So the story of the birth of Protestantism may not immediately stand out as a typical ‘Tudor’ story, but it’s good to understand it’s roots when we examine Henry VIII’s actions / ego. It all kicked off with a bright young thing named Martin Luther, (not to be confused with the ‘I have a dream’ martin Luther king, thought he was named after our Martin Luther, albeit indirectly). Our Martin Luther lived in Germany in the early 1500’s, where he was a friar and Doctor of theology. He single handedly managed to rain such a shit storm on the Catholic Church, that a new religion was born out of the aftermath.
It all started when Luther decided enough was enough. Luther, being a catholic friar himself, had noticed that the Catholic church had started to take the absolute piss by abusing their power and place in society, to exploit the good citizens of Germany for their own financial gain. The priests had been selling ‘indulgences’ – certificates printed by the Catholic church which absolved the dead from their sins and released them from purgatory. Since the priests were quick to tell the public that their dead relatives were being tormented in purgatory and their souls were lost, the good people were shelling out the last of their savings to line the pockets of the greedy priests and ensure their loved ones found their way to heaven.
Martin Luther wasn’t having this shit anymore, so set to work to put things right. He decided that the good people of Wittenberg should be enlightened, and introduced to the actual contents of the bible. Prior to this the church had been manipulating the people’s faith for their own gain: mass was conducted in Latin, the bible was written in Latin and the citizens spoke German. With the fear of God instilled into them from the Church, who were they to question the word of the priests? After all they were being given direct orders from Gods representative on Earth…The Pope, and who would challenge him? Martin Luther, that’s who!
On October 30th, 1517, Luther got all badass and nailed a pamphlet to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. On it were 95 points regarding the catholic teachings which he wanted to raise for debate with academics and priests. He had written it in Latin, (the language of academics at the time), with the intention of it a) being taken seriously as an academic document and not propaganda, and b)not being accessible to the public prior to scrutiny.
Luther was called up to debate the pamphlet, (which is now called the ‘95 Theses’), with a small assembly of academics and religious figures, amongst which was the Cardinal Thomas Cajeton. Luther and Cajeton argued relentlessly over the pamphlet for days, until they met a stalemate as neither would back down. This was all well and good for the cardinal, but in 1520, Luther was called to answer to Pope Leo X in order to recant. He didn’t obviously, (after all he had some fair points), so the Pope decided to excommunicate him for being a right pain in the arse, causing trouble and ultimately exposing the Catholic Church for the extortionists they were. Luther, who had always been a religious man, now found himself branded a heretic.
Luther found himself narrowly avoiding execution thanks to a man named Frederick III of Saxony. This dude whole heartedly supported Luther, so used his political power to take Luther into his protection. The Roman Emperor Charles V, ordered that Luther’s work be burned but didn’t manage to pursue his execution as he had some other shit to be getting on with. Luther used his time in hiding to translate the New Testament form Latin into German, thus allowing all and sundry access to its actual teachings. This took 10 years, it’s fair to say most would’ve sacked it off by this point but Luther persisted until it was complete.
Luther’s time in hiding had made him more and more bitter about the Catholic Church. He had now branded the Pope as the Antichrist, and had also turned his attention to scrutinising the Jewish and Islamic teachings. Upon leaving, he found that the German people now demanded a political and religious change. They public had embraced his work and a revolution had broken out, this was partly thanks to the introduction of printing press which lead to an increase in books available to the German people, all clueing them up about the crooked ways of the church. These protests were politically driven and lead to fighting firstly across Germany and then throughout Europe. Nobles supported the cause of the newly rising ‘Lutheranism’ religion, funding revolts and spreading the word.
And what was Luther’s reaction to this? Probably not what you’d expect. He was pissed off to shit and called for the fighting to stop. He was after all a man of God and a seeker of peace, and not quite the medieval version of Richard Dawkins that you would be forgiven for confusing him with. He did however continue to lead the reformation via more peaceful means, and taught around Germany until his death in 1546.
So that’s it, there you have it: The start of the religious reform in Europe, the protests against the church leading to the birth of Protestantism, and the gateway opening for Kings to use a new religion as a key to power. And what of Martin Luther? He had always questioned the celibacy thing with the catholic religion so now decided that since it didn’t really apply to him anymore he would have a crack with the ladies. He married an ex nun and the pair had a bunch of kids. He died at the ripe old age of 62, and was buried in Wittenberg Castle Church, which I think is a boss place for him to be buried.
Of course, all of this had a massive impact on Tudor England: At first Henry VIII furiously sided with the Catholic Church against the ‘venomous’ Luther, so much so that Pope Leo X gave him the title of ‘Fidei defensor’ or ‘Defendor of the Faith’. But like the little cockweasel he was, Henry soon threw his dummy out of the pram and when he was refused a marriage annulment from the Catholic Church in order to legitimately bend it up Anne Boylen, Henry soon changed camps.
I often wonder what Luther would think of Henry, exploiting the new religion for his own gain. Surely Henry became a parody of Luther’s antichrist? Afterall, Henry reinstated himself as the head of the church, taking the money and the power that came with it, and he too used religion to exploit the people. I’m not sure a man who’s brain is in his bell end should have had so much power, but he did and for the next 500+ years politics and religion have caused fighting and unrest in the UK. Well done Henry, ya massive tit.
As for me, coming from a family who half are catholic and the other half protestant I find the subject very interesting. Just for the record I don’t really believe in either: I do like the freedom that comes with Protestantism and the fact that there isn’t gold shit everywhere with the pretense that the church isn’t wealthy, but I also like the smell of the mass incense and free communion wine so what can you do?!
If you found this tudorial interesting, you may also enjoy me having a ramble about how the Tudor’s concealed their controversial religious views. You can find it here: https://thetudorials.com/2015/10/22/how-did-people-hide-and-share-their-religion-in-the-tudor-times/