Driven to Defiance
|Young Martin Luther
"I would never have thought that such
a storm would rise from Rome over one simple scrap of
paper..." (Martin Luther)
Few if any men have changed the course of history like
Martin Luther. In less than ten years, this fevered German
monk plunged a knife into the heart of an empire that
had ruled for a thousand years, and set in motion a train
of revolution, war and conflict that would reshape Western
civilization, and lift it out of the Dark Ages.
Luther's is a drama that still resonates half a millennium
on. It's an epic tale that stretches from the gilded corridors
of the Vatican to the weathered church door of a small
South German town; from the barbarous pyres of heretics
to the technological triumph of printing. It is the story
of the birth of the modern age, of the collapse of medieval
feudalism, and the first shaping of ideals of freedom
and liberty that lie at the heart of the 21st century.
But this is also an intensely human tale, a story that
hurtles from the depths of despair to the heights of triumph and back again. This is the story of a man who ultimately
found himself a lightning conductor of history, crackling
with forces he could not quite comprehend or control.
For Luther, in a life full of irony, would find himself
overwhelmed by his own achievements. As his followers
sought to build a new and just Europe around him, he could
only turn on them in frustration, declaring that his -
and their - only goal should be Heaven.
Martin Luther stands as a hero, the man who built the
bridge between the two halves of the last millennium,
the Medieval and the Modern. His tragedy was that he
would never find the courage to cross it himself.
Martin Luther was born into a world dominated by the Catholic
Church, which holds spiritual dominion over all the nations
of Europe. For the keenly spiritual Luther, the Church's
promise of salvation is irresistible - caught in a thunderstorm,
terrified by the possibility of imminent death, he vows
to become a monk.
But after entering the monastery, Luther becomes increasingly
doubtful that the Church can actually offer him salvation
at all. His views crystallize even further with a trip
to Rome, where he finds that the capital of Catholicism
is swamped in corruption.
Wracked by despair, Luther finally finds release in the
pages of the Bible, when he discovers that it is not the
Church, but his own individual faith that will guarantee
With this revelation, he turns on the Church, attacking
its practice of selling Indulgences in the famous 95 Theses.
The key points of Luther's theses were simple, but devastating:
a criticism of the Pope's purpose in raising the money, "he is richer than Croesus, he would do better to sell
St Peters and give the money to the poor people...", and
a straightforward concern for his flock, "indulgences are
most pernicious because they induce complacency and thereby
Luther was not only a revolutionary thinker, he would
also benefit from a revolutionary technology: the newly
invented machinery of printing. A single pamphlet would
be carried from one town to another, where it would be
duplicated in a further print run of thousands. Within
three months, all Europe was awash with copies of Luther's
Martin Luther had inadvertently chosen unavoidable conflict
with what was the most powerful institution of the day,
the Catholic Church.
Go to Program Two - The Reluctant
Find out more about the Characters in Luther's life.
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Luther's World | Luther the Villain | Luther the Hero
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