Separating the Living from the Dead: Wessel Gansfort and the Death of Purgatory

Separating the Living from the Dead:Wessel Gansfort and the Death of Purgatory

Koslofsky, Craig

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 10 (1993)


This paper explores criticism of the Roman church’s doctrine of Purgatory from the late fifteenth century through the early years of the German Reformation. Following the writings of the Frisian theologian Wessel Gansfort (c. 1410-1489), the Wittenberg theologians Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt and Martin Luther initially sought to reform Purgatory rather than abolish it entirely. Ultimately, however, their attempts to fashion new doctrines on the last things resulted in the death of Purgatory in the Protestant tradition. The intellectual and cultural history of the death of Purgatory can, like the search for its origins, illustrate the complex intersection of doctrines and practices that made medieval Purgatory.

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