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Why Did Martin Luther Publish his 95 Theses on Halloween?

Why did Martin Luther choose Halloween to launch his 95 theses?

 

Halloween is a Celtic holiday, so it was likely unknown in Luther's Germany.  But All Saint's Day is the next day, November 1, and relics owned by the Wittenburg Cathedral were displayed on that day, among very few others in the church year.  So scholars think Martin Luther posted his theses then, because he knew many people would see them.  Thanks to the printing press, they went viral, beyond his wildest dreams.

 

In recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I recently launched Martin Luther, Machiavelli and Murder the third Real History Mystery in the Nicola Machiavelli series (which have collectively consistently rated 4 out of 5 stars after 170+ Amazon reviews).  The mystery takes place in Rome, during the two months Luther spent there as a young monk, as historic fact.  If you  want to hear a Luther scholar talk about how these two months influenced Luther's life and works, you can use the link at the end of ths blog post.  If you want to have fun hearing essentially the same thing, read my book.  

 

 As Luther was still a staunch Catholic when in  Rome, the "real history" in the book is the corruption and scandal there that provided the tinder when Martin Luther lit the match, 500 years ago today. You will meet or learn about the most corrupt popes in history, and the beginnings of Luther's disillusionment with the existing Church. 

 

 You can read the first 20%, and follow a first page link to all the great Renaissance art in the book, here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074K96HRN. And of course buy it, for $2.99(ebook)/$7.99 (hard copy).  Here is a plot summary:

 

The corruption and grandeur of Renaissance Rome during young Martin Luther's real-life visit form the backdrop to this tale of murder, war and papal politics. On arrival, Luther is nearly struck by the body of a naked, murdered cardinal thrust from a whorehouse window. Prime suspects behind this and other assassinations include "warrior" Pope Julius II and two future Medici popes, one of whom will become Luther's future nemesis, Pope Leo X. Leonardo da Vinci and the infamous Niccolò Machiavelli play roles in a deepening mystery that ranges across war-torn Italy. Forced to work with the licentious artist Raphael and Machiavelli's winsome daughter Nicola to solve the mystery, Martin Luther battles temptation and sin, while witnessing abuses key to shaping Protestant theology and his future destiny. 

 

And here is a scholarly video that tells many of the same stories:  https://www.facebook.com/Ligonier/videos/p.10156114141743115/10156114141743115/?type=2&theater

 

 

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Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World

Martin Luther as a young monk by his friend and contemporary, Lucas Cranach, lower right 

I watched yesterday's PBS documentary, "Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World" with interest, hoping it portrayed Luther as I did in my new (fictional and fun) Real History Mystery Press book,  Martin Luther, Machiavelli and Murder.  In recognition of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 theses—the  October, 1517 document that ignited the Protestant Reformation and changed the face of Europe—my third book follows Luther as a young monk when he was in Rome, as historic fact.  The "real history" in the book is the corruption and scandal there that provided the tinder when Martin Luther lit the match.

 

I am very serious about the history in my books, and hoped for confirmation that I portrayed Martin Luther accurately. I got it! The man I saw in the PBS documentary was my Martin Luther, with all his contradictions.  Earnest, self-effacing, and sometimes depressed by his supposed sinfulness, Luther was also a brilliant and pugnacious writer and thinker who could not keep silent about perceived religious wrongs, even knowing he was likely to be burned at the stake for heresy.  PBS was fair to him, bringing out his love of family and music and, in a balanced way, his least holy pronouncements. (After years of advocating relatively generous treatment of Jews he reversed himself, advocating property seizures and other harsh measures against those who refused to convert to Christianity. He also supported crushing a violent peasant rebellion.) The show spends little time on Lutheran doctrine (nor does my book—Luther was young and still a staunch Catholic when it occurs).  There were no gross inaccuracies, though.  It is also silent on the Catholic scandals of the time (which my book is not), and superficial though fair in its treatment of Catholic "indulgences," the primary subject of Luther's 95 theses, which then involved the outright sale of salvation.

