indulgences and salvation," Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.
  4. ^Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, 1995, 60; Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. tr. James L. Schaaf, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–93, 1:182; Kittelson, James. Luther The Reformer. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, 1986), 104.
  5. ^Brecht, 1:200–201.
  6. ^Iserloh, Erwin. The Theses Were Not Posted. Toronto: Saunders of Toronto, Ltd., 1966; Derek Wilson, Out of the Storm: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther, London: Hutchinson, 2007, ISBN 978-0-09-180001-7, 96.
  7. ^Junghans, Helmer. "Luther's Wittenberg," in McKim, Donald K. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 26.
  8. ^Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. tr. James L. Schaaf, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–93, 1:204–205.
  9. ^Spitz, Lewis W. The Renaissance and Reformation Movements, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987, 338.
  10. ^Scott Hahn. "Reasons to Believe". Ignatius Press. 
  11. ^"". 
  12. ^James Akin. "A Triumph and a Tragedy". Eternal Word Television Network. 
  13. ^From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, accessed 31 October 2017
  14. ^[ Joint Statement by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the conclusion of the year of the common commemoration of the Reformation, 31st October 2017], 31 October 2017, accessed 2 November 2017
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^MacKinnon, Angus (25 January 2016). "500 years after reformation, Pope knocks on Lutherans' door". Yahoo News. Retrieved 22 February 2017.  
  21. ^ ab"Preparations to commemorate 500 years since the Reformation". Holy See Press Office. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  22. ^"Pope Francis to travel to Sweden for joint Reformation commemoration". Vatican Radio. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  23. ^Agnew, Paddy (25 January 2016). "Pope to attend ceremony marking 500 years since Reformation". The Irish Times. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  24. ^Anderson, Christina (31 October 2016). "Pope Francis, in Sweden, Urges Catholic-Lutheran Reconciliation". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  25. ^Reformationstag – 2017 einmalig bundesweiter Feiertag? In:, 29. Oktober 2013.
  26. ^Gesetz über die Sonntage und Feiertage (Feiertagsgesetz – FTG) ArbZ 1.3.1
  27. ^Gesetz zur Änderung des Feiertagsgesetzes vom 12. April 2016 (GVBl. S. 50)
  28. ^Abgeordnetenhaus Berlin, Plenarprotokoll, 25. Juni 2015
  29. ^Gesetz zur Änderung des Gesetzes über die Sonn- und Feiertage, Drucksache des Landtags vom 7. Mai 2013 [1]
  30. ^Fünfte Verordnung zum Feiertagsgesetz (Verordnung über den Reformationstag 2017) vom 30. April 2013 [2]
  31. ^Verordnung zur Bestimmung des Reformationstages 2017 zum gesetzlichen Feiertag vom 16. Oktober 2013 [3]
  32. ^Niedersächsisches Gesetz über die Feiertage (NFeiertagsG)
  33. ^Gesetz über die Bestimmung des 31. Oktober 2017 als 500. Jahrestag der Reformation zum Feiertag in Nordrhein-Westfalen vom 25. Juni 2015 (GV. NRW. S. 496)
  34. ^Mitteilung der Landesregierung vom 17. November 2015
  35. ^Verordnung zur Erklärung des 500. Reformationsjubiläums am 31. Oktober 2017 zum Feiertag vom 18. Juni 2014, Amtsbl. S. 283, [4]
  36. ^Landesverordnung über den Reformationstag 2017 vom 24. November 2014 [5]
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^Look who’s celebrating Reformation Day today
  40. ^Reformation Day in Chile
  41. ^Revelation 14:6
  42. ^"Reformation – October 26, 2015". Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. [permanent dead link]
  43. ^Drake, Gavin (18 October 2016). "Chilean Anglicans to March for Jesus on Reformation Day". Anglican Communion News Service. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  44. ^ abMcIntyre, Dean. "Reformation Day: What, Why, and Resources for Worship". Discipleship Ministries. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 

External links[edit]

Door of the Schlosskirche (castle church) in Wittenberg to which Luther is said to have nailed his Ninety-five Theses on 31 October 1517, sparking the Reformation.
The sale of indulgences shown in A Question to a Mintmaker, woodcut by Jörg Breu the Elder of Augsburg, circa 1530.
Print made for the 1617 Reformation Jubilee showing Luther enscribing the Theses on the Wittenberg church door with a giant quill
Emperor Wilhelm II, who was the Supreme Governor of the Evangelical Church of Prussia's older Provinces, and Empress Augusta Victoria after the inauguration of the Evangelical Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem (Reformation Day, 31 October 1898).
"I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach..."[41] This passage, traditionally interpreted as referring to Luther,[42] is commonly the text preached on during Reformation Day services.


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