The Protestant Reformation was a major turning point in
history. Not only did it affect religious life in
Europe, but also affected social, political, and
economic institutions as well. The Reformation's
Martin Luther and
both educated as priests for the
The Reformation was a protest against perceived
wrong doings by the Catholic Church. The followers
of Luther and Calvin became known as Protestants,
because of their "protesting."
Church Corruption: By the 1500s the Catholic
Church was the most wealthy and powerful
institution in Europe. Many church leaders
lived more like kings, than priests, and became
increasingly involved in political matters. To raise
money for these activities, the Church raised fees for
services such as, marriage and baptism,
and also began the sale of indulgences, which
were letters of forgiveness for one's sins. This
caused both anger and resentment across Europe, and many
called for reforms to take place.
Martin Luther was a German monk who was concerned about
the sale of
other corruptions in the church. In 1517,
he wrote his 95 Theses, which were 95 arguments
against the sale of indulgences. He posted these on the
door of the Wittenberg church in protest. The Catholic
Church ordered Luther to recant, or take back his
theses, but he refused. The Church
him, and would have executed him had they been able to
capture him. Luther's ideas spread quickly
throughout the Germany and Scandinavia, mainly due to
printing press. Luther's beliefs
are what sparked the Reformation.
Luther believed that Christians could only reach
salvation through faith in god. He did not
believe that the
Pope or other priests had any special
powers, including the forgiveness of sins.
Luther's beliefs became the basis for the Protestant
form of Christianity.
John Calvin was another priest - turned reformer.
Like Luther, he believed that faith
in god provided the path to salvation, but he also
promoted the idea of predestination.
is the belief that certain people were chosen by god for
salvation. Followers of Calvin all believed they were
predestined for heaven. They setup
religious communities throughout Europe and lived very
strict, moral lives.
As a response to the Protestant Reformation, the
Catholic Church began a program to
enact reform from within. The purpose of
the Counter/Catholic Reformation was to end corruption,
return to traditional teachings, and to strengthen the
church in an attempt to stop its members from
converting. Pope Paul III called the Council
of Trent in 1545 to institution these
reforms. The Council setup new schools for
priests, ended most corruption, and created new
religious orders to deal with these problems.
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus was founded by
to combat the Protestant
Reformation by providing strong Catholic leadership to
monarchs across Europe. Jesuit training emphasized
spiritual and moral discipline, as well as strict
loyalty to the Church. Jesuits did much to
slow the spread of the Protestant Reformation, and later
became very successful as
the Catholic faith throughout the rest of the world.
Luther's and Calvin's ideas spread across Europe
quickly. This was due to unrest in the peasant
population, inventions like the printing press,
and the support of rulers wishing to free
themselves from Catholic control. Religious unity in
Europe was lost, which resulted in many wars including,
civil wars in Germany and France, and wars between
Protestant England and Catholic France and Spain.
Reformation also leads to a period of
Both Catholics and Protestants place restrictions on
Jews, often forcing them to live in separate areas of
town. Witch hunts also increased as many
people, caught up in religious zeal, accuse others of Satanism.
Thousands were killed as a result, most of them women.
the Protestant Reformation and the Counter/Catholic
Reformation changed the face of society in Europe.
Before the Reformation, Europe was united behind a
single faith, with a strong Church for guidance.
By the end, Europe is divided religiously, and strong
monarchs fill the leadership void left as a result of a
weakened Catholic Church.