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The world was changing. New scientific discoveries had opened pathways for understanding more about our complex universe. The ocean, once feared for its danger and depth, was tamed for travel and trade. Peasants and workers, laboring under harsh and relentless conditions, sought revolution. The bubonic plague had claimed the lives of about 75 million people from 1347 to 1351. It continued to reappear and panic European cities. Political alliances, long forged between pope and prince, fractured as power centers shifted. Gutenberg’s press (1455), the first to use movable type, transported ideas from one person to the next with swiftness and ease. As the medieval era collapsed into the modern, changes seemed everywhere and limitless.

Yet even during these changing times one thing remained constant: our God, who grants forgiveness and grace to His people through Jesus Christ. Despite advances and transformations in science and society, politics and publication, God was working. He gave hope and life by His Spirit through Word and Sacraments. He bestowed comfort and joy in trying and often perilous situations. In changing times, His promises through His Son did not change, nor will they ever. They will never be altered, nor revoked. His Word pronounces us righteous through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. He alone is our Life and our Peace.

Significant people and events in the “Old World” as well as the “New” have been included for the years 1436 to 1600. Additional references include scientific discoveries, substantive works of art, and the arrivals of European explorers to the Americas. Items in bold indicate writings and events specifically relating to the Lutheran Confessions.

This timeline confirms what we know by experience: change will take place. But in changing times God’s Word reminds us that He is always faithful to His people. With hearty confidence and trust we can say with King David, “My times are in Your hands” (Psalm 31:15).


John Gutenberg invents movable-type printing press

First European slave market, Lagos, Portugal

Portuguese establish first trading post in Africa

Lorenzo de’ Medici born, January 1


Portuguese bring African slaves to Cape Verde Islands
Inca Empire flourishes in Peru

The Vatican Library founded
Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa orders Jews in the Netherlands to wear identification badges

Leonardo da Vinci born, April 15

Constantinople falls to the Turks

Gutenberg Bible printed

Pope sees comet; calls for prayer against “The Devil, the Turk, and the Comet”

King James II of Scotland bans football (soccer) and golf for distracting young men from combat training

Jacob Fugger, Imperial banker, born, March 6

Frederick the Wise born, January 17

Johann Staupitz born

Erasmus born

John the Steadfast born, June 30

Lucas Cranach the Elder born in Kronach, Oberfranken

Copernicus born, February 19


Michelangelo born, March 6

Spanish Inquisition against Jews, Muslims, and heretics begins

Raphael, artist, born, April 16
Martin Luther born in Eisleben, November 10; baptized November 11
Nicholas Amsdorf born, December 3

Ulrich Zwingli born, January 1
Papal bull condemns witchcraft; inquisitors sent to Germany

John Bugenhagen born at Wellin, Pomerania, June 24
Gregory Brück born at Belzig
Botticelli paints The Birth of Venus

John Eck born, November 13

Diaz sails around the Cape of Good Hope

Columbus reaches the Americas
First lead pencils used
Corn discovered by Columbus
First known reference to tobacco
Ferdinand and Isabella expel 100,000 Jews from Spain

Justas Jonas born in Nordhausen, June 5
Pope divides discoveries in the New World between Spain and Portugal

Charles VIII of France invades Italy
Sulayman the Magnificent born, November 6
Earliest report of Scots making whiskey

Da Vinci begins painting Last Supper; completed 1497
William Tyndale born in Slymbridge, England

Michelangelo begins sculpting Pieta
Santo Domingo founded in New World
Pope Alexander VI gives his son as hostage to Charles VIII of France

Philip Melanchthon born, February 16
Copernicus makes first recorded European astronomical observations, March 9
Dürer publishes Apocalypse woodcuts
Hans Holbein the Younger, artist, born in Augsburg
Savonarola hanged in Florence, May 23
John Cabot discovers Newfoundland

Vasco de Gama reaches India
Toothbrush invented

Katharina von Bora born in Lippendorf, January 29
John Brentz born in Weil, Württemberg, June 24
Louis XII of France seizes Milan