 

In my book, Martin Luther occasionally discusses indulgences and other religious subjects with my free-thinking female protagonist, the illegitimate daughter of real-life bastard Niccolò Machiavelli, of "Machiavellian" fame.  To his guilty horror, Luther also falls in love with her. Martin Luther, Machiavelli and Murder is the third book in the Nicola Machiavelli series, which has consistently rated 4 out of 5 stars after 140+ Amazon reviews and will eventually chronicle the entire High Renaissance in Italy. You can read a plot summary and the first 20% for free, and follow a first page link to all the great Renaissance art in the book, here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074K96HRN. And of course buy it, for $2.99(e-book)/$7.99 (hard copy).  If you are seeing this on my website, maryannphilip.com, there should be a link to the right through which you can purchase as well.

 

Enjoy.

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Why I Write "Real History" Mysteries

Why do I write "real history mysteries"? Due to serious family illnesses I abruptly  left a busy career and was stuck at home, second-guessing decisions already made, about illnesses I could not control.  Unable to concentrate on even the best historical fiction—my favorite form of escapism--I decided to give my poor brain something to work on in my spare hours, other than worry. At Stanford University I had majored in Renaissance History because I loved it.  I resolved to return to it, and write my own historically correct fiction, the only kind that I personally like.  

 

My Nicola Machiavelli mystery series will cover the entire Italian high Renaissance, I decided, eventually giving me opportunities to re-visit Italy and practice my now-rusty Italian, learned at Stanford and its Italy campus in Florence, where I saw and experienced what I was studying.  

 

Writing has helped me weather widowhood.  And after thousands of copies sold, my first two books have consistently rated 4 out of 5 stars after more than 170 collective reviews on Amazon. The first, "A Daughter Dies," introduces Nicola Machiavelli as a young girl and lays out the history of the infamous Borgia family, and Leonardo da Vinci's improbable relationship with it. The second, "Da Vinci Detects," has as its historically accurate background the fifteenth century witch hunt for homosexuals that ensnared Leonardo da Vinci and an astounding number of other Florentine men, through means that violate nearly every provision related to criminal process in our modern day American Constitution.

 

 In recognition of this year's 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 theses – the 1517 document that ignited the Protestant Reformation and changed the face of Europe—I have just brought out "Martin Luther, Machiavelli and Murder." The "real history" in this book is the church corruption and scandal that provided the tinder when Martin Luther lit the match. The unorthodox views of Nicola Machiavelli, the fictional bastard daughter of real-life bastard Niccolò "Machiavellian" Machiavelli, propelled some lively dialogue between her and Luther.  It gives the reader a bit of the history of religious thought. If that doesn't interest you, though, you probably won't notice it.

 

You can read the first 20%, follow a first page link to all the great Renaissance art in the book, and order a copy either in e-book form ($2.99) or in paperback ($7.99) here: https://www.amazon.com/Maryann-Philip/e/B009WCCZ6O/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1502994381&sr=1-2-ent 

 

If you like the book, PLEASE post a review, and let others who might be interested know about the book.  Here is a brief plot summary:

 

The corruption and grandeur of Renaissance Rome during young Martin Luther's real-life visit form the backdrop to this tale of murder, war and papal politics. On arrival, Luther is nearly struck by the body of a naked, murdered cardinal thrust from a whorehouse window. Prime suspects behind this and other assassinations include "warrior" Pope Julius II and two future Medici popes, one of whom will become Luther's future nemesis, Pope Leo X. Leonardo da Vinci and the infamous Niccolò Machivelli play roles in a deepening mystery that ranges across war-torn Italy. Forced to work with the licentious artist Raphael and Machiavelli's winsome daughter Nicola to solve the mystery, Martin Luther battles temptation and sin, while witnessing abuses key to shaping Protestant theology and his future destiny.


Luther was a colorful, courageous and fascinating man, despite his intense devotion to faith.  I hope you enjoy him.  

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Plot Summary: Da Vinci Detects

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"A Real Work of Historical Fiction--Ten Stars!!!"

A blog from 2013: 

 

This reader understands what I as an author try to do--and enjoys it! I swear she is a total stranger to me.  

