The UA Hosts Year of Events Marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Below is an overview of some of the public events lined up to mark the Reformation anniversary. Please check www: and for updates and specifics:

January 25, 7 p.m. | “The Emotions of Martin Luther”
Regents’ Professor Susan Karant-Nunn, Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies
UA Fred Fox School of Music, Holsclaw Hall

January 26-April 6 | Humanities Seminars Program: “Looking Back: The Protestant Reformation at 500 Years”
Regents’ Professor Susan Karant-Nunn, Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies
UA Poetry Center

Feb. 27, 7 p.m. | “German Catholics and German Catholicism in the Land of Luther”
Annual Robert Burns Lecture presented by the Department of Religious Studies and Classics
Speaker: Marc R. Forster, Professor of History at Connecticut College
University of Arizona Museum of Art

March 29, 7 p.m. | “To the Ends of the Earth: Religious Transformations in the Age of the Reformation”
Annual Town and Gown Lecture Presented by the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
UA Fred Fox School of Music, Holsclaw Hall

April 11, 6 p.m. | Early Books Lecture Series: “Pamphlets and Propaganda: The Lutheran Reformation in Print” Regents’ Professor Susan Karant-Nunn and Heiko A. Oberman Professor Ute Lotz-Heumann, Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies
University Libraries Special Collections

Four Sundays in August, 10:15 a.m. | Summer Lecture Series: “The Aftermath of the Reformation: Women, Minorities, Refugees, and the Demand for Social Justice”
Presented by graduate students in the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies, with additional context provided by Susan Karant-Nunn or Ute Lotz-Heumann
St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church

October 4, 7 p.m. | “War and Religion in the Reformation Era”
Heiko A. Oberman Professor Ute Lotz-Heumann, Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies
UA Fred Fox School of Music, Holsclaw Hall

August - December | “After 500 years: Print and Propaganda in the Reformation,” Special exhibit at University Libraries Special Collections of selected titles from the Heiko A. Oberman collection as well as other holdings related to the Reformation

October 31, 6 p.m. | “Today is the Day! The 500th Anniversary of Luther’s “95 Theses against Indulgences”
Panel discussion
UA Libraries Special Collections

The University of Arizona will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by sharing its expertise in Late Medieval and Reformation history and its world-class library with the community throughout 2017.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a 34-year-old Augustinian friar, reportedly nailed his 95 theses against the practice of selling indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther’s act of defiance against the Catholic Church launched a religious movement referred to as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, as well as other reformers, such as John Calvin and Huldreich Zwingli, questioned some of the basic tenets of the Catholic Church. The Reformers believed, among other things, that the Bible should be the source of spiritual authority, rather than the Pope.

In 2017, the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation is being observed around the world. The University of Arizona will be offering events connected to the Reformation throughout the year. Spearheading this effort are the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies – housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences – and University Libraries Special Collections.

At the UA, the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies – directed by Regents’ Professor Susan Karant-Nunn, one of the world's most distinguished scholars of Reformation history – is the center for graduate study of late medieval and early-modern Europe, 1400-1700.

Forming the core of the Special Collections’ holdings of Reformation and medieval texts is the Heiko Oberman Research Library. Oberman, a world-renowned historian, founded the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies in 1989, and before his death in 2001, Oberman promised to donate his extensive library to the UA if it could raise the money to endow a faculty chair in his field. Oberman accumulated a library of more than 10,000 volumes, some of which are from the 16th and 17th centuries and are quite rare. The Oberman collection also contains writings from the Second Vatican Council and is thought to be the only complete holding of this kind outside of official Catholic Church archives.

After 10 years of fundraising, the division reached the $2 million mark to endow the Heiko Oberman Chair, thanks to gifts from more than 520 community members, alumni, and friends. Professor Ute Lotz-Heumann, who specializes in English and Irish history and is the European editor of the academic journal Archive for Reformation History, was selected in 2008 to occupy the chair.

“I am delighted that the Reformation anniversary will shine a light on the expertise found in our Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies, as well as the world-class library collection found in Special Collections,” said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “The community banded together to raise funds for the Oberman chair and library. It is fitting that it should enjoy that scholarship during this commemoration.”

University Special Collections has expanded on the Oberman collection, acquiring rare and valuable additions. Selected titles from the collection will be on display in an exhibit, “After 500 years: Print and Propaganda in the Reformation,” opening in August and running through December.  