Charles V born in Ghent, February 24
Pope Alexander VI proclaims Jubilee Year; calls for crusade against Turks
Aldus Manutius, Italian printer who founded the Venice Academy for the study of Greek classics and invented Italic type, born
World population estimated at 400 million, 100 million in Europe and Russia

Luther enters University of Erfurt (receives Master of Arts in philosophy, 1505)

Michelangelo begins sculpting David
Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, founds University of Wittenberg
First portable timepiece created in Nürnberg

John Frederick the Magnanimous born at Torgau, June 30
Da Vinci begins painting the Mona Lisa

Philip of Hesse born in Marburg, November 13

Luther in thunderstorm, July 2; enters monastery, July 17

Pope Julius II lays cornerstone of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Luther takes final vows as Augustinian Monk, autumn

Luther ordained priest at Erfurt Cathedral, April 3
Luther celebrates first Mass, May 2; begins study of theology

Michelangelo begins painting Sistine Chapel; completed 1512
Luther appointed substitute lecturer in moral philosophy at University of Wittenberg

John Calvin born in Noyon, France, July 10
Luther obtains Bachelor of Theology degree, March 9; returns to Erfurt
Henry VIII becomes king of England
Pope Julius II excommunicates the city of Venice


First African slaves brought to the New World (Haiti)
Luther sent to Rome on mission for Augustinian order
Wheelock firearm introduced in Nürnberg, Germany

Luther sent to Wittenberg University to serve as professor, takes over chair of Staupitz at Wittenberg

Luther awarded Doctor of Theology degree, October 18–19
Fifth Lateran Council begins; ends in 1517

Ponce de Leon reaches Florida
Portuguese explorers reach China
Balboa reaches Pacific Ocean
Pope Leo X begins pontificate, March 11
Luther’s “tower experience,” spring
Luther begins lectures on Psalms

Albert of Brandenburg, cardinal, Archbishop of Mainz, and elector, begins his reign

Luther begins lectures on Romans
Index of Prohibited Books adopted at Fifth Lateran Council
Coffee from Arabia appears in Europe

Erasmus publishes Novum Instrumentum, first Greek New Testament
Luther begins first lecture series on Galatians
Reinheitsgebot law enacted in Bavaria to assure pure beer
Music printed on engraved plates used for first time in Italy

Pope Leo X declares indulgence for rebuilding of St. Peter’s
Luther nails Ninety-Five Theses to Castle Church door in Wittenberg, October 31
Hernandez de Cordoba reaches Yucatán
Hernando Cortes reaches Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (Mexico City)

Philip Melanchthon comes to Wittenberg University
Heidelberg Disputation, April
Process against Luther begins in Rome
Luther appears before Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg, October–November
Luther appeals to General Council, refuses to recant
Frederick the Wise refuses to surrender Luther, December
Forks first used at a banquet in Vienna

Leonardo da Vinci dies, May 2
Ulrich Zwingli begins preaching on New Testament
Charles V elected Holy Roman Emperor, June 28
Leipzig Debate between Luther and Eck, July


Matthias Flacius born, March 3
Raphael, artist, dies, April 6
Leo X issues papal bull Exsurge Domine, giving Luther sixty days to recant or be excommunicated, June 15
Lucas Cranach the Elder creates first portrait of Martin Luther, an engraving
Luther burns the papal bull and a copy of Canon Law, December 10
Montezuma II, last Aztec ruler, dies
Chocolate brought from Mexico to Spain

Luther excommunicated by papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, January 3
Hans Holbein the Younger paints The Dead Christ
Luther appears before Diet of Worms and refuses to recant, April 17–18
Charles V issues Edict of Worms, declaring Luther a public outlaw and criminal and making it illegal to have Luther’s books, May 25
Sulayman conquers Belgrade, August
Frederick the Wise hides Luther at the Wartburg Castle for eleven months
Luther translates New Testament into German, from December to March 1522
Philip Melanchthon publishes first Lutheran dogmatic text, Loci Theologici
Anabaptist Thomas Münzer begins preaching against infant Baptism
Hernando Cortes conquers Mexico

Luther returns from Wartburg, March 6
Luther preaches the Invocavit Sermons against excesses of the Zwickau prophets
Ban on Luther lifted
Magellan’s ship, the Victoria, completes circumnavigation of globe, September 6
Luther’s translation of the New Testament published, September 21
Martin Chemnitz born at Treuenbrietzen, November 9
Luther writes Personal Prayer Book, predecessor of Small Catechism
Charles V establishes Inquisition in Spanish Netherlands; over 2,000 killed
Ulrich Zwingli begins Reformation in Zurich
Bible printed in Spain in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Arabic

Escaped nuns from Nimbschen, including Katharina von Bora, arrive in Wittenberg, April 7
Heinrich Voes and John Esch, first Lutheran martyrs, burned at stake in Antwerp, July 1
Luther’s translation of the Pentateuch published, summer
Luther writes his first hymn
Luther writes The Baptismal Booklet

Peasants’ War begins, led in part by Thomas Münzer
Luther’s translation of Psalter published
Luther resumes lecturing in Wittenberg
Luther stops wearing monk’s clothing, October
Achtliederbuch (A Book of Eight Hymns), first Lutheran hymnal, published by John Walter and Luther
John Staupitz dies, December 28


George Blaurock is rebaptized by Conrad Grebel; marks formal beginning of Anabaptist movement
Frederick the Wise dies, May 5
John the Steadfast, brother of Frederick, becomes Elector of Saxony
Luther marries Katharina von Bora, June 13
Luther’s German Mass first used, December 25
Luther’s Personal Prayer Book revised and reissued
William Tyndale visits Luther in Wittenberg; influenced by Luther’s translation, Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament is printed in Worms; over 18,000 copies eventually smuggled into England
First Lutheran ordination takes place in Wittenberg
Luther works on new church order for Saxony

Albrecht Dürer paints The Four Apostles
Diet of Speyer grants German princes right to establish religion in their territory
Church visitation begins to assess needs of congregations
Hans Luther born, June 7
Sulayman captures all of Hungary, Battle of Mohács, August 29

Plague strikes Wittenberg; the Luthers turn their home into a hospital
Luther writes “A Mighty Fortress”
Mutinous troops of Charles V sack Rome, May
Elizabeth Luther born, December 10

Patrick Hamilton, Lutheran martyr, executed, February 29
Jacob Andreae born in Waiblingen, March 25
Albrecht Dürer dies, April 6
Elizabeth Luther dies, August 3
Melanchthon prepares Visitation Articles for inspection of Lutheran pastors and congregations in Saxony; Luther participates in one visitation in October
Luther writes his Confession concerning Christ’s Supper

Second Diet of Speyer, April, results in the issue of the Protestio, hence giving rise to the label “Protestant,” which the Romanists applied to all who agreed with Luther
Luther publishes Large Catechism, April, and Small Catechism, May
Magdalena Luther born, May 4
Luther, Melanchthon, and Zwingli meet for Marburg Colloquy; unable to agree on Lord’s Supper, October 2–4
Turks unsuccessfully lay siege to Vienna
Schwabach Articles written by Luther and others, presented October 16
Marburg Articles written by Luther
Sulayman and his Turkish armies lay siege to Vienna


Torgau Articles prepared by Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and Jonas
John Eck writes the Four Hundred and Four Articles
Luther stays at Coburg Castle, April–October
Augsburg Confession presented to Charles V at Diet of Augsburg, June 25
Roman Confutation presented, August 3

David Chytraeus born in Ingelfingen, February 26
Formation of Smalcaldic League, February 27
Augsburg Confession and Apology published, April–May
Second edition of Apology (the Octavo edition) published, September
Ulrich Zwingli dies on Swiss battlefield at Kappel am Albis, October 11
Martin Luther (son of Martin and Katharina) born, November 9
Comet appears, eventually known as “Halley’s Comet”

John the Steadfast dies, August 15; his son, John Frederick the Magnanimous becomes Elector with John Ernest
Religious Peace of Nürnberg signed
Sulayman repulsed at Vienna; goes no further
Luther publishes An Admonition to Prayer against the Turks

Paul Luther born, January 28
Ivan IV (“the Terrible”) becomes Russian czar at age 3
English King Henry VIII excommunicated, July 11

