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The Reformation, also known as the Protestant Reformation and the European Reformation,[1] was a major theological movement in Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the papacy and the authority of the Catholic Church. Towards the end of the Renaissance, the Reformation marked the beginning of Protestantism and in turn resulted in a major schism within Western Christianity.[2]

It is considered one of the events that signified the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the early modern period in Europe.[3] When the Reformation era ended is disputed among modern scholars.

Prior to Martin Luther and other Protestant Reformers, there were earlier reform movements within Western Christianity. The Protestant Reformation, however, is usually considered to have started on 31 October 1517 with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses, authored by Martin Luther. Over three years later, on 3 January 1521, Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. On 25 May 1521, at the Diet of Worms, Luther was condemned by the Holy Roman Empire, which officially banned citizens from defending or propagating Luther's ideas.[4] Luther survived after being declared an outlaw due to the protection of Elector Frederick the Wise.

The spread of Gutenberg's printing press provided the means for the rapid dissemination of religious materials in the vernacular. The initial movement in Germany diversified, and nearby other reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin with different theologies arose.

In general, the Reformers argued that salvation in Christianity was a completed status based on faith in Jesus alone and not a process that could involve good works, as in the Catholic view. Protestantism also introduced new ecclesiology.

The Counter-Reformation was the Catholic reform efforts initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation and its causes.[5]


A stone wall with the sculptures of four bearded men
The International Monument to the Reformation, a statue erected in Geneva in 1909 depicting William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox, four leaders of the Reformed tradition of Protestantism

In the 16th-century context, the term mainly covers four major movements: Lutheranism, Calvinism, the Radical Reformation, and the Catholic Reformation. Historian John Bossy criticized the term Reformation[6] for "wrongly implying that bad religion was giving way to good," but also because it has "little application to actual social behaviour and little or no sensitivity to thought, feeling or culture."[note 1] Some historians have also suggested a persisting Erasmian Reformation.[note 2] Anglican theologian Alister McGrath explains the term "Reformation" as "an interpretative category—a way of mapping out a slice of history in which certain ideas, attitudes, and values were developed, explored, and applied".

Those who write of the "Protestant Reformation" exclude the early modern Catholic reform movements. Magisterial Reformation has a narrower sense, as it refers only to mainstream Protestantism, primarily Lutheranism and Calvinism, contrasting it with more radical ideas.[8] Catholic Reformation is distinguished by the historian Massimo Firpo from Counter-Reformation. In his view, Catholic Reformation was "centered on the care of souls ..., episcopal residence, the renewal of the clergy, together with the charitable and educational roles of the new religious orders", whereas Counter-Reformation was "founded upon the defence of orthodoxy, the repression of dissent, the reassertion of ecclesiastical authority".[9] From the late 20th century, historians often use the plural of the term, writing of "Reformations" to emphasize that the Reformation was not a uniform and coherent historical phenomenon but the result of parallel movements.[10] Several aspects of the Reformation, such as the reformation of arts, music, rituals, and communities are frequently presented in specialised studies.[11]

The historian Peter Marshall emphasizes that the "call for 'reform' within Christianity is about as old as the religion itself, and in every age there have been urgent attempts to bring it about". Charlemagne employed a "rhetoric of reform".[note 3] Medieval examples include the Cluniac Reform in the 10th–11th centuries, and the 11th-century Gregorian Reform,[13] both striving against lay influence over church affairs.[14][15] When demanding a church reform, medieval authors mainly adopted a conservative and utopian approach, expressing their admiration for a previous "golden age" or "apostolic age" when the Church had allegedly been perfect and free of abuses.[16]

Both the starting and ending date of the Reformation have always been debated.[17] The most commonly used starting date is 31 October 1517—the day when the German theologian Martin Luther (d. 1546) allegedly nailed up a copy of his disputation paper on indulgences and papal power known as the Ninety-five Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg in Electoral Saxony.[note 4][20] Calvinist historians often propose that the Reformation started when the Swiss priest Huldrych Zwingli (d. 1531) first preached against abuses in the Church in 1516.[21] The end date of the Reformation is even more disputed, with 25 September 1555 (when the Peace of Augsburg was accepted), 23 May 1618, and 24 October 1648 (when the Thirty Years' War began and ended, respectively) being the most commonly mentioned terminuses. The Reformation has always been presented as one of the most crucial episodes of the early modern period, or even regarded as the event separating the modern era from the Middle Ages.[22]

The term Protestant, though initially purely political in nature, later acquired a broader sense, referring to a member of any Western church that subscribed to the main Reformation (or anti-Catholic) principles.[23] Six princes of the Holy Roman Empire and rulers of fourteen Imperial Free Cities, who issued a protest (or dissent) against the edict of the Diet of Speyer (1529), were the first individuals to be called Protestants.[23] The edict reversed concessions made to the Lutherans with the approval of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V three years earlier.




