Christian History Timeline: Luther Leads the Way
COLOR CODE red Martin Luther | green Other Reformers | orange Church and State | blue World Events
—1453: Turks capture Constantinople.
—1455: Gutenberg completes printing the Bible using movable type.
—1469: Desiderius Erasmus born.
—1470: Portuguese explorers discover Gold Coast of Africa.
—1473: Nicolaus Copernicus born.
—1478: Spanish Inquisition begins.
—1483: Luther born at Eisleben.
—1484: Luthers move to Mansfeld.
—1484: Ulrich Zwingli born.
—1491: Henry VIII born.
—1492: Columbus makes first voyage to the Americas.
—1495: Leonardo da Vinci begins painting The Last Supper.
—1496: Menno Simons born.
—1497: Philipp Melancthon born.
—1498: Girolamo Savonarola burned at the stake in Florence.
—1502: Frederick, elector of Saxony, founds Wittenberg University.
—1505: Luther vows to become a monk; enters Order of Augustinian Hermits.
—1506: Pope Julius II orders work on St. Peter’s in Rome; Leonardo da Vinci paints Mona Lisa.
—1507: Luther ordained and celebrates first Mass.
—1508: Michelangelo begins painting Sistine Chapel ceiling.
—1509: John Calvin born; 18-year-old Henry VIII of England assumes throne, marries Catherine of Aragon.
—1510: First shipload of African slaves arrives in Hispaniola (Haiti).
—1512: Luther earns doctorate; leaves monastery to teach at Wittenberg.
—1513: Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean; Leo X becomes pope.
—1515: Luther lectures on Romans; appointed district vicar over 10 monasteries.
—1516: Erasmus issues Greek New Testament; Thomas More writes Utopia.
—1517: Albert of Mainz hires Johann Tetzel to sell indulgences.
—1517: On October 31 Luther distributes 95 Theses on indulgences.
—1518: Luther appears before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, but refuses to recant; Frederick the Wise protects Luther from being handed over to Rome.
—1518: Melancthon becomes professor of Greek at Wittenberg.
—1519: Charles I of Spain elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; Hernán Cortes enters Aztec capital; Zwingli begins New Testament sermons; Swiss Reformation starts.
—1519: In July Luther debates Johann Eck at Leipzig and denies supreme authority of popes and councils.
—1520: Papal bull gives Luther 60 days to recant or be excommunicated; Suleiman I becomes sultan of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
—1520: Luther writes To the Christian Nobility, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian; burns papal bull and canon law.
—1521: Luther excommunicated; refuses to recant writings at Diet of Worms, edict condemns him as heretic and outlaw; “kidnapped” and hidden at Wartburg Castle; begins translating the New Testament.
—1521: Private masses abolished in Wittenberg; Andreas Karlstadt gives the laity wine as well as bread in the Lord’s Supper; religious statues destroyed; Melancthon writes Loci Communes; Henry VIII titled “Defender of the Faith” for attack on Luther; Hadrian VI becomes pope.
—1522: Luther comes out of hiding and returns to Wittenberg.
—1522: Spaniards complete circumnavigation of globe; Ignatius Loyola writes Spiritual Exercises; Zwingli holds Reformation debates.
—1523: Clement VII becomes pope; first two Reformation martyrs, Belgians Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes, burned at the stake.
—1524: Luther debates Karlstadt on the Lord’s Supper; Luther’s former superior, Johannes Staupitz, dies.
—1524: Erasmus writes On Freedom of the Will; Peasants’ Revolt begins; Diet of Nuremberg fails to enforce Edict of Worms condemning Luther.
—1525: Anabaptist movement begins in Zurich, spreads to Germany.
—1525: Luther writes Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes on the Peasants’ Revolt; marries Katharine von Bora; writes Bondage of the Will against Erasmus.
—1526: Reformation spreads to Sweden and Denmark.
—1526: Luther writes German Mass; son Hans born.
—1527: Luther writes “A Mighty Fortress”; argues against Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper; daughter Elizabeth born (d. 1528).
—1527: First Protestant university (Marburg) founded; imperial troops sack Rome; plague strikes Wittenberg.
—1529: Luther and Zwingli reach no agreement on the Lord’s Supper at Marburg Colloquy; Luther publishes Large Catechism and Small Catechism; daughter Magdalena born (d. 1542).
—1529: Name Protestant first used; Second Diet of Speyer decides to enforce Edict of Worms; Turks lay siege to Vienna.
—1530: Luther’s father, Hans, dies; Diet of Augsburg attempts to end division in Roman Empire; as an outlaw Luther cannot attend, but Melancthon presents Augsburg Confession, a statement of Lutheran beliefs.
—1531: Luther begins lecturing on Galatians; son Martin born; mother, Margaretha, dies.
—1531: Schmalkaldic League, a political body of German Protestant groups, forms in defense against Charles V; Zwingli killed in battle.
—1532: Diet of Regensburg and Peace of Nuremberg guarantee religious toleration in face of Turkish threat.
—1532: Luther is given Augustinian cloister in Wittenberg for his home.
—1533: Three-year-old Ivan the Terrible ascends Russian throne.
—1533: Luther’s son Paul born.
—1534: Henry VIII declares himself supreme head of the Church of England; Paul III becomes pope.
—1534: Luther publishes German Bible; daughter Margaret born.
—1535: Anabaptist uprising at Münster put down; Anabaptists executed; Thomas More beheaded for opposing Henry VIII; Charles V forms Catholic Defense League.
—1536: Luther agrees to Wittenberg Concord on the Lord’s Supper, but Zwinglians do not accept it.
—1536: First edition of Calvin’s Institutes published; William Tyndale burned at stake in Belgium; Denmark and Norway become Lutheran; Erasmus dies.
—1537: Luther draws up Schmalkaldic Articles as his “theological last will and testament.”
—1538: Calvin expelled from Geneva.
—1539: Frankfurt Truce declared between Catholic and Protestant territories.
—1541: Calvin returns to Geneva from exile; Society of Jesus (Jesuits) formed; Philip of Hesse, German prince, enters bigamous marriage with Luther’s consent; conferences at Hagenau and Worms fail to reconcile Protestants and Catholics.
—1541: At Conference of Regensburg, Melancthon and Martin Bucer reach agreement with Catholics on most doctrines, but Luther and Rome reject their work; Karlstadt dies.
—1543: Copernicus writes that the earth revolves around the sun.
—1545: Council of Trent convenes for reform of the Catholic Church.
—1546: Martin Luther dies.
—1552: Katharine Luther dies.
—1555: Peace of Augsburg allows rulers to determine religion of their regions.
Christian History’s 2015–2017 four-part Reformation series is available as a four-pack. This set includes issue #115 Luther Leads the Way; issue #118 The People’s Reformation; issue #120 Calvin, Councils, and Confessions; and issue#122 The Catholic Reformation. Get your set today. These also make good gifts.
By Ken Schurb and the editors
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #115 in 2015]This timeline is adapted from one prepared by Ken Schurb for issues 34 and 39 of Christian History.
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