The new franking labels were designed by graphic artist Miriam Hinz. Miriam has in recent years worked on the design of new Faroese posters. She designs the posters with the aid of a computer, drawing ideas from Faroese landscape, towns and villages, nature and cultural traditions. Further information about Miriam and her artistic designs can be found on www.einfalt.fo where posters can be bought on the online store.
500th Anniversary of Reformation
The good Reverend Martin Luther was probably not fully aware of the hornet’s nest he had put his hand into when, on October 31, 1517, he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Even less did he suspect the commotion this would cause or the tremendous consequences it would eventually have. Up until that point in time not many things had indicated that the monk, priest and professor of theology in Wittenberg would assume his place among the world’s most significant personalities. The gifted son of a copper miner, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, had received sound education. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Erfurt, but his father was determined to see him become a lawyer. After having an epiphany in a thunderstorm, Luther vowed to enter a monastery. He was now 33 years old – and his life was about to take quite an unexpected and dramatic turn.
As part of the Catholic Church’s teachings on punishment after death for sins committed in life, a concept popularly called indulgences emerged in the Middle Ages. At the occurrence of death, afterlife offered two options. The sinful and evil would spend eternity in hell, while those who had lead a decent and virtuous life entered the joy of heaven. However, the problem remained that no one was able to stay free of sin. To gain access to the kingdom of heaven, one had to confess one’s sins to a priest, accept absolution and do the penance assigned by him. In addition, after death one entered purgatory for a period of time depending on the extent and severity of one’s sins.
The idea of granting indulgences was a bit of a loophole regarding the penance – as well as constituting a faster escape from the undoubtedly disagreeable, but inevitable process of purification in purgatory. By giving alms to the church, you offered your penance to the church. You paid so that others, i.e. the clergy, would be able to lead a life of confession, prayer and repentance.
As soon as the gold in the casket rings…
Shortly before, Albrecht of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz, received permission from Pope Leo X to sell indulgences throughout his jurisdiction with the condition that the Pope receive half of the revenues to finance the construction of the new St. Peter’s Basilica. There had been some dissatisfaction with the aggressive methods used by indulgence salesmen against the common folks. The most famous of these salesmen was a Dominican monk, Johann Tetzel, who had a flair for the theatrical. With his entourage, Tetzel marched under the sign of the cross into villages, holding stern sermons on the torments of purgatory and then inviting the audience to buy indulgences for themselves and even their deceased relatives. For as Tetzel said: “As soon as the gold in the casket rings; the rescued soul to heaven springs!”
The Theses on the Church Door
When Martin Luther learned about Tetzel’s frivolous sales practices in 1517, he regarded them as a question to be pondered and debated. He wrote his 95 theses on indulgences and sent them to the Archbishop and a few others. In addition, he nailed the theses on the church door in Wittenburg’s All Saintes Church, thereby proposing an academic discussion of the nature of indulgences.
Apparently unaware of the Archbishop’s and the Holy See’s role in the promotion of these sales, Luther inadvertently stepped on a few sore corns. Not in the sense that his theses contained some crucial or revolutionary thoughts. Luther was not dismissive of the idea of indulgences. What irked him was the sellers’ claim that you could buy God’s benevolence by way of papal indulgences, thus improving the conditions of the deceased in purgatory. And in this Luther was not alone.
The poster on the church door was written in Latin, thus probably being solely intended for scholars as a subject for debate and discussion. But it was not long until someone had translated the 95 theses into German, and while Gutenberg invented the modern printing press already around 1440, it was a simple matter to have the text printed in large editions. Soon, the ninety-five theses were known in most parts of Germany, and to Luther’s surprise, they attracted great attention. He sent an apology to the Archbishop of Mainz where he admitted to have overstepped the limit to some extent. The Archbishop sent his letter to the Pope and this was the beginning of the Church’s reaction against Luther.
The Loop is Tightened
The pressure came from various corners, both indirectly and with direct communications between Luther and cardinals. Luther was genuinely surprised by the Church’s reaction, which caused him to strengthen his resolve and put up resistance. In October 1518 Luther was interrogated by Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg but he refused to back down. In the previous year, Luther had received declarations of support from many of the German princes and from lay people. The Church began to regard the obstinate monk as somewhat of a nuisance.
