Johann Tetzel

Tetzel, Johann (yōˈhän tĕtˈsəl) [key], c.1465–1519, German preacher, b. Pirna, Germany. He joined the Dominicans. He became a well-known preacher and was made inquisitor general of Poland at the instance of Cajetan. In 1503 he preached an indulgence mission for the Teutonic Knights and in 1506 another along the Rhine. In 1517 his promotion of the indulgence for the erection of St. Peter's Church aroused the indignation of Martin Luther, whose theses were in part promoted by Tetzel's preaching. In 1518, Tetzel replied to Luther's theses, and their dispute became famous throughout Germany. Tetzel soon retired in bad health to his monastery at Leipzig, where he was overwhelmed by the attacks of his enemies and the censures of the papal legate. Tetzel has been greatly overrated in importance. He had no thought of personal gain from his preaching of the indulgence. His teaching on indulgences was not in accord with the doctrine of the church; the sine qua non in gaining an indulgence is to feel contrition for all sins, but Tetzel did not require that for indulgences gained on behalf of the dead, only for those gained for oneself.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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