 

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! A REAL WORK OF HISTORICAL FICTION!!!, May 17, 2013

By
Ignatza – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: A Borgia Daughter Dies (Kindle Edition)
I wish there were a "plus" rating for Amazon! I love History – especially European and obviously church history. This book is only .99 on Kindle. It is worth the money. It is finally a work of historical fiction that doesn't just throw in bits and pieces of History but uses that History as background (and, I apologize, but I do not mean "background" as in what they wore or how they adorned their homes). BRAVO for the author!!! If you enjoy a good story and an intriguing and accurate historical background, spend the $.99!!! I downloaded a sample due to being unsure of "historical fiction" novels. I have a degree in History and I do not enjoy quasi-historical romance novels. I downloaded it around 1:30-2:00a.m. and couldn't put it down. I have not finished it due to it being early morning but I wanted to give the author props!!! I only happened upon it this morning while looking for something to read. Even if you are not a "history buff", you will enjoy this. Those of us who are "historical purists" will appreciate the author's intense research and clarification in the form of an afterward of the times when she strayed from the strict history. 10 STARS!!!

 

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Borgia incest: fact or fiction?

Raphael's blond Madonna 

A blog from 2012: 

 

History reverberates with rumors that the Borgias-father, son Cesare and daughter Lucrezia–committed incest. The Italian aristocracy hated the Borgias and loved to start nasty rumors about them.  In my RealHistory e-mystery, A Borgia Daughter Dies,  I do my best to sort rumor from fact and fiction, showing the source of the incest rumors, and why I don't believe them.

 

Showtime could have taken the high road and avoided the rumors all together, since they are unlikely to be true. (See http://maryannphilip.com/cesare-borgia-pope-alexander-vi-lucrezia-borgia-involved-incest/). But judging from the preview to the third season, it appears Showtime is  taking the lowest of low roads: pretend there was incest, and blame it on Lucrezia. This is blaming the victim in the story.

 

The Borgia men did some very bad things–I've blogged about a number of them. In contrast, the worst we know about Lucrezia is that she may have had a baby out of wedlock. As  A Borgia Daughter Dies  shows, the probable father is known and it was not a family member, much less the fictional Paolo from the Showtime series. (See above post; also see http://maryannphilip.com/lucrezia-borgia-pregnant-convent/) .

 

The historical record shows  Lucrezia  as a charming and intelligent woman who was an excellent administrator–the pope actually made her governor of Spoleto, where she instituted various reforms, and had her running the papacy at one point.  It seems unlikely he would extend this level of trust to her if he were sexually abusing her.  She eventually became known as "the good Duchess" and was widely admired for her good works.  Why pick on her?

 

Guilt by association is  probably inevitable for the one good person in a bad family. Lucrezia's bad rep likely stems from a Donizetti opera, written several hundred years after she died, which (like most operas) bears no resemblance to historical reality.  She has been labeled a poisoner, but no contemporary or historian has ever identified her supposed victim(s).

 

In contrast, Cesare, Juan and the pope were surrounded with corpses. The pope regularly put enemies in the Castel Sant'Angelo, from which they soon emerged feet first, without a mark on them.  This is how he got labelled a poisoner. Though he may not always have deserved the label (see for example http://maryannphilip.com/borgias-kill-prince-djem/), at least we can see where it came from.

 

 

If you want to learn the real story of the Borgias in a fun way, check out A Borgia Daughter Dies,   which has persistently gotten 4 out of 5 stars on on Amazon,  after 160+ reviews.  It's also available on Apple ibooks, and for Nook on Smashwords.

 

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Did Lucrezia Borgia poison the king of Naples and other musings

Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forli  

A post from 2012:


Hooray!  The Showtime Borgia miniseries actually features some real history in third season Episode 6, giving me something to blog about!

 

Did Lucrezia poison the king of Naples, though? Definitely not.  First, the King of Naples in 1499—when this episode supposedly occurs—died in France in 1504. Second, Lucrezia never acknowledged  baby Giovanni as her son—and he may not have been her son–so the whole premise for poisoning the king is fiction. (See more about that at http://maryannphilip.com/cesare-borgia-pope-alexander-vi-lucrezia-borgia-involved-incest/).  Finally, she and Alfonso, who were married in the Vatican (shocking!), never went to Naples together.

 

I resent that Showtime is  making Lucrezia into a villainess, and her brother Cesare into a relatively likeable figure.  In real life, it was the opposite.  Showtime is slandering a (relatively) innocent woman, and minimizing the conduct of a sociopath.

