Martin Luther was the principal
figure of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Shocked by the corruption
of the Roman Catholic church he conceived of a faith in which the Bible,
not a set of rules, provided the religious authority. His quest for
reform alienated him from Catholic authorities, but earned him many
As a young man he defied his father's wishes and abandoned his law studies,
choosing instead to enter a Catholic monastery.
His conflict with the Church began some years ater when he took exception
to the sale of indulgences - partial remission of sins on payment of
a fee - by papal emissaries. Luther publicly condemned the practice
and was called to recant before the Diet of Worms.
His refusal to comply led to accusations of heresy and eventually excommunication.
Luther's doctrines spread far and wide, despite attempts to suppress
them. After 1530, once Protestantism was firmly established as separate
from Catholicism, he finished his German translation of the Bible, creating
a landmark in European literature.