22 pages • 44 minutes readMartin Luther
A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.
Indulgences were grants from the Catholic Church offering a Christian some absolution for their sins. This absolution would reduce the Christian’s time in purgatory, a place in the afterlife where a Christian’s soul would have to atone for their sins before ascending to heaven. The penitent still had to perform certain actions that are prescribed in the text of the indulgence, such as seeing a priest for confession, prayer, or charity.
As the head of the church, the pope had not only the power but a responsibility to offer opportunities for atonement. It was expected that Christians would pay money for these indulgences, although they were often offered to the poor free of charge. Indulgences could also be purchased on behalf of a deceased loved one whose soul was thought to be in purgatory.
Get access to this full Study Guide and much more!
Indulgences were intended to help either the living or the dead by shortening the time to pay penance. Luther argues that certain priests deliberately misrepresented what indulgences could do. Luther writes, “Thus, indulgence preachers falsely claim that one is freed from all punishment and is saved by the indulgences of the pope” (Line 21).
Source: MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation: A History. Penguin Books, 2003, pp.