The Germans Documentary series continue with Luther and the Nation. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, he did not know he would launch a religious revolution. This would be an excellent documentary to show when the class has reached the Reformation. It is an excellent summation of the events that went on as a result of the Reformation.
The episode kicks off with Martin Luther being greeted like a king as he enters Worms. He was driven to an assembly hosted by the Holy Roman Emperor. The common people cheered him on as he entered the cathedral. Although he had the people’s support, Luther was nervous. No matter the outcome of the assembly, the common people would support him.
Luther challenged the corruption and abuses of the Catholic Church, at first. Then he went after the intermediaries of the church. They were behaving like Kings and accused the higher-ups in the Catholic church of hubris. Many of the higher-ups in the Catholic Church collected treasures like kings, instead of being ecclesiastical guardians.
Pope Leo was quoted as saying, “Since God gave us the papacy, let us enjoy it.” Pope Leo drained the papacy treasury. As a result, priests started selling indulgences. Luther felt this was wrong and that believers were duped. Indulgences were deceiving the people, perhaps even damning their souls. Luther was called before the Holy Roman Emperor to either renounce or defend his actions. Luther was branded a heretic and was threatened with burning.
Frederick of Saxony supported Luther. He sympathized with Luther’s position. He was one of the seven Electors who elected the Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Emperor had to navigate those relationships. The Holy Roman Emperor was determined to stamp out Luther, while the seven electors force him to listen. At the Diet of Worms, he was represented by a legal advisor to the Archbishop of Trier. Luther’s advisors and supporters wanted him to recant.
Luther refused to recant, citing that he wanted the evidence of Scripture. It was only through Scripture that he would be convinced to recant. It was a turning point in European history. He was brave. He had the support of the people, the middle class, the intellectual elite, and a portion of the clergy. He was not alone in his fight. He electrified Europe with his words. The media would spread the word far and wide about the assembly. Emotions for and against Luther ran high. The media frenzy after the diet was the first propaganda war in history.
However, this would not persuade the Holy Roman Emperor. It was the Holy Roman Emperor who was Luther’s judge. Since the Holy Roman Emperor could not speak German, he gave his judgment in France. Luther was declared the enemy of the church and state. Once Luther’s promise of safe conduct was expired, he could be arrested. Luther made his way back to Wittenberg. His wagon was ambushed and he was bundled off into a secret location. There was no legal way the Holy Roman Emperor could enforce the judgment. He had to rely on the princes to enforce it.
So Luther was “kidnapped,” and put into hiding by the Duke of Saxony. He used the time for study and spreading the word. He worked on a translation of the Bible into German. This was a sign that he rejected the Pope’s authority as the only source of Biblical interpretation. The printing press allowed Luther to spread his message far and wide. In September 1542 Luther’s New Testament was printed and it was the first German bestseller. Demand for the Bible in German was huge.
To continue to learn more about Martin Luther, the Reformation and the nation continue to watch this documentary.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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