Archdiocese of Mainz Indulgence (MSS 085)

Indulgences were issued to defray the cost of building the basilica of St. Peter in Rome. Their distribution was often linked to the sacrament of penance, as believers were granted spiritual benefits in exchange for financial donations and other pious acts. This particular indulgence, believed to be the only specimen of its kind thus far recovered, was issued specifically to clergy, granting them liturgical benefits in exchange for their contributions. The printing of this indulgence was probably ordered by Johann Tetzel himself and carried out by Melchior Lotter, the Elder, who was also to print Luther's ninety-five theses two years later. J. Tetzel was responsible for the printing of 11 indulgences, issued in 15 editions. This copy was found within a book binding dated 1530, serving as an end paper, by the German bibliographer and Reformation scholar Fritz Beyer in 1937.

The original material is held within the Archives and Manuscripts Department.  Please contact the Special Collections Reference Assistant at 404-727-1222 to schedule an appointment for viewing. To request a facsimile copy of the indulgence, email


The Pitts Theology Library would like to thank the following for their contributions to the translation and analysis of the 1515 indulgence and for its publication in facsimile: