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 The Reformation of 1517

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PostSubject: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 10:37

Today, the 31st October 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the day on which, by tradition, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in  Wittenberg.

Whether such an event actually occurred is in some dispute, being thought by some to be an invention of Melanchthon. Regardless of whether it happened or not, Luther's protest against the sale of indulgences was reprinted, first in Latin, then by January 1518 in German. Shortly afterwards it was Europe wide.

Luther was by no means the first to complain about the practices of the Church, Wycliff, Hus and Savanarola had all previously led reformist movements. Unlike his predecessors, Luther stayed alive and thanks to Gutenberg's printing press, his ideas spread rapidly.


Traditional depiction of Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door:

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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 10:47

1530 woodcut of indulgences being sold:

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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 11:16

And a 1525 woodcut, showing how Christ's forgiveness outweighs the indulgences of the Pope:

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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 14:20

At the beginning of the 16th Century, Germany was in a state of political and economic turmoil as the old feudal system was dismantled, conditions which led to the Peasants' Revolt of 1525.

wiki:
"People in all layers of the social hierarchy—serfs or city dwellers, guildsmen or farmers, knights and aristocrats—started to question the established hierarchy. The so-called Book of One Hundred Chapters, for example, written between 1501 and 1513, promoted religious and economic freedom, attacking the governing establishment and displaying pride in the virtuous peasant. The Bundschuh revolts of the first 20 years of the century offered another avenue for the expression of anti-authoritarian ideas, and for the spread of these ideas from one geographic region to another."

Luther himself was opposed to the Peasants' Revolt as a threat to the existing order. The more radical Thomas Munzter, on the other hand was an enthusiastic supporter.


The German Peasants War

Thomas Muntzer



At the time of the Peasants' War, Charles V, King of Spain, held the position of Holy Roman Emperor (elected in 1519). Aristocratic dynasties ruled hundreds of largely independent territories (both secular and ecclesiastical) within the framework of the empire, and several dozen others operated as semi-independent city-states. The princes of these dynasties were taxed by the Roman Catholic church. The princes could only gain, economically, by breaking away from the Roman church and establishing a German church under their own control, which would then not be able to tax them as the Roman church did. Most German princes broke with Rome using the nationalistic slogan of "German money for a German church".
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 14:43

Luther's tragedy was that he genuinely needed to make peace with his God. He was a desperately troubled and severely depressed man. Most of the other players in the Reformation drama were not religious in the true sense of the word: they were politicians or revolutionaries. I read somewhere that Luther was too good a Catholic to remain one, whereas Erasmus (his great opponent) was too good a Protestant (proto-atheist?) to become one.

Luther's Reformation - so Starkey suggested in his recent TV offering (still on BBC iPlayer, I think) - was the beginning of German nationalism. Not sure if that is true or not, but Starkey is the expert.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 15:29

My own view is that the Reformation would have happened anyway, whether Luther had been involved or not.

The time and place were ripe for a challenge to Papal authority, and others were also agitating for change;



Andreas here came up with 151 theses

Andreas Karlstadt
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Tue 31 Oct 2017, 15:38

Trike wrote:




My own view is that the Reformation would have happened anyway, whether Luther had been involved or not.


I agree. Wycliffe and Huss really started it all, not Luther.

There is also the famous observation that Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched - to which comment Erasmus retorted that Luther, broody German hen that he was, had hatched a different bird altogether. Certainly ended up with an awful lot of chickens running around headless.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 11:03

@Triceratops wrote:
Luther was by no means the first to complain about the practices of the Church, Wycliff, Hus and Savanarola had all previously led reformist movements. Unlike his predecessors, Luther stayed alive and thanks to Gutenberg's printing press, his ideas spread rapidly.

If by stayed alive here the meaning is that he wasn't executed then John Wycliffe also stayed alive. He died of natural causes in his 60s while a parish priest in Leicestershire. That said - a generation after his death his remains were dug up and burned in a macabre, posthumous execution. So maybe it could be said that (in the eyes of the Church at least) he died a heretic's death and so differs from Martin Luther in that respect.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 11:38

Luther was a lucky man. He was most fortunate in having Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, as his protector. Had Frederick the Wise not "kidnapped" him, Luther would have been toast pretty soon after Worms.

Has anyone else seen the 2003 film, Luther? It's sentimental nonsense, but I enjoyed it. Here's an impossibly handsome Joseph Fiennes doing his bit with the famous theses:



And here he is composing a stirring hymn. He looks like a member of a 16th century band - Oase?





Peter Ustinov was really good as Frederick the Wise. Here he is at the Diet.


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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 11:51

Here's the trailer - cracking stuff. Smile





What on earth would Luther, Karlstadt, Cajetan and the rest of them make of it all?

John Tetzel makes an ace villain, by the way.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 12:18

But to be serious, this scene is well done - even if Luther never did actually make his famous declaration of "Here I stand - I can do no other."

Jonathan Firth is excellent as the ambitious young Cardinal Aleander:

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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 12:19

I haven't seen that version Temp. Thanks for the link. There was also a film made many years ago (1960s?) which if I remember had Judi Dench playing Luther's wife. Shot in black and white and quite arthouse.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 13:02

I knew there was some sort of punishment, that must have been it.( that was about Wycliffe , the quote box disappeared )

Re the Judi Dench film this is a film adaptation of John Osborne's 1961 stage play. With Stacy Keach as Luther and Judi as his wife:(only 10 mins, I'm afraid)



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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 13:19

And from 1953, with Niall MacGinnis as Luther:

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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 13:41

A post of mine was lost in cyberspace.  It wasn't anything awfully serious, just mentioning that Joseph Fiennes had been in some truly terrible TV shows ("Camelot" and "Flash Forward") and that he's in something called "The Handmaid's Tale" now but I can't judge that as I haven't seen it; but then all actors have to eat.

I also briefly mentioned the Lollard priest, John Ball, who took part in the (English) peasants' revolt, so would have predated Luther.  John Ball was executed - very nastily too - of course.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 14:16

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
...and that he's in something called "The Handmaid's Tale" now but I can't judge that as I haven't seen it; but then all actors have to eat.


The Handmaid's Tale is a superb production - but horribly, horribly disturbing. It's a dire warning against fundamentalist Christianity - the literal reading of biblical texts. I wonder what Martin Luther and William Tyndale - heroes of the Reformation who were both so anxious that all men and women should be free to read the Bible in the vernacular - would make of it? Maybe Thomas More was right after all - letting the village idiots loose with difficult literature was perhaps not such a good idea: village idiots tend not to understand figurative language. Oh dear, now there's an uncomfortable thought for me to ponder.


https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/may/29/handmaids-tale-review-best-thing-youll-watch-all-year










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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 15:11

@LadyinRetirement wrote:

I also briefly mentioned the Lollard priest, John Ball, who took part in the (English) peasants' revolt, so would have predated Luther.  John Ball was executed - very nastily too - of course.

Another time of major social unrest:

John Ball & Wat Tyler from Froissart's Chronicles:



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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 15:56

Quote :
The Handmaid's Tale

I was surprised to discover recently that Margaret Atwood's book only dates from the 1980s. I had heard of the book (Mrs Vizzer was reading it a few years ago) and I had imagined that it was written in the 1960s. Coincidently I had the reverse phenomenon regarding Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (also a dystopian novel) which for some reason I had dated as being from the early 1950s only to discover that it's twenty years older than that being written in the early 1930s. Is there a term for misplacing works of literature chronologically? ('Losing one's marbles' is, of course, a possible candidate.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 14:27

@Vizzer wrote:
I haven't seen that version Temp. Thanks for the link. There was also a film made many years ago (1960s?) which if I remember had Judi Dench playing Luther's wife. Shot in black and white and quite arthouse.

I ordered the above from Amazon and am watching it now. It's based, of course, on John Osborne's play which I had forgotten all about.

I got it from Amazon with God's Outlaw, a film made in the 1980s, about William Tyndale - both well worth the money. I watched Outlaw last night.

The productions are too "wordy" and "stagey" by today's standards, but I think they are absolutely superb!
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Thu 07 Dec 2017, 09:33

There's a radio adaptation of Osborne's play on Radio 4 this Saturday at 2.30pm
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Fri 12 Oct 2018, 20:36

@Temperance wrote:
@Triceratops wrote:

My own view is that the Reformation would have happened anyway, whether Luther had been involved or not.

I agree. Wycliffe and Huss really started it all, not Luther.

Thirded.

Although the Ninety-Five Theses posted by Martin Luther in October 2017 are seen as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, in many ways his statements were no different to scores of other similar theological discussions which had been debated in cloisters, convents, friaries, monasteries and chapter houses etc over the preceding centuries. What differed with Luther's theses was their reception. The Church hierarchy objected not so much that such issues were being debated but that this was being done in public. And as had happened so often before, the hierarchy tolerated such sporadic venting of spleen provided the ventor subsequently recanted. And so Pope Leo X duly dispatched Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan to meet with Luther to hear his recantation.



Things came to a head when the 2 men met at Augsburg on 12 October 1518. Cajetan humoured Luther at first and began debating the main issue in question (namely papal indulgences) no doubt relishing the opportunity for intellectual and philosophical discourse on this. Over the course of the next few days, however, it slowly dawned on Cajetan and on the Augustinian vicar general Johann von Staupitz who was also present, that Luther was not going to recant. Von Staupitz who had assumed that he had merely come to oversee his junior’s revocation now found himself in an awkward position. He no doubt felt torn between his obligation as vicar general towards the expectations of the visiting papal envoy but also towards his protégé Luther to whom von Staupitz had been something of a mentor. Acting quickly but shrewdly von Staupitz expelled Luther from the Augustinian order of friars and thus absolved himself and his order from any responsibility for Luther’s ecclesiastical disobedience. This also, however, had the effect of freeing Luther from the constraints of monastic life and gave him greater scope to preach as a reformer among the secular community.

Viewed this way it can be said that it was von Staupitz’ decisive action which turned Martin Luther’s protestation from being just another forgotten case of ecclesiastical discipline into the genus of a sustained reformation.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sat 13 Oct 2018, 09:34

Yes, agree entirely, Vizzer. Here is the incident you describe: Cajetan had no idea what sort of a cat he had by the tail - that this "simpleton" was actually an intellectual giant. I love the way that, after the difficult interview, the Cardinal rushes to check the details in one of his Big Books. Luther had got it right, of course:


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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sat 13 Oct 2018, 10:15

Quote :


That is outrageous: the Scriptures are too complex for the average priest to understand, let alone the common man.



Quote :


I wonder what Martin Luther and William Tyndale - heroes of the Reformation who were both so anxious that all men and women should be free to read the Bible in the vernacular - would make of it*? Maybe Thomas More was right after all - letting the village idiots loose with difficult literature was perhaps not such a good idea...


But then, as discussed over on the Village Idiot thread, it could be argued that not all the idiots live in villages - many were in the universities and Rome, then as now. But who were the wise men and who were the fools back then? Both sides, after all, offered a fair few candidates for both wisdom and folly.

I wonder what would have happened if Luther had been executed around 1518 - would the Reformation still have happened? Was the momentum of economic and nationalist forces absolutely unstoppable? The religious egg may have been laid Erasmus (and others) and merely hatched by the broody Luther, but there were several other eggs in the nest, weren't there?



* "It" here refers to The Handmaid's Tale.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sat 13 Oct 2018, 16:35

PS Does anyone know who first said, "Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched"? It is  a famous observation, but I have no idea where it originated - from one of the actual characters of the Reformation drama, or from a later historian/commentator?
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sat 13 Oct 2018, 17:10

@Temperance wrote:
PS Does anyone know who first said, "Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched"? It is  a famous observation, but I have no idea where it originated - from one of the actual characters of the Reformation drama, or from a later historian/commentator?

A Dublin man, Richard Chenevix Trench. Dean of Westminster Abbey, later Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, and eventually Archbishop of Dublin. He wrote a lot of (bad) poetry, but also wrote some of the seminal early academic textbooks about philology, and was a keen antiquarian (he funded the excavation of a dolmen in Sutton, Dublin, on a site which I passed on the way to the supermarket for many years). He came up with the phrase to be used in a sermon he delivered in Westminster in the 1850s, but knowing full well he'd coined a great phrase it then turned up in several of his religious books later.

It was so pithy a comment indeed that it has often been retrospectively dated back in attribution to Erasmus's own time, voiced by nebulous "monks" to whom Erasmus allegedly replied "I laid a hen, Luther hatched something else entirely" (or variants thereof). Despite Americans' apparent absolute faith in the veracity of this exchange (and therefore its phenomenal "hit rate" in any Google search), it's total cobblers. The real Erasmus was much wittier than that!

Chenevix Trench, by the way, was the guy who first proposed the setting up of an English Dictionary worthy of highest academic standards listing proper etymological sources where possible and therefore compiled and maintained by any such university erudite, willing and able enough to take up the challenge. He was invited to Oxford to expand on this idea and persuaded several colleges to contribute funds and compilers to the venture, with himself as the book's first actual editor. The rest, as they say ....
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sun 14 Oct 2018, 10:44

Oh, well done, that Archbishop for pithy comment and also for excellent dictionary. And well done that history site boss for knowing something so obscure - all very interesting.

I remember being struck by another comment I read somewhere: "Erasmus was too good a Protestant to become one; and Luther was too good a Catholic to remain one"; but again I have no idea from whom this comment came. A clever-sounding epigram, but perhaps a quite unhistorical and inaccurate one?

I don't want to labour the avian analogy too far*, but if Erasmus did lay the egg, did he also build the nest - or did he and Luther simply take over a nest already part-constructed by others - as suggested by Trike and Vizzer?

* I'm tempted to try to put a reference to Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Protestants (Patron: His Serene Highness, Frederick the Wise), but had better not.


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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sun 14 Oct 2018, 11:33

@Temperance wrote:

I remember being struck by another comment I read somewhere: "Erasmus was too good a Protestant to become one; and Luther was too good a Catholic to remain one"; but again I have no idea from whom this comment came. A clever-sounding epigram, but perhaps a quite unhistorical and inaccurate one?


A very modern one, at least, in that it uses the term "good" to summarise a very complex theological assessment of both characters over many years, but especially within German protestant literature of the late 19th century (which is where he first emerges as a figure in almost heroic terms, but still has to be reconciled as a hero with the new state's large Catholic population). People like Köstlin were foremost in making the comparison between Erasmus and Luther in this rather clever manner in which both are extolled even as their fundamental theological points of departure from each other are referenced, but largely dismissed.

It is this Luther that was portrayed by Joseph Fiennes in the film that you obviously have seen (with Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise) and for which the quote you cite was one particularly resonant publicity blurb. The film was a little strange to watch when one learnt that it had been financed by the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans financial corporation, an incredibly wealthy and influential but shadowy element in modern USA which - as it says on the label - provides investment capital, building society services, merchant and financial banking facilities, and other pseudo-masonic "leg ups" for Lutherans of a particular persuasion, originally those who who ended up in Minnesota in the 19th century and who subscribe to a rather uncomfortable hero-worship type adherence to "their man". It's German Lutherism pre-unification and incredibly partisan, though this film - by echoing Köstlin in its script and publicity - seems to have represented something of a liberal departure for the corporation. They got a good return on their investment, so that might explain some of the theological deviation in their action.

