Recent Magazine Articles

19 May 2016

A motley, fiery crew

by David C. Steinmetz and Edwin Woodruff Tait | Issue 118

Martin BucerMARTIN BUCER (1491–1551)

Next to Luther and Melancthon, Bucer was the most important leader of Protestantism in Germany, and in his own time one of the most influential religious figures on the continent. He was instrumental in bringing Luther and Zwingli together for their fateful confrontation at Marburg, a leader in colloquies between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and generally spoke for moderate Protestants in Europe, who sought ecumenical solutions in a time of confessional conflict.

Though his father was only a poor cobbler, Bucer...

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19 May 2016

The accidental revolution

by Melinda S. Zook | Issue 118

Elizabeth of EnglandBY 1530 in England, King Henry VIII (1491–1547) began to put aside the people and beliefs he had formerly trusted. His queen, Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536), was his first target, now in her forties and unable to produce the son he so desperately wanted to secure his dynasty; Henry banished her from court. 

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473–1530), his chancellor, a powerful prince of the church on whose shoulders the king had once placed all political and diplomatic affairs, was dismissed from public office and charged with treason. Wolsey...

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19 May 2016

People who steal the soul

by David C. Fink | Issue 118

Table of martyrsWhen Martin Luther accepted safe conduct from Emperor Charles V to defend his writings before the Imperial Diet at Worms, he knew full well that events might take a lethal turn. After Luther’s excommunication the previous year, the deck was stacked against him; the papal ambassador heading up the opposition to Luther at the diet was already fulminating against the “heretic who brought up Jan Hus from hell.” 

This was an ominous comparison. Hus had also been granted a safe conduct to the Council of Konstanz a century earlier by Sigismund of...

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19 May 2016

They wanted God to save his own

by Edwin Woodruff Tait | Issue 118

georg iii truchsessThe explosive ideas of Martin Luther landed in a world already tense with conflict and rife with agendas of social and religious reform. Centuries-long tension between wealthy landowners and the peasants who made up the bulk of the population exploded in a series of massive revolts in 1524 and 1525 all over southern and central Germany and parts of Switzerland. The conflict would leave serious scars on Luther’s reputation as hundreds of thousands of people organized into local “bands” or armies in opposition to the landowners. 


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19 May 2016

When the state advanced the church

by Jim West and Edwin Woodruff Tait | Issue 118

zwingli preaching On Thursday, March 9, 1522 , the pastor of Zurich’s Grossmünster Church, Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), and some of his friends distributed two smoked sausages at the house of printer Christoph Froschauer. This was scandalous: this Thursday happened to be in Lent and was marked for fasting. Criticized, Zwingli argued that fasting should never be mandatory and even preached a sermon about sausages called “Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” 

The story became legendary, and the conflict it provoked was sharp. In the tale of Zwingli and...

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15 Feb 2016

To act in the spirit “not of judgment, but of mercy”

by Alice Almond Shrock | Issue 117

fry“Hell above ground” makes an apt description of Newgate, London’s most notorious prison in the early 1800s. The men’s cells were despicable and the women’s even worse. According to one observer, the “horror, filth and cruelty would have disgraced even a slave ship.” First to assault the senses was the stench: daily human waste, menstrual blood, birthing blood, alcohol, vomit all saturated the floor straw and produced an overwhelming odor. Then came the racket: the screaming and fighting of the felons crammed into windowless wards built for...

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