Roger Myers, an associate librarian and archivist with Special Collections, said that two acquisitions he finds of particular interest are the Biblia, a 1662 Lutheran Bible with illustrations of the Augsburg Confession, as well as portraits of the Dukes of Saxony; and the Praestantium aliquot theologorum, a 1603 Dutch edition by Jacob Verheiden with 50 biographical notes and engraved portraits of German and Swiss reformers by Hendrik Hondius.

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Laura and Arch Brown Library Endowment funded the purchase of two 16th-century books: a 1524 pamphlet by Martin Luther in which he urges city councils in Germany to establish schools for both boys and girls; and a 1523 anti-Lutheran polemic by the Catholic satirist Thomas Murner.

“Special Collections looks forward to sharing its Reformation collection with the public during the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses,” said Myers. “The rise of the Protestant churches attest to Luther’s messages about the need for ‘a change of heart’.”

The Impact of the Reformation
As part of the 500th anniversary remembrance, scholars will look back and assess the causes and effects of Luther’s and other reformers’ acts.

The Reformation would not have been possible without the development of the printing press, which allowed Luther to spread his message. He was a populist who used “new media” to deliver his message directly to the people.

Reformation currents quickly spread beyond the German-speaking lands to Scandinavia, England, Francophone Switzerland, France, Eastern Europe, the Netherlands, and beyond. The Reformation sparked both national and international conflicts, leading to religious wars and the emigration of thousands seeking to escape persecution.

As Karant-Nunn writes: “By mid-century, the Catholic imperial forces declared war on the German ‘heretics’ and defeated them. Nonetheless, Protestant identity was by then firmly established and could not be rooted out. Catholic reformers undertook to provide new foundations for the traditional faith.”

Karant-Nunn says the United States was deeply influenced by the Reformation.

“When you think of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, the Quakers, and the Moravians who settled in a number of colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America, you are reminded that they came because of religious dissatisfaction,” Karant-Nunn said. “They didn’t think the Protestant Reformation had gone far enough. Some people maintain that the mentality of the Puritans lies, even to this day, at the core of being an American. Searching for an intimate relationship with God, self-examination, working hard, denying oneself luxuries, saving and reinvesting – these allegedly owe much to the Puritans, who were Calvinists.”

Karen Seat, head of the Department of Religious Studies and Classics, said the Reformation "profoundly influenced" the direction of world history.

"It transformed all facets of life throughout Europe, and through western expansion and colonization – as well as through creative multicultural appropriations of Protestantism over the past 500 years – its influence continues to be felt around the globe," said Seat, who also directs the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures in the College of Humanities.

Reformation Events
The UA created the website to promote not just the events offered by the UA, but Reformation-related events across Tucson. Community members should visit the website frequently as events get added.

Karant-Nunn, who has just completed a book on Martin Luther, will kick-off the year’s University events with the public lecture “The Emotions of Martin Luther” on Jan. 25.

“Theologians and historians have treated Martin Luther as a generator of religious precepts,” said Karant-Nunn. “However, the time has come to recognize the reformer as a man of powerful emotions. This man’s personality just as much as his theological innovations shaped the movement that became the Protestant Reformation.”

Other events will focus on the nature of Catholicism in Germany in the two centuries after Martin Luther’s Reformation; religious changes around the world in the 16th century; the use of pamphlets and propaganda during the Reformation; and the reasons for the outbreak of religious wars in the aftermath of the Reformation.

In the annual Summer Lecture Series held at St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church, graduate students in the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies will examine the aftermath of the Reformation for its effects on women, minorities and refugees.

The Division attracts and graduates some of the best scholars in this field in the country. Students in the Division are required to be fluent in three foreign languages and to conduct research overseas.

“I chose the UA for my graduate work because of the reputation of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies,” said Annie Morphew, who is working on her master’s degree. “It's rare in the U.S. to find a school where there are so many professors and graduate students working on the early modern period, let alone the Reformation.”

Morphew, who will be a speaker during the Summer Lecture Series, studies the changing landscape of religious belief in the early Reformation and the impact of these changes on women and gender.

Finally, on October 31 – the official anniversary of Luther’s “95 Theses against Indulgences” – a panel of experts will discuss Luther’s acts 500 years earlier.

Published Date: 

01/04/2017 - 2:15pm