A recent book by Esther Wipfler is devoted purely to Luther as portrayed on stage and screen, with some very interesting background information into how the lad has been portrayed for modern public consumption within that media - a rather non-literary process alas in which good acting and effective sound-bites are that which most resonate with the modern public, and therefore several centuries of theological and historical material on the subject have within a generation or two been replaced by revisionist representations of the man and his actions which all too often owe their origin and form to rather non-religious agendas indeed. I trust Wipfler - she's an art historian in her day job and since that profession's appreciation of the aesthetic is catholic at heart (in the non-religious sense of the term) and also their main incentive when documenting history, they tend to produce credible documentation.
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sun 14 Oct 2018, 12:13

Just ordered the Esther Wipfler book - it has cost me fifteen quid, so it had better be good. You and Tim have had me spending best part of £70 on history/woowoo books over the past four weeks...

Your remarks about the money behind the Luther film are very interesting. I admit I enjoyed the production, although it presented a very simplistic version of Luther's story. The acting was good, though, especially the performer you mention, Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise. Joseph Fiennes was just Joseph Fiennes being very handsome and very sincere and very misunderstood. He was also in Risen, the recent appallingly bad film about the frantic Roman search for the missing body of an executed Jewish subversive. Odd that Fiennes was in Handmaid's Tale too - so very, very different a production form Luther and from Risen, the latter being one of the worst of the recent crop of dreadful "religious" films coming from the USA. They are worryingly popular. Who is financing all this fundamentalist Christian propaganda? At least none of these godly offerings have won an Oscar - yet - thank God.

Gone off topic - sorry, Trike. (Where are you, by the way - hope you are not now extinct Sad ?)
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sun 14 Oct 2018, 13:48

@nordmann wrote:
...a rather non-literary process alas in which good acting and effective sound-bites are that which most resonate with the modern public, and therefore several centuries of theological and historical material on the subject have within a generation or two been replaced by revisionist representations of the man and his actions which all too often owe their origin and form to rather non-religious agendas indeed.



PS Please note I did make the following comment this time last year when the thread started:


I wrote:
Has anyone else seen the 2003 film, "Luther"? It's sentimental nonsense, but I enjoyed it.


Your comment is true of most (not all) of the recent religious films - some of which however feature absolutely diabolical acting and ridiculous scripts. At least the acting in Luther was convincing, even though Fiennes was far too handsome. But a portly Luther would never do these days - image after all is the message. The actor who played the young Charles V, however, did have a fairly convincing chin...
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PostSubject: Re: The Reformation of 1517   Sun 14 Oct 2018, 21:48

@Temperance wrote:
Here is the incident you describe: Cajetan had no idea what sort of a cat he had by the tail - that this "simpleton" was actually an intellectual giant. I love the way that, after the difficult interview, the Cardinal rushes to check the details in one of his Big Books. Luther had got it right, of course

Thanks for posting that clip. Cajetan is depicted as a bit of a cartoon inquisitor (shades of Michael Palin?) in the 2003 film. And this might correspond with nordmann’s points regarding the angle of the producers. But at least he’s in it! The character of Cajetan doesn’t appear at all in the 2017 ZDF series Zwischen Himmel und Hölle ('Reformation'), nor does he appear in the 1983 BBC film Martin Luther: Heretic starring Jonathan Pryce in the title role and he’s also written out of the 1953 film. Only John Osborne in his play attempts to develop the character and this he does in a more rounded way. In fact Osborne contrasts the ‘vulgar bigotry’ of Johann Tetzel with Cajetan’s ‘shrewd, broad outlook’ in the scene in question using a classic good cop/bad cop device and the urbane Alan Badel gives a creditable performance as the cardinal in the 1973 film.

@Temperance wrote:
At least the acting in Luther was convincing, even though Fiennes was far too handsome. But a portly Luther would never do these days - image after all is the message.

That’s so true Temp with regard to so many historically-based films over the last 20 years. Far too much glamour often coupled with melodrama. The best on-screen Luther (to my mind) was Niall MacGinnis although he was already 40 when he played the part. I only got round to watching the film for the first time the other day (posted by Trike up-thread) and what a revelation that was. A superb screenplay by Allan Sloane and Lothar Wolff and a very intelligent and sensitive interpretation by MacGinnis.
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