Hans Lufft publishes first edition of Luther’s complete German Bible; by 1574, Lufft had printed over 100,000 copies of the Luther Bible
Ignatius of Loyola founds Society of Jesus (Jesuits), August 15
First complete edition of Luther’s Bible commentaries published
Henry VIII declares himself to be head of the Church of England
Margarethe Luther born, December 17


Luther begins his last major lecture series, on Genesis

Luther, Melanchthon, and Englishmen Edward Fox and Robert Barnes agree to complete Wittenberg Concord; rejected by Zwinglians
John Calvin publishes first edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion
Martyrdom of William Tyndale in Belgium, October 6
Norway becomes Lutheran
Menno Simons assumes leadership of Anabaptists
Henry VIII allows English Bible in England
John Frederick commissions Luther to prepare articles for the meeting of the Smalcaldic League, December 1

Melanchthon writes Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope for the Smalcaldic League

Luther’s Smalcald Articles published

First volume of Luther’s collected works appears, completed 1558
Saxony and electoral Brandenburg formally become Lutheran
Catholic Counter-Reformation begins in earnest


Melanchthon’s Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope published
Melanchthon publishes his revised Augsburg Confession, the Variata
Martyrdom of Robert Barnes, Lutheran Confessor, in England, July 30
Wittenberg holds first celebration of anniversary of the Gutenberg press
Society of Jesus (Jesuits) confirmed by pope, September

De Soto reaches the Mississippi River, May 8
Council of Regensburg attempts unity between Rome and Lutherans on justification; the compromise of justification is rejected by John Frederick and others
Nicholas von Amsdorf consecrated as Bishop of Naumburg-Zeitz by Luther
Calvin initiates the Reformation in Geneva, which he establishes as a “City of God”

John Frederick the Magnanimous becomes sole ruler of Saxony
Magdalena Luther dies, September 20
Portuguese traders first Westerners to reach Japan

John Eck dies, February 13
Copernicus’s On the Revolution of Heavenly Bodies, describing a sun-centered universe, published
Copernicus dies, May 24
Territory of Braunschweig becomes Calvinist
Spanish Catholics begin to burn Protestants at the stake

Another diet at Speyer appears to grant major concessions to the Lutherans
First church built to be Lutheran, Torgau Castle Chapel, dedicated by Luther, October 5
Sweden declares Lutheranism to be state religion


Council of Trent’s first sessions, 1545–47
Fifth edition of Luther’s Bible, the last under his supervision, is published
First complete edition of Luther’s writings in Latin is published

Luther preaches his last sermon, February 14
Luther dies at Eisleben, February 18
Luther is buried at Castle Church in Wittenberg, February 22
Electoral Palatinate becomes Lutheran

Smalcaldic League defeated by Charles V at Battle of Mühlberg, April 24
John Frederick the Magnanimous taken captive in battle and exiled to Weimar
Wittenberg surrendered to save itself and the lives of John Frederick’s wife and sons
Luther’s Small Catechism is first book printed in Lithuania

Augsburg Interim published, May 15
John Frederick the Magnanimous founds Jena College
Adiaphoristic controversy begins
Leipzig Interim presented by Maurice, December

Francis Xavier introduces Christianity in Japan
Matthias Flacius moves to Magdeburg, November 9


Calvin writes the Consensus Tigurinus to merge Zwingli and Calvinist views of the Lord’s Supper
Charles V commands the death penalty for all heresy in the Holy Roman Empire

Council of Trent holds more sessions, 1551–52

Maurice turns against Charles V, April 5, who then is forced to grant limited legal rights to Lutherans in signing the peace treaty of Passau, August 2
John Frederick the Magnanimous released from captivity (September 1), moves electoral capital to Weimar
Katharina von Bora dies in Torgau, December 20
Joachim Westphal publishes treatise fully exposing Calvinist error on Lord’s Supper

Maurice is killed trying to enforce the peace treaty of Passau, July 9
Augustus I becomes Elector of all of Saxony
Lucas Cranach the Elder dies in Weimar, October 16
Mary Tudor begins her reign, attempts to return England to Catholicism