A mural depicting a cardinal, a bishop, a monk and a peasant dancing with skeletons
Detail of the danse macabre (1490) by John of Kastav in the Holy Trinity Church, Hrastovlje, Slovenia

Europe experienced a period of dreadful calamities from the early 14th century. These culminated in a devastating pandemic known as the Black Death hit Europe, killing about one third of the population.[24] Around 1500, the population of Europe was about 60–85 million people—no more than 75 per cent of the mid-14th-century demographic maximum.[25] Due to a shortage of workforce, the landlords began to restrict the rights of their tenants which led to rural revolts that often ended with a compromise.[26]

The constant fear of unexpected death was mirrored by popular artistic motifs, such as the allegory of danse macabre ('dance of death'). The fear also contributed to the growing popularity of Masses for the dead.[27] Already detectable among early Christians, these ceremonies indicated a widespread belief in purgatory—a transitory state for souls that needed purification before entering heaven.[28] Fear of malevolent magical practice was also growing, and witch-hunts intensified.[29]

Funeral Mass with priest, choristers, bearers or mourners, and begger receiving alms (c. 1460–80)

From the end of the 15th century, a new, sexually transmitted infection spread in Europe. This was syphilis that destroyed its victims' looks with ulcers and scabs before killing them. Along with the French invasion of Italy, the syphilis gave the background to the success of the charismatic preacher Girolamo Savonarola (d. 1498) who called for a moral renewal in Florence. He was arrested and executed for heresy, but his meditations remained a popular reading.[30]



Western Christianity displayed a remarkable unity. This was the outcome of the Gregorian Reform that established papal supremacy over the Catholic Church, and achieved the legal separation of the Catholic clergy from laity.[31] Clerical celibacy was reinforced through the prohibition of clerical marriage; ecclesiastical courts were granted exclusive jurisdiction over clerics, and also over matrimonial causes.[32] Priests were ordained by bishops in accordance with the principle of apostolic succession—a claim to the uninterrupted transmission of their consecrating power from Christ's Apostles through generations of bishops.[33] Bishops, abbots, abbesses, and other prelates might possess remarkable wealth.[34] Some of the ecclesiastic leaders were also secular princes, such as the prince-bishops in Germany and the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Knights in their Baltic Ordensstaat. Other prelates might be the power behind the throne.[note 5][35] Believers were expected to pay the tithe (one tenth of their income) to the Church.[36] Pluralism—the practice of holding multiple Church offices (or benefices)—was not unusual. This led to non-residence, and the absent priests' deputies were often poorly educated and underpaid.[37]

The clergy consisted of two major groups, the regular clergy and the secular clergy. Regular clerics lived under a monastic rule within the framework of a religious order;[38] secular clerics were responsible for pastoral care. The Church was a hierarchical organisation. The pope was elected by high-ranking clergymen, the cardinals, and assisted by the professional staff of the Roman Curia. Secular clerics were organised into territorial units known as dioceses, each ruled by a bishop or archbishop.[note 6] Each diocese was divided into parishes headed by parish priests who administered most sacraments to the faithful.[39] These were sacred rites thought to transfer divine grace to humankind. The Council of Florence declared baptism, confirmation, marriage, extreme unction, penance, the Eucharist, and priestly ordination as the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.[40] Women were not ordained priests but could live as nuns in convents after taking the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.[41]


A pope and about a dozen bishops sitting in a large room.
Meeting of cardinals, bishops and theologians with Antipope John XXIII (r. 1410–1415) at the Council of Constance (from the Chronicle of the Council of Constance by Ulrich of Richenthal)

