Wittenberg printing of the Sermon

Martin Luther's Sermon on Indulgences and Grace (German: Eynn Sermon von dem Ablasz und Gnade) is a pamphlet written in Wittenberg in the latter part of March, 1518 and published in April of that year.[1]

The sermon itself was written as Luther directly addressing his audience. It stresses good works and sincere repentance over indulgences, with Luther criticizing indulgences as non-scriptural and the Catholic clergy as being greedy and wasting money on St. Peter's Basilica when it could be better spent on the poor in their own neighbourhoods.[2][3][4]


The pamphlet was an instant hit and was reprinted 14 times in 1518 alone, in print runs of at least 1,000 copies. It is regarded by many as the true starting point of the Reformation. Luther wrote the sermon in German, unlike his 95 Theses (written in Latin), and avoided regional vocabulary to ensure that his words were intelligible across all Germanic lands. This helped the work quickly reach a wide audience.[5]

The sermon swept through the major centres of the Holy Roman Empire, and the broader reading public first came to know something of Luther through it.[6] It has been described as "the world's first printed bestseller".[7][8]

Wolfgang Capito thought highly of Luther's sermon.[9]

The sermon was countered by Johann Tetzel in his Vorlegung (Presentation) condemning twenty errors of Luther.[10]


  1. ^ "The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print", by Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday.
  2. ^ ”The Word made flesh: a history of Christian thought”, by Margaret Ruth Miles, p.249.
  3. ^ ”Luther”, Volume 1, by John Osborne, p.372.
  4. ^ "Information revolutions in the history of the West", Leonard Dudley.
  5. ^ ”Social media in the 16th Century: How Luther went viral: Five centuries before Facebook and the Arab spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation”, The Economist, dated 17 Dec 2011.
  6. ^ ”Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther”, by Mark U. Edwards, Jr., p.164.
  7. ^ "Propaganda Prints: A History of Art in the Service of Social and Political Change", by Colin Moore.
  8. ^ "Teaching world history: a resource book", by Heidi Roupp.
  9. ^ "Wolfgang Capito: from humanist to reformer", by James M. Kittelson.
  10. ^ "The Oxford encyclopedia of the Reformation", by Hans J. Hillerbrand and Hans J. Hillerbrand.