31 October – The death of Thomas Howard and Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses
Posted By joelridg on October 31, 2021
On this day in Tudor history, 31st October 1537, Lord Thomas Howard, second son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, died while imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was about twenty-five years of age at his death.
How did this son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk and brother of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk end up dying in the Tower?
Well, he fell in love with the wrong woman? He had become secretly betrothed to King Henry VIII’s niece, Lady Margaret Douglas.
Find out more about Lord Thomas Howard, his relationship with Lady Margaret Douglas, and what happened to them both, in this talk… Oh, and Margaret really didn’t learn her lesson!
Also on this day in Tudor history, 31st October 1517, Reformer, priest and professor of theology Martin Luther is said to have posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, although all we know for definite is that he posted them to Bishop of Brandenburg and the Archbishop of Mainz.
His actions on this day had a huge impact on Europe and were the catalyst of the European Reformation.
Find out more about Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and what happened next, in this video…
1 thought on “31 October – The death of Thomas Howard and Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses”
All we know as Claire said is that Luther sent his thesis with a complaint letter to Albert, Archbishop of Mainz on All Hallows Eve 31st October 1517. And yet someone put them or something about them on the public notice board, the door of Whittenberg Cathedral. It was no more significant at the time than advertising a barn dance at the local town hall. However, the content quickly became public knowledge and caused a sensation. Its more likely that his students or assistant put a list of some of them on the door in order to invite a debate. He was after all the Professor of Theology there at the University and such debates where normal and popular.
The local authority found the content less than agreeable and Luther really intended to send them as a way of protest against the work of Johannes Tetzel who was about the place selling indulgences. It was an abuse of an ancient practice connected with the Sacrament of Penance, not to be confused with plenary indulgences which are to do with purgatory. His other concern was that his students, who where fairly poor where wasting their money on such things. He wanted the Archbishop to recall Tetzel and stop the practice by reading his arguments against them.
Luther obviously went further as nobody writes 95 points on one subject. He also talked about faith and the Papacy and clerical abuse etc. It wasn’t at this stage meant for either debate or publication. However, the backlash against his opinion caused him and others to publish them in pamphlets. It was probably knowing the sensation it would cause that his enthusiastic assistant posted them on the Cathedral Door.
It certainly wasn’t very long before he was getting more attention than he wanted. Luther found himself in a war of words, the polemic of which was not very friendly or Christian. He was to eventually find himself being called before the Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and being practically kidnapped and taken to a Castle where he wrote several books on various controversial topics.
Martin Luther would go on to be the lynch pin of the German and North European Reformation. He translated the Bible into German, but it wasn’t the work of academic beauty it should have been. Many of the terms used were taken from the man in the street, the tavern and the market place. The language was plain German, as plain as you could get and probably full of errors. It had an emphasis on the idea of pure faith, without the need for good works. No where in the Bible does such an idea exist. Luther himself invented it and tried to justify it, often without success. Nethertheless it became a major factor in Lutheran theology. Sola Scriptura or scripture alone was the basis of much of his work and teaching. He removed some of the Bible he didn’t like and almost removed the Letter of Saint James. His preaching was fiery and down to earth but he was no iconoclast. Luther didn’t destroy the relics or images in Churches, much to the annoyance of his fellow reformers. Nor did he deny the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He did, however, say that there where only two Sacraments and a number of nasty things about the Pope. By now he had been Excommunicated and his work was published far and wide. Some of his work came to England and other translators of Scripture found refuge in his part of the Empire.
Why had he chosen this particular day to cause trouble? Well, had he really published his Thesis on the Cathedral Door, then it was a good day to do so. All Hallows Eve wasn’t Halloween as we know it, it was as it is in the Catholic Church today, the Vigil of the Dead, to pray for the souls in Purgatory. It was the day in Whittenberg that the relic collection of Frederick the Wise was put on display. It was one of the busiest days of the year and many people would read it.
So who said Luther nailed his Thesis to the Cathedral Door on 31st October 1517? We have but one source.. Philip Melanchthon, his friend and biographer. This was much more dramatic than sending them to a Bishop in Mainz. After 504 years its hard to know what is true, but in any event the cat was out of the bag and Luther hurled to stardom.