The Christian History Timeline

by Ken Schurb and the editors

The century that changed the world

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue 115 in 2015 ]

COLOR CODE  red Martin Luther |  green Other Reformers |  orange Church and State |  blue World Events

—1453Turks capture Constantinople.

—1455Gutenberg completes printing the Bible using movable type.

—1469Desiderius Erasmus born.

—1470Portuguese explorers discover Gold Coast of Africa.

—1473Nicolaus Copernicus born.

—1478Spanish Inquisition begins.

—1483Luther born at Eisleben.

—1484Luthers move to Mansfeld.

—1484Ulrich Zwingli born.

—1491Henry VIII born.

—1492Columbus makes first voyage to the Americas.

—1495Leonardo da Vinci begins painting The Last Supper.

—1496Menno Simons born.

—1497Philipp Melancthon born.

—1498Girolamo Savonarola burned at the stake in Florence.

—1502Frederick, elector of Saxony, founds Wittenberg University.

—1505Luther vows to become a monk; enters Order of Augustinian Hermits.

—1506Pope Julius II orders work on St. Peter’s in Rome; Leonardo da Vinci paints Mona Lisa.

—1507Luther ordained and celebrates first Mass.

—1508Michelangelo begins painting Sistine Chapel ceiling.

—1509John Calvin born; 18-year-old Henry VIII of England assumes throne, marries Catherine of Aragon.

—1510First shipload of African slaves arrives in Hispaniola (Haiti).

—1512Luther earns doctorate; leaves monastery to teach at Wittenberg.

—1513Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean; Leo X becomes pope.

—1515Luther lectures on Romans; appointed district vicar over 10 monasteries.

—1516Erasmus issues Greek New Testament; Thomas More writes Utopia.

—1517Albert of Mainz hires Johann Tetzel to sell indulgences.

—1517On October 31 Luther distributes 95 Theses on indulgences.

—1518Luther appears before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, but refuses to recant; Frederick the Wise protects Luther from being handed over to Rome.

—1518Melancthon becomes professor of Greek at Wittenberg.

—1519Charles I of Spain elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; Hernán Cortes enters Aztec capital; Zwingli begins New Testament sermons; Swiss Reformation starts.

—1519In July Luther debates Johann Eck at Leipzig and denies supreme authority of popes and councils.

—1520Papal bull gives Luther 60 days to recant or be excommunicated; Suleiman I becomes sultan of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.

—1520: Luther writes To the Christian NobilityOn the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian; burns papal bull and canon law.

—1521Luther excommunicated; refuses to recant writings at Diet of Worms, edict condemns him as heretic and outlaw; “kidnapped” and hidden at Wartburg Castle; begins translating the New Testament.

—1521Private masses abolished in Wittenberg; Andreas Karlstadt gives the laity wine as well as bread in the Lord’s Supper; religious statues destroyed; Melancthon writes Loci Communes; Henry VIII titled “Defender of the Faith” for attack on Luther; Hadrian VI becomes pope.

—1522Luther comes out of hiding and returns to Wittenberg.

—1522Spaniards complete circumnavigation of globe; Ignatius Loyola writes Spiritual Exercises; Zwingli holds Reformation debates.

—1523Clement VII becomes pope; first two Reformation martyrs, Belgians Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes, burned at the stake.

—1524Luther debates Karlstadt on the Lord’s Supper; Luther’s former superior, Johannes Staupitz, dies.

—1524Erasmus writes On Freedom of the Will; Peasants’ Revolt begins; Diet of Nuremberg fails to enforce Edict of Worms condemning Luther.

—1525Anabaptist movement begins in Zurich, spreads to Germany.

—1525Luther writes Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes on the Peasants’ Revolt; marries Katharine von Bora; writes Bondage of the Will against Erasmus.

—1526Reformation spreads to Sweden and Denmark.

—1526Luther writes German Mass; son Hans born.

—1527Luther writes “A Mighty Fortress”; argues against Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper; daughter Elizabeth born (d. 1528).

—1527First Protestant university (Marburg) founded; imperial troops sack Rome; plague strikes Wittenberg.

—1529Luther and Zwingli reach no agreement on the Lord’s Supper at Marburg Colloquy; Luther publishes Large Catechism and Small Catechism; daughter Magdalena born (d. 1542).

—1529Name Protestant first used; Second Diet of Speyer decides to enforce Edict of Worms; Turks lay siege to Vienna.

—1530Luther’s father, Hans, dies; Diet of Augsburg attempts to end division in Roman Empire; as an outlaw Luther cannot attend, but Melancthon presents Augsburg Confession, a statement of Lutheran beliefs.

—1531Luther begins lecturing on Galatians; son Martin born; mother, Margaretha, dies.

—1531Schmalkaldic League, a political body of German Protestant groups, forms in defense against Charles V; Zwingli killed in battle.

—1532: Diet of Regensburg and Peace of Nuremberg guarantee religious toleration in face of Turkish threat.

—1532Luther is given Augustinian cloister in Wittenberg for his home.

—1533: Three-year-old Ivan the Terrible ascends Russian throne.

—1533Luther’s son Paul born.

—1534Henry VIII declares himself supreme head of the Church of England; Paul III becomes pope.

—1534Luther publishes German Bible; daughter Margaret born.

—1535Anabaptist uprising at Münster put down; Anabaptists executed; Thomas More beheaded for opposing Henry VIII; Charles V forms Catholic Defense League.

—1536Luther agrees to Wittenberg Concord on the Lord’s Supper, but Zwinglians do not accept it.

—1536First edition of Calvin’s Institutes published; William Tyndale burned at stake in Belgium; Denmark and Norway become Lutheran; Erasmus dies.

—1537: Luther draws up Schmalkaldic Articles as his “theological last will and testament.”

—1538Calvin expelled from Geneva.

—1539: Frankfurt Truce declared between Catholic and Protestant territories.

—1541Calvin returns to Geneva from exile; Society of Jesus (Jesuits) formed; Philip of Hesse, German prince, enters bigamous marriage with Luther’s consent; conferences at Hagenau and Worms fail to reconcile Protestants and Catholics.

—1541At Conference of Regensburg, Melancthon and Martin Bucer reach agreement with Catholics on most doctrines, but Luther and Rome reject their work; Karlstadt dies.

—1543Copernicus writes that the earth revolves around the sun.

—1545: Council of Trent convenes for reform of the Catholic Church.

—1546Martin Luther dies.

—1552Katharine Luther dies.

—1555Peace of Augsburg allows rulers to determine religion of their regions.

This timeline is adapted from one prepared by Ken Schurb for issues 34 and 39 of Christian History.

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