Posts Tagged ‘95 Theses’

500th Anniversary Martin Luther’s Theses

Monday, February 27th, 2017


On 31 October 2017, Protestants throughout the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the day on which Martin Luther is said to have nailed 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was a German monk and professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg who became disillusioned with certain abuses practiced by the 16th century Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther’s Theses eventually sparked the Protestant Reformation. Twelve years after he is said to have nailed the Theses to the church door, the word “Protestant” became a term that described those who protested against the Catholic Church.

Why Martin Luther’s Theses?

In 1510 Luther visited Rome and was disgusted by the practices of church officials, and in particular, by their sale of indulgences. Indulgences were certificates that could be purchased to reduce the punishment for sins committed by the purchasers or their loved ones in purgatory. Martin Luther argued the church practice lead people to think that they could forgo repentance by purchasing indulgences.


Martin Luther depicted as nailing his 95 Thesis to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Martin Luther depicted as nailing his 95 Thesis to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany.


 In 1515, Pope Leo X granted indulgences to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These certificates, in particular, could be purchased to reduce the punishment for almost any sin, including adultery and theft. With his 95 Theses Luther intended to express his disillusionment over this corruption. His Theses called for a reform of the Catholic Church and challenged other scholars to debate church policy. The indulgence controversy set off by the Martin Luther’s Theses was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which set into motion lasting social and political change in Europe.

How did Word of the 95 Theses Spread?

On 31 October 1517, Luther sent a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz, because it was under the archbishop’s authority that indulgences were sold. Whether Luther also posted the Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church and on other churches in Wittenberg is not clear. In any case, Martin Luther’s Theses were quickly reprinted, translated, and distributed throughout Germany and Europe. Although Luther wrote the Theses to be argued in an academic disputation (a formalized method of debate), there is no evidence that such a debate ever took place. No copies of a Wittenberg printing of the 95 Theses have ever been discovered.

Is the nailing of Martin Luther’s Theses a myth?

Today, the majority of researchers agree that Luther mailed the Thesis to the archbishop on 31 October 1517, but they question that he nailed them to the door of All Saint’s. In the early 1960s, researchers began to doubt the latter because the first written account of the event comes from Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s colleague and close friend. Erwin Iserloh, a catholic Luther researcher, suggests that the nailing could not have taking place because Philip Melanchthon did not arrive in Wittenberg until 1518 and therefore could not have been an eyewitness to the event. Besides, Melanchthon never mentioned the nailing until after Luther’s death. Although announcements were routinely hung on the door of All Saints’, the nailing of the 95 theses prior to hearing back from the archbishop seems unlikely.

Walk in Martin Luther’s Footsteps

The German tourism industry has geared up to help visitors discover the history of Reformation. Visitors are encouraged to follow Luther’s footsteps on the 745-mile Luther Trail or to discover his life and legacy on numerous mini-tours across Germany. Tours by train, bus and foot are available to fit every budget. The most prominent Luther sites are Wittenberg, Eisleben and Eisenach. Other cities and towns associated with Martin Luther are Allstedt, Altenburg, Augsburg, Bad Frankenhausen, Bad Hersfeld, Bad Neustadt, Bretten, Coburg, Dresden, Eilenburg, Erfurt, Gotha, Grimma, Halle, Heidelberg, Jena, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Mansfeld, Marburg, Moehra, Muellhausen, Naumburg, Nuremberg, Oppenheim, Pirna, Schmalkalden, Sonneberg, Speyer, Torgau, Weimar, Worms and Zeitz. For more information, visit


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of


A Man Called Martin Luther

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Martin Luther, German monk, Catholic priest, and professor of theology was born in 1483 and died in 1546. By questioning some of the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic Church he laid the groundwork for becoming one of the most influential figures in the Protestant Reformation movement.

Martin Luther – early years

Martin Luther was born in the town of Eisleben in southeast Germany, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time. He initially entered the University of Erfurt to pursue a legal career. But at age 22 he had a life-changing experience that set him on a different course. One day, he was caught in a horrendous thunderstorm. A lightening bolt struck near him. Luther cried out to St. Anne, the patron saint of miners, “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!” He was spared and took his promise seriously. He left law school and entered a friary in Erfurt. In 1507, he was ordained to the priesthood, became the dean of the newly founded University of Wittenberg one year later, and was awarded his Doctor of Theology in 1512.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Martin Luther – his 95 theses

When a papal representative was sent to Germany in 1516 to sell indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Luther vehemently objected. Indulgences were grants for good works. They were given by the pope. They could also be purchased by donating money to the church and then be used to temporarily relieve punishment for minor sins. Luther felt this practice was wrong and protested by nailing a sheet of paper on the door of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg. The paper contained 95 Theses. Thanks to the newly invented printing press, his theses spread throughout Germany and Europe within weeks and sparked the Reformation. Throughout 2017, Germany celebrates the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s life and theses.

Martin Luther – later life

When Martin Luther refused to retract his theses, the Catholic Church excommunicated him in 1921. At age 41, he married the 26-year-old former nun, Katharina von Bora. He devoted his life to organizing the new church. He wrote a German Mass, developed the catechism as a teaching method, translated the New and the Old Testament into German, and wrote numerous hymns. His hymn Vom Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come), based on Luke 2:11-12, is still sung every Christmas season. In his later years, Luther grew increasingly bitter toward several segments of society, particularly Jews and Muslims. According to the prevailing view among historians, the Nazis later incorporated his anti-Jewish rhetoric. He died at the age of 62.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.