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For as soon as the money clinks in the chest, a soul flies up to heavenly rest!
~ Johann Tetzel's sales pitch.

Johann Tetzel was an antagonist in the 1953 film Martin Luther.

He was portrayed by Alexander Gauge.

After Pope Leo X came to power in Rome, Albert of Mainz requested to be granted the Bishopric of an additional German province. Leo requested a large amount of money for that privilege. With Leo's blessing Tetzel was sent to Saxony and other German states to collect money by offering indulgences for sale.

Tetzel would come in to town and tell the common people that if they bought an indulgence both they and their deceased relatives could be released from purgatory into heaven.

One night after Tetzel had visited the area, the Wittenburg parish priest Martin Luther encountered one of his parishioners lying on the ground outside a tavern, quite drunk. When Luther informed the drunk man that he was expected at the confessional the drunk informed Luther that due to his purchasing an indulgence from Tetzel he no longer needed to go to confession.

Disgusted over Tetzel's actions Luther composed 95 theses, which he nailed up to the doors of the Castle Church. Some enterprising individuals copied them down, translated them from Latin into German, and printed them out for common people to read.

Luther's theses spread throughout Germany. Tetzel was quite upset as his sales were starting to drop off. Complaining to Albert of Mainz, he asked his superior to give him three weeks in which to turn the people against Luther. Tetzel stated a strong desire to personally burn both Luther's writings and Luther himself. Albert refused, sending a report to Leo in Rome.

Leo responded by sending Cardinal Aleander to Albert as his personal representative. At a meeting Tetzel was still full of suggestions about how to deal with Luther - still mainly by burning the man alive. Having had enough of Tetzel, Albert sent him away with orders to go back to his monastery and do penance for his part in causing the entire situation to occur.