The authority of the papacy was based on a well-organised system of communication and bureaucracy.[42] The popes claimed the power of binding and loosing that Christ had reportedly granted to Peter the Apostle (d. c. 66), and offered indulgence—the reduction of the penance in both this world and the purgatory—to sinners from an allegedly inexhaustible treasury of merit.[43] The popes also granted dispensations to institutions or individuals, exempting them from certain provisions of canon law (or ecclesiastic law).[note 7][37] In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294–1303) declared obedience to the papacy as a precondition for salvation.[44] A year later, French troops arrested him, and in 1309, the seat of the papacy was transferred from the chaotic Rome to Avignon.[45] During the period of the Avignon Papacy, the popes assumed control of the appointment of all senior Catholic clerics. The appointees had to pay fees and other contributions to the Roman Curia.[46]

The idea that Rome was the legitimate center of Catholicism never ceased, with Pope Gregory XI (r. 1370–1378) returning to Rome.[47] However, conflict between his successor Urban VII (r. 1378–1389) and the College of Cardinals developed into the Western Schism (1378-1417) when his opponents declared his election invalid and proclaimed the French Clement VII (r. 1378–1394) pope. Clement returned to Avignon, establishing a rival line of popes who were considered as antipopes by their opponents.[48] When taking sides between the two popes, church leaders mainly accepted the local ruler's decision, which weakened the supranational character of the Catholic Church.[49] The Avignon pope won support from France, the Iberian Kingdoms, the Latin East, a Welsh rebellion, and Scotland.[50][51] In 1409, cardinals from both sides elected a new pope at the Council of Pisa but his two rivals refused to resign. More prudent preparations paved the way for the Council of Constance. Here, one of the three popes resigned, his two rivals were deposed, and the newly elected Martin V (r. 1417–1431) was acknowledged as the legitimate pope throughout Catholic Europe.[52]

The Council of Constance declared that the popes owed obedience to the ecumenical councils. This idea known as conciliarism was condemned by Pope Pius II (r. 1458–1467) in a papal bull, but ecclesiastic and secular leaders often referred to it during their conflicts with the papacy.[53][54] Relationships between the papacy and powerful Catholic rulers were regulated in special agreements known as concordats, limiting papal authority.[note 8][57][58]

As princes of the Papal States in Italy, the popes were deeply involved in the power struggles of the peninsula. In this respect, the Renaissance popes were not dissimilar to secular rulers. Pope Alexander VI (r. 1492–1503) appointed his relatives, among them his own illegitimate sons to high offices. Pope Julius II (r. 1503–1513) took up arms to recover papal territories lost during his predecessors' reign.[59] In the Age of Exploration, Pope Alexander VI claimed the right to distribute the newly discovered lands between Spain and Portugal, and his decision was confirmed in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.[60][61] The Spanish and Portuguese conquests and developing trade networks contributed to the global expansion of Catholicism.[note 9][62] The popes were generous patrons of art and architecture. Julius II ordered the demolition of the ruined 4th-century St. Peter's Basilica in preparation for the building of a new Renaissance basilica.[63]

Church life

A baby with a halo around his head lying on hay with a kneeling woman and man on his both sides
The Nativity (1445) by Filippo Lippi. When painting Nativity scenes, Renaissance artists mainly portrayed maternal love instead of depicting an abstract interpretation of the Incarnation as Romanesque and Gothic artists had done.[64]

Latin was the language of public worship[note 10] in most dioceses[note 11] of Catholic Europe although few laymen understood it.[note 12] The Eucharist, the central element of liturgy, was also celebrated in Latin. Western Christians believed that the sacramental bread and wine of the Eucharist transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This belief in the transubstantiation was declared a Catholic dogma in 1215. For unknown reasons, laymen only received the bread during the ceremony.[66] The Catholic Church taught that entry into heaven required dying in a state of grace.[28] Based on Christ's parable on the Last Judgement, the Church considered the performance of good works, such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, as an important condition of salvation.[67] The faithful made pilgrimages to the saints' shrines,[68] but the proliferation in the saints' number undermined their reputation.[note 13][70] The church buildings were richly decorated with paintings, sculptures, and stained glass windows. While Romanesque and Gothic art made a clear distinction between the supernatural and the human, Renaissance artists depicted God and the saints in a more human way.[71]

