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The Beginnings of the Reformation
Martin Luther PDF Print E-mail
The Reformation in Western Europe - The Beginnings of the Reformation

(Eisleben, 10 November 1483 – Eisleben, 18 February 1546)

Martin LutherFather of the German Reformation, professor of theology and spiritual leader. Luther studied at the Latin schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach and then at the age of 17 entered the University of Erfurt where in 1505 he received a master’s degree. That same year he decided to become a monk and joined the Augustinian order and monastery.  In 1512 he was awarded a Doctorate in Theology and then became a professor at the newly founded University in Wittenberg.

In 1516 he publicly opposed the concept of indulgences, which were being sold in Germany to raise money for the building of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Personal struggles (Anfechtung / tentatio) with sin and with God’s wrath drove Luther to search for answers in the Scriptures. He came to believe that the Bible teaches salvation by God’s grace through faith alone (sola fide), not as a reward for good works. This basic truth became the driving force behind his theology and his desire for reforming the church.

On 31 October 1517 Luther posted his now famous 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. That event sparked the Protestant Reformation and is today celebrated as Reformation Day throughout the world.

In 1521 he was publicly excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1525 he married Katarina von Bora, with whom he had six children. His translation of the Bible into German made the Scriptures more accessible to ordinary people. His many sermons, hymns, lectures, Bible commentaries and catechisms were published during his lifetime and have had many editions since.

Ulrich (Huldrych) Zwingli PDF Print E-mail
The Reformation in Western Europe - The Beginnings of the Reformation

(Wildhaus, 1 January 1484 – Kappel, 11 October 1531)

Ulrich ZwingliZwingli was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. During his studies in Vienna and Basel he was heavily influenced by humanism. From 1519 Zwingli served as a priest at the Grossmünster Church in Zurich. It was during this time that he began calling for changes within the Catholic Church. He attacked the practice of Lenten fasting and disagreed with Luther on the interpretation of the Eucharist. In 1523 the city of Zurich officially adapted Zwingli’s reforms and became a hub for the spread of the Reformation across Switzerland.

Later on Zwingli stood fiercely against the radical Anabaptist reformers. He died in battle, fighting against forces of the Catholic cantons in Switzerland who refused to accept his ecclesiastical reforms. Zwingli’s influence on theology, liturgy and confessions left an impact on several Protestant denominations which is still tangible today.

His successor in Zurich was Heinrich Bullinger, who kept correspondence with Protestant Reformers Primož Trubar and Pietro Paolo Vergerio.