Everyone realizes that October 31 is Halloween. But you may not be aware of another important celebration on that day. October 31 is the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. On October 31, 1517 a German priest named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther was protesting, among other things, the sale of indulgences. According to Roman Catholic theology, salvation could not be attained through faith alone, but through works of charitable deeds, such as purchasing indulgences. Luther's reaction became known as the spark which ignited the Reformation.
Not only did the Reformation have major theological and religious implications, but practical and cultural implications as well. Up until this time, very few people in Europe knew how to read and write. Those skills were mostly reserved for those involved with the Catholic church. The church intentionally kept its parishioners in the dark so they could have more control over them. All works of literature were published in Latin, including the Bible. Luther translated the Bible from Latin into German, making it easily accessible to commoners. The Reformation brought the people of Europe out of the Middle Ages. More people had a desire to read the Bible, and this led to a major jump in the literacy rate.
The Catholic church, of course, was not pleased with Luther. Luther was accused of heresy. He was asked by Pope Leo X to recant or else risk excommunication and possibly even death. When Luther would not recant, it was suggested that he be burned at the stake. Luther's Theses were banned from publication and he was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms, a general assembly of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1521. During this assembly, Luther was noted as saying, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason...I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything". Luther was declared an outlaw, his works were banned, and he was arrested.