The sources of religious authority included the Bible and its authoritative commentaries, apostolic tradition, decisions by ecumenical councils, scholastic theology, and papal authority. Catholics regarded the Vulgate as the Bible's authentic Latin translation. Commentators applied several methods of interpretations to resolve contradictions within the Bible.[note 14] Apostolic tradition verified religious practices that had no explicit Biblical foundations, such as infant baptism. The ecumenical councils' decisions were binding to all Catholics. The crucial elements of mainstream Christianity had been first summarised in the Nicene Creed in 325. Its western text contained a unilateral addition which contributed to the schism between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.[73] The Creed contained the dogma of Trinity about one God uniting three equal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[74][75] Church authorities acknowledged that an individual might exceptionally receive direct revelations from God but maintained that a genuine revelation could not challenge traditional religious principles.[note 15][76]

Legitimate debates among scholastic theologians were not uncommon.[77] Predestination—God's decision about an individual's fate in afterlife—was frequently discussed. Ockhamist theologians taught that God destined to salvation those about whom foreknew that they would accept the divine offer of grace (by acquiring merit.)[78]: 164–167  In contrast, Duns Scotus (d. 1308) and Gregory of Rimini (d. 1358) argued that an individual's choice could not influence God's decision; Rimini also asserted that God predestined the fate of both the saved and the damned.[79] Justification before God and the timing of grace[80] was also the subject of controversy. Many theologians such as Scotus, Ockham, and Gabriel Biel (d. 1495)[note 16]: 470  taught that God established rules how the faithful could gain divine grace. Other theologians such as Rimini, and Hugolino of Orvieto (d. 1374) proposed that no one could deserve divine favour without God's direct intercession.[81]




A man wearing a hat depicting two demonic figures is being burned. He is surrounded by armed people.
Burning of Jan Hus at Constance (from the Chronicle of the Council of Constance by Ulrich of Richenthal)

After Arianism—a Christological doctrine condemned as heresy at ecumenical councils—disappeared in the late 7th century, no major disputes menaced the theological unity of the Western Church. Religious enthusiasts could organise their followers into nonconformist groups but they disbanded after their founder died.[note 17] The Waldensians were a notable exception. Due to their efficient organisation, they survived not only the death of their founder Peter Waldo (d. c. 1205), but also a series of anti-heretic crusades. They rejected the clerics' monopoly of public ministry, and allowed all trained members of their community, men and women alike, to preach.[83]

The Western Schism reinforced a general desire for church reform. The Oxford theologian John Wycliffe (d. 1384) was one of the most radical critics.[84] He attacked pilgrimages, the veneration of saints, and the doctrine of transubstantiation.[85] He regarded the Church as an exclusive community of those chosen by God to salvation,[86] and argued that the state could seize the corrupt clerics' endowments.[87] Known as Lollards, Wycliffe's followers rejected clerical celibacy and the grant of indulgences. The Parliament of England passed a law against heretics, but Lollard communities survived the purges.[86][88]

Wycliffe's theology had a marked impact on the Prague academic Jan Hus (d. 1415). He delivered popular sermons against the clerics' wealth and temporal powers, for which he was summoned to the Council of Constance. Although the German king Sigismund of Luxemburg (r. 1410–1437) had granted him safe conduct, Hus was sentenced to death for heresy and burned at the stake on 6 July 1415. His execution led to a nationwide religious movement in Bohemia, and the papacy called for a series of crusades against Hus's followers. The moderate Hussites, mainly Czech aristocrats and academics, were known as Utraquists for they taught that the Eucharist was to be administered sub utraque specie ('in both kinds') to the laity. The most radical Hussites, called Taborites after their new town of Tábor, held their property in common. Their millenarianism shocked the Utraquists who destroyed them in the Battle of Lipany in 1434.[89][90] By this time, the remaining Catholic communities in Bohemia were almost exclusively German-speaking. The lack of a Hussite church hierarchy enabled the Czech aristocrats and urban magistrates to assume control of the Hussite clergy from the 1470s. The radical Hussites set up their own Church known as the Union of Bohemian Brethren. They rejected the separation of clergy and laity, and condemned all forms of violence and oath taking.[91]

