Martin Luther Timeline

Martin Luther

Born in Eisleben, Germany, in 1483, Martin Luther went on to become one of Western history’s most significant figures. Luther spent his early years in relative anonymity as a monk and scholar. But in 1517 Luther penned a document attacking the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds—was to spark the Protestant Reformation. Although these ideas had been advanced before, Martin Luther codified them at a moment in history ripe for religious reformation. The Catholic Church was ever after divided, and the Protestantism that soon emerged was shaped by Luther’s ideas. His writings changed the course of religious and cultural history in the West.

 

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Birth of Martin Luther


10th November: A son is born to Hans and Margerethe Luther (also called Luder) in Lutherstadt Eisleben, Germany; he is baptized “Martin” on 11th November in the Church of St Peter and St Paul.

1483
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Copper Mines in Mansfield


The family moves to the village of Mansfield-Lutherstadt, where Hans works in copper mines.

1484
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Attends school in Mansfield

1492
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Attends school in Magdeburg.

1497
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Martin Luther starts school in Eisenach

1498
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Luther goes to study law at the University of Erfurt

1501
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Receives B.A. degree at Erfurt

Exactly one year after first entering the University of Erfurt, Luther received his Bachelor’s degree. He proved that his father’s determination to give him an education really helped.

1502
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Joins the Augustinian Monks at Erfurt


Earns M.A. at Erfurt; begins law studies, based on his father’s wishes; a dear friend died suddenly which greatly troubled Luther. Caught in a terrible storm in Stotternheim (near Erfurt), Luther vows to become a monk if St. Anne saves him. Surviving the storm, he gives up his career as a lawyer and joins the Augustinian order at the monastery in Erfurt.

1505
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Luther ordained to the Priesthood

Luther celebrates his first mass on 2nd May. He is very nervous! That year Pope Julius II decided to rebuild the famous church of St Peter’s in Rome. He needed a lot of money to do that so he issued a great mass of indulgences.

1507
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Luther arrives in Lutherstadt Wittenberg to lecture and study at the university

1508
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Becomes Bachelor of Bible Studies in Erfurt

1509
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Luther walks to Rome


Luther walks to Rome, a distance of around 1,000 miles. He is appalled by what he witnessed there, corruptions abounded. Witnessed first hand the deceit of the “indulgence sellers”. Luther mediates on the words, “the just shall live by faith” as he climbs the Scala Sancta, (28 white marble stairs).

1510
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Transferred to Augustinian house at Wittenberg

1511
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Luther becomes a Doctor of Theology

1512
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Luther lecturing years

Luther is giving lectures on the Psalms and Romans. During this period he is convinced by the study of the Bible of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone.

1512-16
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Nailing the 95 Theses


Luther preaches against the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel. On 31st October, he nails the 95 Theses to the door of Lutherstadt Wittenberg’s Castle Church attacking papal abuses and the sale of indulgences. Translated from Latin into German, this printed declaration spreads like wildfire. The pope was selling (via John Tetzel) indulgences to raise money to build St Peter’s church in Rome. An indulgence is a paper papal pardon for sin bought for money. Luther’s 95 Theses were printed in German on a newly invented printing press (God’s Providence) and spread all over Europe. This date is widely believed to be the start of the Protestant Church.

31/10/1517
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Charged with heresy


Luther is charged with heresy in Rome. He defends himself in Augsburg before Cardinal Cajetan with arguments based on the Bible rather than church doctrine. He has to flee, returning to Lutherstadt Wittenberg under the protection of Frederick the Wise (the Elector Frederick III).

1518
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Luther debates with Professor John Eck


Luther understands the ‘righteousness of God’ as ‘passive righteousness with which God justifies us by faith’. In July, Luther debates Professor John Eck at Leipzig and denies supreme authority of popes and councils.

1519
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Burns the Papal Bull


Pope Leo X did not like Luther because he was ruining his career. Thus, when Luther plastered his 95 Theses on the church door, the pope was radically angered and condemned Luther’s Protestant views as heretical in the bull Exsurge Domine. A Papal bull “Exsurge Domine” gives Luther 60 days to recant or be excommunicated; He writes 3 seminal documents: To the Christian Nobility, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian. Luther burns the papal bull and canon law.

