the distraction brought by martin luther -- 9/29/20

Today's selection -- from Emperor: A New Life of Charles V by Geoffrey Parker. The reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the Habsburg ruler of Germany, Austria and Hungary, the Netherlands, and Spain, coincided with the Protestant Reformation first brought by Martin Luther when he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg in 1517. Dealing with Luther's revolution absorbed countless hours of the time Charles could have spent on other matters of state. Many German rulers had quickly adopted the precepts of Lutheranism, and as a result, Charles, a pious Catholic whose rule was threatened by this new body of thought, was unable to curb its spread since he needed German military support in his defensive wars against Muslim Turk advances into his territories:

"The religious revolution unleashed by Martin Luther also periodically absorbed Charles's attention. The published Acta of each imperial Diet give some idea of the hours taken up by religious debates: according to a simple page count, 'Discussions with and about Luther' at Worms constituted more than a quarter of the total business. The discussion of religious concessions at Regensburg in 1532 absorbed almost as much time, and crafting a religious formula acceptable to both the Lutherans and Catholics at the Diet of Augsburg in 1547-8 represented one-eighth of the total business. Sometimes the emperor intervened in person (as he did at Worms in 1521) at other times he sat through the debates (as he did at Augsburg in 1530 while the Lutheran Confession was slowly read out); and, behind the scenes, he spent many hours feasting and hunting with the leading German princes in an effort to win their support for his religious programme. He also devoted precious time at summits with the pope and at audiences with his envoys, as well as in writing holograph letters, in order to win Rome's support for his religious initiatives.

Luther in Worms, colorized woodcut, 1577

"Charles's efforts to silence Luther and his supporters failed in large part because Ottoman advances up the Danube repeatedly obliged him to authorize religious concessions in return for military assistance from Lutheran rulers. The Lutheran leaders fully realized their advantage: as Philip of Hesse informed Luther in 1529, since he and his colleagues 'are the greatest and chief source of help' to the Habsburgs in resisting the Turks, 'we thought we should all agree not to provide or give any help unless His Majesty first promised to leave us in peace and not to disturb us on account of the Gospel'. This policy produced a series of concessions from Charles that allowed Lutheranism not only to prosper in the states where it already existed but also to expand. Only the conclusion of a five-year truce with the sultan in 1547 allowed the emperor to attempt the forcible reconciliation of Germany's religious divisions."



Geoffrey Parker


Emperor: A New Life of Charles V


Yale University Press


Copyright 2019 Geoffrey Parker


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment