The Decline of the Holy Roman Empire Essay

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The Holy Roman Empire was an empire in central Europe consisting of many territories and ethnicities. Once very powerful, the empire’s authority slowly decreased over centuries and by the Middle Ages the emperor was little more than a figurehead, allowing princes to govern smaller sections of the empire. Though the various ruling princes owed loyalty to the emperor, they were also granted a degree of independence and privileges. The emperor, an elected monarch, needed the allegiance of the princes and other aristocracy to support him, in turn giving them power or money. This tenuous allegiance between powers was greatly strained in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as religious reform dominated Europe and religious tensions…show more content…
On October 31, 1517, when monk Martin Luther nailed The 95 Theses to the door of a cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany, he had no idea that he was sparking the Protestant Reformation (Greengrass 44-45). These 95 theses consisted of Luther’s complaints and disagreements with and regarding the Catholic Church, particularly on the use of indulgences – a “remission of temporal penalties for sin” sold to individuals seeking salvation (Greengrass 6, 44). The indulgences were claimed to lessen the time an individual’s soul spent in purgatory, commissioned by the Pope of the time, Leo X, and in collaboration with various bishops and archbishops (Linder 22). When Luther nailed his theses to the door, they quickly spread, spurning uproar. First, the theses were sent to Archbishop Albrecht, the superior of an indulgence-selling monk that parishioners of Luther had come into contact with. Then, the document (originally published in Latin) was translated to German and spread throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Luther verbalized many common complaints in his theses and became a sort of hero. The ability of the printing press enabled Luther’s theses to widely circulate as he was thrust into public eye and began the path of Reformation (Linder 23-24). A large part of Luther’s success came from the Reformation propaganda that spread through the printing press. Mostly woodcuts,
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