 

The rest of this episode, however, has a lot of truth in it.  The pope, not Cesare, initiated the alliance with France. But Cesare did bring the new French king a papal bull allowing the king's divorce, and did marry a French princess.

The French king did lend the pope an army to begin re-conquering the Romagna, also known as "the Papal States." This had been a papal goal for centuries. But the papacy was weak until Alexander came along, because of the "Babylonian Captivity" that took the popes to France and the "Great Schism" that created multiple popes who spent all their time excommunicating each other.

 

Pope Alexander maintained that his wars were for the papacy, not for the Borgias—a point the Showtime writers seem confused about.  Granted, it's  likely Alexander would have arranged for a permanent Borgia territory in the Romagna had he lived long enough, just as his predecessor Pope Sixtus "gave" Forli  to Caterina Sforza's first husband, Pope Sixtus' "nephew"/ illegitimate son.  But Alexander's ostensible purpose was laudable, from a papal perspective, whatever his ulterior motives.

 

One last note about this episode:  Caterina Sforza did send the pope a gift, wrapped in the blanket of a plague victim.  With real history like that, why do the Showtime writers keep making things up?

 

For a complete  and fun history of this period, the Borgia family and Caterina Sforza (among others), read A Borgia Daughter Dies , which is getting great reviews on Amazon, see http://www.amazon.com/A-Borgia-Daughter-Dies-ebook/product-reviews/B007WONQV2/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1.   Versions for Nook/Apple and other miscellaneous e-readers are available at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151617.

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Fact and Fiction about the Borgia family

Get it on Amazon and Smashwords 

A post from 2012: 


Since the Showtime Borgia series began I have been pointing out what is fact and what is fiction. (I know the difference because I worked hard to keep the history accurate in my historical mystery, A Borgia Daughter Dies.)  The series has  strayed further and further from the historical record, and become stranger and stranger in the process. The truth about the Borgias is so dramatic and bizarre that it's hard to understand why Showtime felt it necessary to create so much fiction.

 

 If you want to learn  the true history of the Borgias  in a fun way, read my  e-mystery, A Borgia Daughter Dies, which is getting great reviews on Amazon.  If you have any difficulty telling fact from fiction you can look at the Cast of Characters and Afterword at the back and sort things out right away. Get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Borgia-Daughter-Dies-history-Machiavelli-ebook/dp/B007WONQV2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501519534&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Borgia+Daughter+Dies

 

Season 3  so far is completely fictional, though Lucrezia Borgia did marry Alfonso of Naples. While there were undoubtedly assassination attempts on Pope Alexander–Caterina Sforza sent him a gift wrapped in blankets from a plague victim, for example- none came close to success until–well, I'll  save that for later. Suffice it to say, nothing happened remotely resembling  the poisoning and attempted stabbing we have seen in the past few episodes.(Did any one notice that Showtime has now killed Cardinal Orsini twice? Ironically, in the historical chronology he hasn't died yet.)

 

The characters no longer bear much resemblance to the historical figures, either. Instead, Cesare Borgia,  who was a sociopath, probable rapist and the worst of the family is being portrayed as a relative innocent, while the one innocent in the family–his sister Lucrezia, who was by all accounts an admirable and capable woman–has been turned into an incestuous whore. For shame, Showtime!

 

 

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The Borgias and New Technology: Cannons, Muskets, the Printing Press and Incest Rumors

Arquebus from around the time of the Borgias

A blog from 2012: 

The Borgia miniseries has highlighted some of the technological advances of the Renaissance, to its credit. The writers haven't always gotten the details right, but they are good at showing the essence.

 

Take the advances in warfare of the time. The cannon figures heavily in the second season, for good reason. By the Borgias' time, iron shot and better gunpowder produced cannons  that could smash through city walls like dry bread. Yet they were still uncommon. So when Cesare Borgia began the systematic retaking of the Papal States with seventeen cannon in tow, he had the Renaissance equivalent of the atom bomb.

 

The Showtime  Borgia miniseries also touches on the first use of smaller guns. In the completely fictional scene where Il Moro rescues Caterina Sforza from the clutches of Juan Borgia, there is an equally fictional glimpse of Il Moro's army brandishing the forerunner of the musket, the arquebus. The guns look right but they are held wrong, and they repeat fire which is centuries in the future. The first arquebuses were more like mortars than muskets, meant to stand on a tripod or hook to a stationary object ("arque" means "hook"). They were heavy and unwieldy, so Il Moro's men could not have held them like spears. But the first battle featuring a squadron of arquebusiers happened right around that time, a portent of the future. So the Showtime series is right to showcase the arquebus.