Marshall writes that the Lollards, Hussites and conciliarist theologians "collectively give the lie to any suggestion that torpor and complacency were the hallmarks of religious life in the century before Martin Luther."[84] Historians customarily refer to Wycliffe and Hus as "Forerunners of the Reformation". The two reformers' emphasis on the Bible is often regarded as an early example of one of the basic principles of the Reformation—the idea sola scriptura ('by the Scriptures alone'), although prominent scholastic theologians were also convinced that the Bible contained all knowledge necessary for salvation.[note 18][93]


A middle-aged man with a book in his hands wearing a fur coat and a fur hat
Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger (d. 1543)

A new intellectual movement known as Humanism emerged in the Late Middle Ages. The Humanists' slogan ad fontes! ('back to the sources!') demonstrated their enthusiasm for Classical texts and textual criticism.[94] The rise of the Ottoman Empire led to the mass immigration of Byzantine scholars to Western Europe, and many of them brought manuscripts previously unknown to western scholarship. This led to the rediscovery of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato (347/348 BC). Plato's ideas about an ultimate reality lying beyond visible reality posed a serious challenge to scholastic theologians' rigorous definitions. Textual criticism called into question the reliability of some of the fundamental texts of papal privilege: humanist scholars, like Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464) proved that one of the basic documents of papal authority, the allegedly 4th-century Donation of Constantine was a medieval forgery.[95]

New religious movements promoted the deeper involvement of laity in religious practices. The Brethren of the Common Life dissuaded their members' priestly ordination and often placed their houses under the protection of urban authorities.[96] They were closely associated with the devotio moderna, a new method of Catholic spirituality with a special emphasis on the education of laypeople.[97] A leader of the movement the Dutch Wessel Gansfort (d. 1489) attacked abuses of indulgences.[98]

As the manufacturing of paper from rags and the printing machine with movable type were spreading in Europe, books could be bought at a reasonable price from the 15th century.[note 19] Demand for religious literature was especially high.[100] The German inventor Johannes Gutenberg (d. 1468) first published a two-volume printed version of the Vulgata in the early 1450s.[101] High and Low German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Catalan translations of the Bible were published between 1466 and 1492; in France, the Bible's abridged French versions gained popularity.[102] Laypeople who read the Bible could challenge their priests' sermons, as it happened already in 1515.[103]

Completed by Jerome (d. 420), the Vulgata contained the Septaguint version of the Old Testament.[104] The systematic study of Biblical manuscripts revealed that Jerome had sometimes misinterpreted his sources of translation.[note 20][105] A series of Latin-Greek editions of the New Testament was completed by the Dutch humanist Erasmus (d. 1536). These new Latin translations challenged the scriptural proof texts for some Catholic dogmas.[note 21][108]

Failed reforms


The necessity of a church reform in capite et membris ('in head and limbs') was frequently discussed at the ecumenical councils from the late 13th century. However, most stakeholders—popes, prelates and kings—preferred the status quo because they did not want to lose privileges or revenues.[109] The system of papal dispensations was a principal obstacle to the implementation of reform measures, as the Holy See regularly granted immunities to those who did not want to execute them.[37]

Within regular clergy, the so-called "congregations of strict observance" spread. These were monastic communities that returned to the strict interpretation of their order's rule.[note 22] Reformist bishops tried to discipline their clergy through regular canonical visitations but their attempts mainly failed due to the resistance of autonomous institutions such as cathedral chapters. Neither could they exercise authority over non-resident clerics who had received their benefice from the papacy.[111] On the eve of the Reformation, the Fifth Council of the Lateran was the last occasion when efforts to introduce a far-reaching reform from above could have achieved but it was dissolved in 1517 without making decisions on the issues that would soon come to the fore.[112]



Luther and the Ninety-five Theses

A round-faced middle-aged man
Portrait of Martin Luther (1529) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Pope Leo X (r. 1513–1521) decided to complete the construction of the new St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. As the sale of certificates of indulgences had been a well-established method of papal fund raising, he announced new indulgences in the papal bull Sacrosanctis in 1515. On the advice of the banker Jakob Fugger (d. 1525), he appointed the pluralist prelate Albert of Brandenburg (d. 1545) to supervise the sale campaign in Germany.[note 23] The Dominican friar Johann Tetzel (d. 1519), a leading figure in the campaign, applied unusually aggressive marketing methods. A slogan attributed to him famously claimed that "As soon as the coin into the box rings, a soul from purgatory to heaven springs".[114][115] Frederick the Wise, Prince-elector of Saxony (r. 1486–1525) forbade the campaign because the Sacrosanctis suspended the sale of previous indulgences, depriving him of revenues that he had spent on his collection of relics.[note 24][98]

