In 1517, Martin Luther challenged papal authority and what he saw as the commercialization of his faith. Luther’s primary concern was the sale of indulgences–papal grants of reduced punishment in the afterlife, including releases from purgatory. Luther challenged the secular orientation of the Roman Catholic Church and, more fundamentally, the authority of pope and church in matters of faith, affirming instead the authority of Holy Scripture and salvation by faith alone. In the process, Luther changed the course of European and world history and established the second major faith in Europe-Protestantism.
Luther’s disagreements with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church set off a chain of events that within a few decades destroyed the Catholic Church religious unity. Although one of the most influential figures in German history, Luther was only one of many who were critical of the Roman Catholic Church. However, because of the power of his ideas and the enormous influence of his writings, it is he who is regarded as the initiator of the Protestant Reformation. Luther quickly acquired a large following among those disgusted by rampant church corruption and unfulfilled by mechanistic religious services. Many warmed to his contention that religion must be simplified into a close relationship of human beings with God without the extensive mediation of the Roman Catholic Church and its accretion of tradition.
Luther magnified the inherent potency of his ideas by articulating them in a language that was without rival in clarity and force. He strove to make the Scriptures accessible to ordinary worshipers by translating them into vernacular German.
there were significant crises (including Black Death) and scandals (including the Great Western Schism) that influenced the history of the Catholic church in the two hundred years preceding Luther. In part because of these scandals, and in part because of the ongoing power struggles between popes and secular monarchs, papal power was repeatedly challenged, and many committed Christians believed ...
A less exalted reason for the wide distribution of Luther’s doctrines was the development of printing with movable type. Luther’s doctrines spread rapidly throughout Germany and most of Europe. The Reformation created a demand for all kinds of religious writings.
Luther’s ideas soon coalesced into a body of doctrines called Lutheranism. Powerful supporters such as princes and free cities accepted Lutheranism for many reasons, some because they sincerely supported reform, others out of narrow self-interest (many German princes, hoping to subordinate a German national church to the authority of the sovereign states and thus further consolidate their power).
In some areas, a jurisdiction would adopt Lutheranism because a large neighboring state had done so. In other areas, rulers accepted it because they sought to retain control over their subjects who had embraced it earlier. Nearly all the imperial cities became Lutheran, despite the fact that the emperor, to whom they were subordinate, was hostile to the movement.