 

Another Renaissance innovation was double entry bookkeeping, as noted by Lucrezia, Vanozza and Giulia in the completely fictional account of their campaign to end the accurately portrayed corruption of the cardinals of the Church.

 

The miniseries so far has not focused on the enormous effect of the printing press on the Borgia family, which came to power roughly sixty years after its invention. Rome had a number of presses by the time Alexander was pope, and his enemies used them effectively.

 

For example: the rumors of incest between Lucrezia and her father and brother had their genesis in a spiteful letter written by her first husband, Giovanni Sforza, to his cousin Cardinal Ascenio Sforza, complaining that the pope would not send Lucrezia to him because "he wants her for himself." The Italian verb, "to want," has the same ambiguities as its English equivalent. Whatever Giovanni Sforza meant, rumors soon accused the pope and his daughter of incest, then enlarged to include Cesare as part of an incestuous triangle.

 

In an earlier era, the rumors would have died out rapidly. But Roman poets–the yellow journalists of their time– sold sheets of doggerel about the alleged incest, which were a big hit with the Roman public. Written texts like the Bible had been revered for centuries, so people may have believed what was in print (much the way the public treated internet rumors in the early days).  And what was rumor went into the "histories" of the time as fact.

 

The Borgia miniseries has to date  ignored this nasty rumor, to its credit.  Ignoring the printing press, though–that's a big omission.

.

 

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Did the Borgias poison Cardinal Orsini?

Portrait of a cardinal, by Raphael 

A post from 2012: 


The Borgias may well have poisoned Cardinal Orsini.  But it didn't happen until years after the Showtime series shows it, and certainly not in the manner shown.

 

Here is the real story of Cardinal Orsini's alleged poisoning: in 1503,  Alexander had him  thrown in the Castel Sant'Angelo,  where he died abruptly without a mark on him.  The pope had his body displayed publicly, to quell rumors of poison. It didn't work.

 

Pope Alexander VI already had a reputation as a poisoner because he imprisoned many powerful Italians when he confiscated their land, which had once belonged to the papacy.  Many of his prisoners died abruptly and mysteriously.The Italian aristocracy, who hated the land seizures and Alexander, screamed "poison," as well as accusing the Borgias of many other nasty things, some of which  are likely true. But rumors that would have died abruptly in previous generations were preserved and "went viral," Renaissance style, because of a new invention: the printing press. Libel became fact, without careful examination.

 

The sheer number of prisoners who died while in Pope Alexander's custody is powerful support for the theory that they were poisoned. Modern criminal defense lawyers, however, would quickly shred the case against the pope. There is nothing to prove that Alexander ordered the poisonings, assuming they occurred. Why not suspect Cesare Borgia or his hired assassin Michelotto, who were known killers?  Or some underling who assumed he would be rewarded for eliminating the Borgias' enemies?  Were prisoners forced to drink the prison well water, and was it somehow contaminated?  The Castel Sant'Angelo is not more than 100 feet from the Tiber, which had been a sewer for centuries. Cardinal Orsini was middle aged, debauched and outraged at his imprisonment–might he have suffered a heart attack? Or died from one of the many natural causes that  constantly caused premature deaths in this unhealthy era?  It is all speculation.

 

Lucrezia Borgia's  reputation as a poisoner is largely derived from a 19th century opera by Donizetti, whose libretto is pure fantasy (as opera usually is).  Though some contemporaries labeled Lucrezia a poisoner along with the rest of her family, no one ever identified her supposed victim(s), much less a motive. Unquestionably, Lucrezia suffered guilt by assocation with her infamous father and brothers. She was no angel, but it's unlikely she was a killer.

 

For a fun and accurate history of the Borgias read my mystery, A Borgia Daughter Dies, which you can get here: https://www.amazon.com/Borgia-Daughter-Dies-history-Machiavelli-ebook/dp/B007WONQV2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501519534&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Borgia+Daughter+Dies or on Smashwords. Also available in paperback.  

 

 

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