The 95 theses (1517)

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The 95 theses


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The 95 theses

Legend says that Luther's 95 theses were pinned on the door of the main church in Wittenburg on All Saints' Day 31 October 1517.

They were written in Latin (therefore the general public couldn't read it) and they were made to invite acedemic debate (they ultimately caused a split in the church!)

The idea of Luther pinning them on the chuch door has been idolised into a dramatic scene however, it wasn't unusual. This was the 1500's socia media and the way of getting ideas and news out to the general public..

However, Luther may have intended to pin them on October 31st. In the Catholic Church November 1st and November 2nd were days focused on the souls in purgatory so hoards of people will be visiting the church to buy indulgences or to view Fredrick the Wise's relics.

This shows that Luther intended to have a wide audience.

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The 95 theses

The 95 these tackle the issues with corruption with the papacy and clergy however his main argument is against the selling of indulgences. It's fair to say that they disgusted Luther.

Luther also made clear that The Bible is the only source of authority (not the Pope) and that salvation isn't gained through good works but through faith alone- Sola Fide. So good acts are a sign that you are saved not a cause.

Although Luther only intednded to strike acedemic debate- he was actually questioning Catholic doctrine.

The 95 theses caused fear in the authorities as it has financial and religios implications. What's more, the Pope's authority was undermined.  The general public saw the flaws in the church.

The 95 theses spread rapidly through Germany and Switzerland due to the printing press and word of mouth

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Response to the 95 theses

Luther naively sent the 95 theses to The Archbishop of Mainz (who was reaping the benefits of indulgences)

The Archbishop then sent them to Pope Leo X who saw the danger of Luther however didn't realise the immense damage they had the potential to do.

He decided to let Luther's Augustinian order deal with him. Luckily for Luther, John Von Staupitz was a fellow man of Wittenburg University and sympathised with him.

Pope Leo X ordered Luther to come to Rome (possibly intending to burn him like Jan Hus was burned.) Luther was aware of the dangers of Rome so he, with the help of Fredrick of Saxony, declined. The Pope was forced to settle the matter in Germany.

Sylvester Prierias was asked to prepare a case against Luther. Luther was told that he was making heretical claims by denying the Pop's authority however Luther rejected this.

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