Until his excommunication in 1520, Martin Luther was not only a theologian and scholar, he was also a monk who belonged to the Augustinian Order. In 1510, he and a fellow monk were sent to Rome to participate in a discussion over how the Order should be governed. This was Luther's first time in the holy city of Rome and he was not impressed by what he found there. We can learn something about what he saw from a letter he later wrote to Pope Leo X:
"The Roman Church has become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death and hell."
What prompted this outburst was Luther's observations on the priests and monks of Rome. In his native country, the priests and monks were modest and chaste people who dressed and ate humbly. They lived by the Ten Commandments and tried to emulate the humility of Jesus and his Apostles, believing that casting aside all worldly wealth and desires would bring them closer to God. But, in Rome, Luther found wealthy priests who drank alcohol, gambled, had relationships with women and generally sought to enrich themselves and live in luxury, hence the strong language used by Luther in the quote above. He was disgusted by their behaviour, feeling that it distracted them from the true meaning of religion. He also found priests selling indulgences, a practice in which a person can buy salvation for a sin. This experience in Rome inspired his disillusionment with the Church and prompted his fervour for reformation.