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I cannot, and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.
~ Martin Luther, refusing to recant his works.

Martin Luther is the primary protagonist of the 2003 film Luther. He is played by Joseph Fiennes.

Luther is the young German man who eventually leads a new religious movement that sweeps across what would later become Germany.

The movie begins with Luther in the middle of an intense thunderstorm. Convinced that he was about to die, he prayed and promised to take monastic vows if he survived. He joined the Augustinian order in Erfurt. A few years later the newly ordained Father Martin offers his first Mass, and winds up becoming so nervous that some of the wine is spilled when he elevates the cup.

During his younger years Martin was an excessively self-critical man who felt that he could never do well enough to please the God he saw as an angry deity. His superior Johann von Staupitz decided to send Martin to the University at Wittenburg to learn about the Gospels in an age when even most priests had not read them.

Luther performed very well in school. After being granted a degree he was invited to join the faculty. He soon found himself questioning the practices of the church when a mother of a crippled girl was pressured into giving money to the indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel instead of buying food for her daughter.

Angered over the activities of the indulgence salesmen such as Johann Tetzel working various German towns, Martin Luther writes to his Bishop, Albert of Mainz in addition to nailing his objections to the indulgence practices to the doors of the University church. Due to the efforts of some local printers the 95 theses soon spread throughout German. Down in Rome church officials briefed Pope Leo X on the issue. Feeling that Luther was a drunken little German monk, Leo ordered his people to "sober him."

Soon Luther finds himself in trouble with the church authorities. When church authorities offered to drop the matter if he recanted in front of Cardinal Thomas Cajetan, Luther instead got into an argument with the Cardinal. At that point von Staupitz released him from the Augustinian order. Furious that Luther has not backed down Leo excommunicated Luther. Upon receiving the Papal bull declaring him excommunicated Luther burned what he called a "blast of wind" in a fire.

Due to the efforts of Frederick the Wise - the elector of Saxony - Luther is not handed over to the Roman inquisition. He instead summoned to Worms to present his case to the Emperor. There he laid out his case, proclaiming that there he stood and that he could do no other. Realizing that church officials intended to kill him, Frederick staged a kidnapping and hid him in Wartburg Castle. Over the next year Luther passes the time translating the New Testament into German.

Meanwhile fellow Professor Andreas Karlstadt stirs up the peasants to revolt. With the situation becoming more violent Frederick has Luther go back to Wittenburg where he angrily confronts Karlstadt over his actions before driving him out of the city. The violence continues and the German princes soon use military force to put down the revolt. Luther is horrified over the death and destruction visited upon the peasants.

A group of young runaway nuns led by Katrina von Bora comes to Dr. Luther for assistance after escaping the convent they were held in. Luther arranges for shelter for the young women. Many of the young women take husbands after recovering from their ordeal. However despite the obvious attraction of Luther and von Bora he doesn't feel worthy of her love, feeling depressed over all the people that died because of him. von Bora is able to get Luther to open up to her, and the two agree to marry.

In Rome Luther's nemesis Leo died. Cajetan ruefully remarks that Leo had not improved matters, that he instead had left the church heavily in debt. He goes on to say that Leo had been a spiritual dwarf when the church needed a Martin Luther as Pope.

The church and the Emperor however remained committed to stamp out Luther's nascent religious movement. At a meeting in Augsburg the Emperor tried to force the German princes to stamp out Luther's movement and forbid the printing or use of German bibles. The princes stood up to Emperor, and forced him to accept their confession of faith.

When a party approached to deliver the news to Luther he feared the worse, that the religious reformation had been crushed and he was about to die. He feared for both his wife and children. However it was a messenger who had ridden to deliver good news about Augsburg.

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