The campaign's vulgarity shocked many serious-minded believers,[98] among them Martin Luther, a theology professor at the University of Wittenberg in Saxony.[115][117] Born into a middle-class family, Luther entered an Augustinian monastery after a heavy thunderstorm dreadfully reminded him the risk of sudden death and eternal damnation, but his anxiety about his sinfulness did not abate.[118] His studies on the works of the Late Roman theologian Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) convinced him that those whom God chose as his elect received a gift of faith independently of their acts.[119] He first denounced the idea of justification through human efforts in his Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam ('Disputation against Scholastic Theology') in September 1517.[120]

On 31 October 1517, Luther addressed a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, stating that the clerics preaching the St. Peter's indulgences were deceiving the faithful, and attached his Ninety-five Theses to it. He questioned the efficacy of indulgences for the dead, although also stated "If ... indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all ... doubts would be readily resolved".[121] Archbishop Albert ordered the theologians at the University of Mainz to examine the document. Tetzel, and the theologians Konrad Wimpina (d. 1531) and Johann Eck (d. 1543) were the first to associate some of Luther's propositions with Hussitism. The case was soon forwarded to the Roman Curia for judgement.[122] Pope Leo remained uninterested, and mentioned the case as "a quarrel among friars".[115][123]

New theology

Luther on the Christian struggles toward God

Christians should be exhorted to seek earnestly to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, hells. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Martin Luther, Ninety-five Theses[124]

As the historian Lyndal Roper notes, the "Reformation proceeded by a set of debates and arguments".[125] Luther presented his views in public at the observant Augustinians' assembly in Heidelberg on 26 April 1518.[126] Here he explained his "theology of the Cross" about a loving God who had become frail to save fallen humanity, contrasting it with the scholastic "theology of glory" that in his view celebrated erudition and human acts.[123] It is uncertain when Luther's concept of justification by faith alone—a central element of his theology—crystallised. He would later attribute it to his "tower experience",[note 25] when he comprehended that God could freely declare even sinners righteous while he was thinking about the words of Paul the Apostle (d. 64 or 65)—"the just shall live by faith".[128][129]

Urged by Luther's opponents, Pope Leo appointed the jurist Girolamo Ghinucci (d. 1541) and the theologian Sylvester Mazzolini (d. 1527) to inspect Luther's teaching.[130] Mazzolini argued that Luther had questioned papal authority by attacking the indulgences, while Luther concluded that only a fundamental reform could put an end to the abuse of indulgences.[131] Pope Leo did not excommunicate Luther because Leo did not want to alienate Luther's patron Frederick the Wise.[note 26] Instead, he appointed Cardinal Thomas Cajetan (d. 1534) to convince Luther to withdraw some of his theses. Cajetan met with Luther at Augsburg in October 1518.[18] The historian Berndt Hamm says that the meeting was the "historical point at which the opposition between the Reformation and Catholicism first emerged",[note 27] as Cajetan thought that believers accepting Luther's views of justification would no more obey clerical guidance.[133][134]

Luther first expressed his sympathy for Jan Hus at a disputation in Leipzig in June 1519. His case was reopened at the Roman Curia. Cajetan, Eck and other papal officials drafted the papal bull Exsurge Domine ('Arise, O Lord') which was published on 15 June 1520. It condemned Luther's forty-one theses, and offered a sixty-day-long grace period to him to recant.[135] Luther's theology quickly developed. In a Latin treatise On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he stated that only baptism and the Eucharist could be regarded as sacraments, and priests were not members of a privileged class but servants of the community (hence they became called ministers from the Latin word for servant). His German manifesto To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation associated the papacy with the Antichrist, and described the Holy See as "the worst whorehouse of all whorehouses" in reference to the funds flowing to the Roman Curia.[136][137] It also challenged the Biblical justification of clerical celibacy.[138] Luther's study On the Freedom of a Christian consolidated his thoughts about the believers' inner freedom with their obligation to care for their neighbours although he rejected the traditional teaching about good works.[139] The study is a characteristic example of Luther's enthusiasm for paradoxes.[note 28][140]

