Set of essay summaries on key topics to do with Martin Luther

  • Created by: Christina
  • Created on: 11-05-13 08:35

Why did German peasants revolt 1524-5?

ANSWER: Luther's theology provided a misinterpreted opportunity for social reform. 

  • Believed in:
    •  the priesthood of all believers
    • Lutheran theology
    • 'woodcuts' - unofficial poor copies of Luther's theology
    • social revolution

Crushed by M.L and princes at the 1525 Battle of Frankenhousen 

    • Hierarchy challenged = a united response "against the hoards of thieving peasants..."

Other Factors:

  • Population Increase
  • Strain on land
  • Repeated bad harvests
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Why was M.L excommunicated?

ANSWER: Leipzig debate 1519 - Eck challenged him + he admitted to sympathising with Jan Huss (agreed with his anti-papalism and faith) = heretic.

  • Cajetan 1518 - revoko.
    • Supposed to recant everything. Theology, beliefs, 95 Theses. Instead challenged penance and papal authority.
  • Challenged doctrine pre 1517

  • Gained too much public support:
    •  - Theology appealed to laity, anti-clerical, cartoon communication, "priesthood of all believers"
  • Rome needed indulgence revenue

  • After burning his Papal Bull - 'Exurge Domine'
    • Published 3 books detailing all Luther's theology he had been holding back
      • RC History - Babylonian captivity of the church
      • Theology - Freedom of a Christian Man
      • Politics - Address to German nobility.
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German Ref a success b/c of weak Charles? 1521-29

ANSWER: Even when Charles was strong abroad (turk victories etc.) he was weak in Germany having been elected by German princes.
- also always needed money and troops. 


  • 1521 Worms = a "triumphant" return (MacCulloch)
    • Charles extremely weak - only just been elected as HRE by the princes.
    • Terms of election involved German citizenship - had to allow ML safe entry to Worms
  • Victories abroad:
    • French army of 2800 destroyed Battle of Pavia 

The inability of Emperor and Pope to settle their differences meant that they could not  offer a united Catholic front against the Lutheran challenge. The threat to the eastern parts of the Empire from the Ottoman Turks, limited his room for manoeuvre at crucial times.

2nd Paragraph: Foreign, didn't speak German, 1519 = 19 years old, 1529 arrogance.

3rd Paragraph: Knights 1522, iconoclastic 1521-22, Peasants 1524-25, Princes save germany <--- ALL strengthen lutheran cause and princely hierarchy.

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How important were the Princes?

ANSWER: Very. Fred-Wise protected Luther and after 1521 it became a princely reformation.

INTRO: 1517 95 Theses

  • Elector Fred-Wise saw an opportunity for German nationalism.
  • M.L's reason to write = theological Fred's support = political
  • Princes realised they could use M.L to gain independence (free from Rome)
  • M.L Lucky to have princely support (MacCulloch)
    • gained him safe passage to Worms
    • and "kidnapping" safe from Catholics - taken to Wartburg castle

1521 - Luther begins to be "cantankerous" (Pettegree), onwards = a Princely Reformation.

1) Lutheranism advances via the PRINCES - try to further Luther's attempt to tap "into a vein of cultural nationalism" (Pettegree)

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...important were the Princes?

  • Peasants War 1524-5 - crushed by princes b/c it challenged social hierarchy, social order was not to be touched. 
  • 1526 Diet of Speyer - suspends Edict of Worms and allows religious choice of Lutheranism.
  • 1529 Charles revokes. ----> triggering protest. ----> 1531 Schmalkaldic League.
    However, 1547 Battle of Muhlburg is a massive defeat and the princes still have power.
  • Lutheranism = too well established, no longer dependent on political leaders.
  • 1555 Peace of Augsberg = PRINCE VICTORY


  • Mullet - Luther was "titanic", princes would be nothing without him
    Cameron - M.L was one of many, more inevitable factors contributed.
  • Without  political ambition of the princes the Peace of Augsburg might not have happened.
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How important was printing to the German Reformati

ANSWER: Significantly, furthered M.L's written word at an uncontrolable speed - faster than Rome reacted.


  • 1450 - invented in Mainz
  • "Printing ended the scribal corruption" (Lotherington)
  • Speed made it difficult to contain - 300,000 copies of M.L's works by 1520
  • Cartoons published for illiterate laity
  • (MacCulloch) said the Reformation made reading "a skill much more worth acquiring"
  • M.L's books so readily available they spread like wildfire 
    - printing made Protestantism much more feasible.


  • Printing press spreading M.L's theology meant it was spreading motivation for independence
    • 'Address to a Christian man' advocated caesaro papism - The princes should replace Rome.
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...printing to the German Reformation?

  • Princes' support based on opportunity for wealth and power NOT M.L's theology.
  • Princes brought M.L's ideas to political attention - of which texts alone couldn't have.


  • Pope and HRE take a year to respond to 95 Theses - sending Cardinal Cajetan (1518)
    • allowing more time for texts to printed and lutheranism to spead.
    • By 1521 (Worms) If Charles were to kill him he would be a martyr to the cause.
    • 1520 excommunication (after Leipzip 1519) - he no longer trusted to Pope's opinion on life after death.
      • M.L burns papal bull - Pope = as ineffective as Charles.
  • Wrote 3 key books after realising importance of publishing ideas.


  • Printing was needed to publicise cause - however reformation became political making ideas less important. 
  • Hymns became more vital "was not just impact of print but mtter of the spoken and sung" (MacCulloch).
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To what extent was Luther important?

ANSWER: To a great extent before 1521 however Princes take over.

  • 1517 95 Theses
    • Tetzel - promised to release deceased relatives from purgatory (Pope Leo had introduced)
    • Challenged doctrine - enforced Sola Fide
  • 1518 Cardinal Cajetan
    • M.L refuses to recant
    • 1519 Leipzip debate with Johann Eck - agrees with Hus = Heretic 
  • 1520 excommunicated - M.L burns papal bull
  • 1521 Diet of Worms (protected by princes) doesn't recant.
  • Mullett - titanic MacCullch - lucky to be supported by princes 
    - Princely support so important could be argued that without it Luther's work would have been of little consequence therefore the princes are of higher importance. 

1) Pettegree - "cantankerous" after 1521 

  • argue other factors e.g. printing, weakness of Charles, and princes...
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...extent was Luther important?

2) Princely Reformation

    • 1526 Diet of Speyer - retracted in 2nd Diet
  • 1531 Schmalkaldic League
    • Lead by Philip of Hesse + John Elector of Saxony
    • "most powerful protestant force in Europe" (MacCulloch)
    • Defeated at Battle of Muhlberg 1547 - hollow victory for Charles - Reformation not over
  • Charles too relient on Princes for troops and money, eventually defeated - ending in the     1555 Peace of Augsburg
    • success gained by princes NOT Luther


  • Key before 1521 (voices already existing anti-clericalism)
  • M.L a man of conscience - couldn't sit back and let people be misled (Randell)
  • laid foundation for princes to build on.
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