On 31st October 1517, the Augustinian monk Martin Luther affixed a document in which he denounced the corruption of the Catholic Church on the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany, The event gave birth to the Protestant Reformation.
In the 1500s the Catholic Church was economically very powerful: the Pope not only managed the vast territories of the Church, but also collected taxes from all the European countries.
The Church also played a decisive political role: it benefited from the unconditional support of Charles V, who was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, which stretched from Spain to today's Hungary. The rest of Europe was divided into monarchies who were fighting for a role between the Church and the Empire. A strong dissatisfaction started to spread among the European catholics because of the Church’s lack of spirituality . The so called indulgences, whereby the pontiff granted the remission of sins in echange for money particulary shocked people.
Many preachers, including the German monk Martin Luther, denounced the corruption of the Church and promoted the concept of faith as a direct relationship with God, without the mediation of priests. Spiritual motivations were intertwined with political ones: the European monarchies, in fact, were interested in the religious rebellion that was spreading in Europe, sensing the opportunity to free themselves from the Church.
The protest erupted as a result of a new indulgence granted by Pope Leo X in 1517.
Luther, became the popular leader of the protest thanks to his impetuous and passionate temperament. He found the support of the German princes where a strong religious debate began. The debate lead to the birth of Protestantism, a religious movement independent of the Church of Rome and founded on many precepts promoted by Luther.
The Roman Church excommunicated Luther in 1521. Lutheranism spread throughout Europe however, and found the support of many monarchs. In later centuries it established itself as one of the most widespread religions in the world.