Time Heals all Wounds

Santa Maria del Popolo, Italian Renaissance, 1655. Photo: Wikipedia

Martin Luther, born in Eisleben in1483, the sun of a copper miner, entered the monastery of St. Augustine at Erfurt on 17 July 1505, being confessed as Augustian priest on 3 April 1507 and celebrating his first mass on 2 may 1507. This was the time of the advance of renaissance attitudes and values in Germany during the later fifteenth century. This is related to the movement of religious reforms and the outbreak of the religious schism. Literary societies were founded, not only for Greek and Latin, but in particular for the German language. The call for religious reform was an old sound and humanism contributed to new approaches. Money, however, was the real catalyst of the things to come.

After Pope Julius II had begun to rebuilt the St. Peter in Rome in 1505, he announced in 1507 a plenary indulgence to fund his project. The sale of indulgences was an additional way in which the Roman curia could extract money from the independent states, whose sovereigns normally negotiated a percentage. The sovereigns claimed their share however to have it preached on the territory subject to them. They were allowed to retain at least half the yield and pontiffs and princes were making huge financial gains from the indulgences offered to unlettered labourers, peasants, merchants, clerks and many others. As a result of the advance of the renaissance the laity contained a fast increasing number of literate persons and they wanted and needed other forms of devotion.

In 1510, Martin Luther visited for the first and only time in his life Rome to represent the reformant observants. Luther was not a revolutionary, but a loyal and committed Christian, who had other opinions about the interpretation of the bible and the indulgences, but so did many others. Luther wrote in German and Latin and the printing press did the same to spread the message. It is evident that Luther and later the Protestant Church were not welcome in Rome and the name Luther became a non-word in Rome. It is being told that the altar of the Augustian church Santa Maria del Popolo, where Luther celebrated the mass, was a no go area in Rome. This will change however. Five hundred years after the visit of Luther, a small square close to the Santa Maria del Popolo in 1510 will be named after Martin Luther.