"Luther, according to the scandal of his monkish enemies, was a brat of that hellish breed"
Martin Luther (1529)
Public DomainMartin Luther (1529) - Credit: Lucas Cranach the Elder
Caricature of Luther as the devil's bagpipes (1535)
Public DomainCaricature of Luther as the devil's bagpipes (1535) - Credit: Eduard Schoen

Martin Luther (1483-1546), a monk himself, preached that salvation could not be achieved through one’s deeds but depended on God’s grace alone. Arguing that the Bible was the sole source of divine wisdom, he opposed the Pope’s authority and railed against the profligacy and materialism of the Catholic Church. Unsurprisingly, he attracted virulent censure and in 1521, was called before Charles V at the Diet of Worms to renounce his views. When he refused, the Emperor delivered an edict which declared that he was “not a man but a demon in the appearance of a man, clothed in religious habit to be better able to deceive mankind.”

The best-known public figure of his time, Luther produced a vast body of literature, including two catechisms, numerous scriptural commentaries, hymns, anti-papal polemics and, most influentially of all, the first translation of the Bible into his native German. The movement he inspired ultimately led to the split of the Catholic Church and the establishment of Protestantism