The Leipzig Disputation
On November 8, 1518, the Pope issued the bull “Cum postquam” dealing with the Catholic doctrine of indulgences. The Pope admitted that there were certain disparities concerning them, but he rejected Luther’s fundamental position. The debate was running off track and both sides had begun to move beyond the core of the matter, the Ninety-five Theses.
At a disputation staged in Leipzig in 1519 between representatives of the Universities of Wittenberg and Leipzig, theologian Johann Eck directed a sharp attack against Luther claiming that he questioned the Pope’s authority, the doctrine of infallibility and the sacraments of the Church. Luther, in turn, responded that there was no justification of the Pope’s authority to be found in the Bible and the Church Councils were not free from errors. Eck pressed Luther by comparing him with Jan Hus, who a century earlier had been burned at the stake for declaring that the Pope was fallible and for other utterances things resembling Luther’s statements. This made Luther declare famously: “Ja, Ich bin Hussite.” Thus, his fate was sealed.
The debate in Leipzig sharpened Martin Luther’s attitude toward the Pope. Up to this point, Luther had not regarded his views as being subversive to the Church and the Pope’s authority. However, after the Leipzig debate Luther started comparing the Pope with the Antichrist.
In June 1520 Pope Leo X issued the bull Exsurge Domine. Johann Eck was set to proclaim the papal bull in Germany. He condemned 41 doctrines in Luther’s writings and demanded that he withdraw them within 60 days or face excommunication. This was not an easy task for Eck – he was exposed to violent protests in many places and at times, he could not even proclaim the bull. Luther’s popularity in Germany was great, both among the laity as well as the ruling princes. Luther’s reaction to the bull was to burn it publicly in Wittenberg, along with writings of his other opponents’ and some church records.
The Diet of Worms
The rift with the Church was now a reality. On January 3, 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Pope. The Church could not take the obstinate rebel to court on its own accord, so it was left to the young Emperor Charles V to conduct the Assembly.
Luther had a powerful supporter in Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony. The Prince persuaded the Emperor to have Luther examined at Augsburg where the Imperial Diet was held – and to guarantee his safe passage to and from Worms.
On April 18, 1521 Luther found himself at the Diet of Worms. His old opponent, Johann Eck, speaking on behalf of the Empire, presented Luther with copies of his writings laid out on a table and asked him if the books were his, and whether he stood by their contents. Luther confirmed he was their author, but requested time to think about the answer to the second question. The following day he stated that he took responsibility for the contents, finishing his speech with the following words:
“I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen. ”
The following five days the Reichstag held deliberations on Luther’s fate – and on May 25 the Emperor presented the verdict. Luther was declared an outlaw, his literature was banned and an order given requiring his arrest. The edict also made it a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter.
Since the Emperor had promised Martin Luther safe passage to and from Worms, he could not be arrested immediately. Luther left for Wittenberg but on the way he was abducted by Frederick of Saxony’s men who brought him to Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. Under the pseudonym Junker Jörg, he hid in the castle until March 1522. It was here that he began his translation of the New Testament into German. This translation was a milestone in the history of the German language and the foundation of Hochdeutsch – High German. Translating the Old Testament took a little longer but in 1534 the first German Bible was finished.
Martin Luther did not come out of hiding until March 1522. The reason was the outbreak of revolts and disturbances in the wake of the upheaval caused by Luther. To bring them to an end he had to return to Wittenberg.
During the 1520s Martin Luther laid out the fundamental principles of the Reformed Church, its catechism, ethics, the church concept, etc. The Protestant Church was defined in pamphlets which were easily understood by the common folks.
It also became apparent that reformed Christian freedoms could be interpreted differently than Luther had done. Thus, splinter groups were formed built on Luther’s teachings. There were also more violent outbursts such as those caused by Thomas Müntzer and his peasant revolt 1524-26. However, Martin Luther strongly resisted the idea of his reformation being used for the subversion of the social order.
The Reformation spread across Northern Europe, but this historic development must wait for another time. The story of the monk who wanted to start a debate but ended up with a reformation is now 500 years old, and there are no signs that it will end in the foreseeable future – so this is where we conclude our narrative.
Issue Date:02.10.2017 Designer:Anker Eli Petersen Printer:Cartor Security Printing, Frankreich Process:Offset Size:Stamp size: 40,0 x 30 mm. Size, minisheet: 60 x 80 mm Values:18 DKK