The anniversary of Luther’s Theses in the sixteenth century

The Wittenberg theologian and historian Paul Eber published his Calendarium historicum in a lovely rubricated edition in 1550; it proved sufficiently popular to see over a dozen subsequent editions. As its title suggests, it collects historical events under the headings of the dates on which they happened; it also collates the standard European Christian calendar with the classical calendars of Greece and Rome as well as the Jewish calendar. Following the Calendarium throughout the year, the reader might memorialise key moments in classical and modern history in much the same way that the liturgical calendar memorialises the lives of the saints. At a relatively early date, Eber memorialised Luther’s theses as the major event for the date of 31 October, with the significant observation that Luther’s disputation was ‘fastened’ (affixa est) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He also dutifully reproduces Luther’s own interest in his fulfillment of the dying prophecy of John Wyclif noting that this crucial date followed that of Wyclif’s execution by ‘a hundred and some’ years, and offers a version of the prophecy itself: ‘Post annos centum respondebitis deo et mihi,’ ‘In a hundred years you will answer to God and to me.’ BW

Paul Eber, Calendarium historicum (Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1564).

YML: V/1.O.27

Further Reading

Peter Marshall, 1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation (Oxford, 2017).

C. Scott Dixon, ‘Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Origins of the Reformation Narrative’, English Historical Review (2017).

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