Exactly five hundred years ago, on 31 October 1517, an undistinguished professor of theology in a small German town posted a list of ideas that he hoped might contribute to ongoing debates about the reformation of the church. Or so the story goes.

Martin Luther’s voice was one among many making suggestions about how the life and work of the church could be improved. In late medieval Europe, the church was not failing. In fact, the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were ages of increasing devotion, and increasing investment in the fabric of religious life. But the church was certainly facing serious challenges.

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