Europe’s holy war: how the Reformation convulsed a continent

From Martin Luther's assault on the pope to the horror of the Thirty Years' War, Diarmaid MacCulloch picks out 12 key moments in the western church's great schism...

Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach, 1543. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)


1

1517: Luther takes the pope to task

Martin Luther, a devout Augustinian friar and university lecturer at Wittenberg in Saxony, north Germany, launches an attack on indulgences, which the church grants to believers to shorten the time they spend in purgatory in the afterlife, before entrance into heaven. He outlines a critique in 95 propositions (theses) for debate on this aspect of the official theology of salvation, prompted by fury at a crude sales campaign for an indulgence financially benefiting the pope and Luther’s own local bishop Albrecht, 
a great German nobleman.

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