Illustrations of the life of Martin Luther - LUTHER BURNING THE POPE'S BULL

(Scene: In front of the East Gate of Wittemberg.) 10th DECEMBER, 1520.
Autor: Labouchere, P. H. (?-?), Erscheinungsjahr: 1862
Enthaltene Themen: Reformation, Reformationszeit, Reformatoren, Martin Luther, Melanchthon, Wittenberg, Wartburg, Eisenach,
A GREAT agitation stirred all Wittemberg. People stopped each other in the streets, and talked of some important news. "The Pope", they said, "having called the Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints to his aid, has just condemned Luther's writings to be burnt."

They asked what the Pope had found to blame in the books of the great Doctor who charmed all those who heard him. "I can tell you", answered one better informed than the rest. "I have read the Bull. You will hardly believe it. The Pope condemns this passage: “The best and sublimest penance is a new life” And this: “To burn heretics is against the will of the Holy Ghost.” - A shout of reprobation was raised against Rome. "And if Luther does not retract", continued the speaker, "the Pope curses and excommunicates him and his followers, and orders him to be sent to Rome." "To Rome? I would not advise Luther to go", said a bystander; "they might burn him as well as his books!"

The indignation being general, all in Wittemberg set themselves in motion against the Bull: even the magistracy took part in it. “Come," said John of Taubenheim to the Burgomaster “and let us take measures to prevent the execution of the Pope's orders." Placards were posted up against the excommunication. The students paraded the streets singing, at the top of their voices, songs against the Bull. A hundred and fifty young men, inflamed with anger, set out for Leipsic, in order to catch Dr. Eck, who had brought the famous document to Germany. "Take care", said Luther to them, as they were setting out; "I will not have him killed." The frightened nuncio took refuge in a convent.

Others made a jest of the matter, tossing the printed Bull into the river: "It's a Bull (bulla, bubble); let it swim." Then, as they watched it floating down the stream, they said, with a laugh: "It's a bubble now, sure enough."

At first Luther took it very good-humouredly. "It is an easy thing," said he, " to burn books: children can do that. Let them alone! I do not object." He appeared to slumber ; but the lion roused himself at last.

One day the Reformer was alone in his cell, with the Bull before him. "Retract, or be excommunicated: that's the alternative Rome offers me", said he. "What shall I do? write against the Bull ? That is not enough! Appeal to a general council? That is not enough!" And then he meditated in silence. Suddenly, as if a flash of lightning had passed through his mind, he exclaimed: "The Pope condemns my teaching well, I will condemn the Pope. His Bull threatens me with the stake well, I'll roast his Bull."

On the morning of the 10th of December a crowd of students had gathered round the black tablet, which, in accordance with a very old custom, was fastened to the university wall, and there they read these words: "This day, at nine o'clock in the morning, the Antichristian Decretals will be burnt in front of the East Gate, near Holy Cross. Fail not to attend." This announcement spread like lightning. Professors, tradesmen, students, flocked thither; the crowd growing greater every minute. "Rome has lighted many a bonfire in the course of ages", they said. "Luther, it seems, is going to have his turn.
Come along! it will be a fine sight."

But Luther was not so cheerful. He had reflected, and had felt terrors unknown before. "What!" thought he, "shall I, a poor man, attack this sovereign pontiff", at whose feet the Church has lain prostrate nearly ten centuries !". . . . He took up the Bull to read it again, but his hand trembled, and his sight was clouded. "I cannot burn it", he exclaimed; "it is too much for me!" Then he prayed, and soon found in prayer a courage that could not be shaken. "I go!"

He reached the square just at nine o'clock. "Let us break the yoke of Rome", said he to his friends, " and submit to Jesus Christ alone. I reject the Pope as a heretic condemned by the Word of God, as an enemy of the Holy Scriptures, as a contemner, calumniator, and blasphemer of the Church, as an Antichrist! I am going to burn the Bull. Follow me!"

Then all began to march towards the appointed spot. They crossed the bridge over the town fosse, and went out of the city. Never had the right of God and of His Word been so present to the Reformer's soul, as at the moment when he was about to deny the right of the Pope. He walked with a firm step, his head uplifted, and his look determined: like an evangelical crusader marching to the deliverance of the Redeemer's sepulchre. After passing the city gate, Luther turned to the left, towards an oak-tree, round which an immense concourse of people had gathered. Some students were preparing the pile; a master of arts, a great adversary of the Roman ordinances, boldly set fire to it: soon the wood crackled and the flames rose into the air. The Canon Laws, the Decretals, the Extra vagants, the Summa Evangelica, a few writings by Eck and by Emser, were thrown into the fire and consumed. The more zealous piled up the glowing embers; the more prudent looked on from a distance; the pious were filled with admiration; children asked the meaning of this singular sight, and the monks withdrew in anger. Then Luther stepped forward with a bold heart, holding in his hand the terrible Bull of Leo X., condemning him and his writings, and all eyes were turned on him. Slowly he lifted it up, held it a short time above the flames, then letting it fall into the roaring fire, he said, with a loud voice: "Since thou hast vexed the Holy One of the Lord, may everlasting fire vex and consume thee!" In a moment the Bull was burnt to ashes, so that not a fragment remained. All were deeply moved: a shudder ran through the spectators. "Our help", said Luther, "is in the name of God who made heaven and earth!"

Then the Reformer calmly took his way back to the city, and the crowd of doctors and students returned to Wittemberg. The university hall was soon filled with a numerous audience, for everybody expected an address from the Doctor. Fixing his eyes upon the assembly, he said: "I have burned the Decretals: but that is only child's play. It is time, and more than time, that we burnt the Pope, that is to say", he went on, "the see of Rome, with all its teachings and abominations." And then he added, in a more solemn tone: "Unless you fight with all your heart against the iniquitpus government of the Pope, you cannot be saved."

Words such as these were received with immense enthusiasm. "There is not one of us", shouted the students, "unless he be as dull as the papists, who does not believe what Luther says to be the real truth. Luther is an angel of the living God."

The Pope's Bull was burnt amid the applause of all Germany; and thus the 10th of December became one of the great days of the Reformation,

Luther, Verbrennung der päpstlichen Bulle

Luther, Verbrennung der päpstlichen Bulle