John Frederick the Magnanimous dies, March 3


Peace of Augsburg allows Lutherans equal rights in Holy Roman Empire
Justas Jonas dies in Eisfeld, October 5
Pope Paul IV begins pontificate, makes stamping out Protestantism high priority
Pfeffinger publishes treatise on human cooperation in salvation, occasions Synergist controversy

Charles V abdicates throne, retires to monastery in Spain

Gregory Brück dies at Jena, February 15
Colloquy of Worms (to unite Lutherans and Catholics) fails

Elizabeth I becomes queen of England, restores Reformation via Calvinism
College of Jena becomes the University of Jena; becomes stronghold of authentic Lutheranism, supplanting Wittenberg
John Bugenhagen dies in Wittenberg, April 20
Charles V dies in Spain, September 21

Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna enters Pensacola Bay, Florida, August 14
John Knox brings Calvinism to Scotland


Philip Melanchthon dies, April 19

Naumburg Conference attempts to unite Lutherans; effort fails when it rejects second edition of Augsburg Confession and Apology
Chemnitz publishes The Lord’s Supper and Judgment on Certain Controversies

Council of Trent ends, settling Roman doctrine and establishing Roman Catholic Church
Council of Trent orders clothes to be painted on nude figures on Michelangelo’s Last Judgment panel in Sistine chapel
Heidelberg Catechism approved, widely adopted by Reformed churches

Galileo born, February 15
Michelangelo dies, February 18
Martin Luther (son of Martin and Katharina) dies, March 2
William Shakespeare born, April 23
John Calvin dies in Geneva, May 27
Bullinger’s Second Helvetic Confession is adopted by many Reformed churches
Andreas Vesalius’s death sentence for dissecting human bodies commuted in exchange for his pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Nicholas Amsdorf dies in Eisenach, May 14
Martin Chemnitz begins writing Examination of the Council of Trent (completed 1573)

Philip of Hesse dies in Kassel, March 31

Martin Chemnitz and Jacob Andreae begin work on uniting Lutheran territories and cities


Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth
John Brenz dies in Stuttgart, September 11
Margarethe Luther Kuhnheim dies

The Thirty-Nine Articles establishes a more Calvinist form of Reformation in England

St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Protestant Huguenots in France, August 24–September 17

Jacob Andreae publishes Six Christian Sermons
Roman Confutation of the Augsburg Confession finally published

Crypto-Calvinists fully exposed in Wittenberg
Lutheranism restored by Augustus I
Swabian Concord published

Matthias Flacius dies, March 11
Hans Luther dies, October 27

Torgau Conference called by Elector Augustus I to begin Lutheran unity efforts
Formula of Concord’s “Epitome” (the “Torgau Book”) completed by Jacob Andreae

Formula of Concord’s “Solid Declaration” completed at Bergen Abbey, Magdeburg
Francis Drake begins circumnavigating globe

Chemnitz publishes Two Natures in Christ


Book of Concord published on the fiftieth anniversary of presentation of Augsburg Confession, June 25

Gregorian calendar implemented by Pope Gregory XIII
Conference at Quedlinburg, in which the authoritative Latin edition of the Book of Concord is approved, begins, December–January 1583

Latin Book of Concord published in Leipzig

Martin Chemnitz dies in Braunschweig, April 8
Colony of Roanoke established in Virginia

English defeat Spanish Armada


Jacob Andreae dies in Tübingen, January 7

Saxon Visitation Articles published; Calvinism rooted out in Saxony
Galileo invents the thermometer

Diet of Uppsala in Sweden upholds Lutheran doctrine
Paul Luther dies, March 8

Zacharias Janssen develops compound microscope
René Descartes, a key leader of the Enlightenment, born, March 31

Formula of Concord subscribed in Strasbourg
French King Henry IV grants religious freedom to Protestants via Edict of Nantes, April 13


Giordano Bruno burned at the stake for support of Copernican astronomy, February 17
David Chytraeus dies in Rostock, June 25
First performance of Hamlet at Globe Theater

Thirty Years’ War begins

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), xxxviii–xlvi.

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