Martin Luther Posts His Theses
on Castle Church Door Opposite to our Building
At the beginning of the 16th century, nothing had really changed, compared to the centuries before. Europe was ruled by the aristocracy and the Catholic Church and most of the simple people still were poor, working hard to get their families through the days. Millions of peasants died under those hardships. In fact, they were so extreme that the common people could only survive with the consoling message from the medieval church that this hardship was god’s will and that – if they endured it quietly – they would be rewarded in heaven, a land of abundance where all hardship is forgotten and “milk and honey” flows freely.
The nobility and the church, to the contrary, lived luxurious lives in impressive castles. The churches were the highest buildings in almost all towns. The most impressive one, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, was about to be rebuilt. To raise money, the pope sent out papal commissioners to sell so-called indulgences. These were letters, promising forgiveness of sins and access to heaven for everyone, under one condition – cash. Johann Tetzel was the most notorious commissioner. He forced millions of poor peasants to spend their last pennies, not on feeding their children but instead on buying the “key to heaven” for themselves. The key, of course, was an illusion – not so the millions of thaler (precursor of the dollar) that were flowing back to the Vatican and were used for the embellishment of its buildings and for cementing its power.
Martin Luther, a simple monk that studied theology in Wittenberg, had visited Rome as a young monk and had seen the corruption there. In early November 1517, indulgence seller Tetzel had announced his “indulgence road show” would come to Wittenberg. On the eve of All Saints Day, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther protested against this fraud operation organized by the Catholic Church. On this day, he published his 95 Theses against the fraudulent indulgence sales and, reportedly, also nailed them on the “white board” of Wittenberg’s public life, the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses had one core message: There is no key to heaven for sale. You either have this “key” within yourself – or not.
What happened on that day changed the world forever. For members of the Protestant Church, this day was the birth hour of their confession that later became known as “Reformation Day”. And even Catholic believers today look back – not unhappy about the fact that the fraudulent nature of the multi-billion indulgence fraud had been exposed.
All of that happened right outside our hotel, just across at the door of the Castle Church on October 31, 1517 – almost 500 years ago. When you open the window of your hotel room – you can still breathe history. We promise you!
The invention of the printing press helped to spread Luther’s theses all over the country within weeks.
Luther later went one step further and translated the entire bible from unintelligible Latin to spoken German. For the nobility, the Vatican and the Church potentates this was heresy, because they deduced their power to rule from the fact that they were the “chosen” ones able to speak the “language of God” – Latin – and were privileged to talk to him.
The translation of the bible into German and later into English, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and many other European languages triggered the largest literacy campaign in history: In the few decades following Luther’s translation, the illiteracy rate across Europe dropped from 80% to 20% - for Protestants, Catholics and members of all other religions.
Luther taught as a professor of theology, preached and lived for many more years in Wittenberg, often visiting the house that is now our hotel.
His tomb, the place where he burned the “papal bull” threatening his excommunication, the house where he lived, the “Lutherhaus”, and many other historical places related to Luther are preserved and are located within walking distance from our hotel...
Experience the fourth dimension – history – in our hotel. We would like to welcome you as our guest!