Protestant Reformation - Who, What, When, Where, Why?
The Protestant Reformation Period
(1517 - 1648) was the religious revolution that took place in 1517 (Europe) when German monk Martin Luther led the Protestant Revolution by nailing a piece of paper to the University of Wittenberg’s
chapel door known as the 95 Theses
. The 95 theses
challenged the pope's authority and the church as a whole. Although Luther only wanted a discussion, the 95 Theses
turned out to be a devastating tool against the pope and would eventually lead a revolt against the church.
Several attempts to reform the church were made by early dissenters such as, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Erasmus, and Thomas Moore. Although they tried to make a huge difference with great determination and bravery [and starting the idea of a rebellion against the church], all of them failed. Even after the attempted revolts by these men, the church continued their selfish and money-hungry practices such as: indulgence, simony, corruption, etc. This continued until Martin Luther came about.
With the start of his 95 Theses, Martin Luther led a whole revolution, known as the Protestant Reformation. At first, he was taken as a joke--someone insignificant. But soon, his 95 Theses got wide attention and popularity among the people of Europe. Eventually, the church caught on and finally realized that Martin Luther wasn't like the past reformers, and that he was starting up a huge revolution that would change traditional European life. His actions against the pope/church would create the Protestant Church. Another person, by the name of John Calvin, would follow through his footsteps of changing the ways of the people's religion. John Calvin (1509-1564) led the Protestant Movement even further with Calvinism. Calvin was a French who moved to Switzerland, and started preaching his ideas across Europe. His ideas turned into a section of Christianity, known as Calvinism, which basically had a few simple ideas. Calvinism taught belief in predestination, faith revealed by righteous life and hard work. Presbyterians in Scotland were a continuation of Calvin's ideas and in France his followers were known as "Huguenots." Calvinism became popular and spread to England, Italy and various other European countries. Another important reformer is Henry VIII, who in 1534, broke off the Church and formed the Church of England [Or Anglican Church]. Not only did he create his own church, but he took the land that once belonged to the Pope. He declared the land he took as his own land, and not of the pope's land any longer.
The Reformation caused a religious revolution throughout continental Europe. This religious revolution led to several branches of Christianity, such as, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Protestantism, etc. The pope lost his full control of Europe and the continent was exposed to different cultures/ideas. Several key events such as, early dissenters/reformers (Such as Thomas Moore, Erasmus, etc.), Martin Luther with 95 Theses that criticized the church and the pope, Martin Luther rejecting Pope Leo's plea to take back his words, Henry VIII breaking away from the pope to make Anglican Church and John Calvin’s prophecy of Calvinism led to this paradigm shift in Europe.
Before the time of the Reformation, the Catholic Church (centered in the Vatican City) was the center of Europe. Many things were going on during the time before the Reformation. The Muslim world was explosive and abundant with knowledge and resources, but they were also fighting against Christians. Explorers were going all around the world, including Vasco de Gama and Portugese explorers (who settle the African island of Soa Tome and Principe). Although the Muslims in the Middle East were a very powerful group, Europe was being controlled by the other powerful group: The Church.
The Reformation occurred in several countries, such as Italy and Switzerland. Italy went through their reformation as soon as books (from Luther and other reformers) poured into the Alps. It got so big that people started to meet privately to discuss the new doctrines. The church put a stop to this and delayed the rights of Protestants with the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in 1543. That year marked the spread of Protestants from Italy, as massacres and murders spread about to Protestants who decided to stay in Italy [rather than not flee the persecution going on]. The Waldensians, people who followed the teachings of Peter Waldo (French movement leader), were cruelly massacred in Southern region of Calabria and, by the Jesuits, were forcibly converted. The few pockets of these people that lived on were destroyed in later centuries. Eventually, after tons of fighting, the Waldensians were able to get back their territory in Piedmont (region in Italy). They were treated as sub-citizens until February 17, 1848, when they were granted common civil rights.
The Swiss Reformation has no specific date clearly stated, but what we can say is that the reformation took place because of Ulrich (or Huldrych) Zwingli and John Calvin. Both of these men had their own views and ideas on Christianity. Although they did have different ideas that differed with Luther's ideas, they both agreed that Catholicism was not the right way to go. Zwingli had some success in his preaching, especially in his hometown in Zurich. Although successful in some areas, some cities stood their grounds in Catholicism. Zwingli later died in 1531 in a fight against Catholic soldiers in Switzerland. The next reformer after him was John Calvin, a French-born religious leader who created Calvinism after breaking off with the Catholic Church and coming up with his own ideas. Calvin left the Swiss city of Geneva when the people revolted against his teachings in 1538, but his followers invited him back 3 years later. Calvin had great success in the city of Geneva, even introducing a new government! Many refugees from other European countries who were trying to escape the oppression of the Catholics were either printers/publishers or craftsmen/bankers, who, not only helped improve the quality of Geneva, but helped spread Calvinism.
The Reformation is definitely, not only an interesting topic, but a very crucial topic students nowadays should definitely learn! The Reformation exposed Europe to various different cultures and ideas, thus making Europe more religiously diverse. Another important thing that the Reformation did is that it freed Europe from the money-hungry popes, who only used their positions to become powerful and wealthy. This type of corruption should never exist anywhere in the world. If our people learn about the Reformation and the reasons and the aftermath, then our people will be able to prevent the Reformation from occurring ever again. The Reformation took place because the people of Europe were sick of the pope/church's greediness, so people started to rebel.
In conclusion, the Reformation gives a lot of different points of views about Christianity (Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, etc.). The Reformation resulted in the loss of the church's power, several Christianity branches, Secularism, and the destruction of Germany. The Catholic Church gradually loses power after the Reformation, and it just becomes another ordinary church in the sea of so many other churches. The one that studies about the Reformation is most certainly sucked up into a fascinating topic as there is so much to learn!
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- “An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation.” Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/renaissance-and-reformation/protestant-reformation/a/an-introduction-to-the-protestant-reformation.
- “Martin Luther.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 8 Aug. 2017, www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-9389283.
- “Henry VIII.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017, www.biography.com/people/henry-viii-9335322.
- “15th Century, 1401 to 1500.” World History Timeline: 15th Century (1401 to 1500), www.fsmitha.com/time/ce15.htm.
- “The Italian Reformation: A Lost Opportunity? « Reformation Italy.” Reformation Italy, www.reformationitaly.org/2010/10/the-italian-reformation-a-lost-opportunity/.
- The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Waldenses.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 July 1998, www.britannica.com/topic/Waldenses.
- “Two Reformers: Zwingli and Calvin.” MySwitzerland.com, www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/two-reformers-zwingli-and-calvin.html.
Last edited on 17 April 2021, at 22:45
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