1520
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Here I Stand


Luther is summoned to Diet of Worms (Germany). He arrives there on 18th April, and refuses to recant his writings. He asked for time to carefully consider his answer. He was given 24 hours. Next day at the Diet he made his famous statement when asked again if he would recant- “Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God Amen.” In May Luther is excommunicated by the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem; and condemned as an heretic and outlaw. On his journey back to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, he is ‘kidnapped’ and taken to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. In reality, he is once again under the protection of Frederick the Wise. Safe in the fortress, Luther grows a beard and goes by the name of “Squire George” (“Junker Jörg”). In just 10 weeks, he translates the New Testament from Greek into German.

19/04/1521
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Returns to Wittenburg

In March, Luther returns to Lutherstadt Wittenberg and sets off a series of theological and social reforms, such as education for all. He encourages musicians and poets to write music and hymns for church services.

1522
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Meets Katharina von Bora


Luther encourages monks and nuns to leave their abbeys in his writing On Temporal Authority. One nun who followed this call was none other than Katharina von Bora, who fled to Lutherstadt Wittenberg where she would come to meet Luther.

1523
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Debate on the Lord's Supper

He debates Karlstadt on the Lord’s Supper; Luther’s former superior, Johann Staupitz, dies.

1524
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Marries and has very first Protestant service

He writes Against the Heavenly Prophets; writes Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes, criticizing the Peasants’ Revolt; marries Katherine von Bora (a converted nun) and writes Bondage of the Will (against Erasmus’s humanism ). On 25th December, Luther holds the German Mass, the very first Protestant service.

1525
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Writes a German Mass and becomes a father

Writes a German Mass as opposed to Latin; becomes a father son Hans is born.

1526
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Sickness and depression


He fights sickness and intense depression; writes the hymn “A Mighty Fortress”; daughter Elizabeth born; Luther also writes against Zwingli’s views on the Lord’s Supper.

1527
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The Great Confession

Writes Great Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper; grieves over Elizabeth’s death; visits churches.

1528
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Large and Small Catechism


Martin attends Marburg Colloquy with Zwingli, but no agreement is reached on the Lord’s Supper. He publishes a Large Catechism and Small Catechism. Their daughter Magdalena is born on 4th May.

1529
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Augsburg Confession accepted


The Augsburg Confession is written by Luther’s close associate and friend, Philipp Melanchthon. Philipp presents it to the Diet of Augsburg, which is accepted by the young Emperor as all the princes stood up for Lutheran doctrine.

1530
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Klug's Songbook published

The “Klug’s Songbook” (“Klug’sche Gesangbuch”) is published, including songs like “A Mighty Fortress is our God”, Luther’s best-known and best-loved hymn.

1533
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Luther publishes the whole German Bible

1534
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Wittenburg Accord


Luther Agrees to the Wittenberg Concord on the Lord’s Supper, in attempt to resolve differences with other reformers, but Zwinglians do not accept it.

1536
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Luther presents his articles of faith


Schmalkalden hosts a grand meeting of the Schmalkaldic League of rulers and theologians; Luther presents his Articles of Faith, a summary of Lutheran doctrine.

1537
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Against the Sabbatharians

Luther writes against the Jews in Against the Sabbatarians.

1538
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Luther writes On the Councils and the Church

1539
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Luther writes Admonition to Prayer against the Turks

1541
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Luther drafts his will

Martin Luther drafts his will. His daughter Magdalena dies after a prolonged illness on 20th September.

1542
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Luther writes On the Jews and Their Lies

1543
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Luther writes against Schwenckfeld’s interpretation of the Lord’s Supper

1544
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Luther writes Against the Papacy at Rome as an Institution of the Devil

1545
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Death of Martin Luther


Luther dies in Lutherstadt Eisleben, 18th February. Before he died, Luther declared, “Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles… We are beggars: this is true.” His coffin is carried to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where he is buried at the Castle Church. As recorded on his tombstone, he lived for “63 years, 2 months, and 10 days.”

18/02/1546
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Katherine von Bora dies on 20th December

1552