Christian History Timeline: Martin Luther’s Later Years

Martin Luther

1483 Born at Eisleben, November 10

1484 Parents, Hans and Margaretha Luder, move family to Mansfeld, where Hans works in copper mines

1492 Attends school in Mansfeld

1497 Attends school in Magdeburg

1498 Attends school in Eisenach

1501 Enters University of Erfurt

1502 Receives B.A. at Erfurt

1505 Earns M.A. at Erfurt; begins law studies; in thunderstorm on July 2, vows to become a monk; enters Order of Augustinian Hermits

1507 Ordained and celebrates first Mass

1509 Becomes bachelor of Bible

1510 Visits Rome

1511 Transferred to Augustinian house at Wittenberg

1512 Becomes doctor of theology

1513 Begins lecturing on The Psalms

1515 Lectures on Romans; appointed district vicar over ten monasteries

1516 Begins lecturing on Galatians

1517 Begins lecturing on Hebrews; on October 31, posts “95 Theses” on indulgences

1518 At meeting of Augustinians in Heidelberg, defends his theology; in October, appears before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, but refuses to recant; in December, Frederick the Wise protects Luther from being handed over to Rome.

1519 Understands the “righteousness of God” as “passive righteousness with which God justifies us by faith”; in July, debates Professor John Eck at Leipzig and denies supreme authority of popes and councils

1520 Papal bull “Exsurge Domine” gives Luther 60 days to recant or be excommunicated; writes 3 seminal documents: To the Christian NobilityOn the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian; burns papal bull and canon law

1521 Excommunicated by the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem; at Diet of Worms in April, he refuses to recant writings, and edict (in May) condemns him as heretic and outlaw; he is “kidnapped” and hidden at Wartburg Castle; begins translating the New Testament

1522 In March, comes out of hiding and returns to Wittenberg

1523 Writes On Temporal Authority

1524 Debates Karlstadt on the Lord’s Supper; Luther’s former superior, Staupitz, dies

1525 Writes Against the Heavenly Prophets; writes Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes, criticizing the Peasants’ Revolt; marries Katherine von Bora; writes Bondage of the Will (against Erasmus).

1526 Writes German Mass; becomes a father (son Hans)

1527 Fights sickness and intense depression; writes “A Mighty Fortress”; daughter Elizabeth born; writes against Zwingli’s views on the Lord’s Supper

1528 Writes Great Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper; grieves over Elizabeth’s death; visits churches

1529 Attends Marburg Colloquy with Zwingli, but no agreement reached on the Lord’s Supper; publishes Large Catechism and Small Catechism; daughter Magdalena born

1530 Luther’s Father, Hans, dies; Luther, as outlaw, cannot attend the Diet of Augsburg, held in attempt to end religious division in the empire; Melanchthon presents Augsburg Confession, a statement of Lutheran beliefs

1531 Begins lecturing on Galatians; son Martin born; mother, Margaretha, dies

1532 Writes On Infiltrating and Clandestine Preachers; is given the Augustinian cloister in Wittenberg for his home

1533 Son Paul born

1534 Publishes German Bible; daughter Margaret born

1536 Agrees to Wittenberg Concord on the Lord’s Supper, in attempt to resolve differences with other reformers, but Zwinglians do not accept it

1537 Draws up Schmalkaldic Articles as his “theological last will and testament”

1538 Writes against the Jews in Against the Sabbatarians

1539 Writes On the Councils and the Church

1541 Writes Admonition to Prayer against the Turks

1542 Drafts his will; daughter Magdalena dies

1543 Writes On the Jews and Their Lies

1544 Writes against Schwenckfeld’s interpretation of the Lord’s Supper

1545 Writes Against the Papacy at Rome, an Institution of the Devil

1546 Dies in Eisleben, February 18

1552 Katherine von Bora dies

Other Reformers

1469 (probably) Erasmus born

1484 Ulrich Zwingli born

1491 Henry VIII born

1496 Menno Simons born

1497 Melanchthon born

1498 Savonarola burned at the stake in Florence

1505 John Knox born

1509 John Calvin born; Henry VIII of England begins reign and marries Catherine of Aragon

1516 Erasmus publishes Greek New Testament

1518 Melanchthon becomes professor of Greek at Wittenburg

1519 Zwingli begins New Testament sermons; Swiss reformation is born

1521 Religious unrest in Wittenberg: private masses abolished, Karlstadt serves Communion in both elements, religious statues destroyed; Melanchthon writes Loci Communes; Pope titles Henry VIII “Defender of the Faith” for attacking Luther’s views of the sacraments; “Zwickau prophets,” early Anabaptists, arrive in Wittenberg

1522 Zwingli’s first Reformation debates; Ignatius Loyola begins work on Spiritual Excercises

1523 First two Reformation martyrs burned at the stake in Belgium

1524 Erasmus’s On Freedom of the Will

1525 Anabaptist movement begins in Zurich, spreads to Germany

1526 Reformation spreads to Sweden and Denmark

1527 First Protestant university (Marburg) founded

1528 Bern, Switzerland, becomes Protestant

1529 Name Protestant first used

1531 Zwingli killed in battle

1534 Henry VIII becomes supreme head of Church of England

1535 Anabaptist uprising at Münster put down, and Anabaptists executed

1536 First edition of Calvin’s Institutes; William Tyndale, Bible translator, burned at stake; Denmark and Norway become Lutheran; Erasmus dies

1538 Calvin expelled from Geneva

1540 Society of Jesus (Jesuits) formed

1541 Calvin returns to Geneva from exile

1547 Henry VIII dies

World Events

1452 Leonardo da Vinci born

1453 Turks capture Contantinople

1455 Gutenberg completes printing the Bible using movable type

1469 Lorenzo de’ Medici rules Florence; 

Ferdinand and Isabella marry

1470 Portuguese explorers discover Gold Coast of Africa

1471 Thomas á Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ, dies

1473 Copernicus born

1478 Spanish Inguisition set up

1485 Treaty of Leipzig divides Saxony

1492 Spanish forces conquer city of Granada, expelling Islamic Moors from Iberian peninsula; Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas

1493 The pope divides the New World between Spain and Portugal

1495 Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper”

1497 John Cabot reaches coast of Newfoundland; Vasco de Gama discovers west coast of India

1498 Albrecht Durer paints Apocalypse

1499 Swiss gain independence

1500 Future Charles V born

1502 Frederick, elector of Saxony, founds Wittenberg University

1506 Pope Julius orders work on St. Peter’s in Rome; Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa

1508 Michelangelo begins painting Sistine Chapel ceiling

1509 Erasmus writes In Praise of Folly

1510 First shipload of African slaves arrives in Hispaniola (Haiti)

1513 Leo X (Giovanni Medici) pope; Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean

1514 Albert of Brandenburg becomes elector and archbishop of Mainz

1516 Thomas More publishes Utopia; Concordat of Bologna assures French Catholic autonomy

1517 Tetzel hired by Albert of Mainz to sell indulgences

1519 Charles I of Spain is elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; Cortes enters Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan

1520 Suleiman I becomes sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Turks)

1521 Pope Leo X dies, succeeded by Hadrian VI

1522 Magellan’s expedition completes circumnavigation of globe; German knights organize against the emperor; France attacks Charles V; Diet of Nuremberg defers action on Edict of Worms

1523 Clement VII becomes pope

1524 Peasant Wars begin; Diet of Nuremberg fails to enforce Edict of Worms condemning Luther

1525 Charles V defeats Francis I; Elector Frederick the Wise dies; France makes pact with Suleiman I

1526 League of Torgau formed; First Diet of Speyer postpones enforcement of Edict of Worms

1527 Imperial troops sack Rome; plague strikes Wittenberg

1529 Second Diet of Speyer decides to enforce Edict of Worms; Turks lay siege to Vienna

1531 Schmalkaldic League, a body of German Protestant groups, forms in self-defense against Charles V

1532 Elector John the Steadfast dies; Diet of Regensburg and Peace of Nuremberg guarantee religious toleration in face of Turkish threat

1533 Pizarro conquers Peru; Ivan “the Terrible” (age 3) ascends Russian throne

1534 Paul III becomes pope

1535 Emperor forms Catholic Defense League; France makes pact with Suleiman I; Thomas More beheaded for opposing Henry VIII

1539 Catholic Duke George of Saxony dies; 

Frankfurt Truce declared between Catholic and Protestant territories

1540 Philip of Hesse, German prince, enters bigamous marriage with consent of Luther; conferences at Hagenau and Worms fail to reconcile Protestants and Catholics

1541 At Conference of Regensburg, Melanchthon and Bucer reach agreement with Catholics on most doctrines, but Luther and Rome reject their work; Karlstadt dies

1543 Copernicus writes that earth revolves around sun; John Eck dies

1545 Ferdinand I and Suleiman I agree to truce; Council of Trent, for reform of Catholic Church, opens

1555 Peace of Augsburg allows rulers to determine religion of their region

By Ken Schurb

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #39 in 1993]

Ken Schurb is assistant professor of religion and philosphy at Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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