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Explain why Luther's protest spreads so quickly in Germany in the years up to 1521.

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Introduction

Explain why Luther's protest spreads so quickly in Germany in the years up to 1521 In April 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated. He had spoken out against the practices of the Catholic church and refused to recant his ideas. Like many of the Christian humanists, Luther was not aiming for a split with the Church. He simply wanted the Church to reconsider its practices and therefore lead the people to spiritual enlightenment. Luther was not the first person to hold these ideas: before him many Christian humanists had put forward similar ideas and, in particular, Desiderius Erasmus. Just over ten years before Luther printed his pamphlets, Erasmus had written a number of works criticising the Church and its ways. So why did Luther have such a profound effect on Germany? What was it that differentiated him from all the other humanists who had come before him? In the late 15th century/early 16th century there was a growing feeling of anti-clericalism in Germany. People felt that the clergy were more interested in money than in the spiritual welfare of their parishioners (a feeling that was later to be reflected in Luther's pamphlet "The Liberty of a Christian Man"). ...read more.

Middle

This is important because when Luther began to speak out against the Church, no-one saw it as an affair which 'directly concerned them' and so there was little opposition to him at first. This lack of central government also explains why the German people resented the payment of the Tithe. To them, the Pope was a foreigner who extorted money from them that he didn't demand from any other countries. The Pope saw Germany as an easy target for papal taxes and for other means of making money as it was a rich country with no strong power to oppose him. Ironically the lack of central power that enabled Luther to become so dominant also allowed the papacy to extend their powers in Germany. Many historians argue that Luther would never have become so powerful if he hadn't had the support of many powerful men in Germany such as Frederick of Saxony. Frederick was, arguably, the most powerful man in Germany. He was a very powerful elector, so nobody wanted to displease him. The Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian's grandson Charles V, wanted his support as he had only been in power for a few years and therefore didn't want to anger his most important supporter by opposing Luther. ...read more.

Conclusion

As public support grew for Luther, he became somewhat of a 'hero'. For several generations before 1520 a 'holy man' had been prophesised who would begin the reform of the Church. People believed that he had arrived when they saw pictures of Luther in woodcuts dressed in his monks' robes with a halo above his head attacking the practices of the church and this created a rapid and dramatic response. The people saw him as an alternative route to salvation and Luther's route was cheaper and purer than the corrupt one offered to them by the Church. After the Diet at Worms, Luther was a condemned heretic around whom a popular movement was beginning to form. People respected his willingness to stand up for what he believed in and they had great support for him. Even peasants supported him - at the Diet at Worms there was a popular clamour in support of him; people agreed with his anti-clerical ideas which they had previously fought for when Hans B�hm led a revolt in 1476. The rise in population in the early 16th century meant that there was pressure on the peasants to increase their yields on the farms while they also had to cope with inflation. They were in distress and looking for someone to turn to, and they found Luther. ...read more.

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