Son of Iniquity - Episode 7: The Accident of Great Resistance
It's tempting to imagine that Luther dropped a bombshell when he released his theses. However, it was more like he stuck a paper-bag full of theologically contentious dog-poo outside the Church's front door and set it on fire. The Church did not answer the doorbell, and while Luther went about telling people why he'd done it, the flaming-poo-bag set the whole house ablaze.
His theology was now in the open and thanks to the quick hands of his supporters and the availability of the printing press, Luther's ideas started becoming popular. This, however, would bring its own problems...
In this episode, we look at Luther's 95 theses, what he did with them, and what they did to everyone else.
Luther the Rebel
The first official thing Martin Luther had to do after sending his theses was to attend a convening of the Augustinian order in Heidelberg. He would receive an unexpected welcome.
Over the next many years, Luther would travel a lot within the area that was picking up on his resistance. The map below is handy if you're into thinking of Luther, stubborn but scared for his life, venturing out from Wittenberg and into the Germany that he was about to change forever.
An Impressive Press
Luther produced work with immense profligacy. He also operated within (and was the leader of) a group of academics and theologians who produced work building the terms of the Reformation. This work spread quickly throughout the continent thanks to the printing press.
By the time of Luther's resistance, the printing press had been increasing in operation across Europe over the previous 50 years. The epicenter of its creation by Johannes Gutenberg was in Mainz, Germany where, years later, indulgences would be sold and so light Luther's fuse and instigate the 95 theses.
Laurens Janszoon Coster, from Haarlem in Holland, is believed by some to have been the first creator of a printing press. In the 1500s he was credited by the author Hadrianus Junius with creating a sort of movable type after pressing bark into sand in the Haarlemmer woods. These woods were burned in 1426 due to war, meaning he must have done it 20 years before Gutenberg, who is famously credited with the invention.
Geez this was a happening time.