May 15, 1515

An Indian rhinoceros arrives in Lisbon, the first to be seen in Europe since Roman times.[1] Later the same year, in Nürnberg, Bavaria, Albrecht Dürer would execute a woodcut based on a written description and brief sketch by an unknown artist. Dürer never saw the actual rhinoceros and his woodcut is not entirely accurate. Nevertheless, it…

May 4, 1515

At the tenth session of the Fifth Lateran Council [1], Pope Leo X publishes four decrees, the third of which prohibits printing of books not approved by the Roman curia or the local bishop. Violators are subject to excommunication, fine, suspension of right to print for one year, and, for repeated infractions, “all the sanctions of…

May 1, 1515

Luther preaches a sermon in Latin before an assembly of fellow Augustinians (the meeting of the chapter that has just elected him District Vicar). His text is Psalm 112:5: He will order his words with judgment. The sermon may have been directed particularly toward the Erfurt Augustinians who, apparently still upset that Luther had taken his…

April 30, 1515

The chapter of the reform congregation of Augustinian Hermits, meeting in Gotha, elects Martin Luther vicar for the district of Meissen and Thuringia. This appointment gives him charge over eleven Augustinian monasteries in Saxony and Thuringia and means that, in Wittenberg, he out-ranks the prior of his own monastery. He will hold this position until April…

Soon after Easter 1515

Prof. Martin Luther begins a year of lectures on the Epistle to the Romans — Monday and Friday mornings at six o’clock for three semesters, spring 1515 through fall 1516. In keeping with academic practice of the day, Luther would read the Latin text of the Scriptures interspersed with short explanatory paraphrases of individual words and expressions…

Spring 1515

University printer John Grunenberg [1] prints the Latin text of the Epistle to the Romans with large interlinear spacing and wide margins for lectures Martin Luther would begin after Easter. As he had with Psalms, Luther made notes on his copy and provided copies to the students for their note taking. Unlike the just-completed lectures on the…

Summer semester 1515

Luther concludes his first series of lectures on the Psalms (begun in August 1513). Quotation: Psalm 78:23-25. Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. How…

March 15, 1515

Lacking funds to continue construction, Pope Leo X declares that anyone who contributes to the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica would be granted a plenary indulgence. Although (in theory) an indulgence was only a remission of penalties meted out in this world by the church, (in practice) it was advertised as if it covered the…

Winter semester 1514/15

Luther continues his first series of lectures on the Psalms. Quotation: Psalm 50:14. The sacrifice of praise must be given to God alone. … Therefore, no flesh can boast before God, but He alone is glorious, and we are only confused, if I may express it this way. God is only properly worshiped when we…

August 5, 1514

Letter to George Spalatin.[1] This is the oldest preserved letter in Luther’s own handwriting. In September, 1513, John Reuchlin, the most outstanding Humanist and Hebrew scholar of the early sixteenth century, was put on trial by the Inquisition for his interest in Jewish literature. This was the result of a prolonged and bitter literary battle.…