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Johann Tetzel (Luther)

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With this indulgence I can absolve any sin! I can even save the soul of the man who violates the Mother of God herself!
~ Tetzel trying to sell indulgences to a tough crowd.

Johann Tetzel, OP was a secondary antagonist in the 2003 film Luther.

A Dominican friar, by the 1500s Tetzel had become well known for his ability to sell indulgences. When Pope Leo X decided he needed funds to build the new St. Peter's Basilica, he turned to Tetzel in order to sell indulgences to raise those funds. Tetzel began plying his trade in what would later become Germany, primarily the state of Saxony.

Arriving in Wittenburg Tetzel put on a show for the people, trying to frighten them into believing that if they didn't buy indulgences both they and their deceased relatives would go to Hell. This was initially quite successful. When a young woman bought a piece of paper instead of using money to buy food for her disabled daughter, a young local parish priest named Martin Luther became concerned. Giving her some money Luther told her to buy food for her daughter and that the indulgence was just a piece of paper.

Disgusted by the actions of Tetzel and other indulgence salesmen Luther composed a letter to Albert of Mainz to warn him of the actions of Tetzel, which he seen as an affront to Christianity. He included a list of 95 Theses, a copy of which he nailed to the doors of the castle church. A couple of enterprising printers took the theses, copied them, and began printing them out. Meanwhile Albert forwarded the letter and theses to Rome, where they were not well received.

Luther's words spread like wildfire throughout the region. Tetzel was quite upset when he came across a copy of the theses and read what they contained, demanding to know who this Martin Luther was. When Tetzel visited Magdeburg he found most of the people ignoring his calls to turn over their money to him. A couple of merchants said the German money should go to the German church, at which Tetzel responded that the apostles weren't buried in German churches. He continued to boast about the power of the indulgences and his ability to forgive sins, even going so far as to say that if someone raped the Virgin Mary he would be able to save that man's soul.

After his performance in Magdeburg Tetzel and his men stopped to count their haul, and found it was 1/5 of the usual take. Tetzel angrily called Luther a heretic and said he would burn in Hell for his actions. Little did Tetzel know at the time that out of Luther's 95 Theses a movement would begin that lead to a separate Christian church.

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