Indugences were payments to the Catholic Church that purchased a penance-free absolution for certain sins. The German Dominican Friar Johann Tetzel was an indulgence-seller supreme: his marketing jingle ‘when a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs’. The priest and theologist Martin Luther was outraged: his 95 theses of ‘protest’ issued in Wittenberg in 1517 sparked a religious conflagration with the printing press acting as its accelerant. After defending his views to the Holy Roman Emperor at Worms (1521), the movement was threatened with armed suppression. But despite defeat at Mühlberg (1547), the Lutherans gained recognition in the Empire at Augsburg (1555), on a ‘ruler’s choice’ basis. By then, Protestantism had spawned a host of variants. In Geneva, Calvin had established a civic theocracy, which would inspire the French Huguenots and the British Puritans and Presbyterians. John Knox, fresh from Geneva (1559) ushered in the Scottish Reformation. Henry VIII had less spiritual motives for divorcing both this wife and the English church from the papacy. Elizabeth reasserted his Act of Supremacy in 1559.
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