On This Day

Martin Luther is Excommunicated

The 1521 papal bull of Pope Leo X announcing the excommunication of Martin Luther
The 1521 papal bull of Pope Leo X announcing the excommunication of Martin Luther

Historical Context

By 1521, the religious revolution started by Martin Luther in 1517 when he nailed his Ninety-Five theses on the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany, had reached a crescendo. The Catholic pope Leo X, against whose church the Ninety-Five theses were a complaint, had demanded in 1520 that Luther renounce and recant his beliefs. Luther refused, and publicly burned the bull containing the threat.

Luther was brought before the Diet of Worms (an imperial gathering presided over by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) and defended his position, but the Emperor proclaimed the Edict of Worms, banning Luther's writings and teachings from the German people. Luther went into hiding with a sympathetic prince, where he wrote his Luther Bible, the first in vernacular German rather than Latin. This had a huge impact on the Church and German people as the laity could now read the Bible themselves.

In spite of his excommunication, the Reformation had a huge impact on European society and politics, causing a schism in the Catholic church and the emergence of Protestant and Lutheran states.

Document Info

Author(s): Pope Leo X
Location signed: Holy Roman Empire

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1521-01-03 Martin Luther is excommunicated by Pope Leo X from the Roman Catholic Church for failing to recant parts of his Ninety-five Theses which started the Protestant Reformation

Historical Documents