The papal nuncio Girolamo Aleandro (d. 1542) ordered the burning of Luther's books.[141] In response, Luther and his followers burned the papal bull along with a copy of the Corpus Juris Canonici—the fundamental document of medieval ecclesiastic law—at Wittenberg. The papal bull excommunicating Luther was published on 3 January 1521.[142][143] The newly elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (r. 1519–1556) wanted to outlaw Luther at the Diet of Worms, but could not make the decision alone.[144] The Holy Roman Empire was a confederation of autonomous states, and authority rested with the Imperial Diets where the Imperial Estates assembled.[145] Frederick the Wise vetoed the imperial ban against Luther, and Luther was summoned to Worms to defend his case at the Diet in April 1521. Here he refused to recant stating that only arguments from the Bible could convince him that his works contained errors.[144]

After Luther and his supporters left the Diet, those who remained sanctioned the imperial ban, threatening Luther's supporters with imprisonment and confiscation of their property.[146] To save Luther's life but also to hide his involvement, Frederick arranged Luther's abduction on 4 May.[144] During his ten-month-long[146] staged captivity at Frederick's castle of Wartburg, Luther translated the New Testament to High German. The historian Diarmaid MacCulloch describes the translation as an "extraordinary achievement that has shaped the German language ever since", adding that "Luther's gift was for seizing the emotion with sudden, urgent phrases".[147] The translation would be published at the 1522 Leipzig Book Fair along with Luther's treatise On Monastic Vows that laid the theological foundations of the dissolution of monasteries.[148] Luther also composed religious hymns in Wartburg. They would be first published in collections in 1524.[149] During Luther's absence, his co-workers, primarily Philip Melanchthon (d. 1560) and Andreas Karlstadt (d. 1541) assumed the leadership of Reformation in Wittenberg. Melanchthon consolidated Luther's thoughts into a coherent theological work titled Loci communes ('Common Places').[150]


Woodcuts by Lucas Cranach the Elder from the Passional of Christ and Antichrist, contrasting Christ who wears the Crown of Thorns and is mocked (on the left), with the pope crowned with a tiara and adored by bishops and abbots (on the right)

Roper argues that "the most important reason why Luther did not meet with Hus's fate was technology: the new medium of print". Luther was publishing his views in short but pungent treatises that gained unexpected popularity: he was responsible for about one-fifth of all works printed in Germany in the first third of the 16th century.[note 29][152] German printing presses were scattered in many urban centers which prevented their control by central authorities.[153] Statistical analysis indicates a significant correlation between the presence of a printing press in a German city and the adoption of Reformation.[note 30][156]

Reformation spread through the activities of enthusiastic preachers such as Johannes Oecolampadius (d. 1531) and Konrad Kürsner (d. 1556) in Basel, Sebastian Hofmeister (d. 1533) in Schaffhausen, and Matthäus Zell (d. 1548) and Martin Bucer (d. 1551) in Strasbourg.[157] They were called "Evangelicals" due to their insistence on teaching in accordance with the Gospels (or Evangelion).[158] Luther and many of his followers worked with the artist Lucas Cranach the Elder (d. 1553) who had a keen sense of visualising their message. He produced Luther's idealised portrait setting a template for further popular images printed on the covers of books.[159] Cranach's woodcuts together with itinerant preachers' explanations helped the mainly illiterate people to understand Luther's teaching.[160] The illustrated pamphlets were carried from place to place typically by peddlers and merchants.[161] Laypeople started to discuss various aspects of religion in both private and public all over Germany.[162]

The self-governing free imperial cities were the first centers of the Reformation.[163] The Evangelical preachers emphasized that many of the well-established church practices had no precedent in the Bible. They offered the Eucharist to the laity in both kinds,[164] and denied the clerics' monopolies, which resonated with popular anti-clericalism.[165] It was not unusual that their supporters attacked clerics and church buildings.[166] Violent iconoclasm was common.[note 31]In some cities such as Strasbourg and Ulm, the urban magistrates supported the Reformation; in the cities of the Hanseatic League the affluent middle classes enforced changes in church life.[168] Cities located closer to the most important ideological centers of the Reformation—Wittenberg and Basel—adopted its ideas more likely than other towns. This indicates the significance either of student networks,[169] or of neighbours who had rejected Catholicism.[170]

The sociologist Steven Pfaff underlines that "ecclesiastical and liturgical reform was not simply a religious question ... since the sort of reforms demanded by Evangelicals could not be accommodated within existing institutions, prevailing customs, or established law". After their triumph, the reformers expelled their leading opponents, dissolved the monasteries and convents, secured the urban magistrates' control of the appointment of priests, and established new civic institutions.[171] Evangelical town councils usually prohibited begging but established a common chest for poverty relief by expropriating the property of dissolved ecclesiastic institutions. The funds were used for the daily support of orphans, old people and the sick, but also for low-interest loans to the impoverished to start a business. Luther was convinced that only educated people could effectively serve both God and the community. Under his auspices, public schools and libraries were opened in many towns offering education to more children than the traditional monastic and cathedral schools.[172]

Resistance and oppression

A golden shrine in a large room
Treasury of Saint Ursula in the Basilica of St. Ursula, Cologne. Her popular cult contributed to the townspeople's resistance to Evangelical proselytism in Cologne.[173]

Resistance to Evangelical preaching was significant in Flanders, the Rhineland, Bavaria and Austria.[174] Here the veneration of local saints was strong, and statistical analysis indicates that cities where indigenous saints' shrines served as centers of vivid communal cults less likely adopted Reformation.[note 32][176] Likewise, cities with an episcopal see or monasteries more likely resisted Evangelical proselytism.[177][178] Luther's ideas were rejected by most representatives of the previous generation of Humanists. Erasmus stated that Luther's "unrestrained enthusiasm carries him beyond what is right". Jacob van Hoogstraaten (d. 1527) compared Luther's theology of salvation "as if Christ takes to himself the most foul bride and is unconcerned about her cleanliness".[179] Luther's works were burned in most European countries.[180] Emperor Charles initiated the execution of the first Evangelical martyrs, the Augustinian monks Jan van Essen and Hendrik Vos. They were burned in Brussels on 1 July 1523.[181] Charles was determined to protect the Catholic Church, but the Ottoman Turks' expansion towards Central Europe often thwarted him.[182][183]

The English king Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547) commissioned a team of theologians to defend the Catholic dogmas against Luther's attacks. Their treatise titled The Assertion of the Seven Sacraments was published under Henry's name, and the grateful Pope awarded him with the title Defender of the Faith.[180][184] In Scotland, the first Evangelical preacher Patrick Hamilton (d. 1528) was burned for heresy.[185] In France, the theologians of the Sorbonne stated that Luther "vomited up a doctrine of pestilence". Guillaume Briçonnet (d. 1534), Bishop of Meaux, also condemned Luther but employed reform-minded clerics like Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (d. c. 1536) and William Farel (d. 1565) to renew religious life in his diocese. They enjoyed the protection of Marguerite of Angoulême (d. 1549), the well-educated sister of the French king Francis I (r. 1515–1547). The Parlement of Paris only took actions against them after Francis was captured in the Battle of Pavia in 1525, forcing many of them into exile.[186]

The Spanish Inquisition prevented the spread of Evangelical literature in that country, and suppressed the spiritual movement of the Alumbrados ('Illuminists') who put a special emphasis on personal faith. Some Italian men of letters such as the Venetian nobleman Gasparo Contarini (d. 1542) and the Augustinian friar Peter Martyr Vermigli (d. 1562) expressed ideas resembling Luther's theology of salvation but did not break with Catholicism.[note 33] They were known as Spirituali.[188][189]

Correspondence between Luke of Prague (d. 1528), leader of the Bohemian Brethren, and Luther made it clear that their theologies were incompatible even if their views about justification were similar. In Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland, Luther's theology spread in the local German communities. King Louis of Bohemia and Hungary (r. 1516–1526) ordered the persecution of Evangelical preachers although his wife Mary of Austria (d. 1558) favoured the reformers. Sigismund I the Old, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (r. 1506–1548) banned the import of Evangelical literature.[190] Christian II, who ruled the Kalmar Union of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (r. 1513–1523), was sympathetic towards the Reformation but his despotic methods led to revolts. He was replaced by his uncle Frederick I in Denmark and Norway (r. 1523–1533), and by a local aristocrat Gustav I Vasa in Sweden (r. 1523–1560).[191]



Saxon radicals and rebellious knights


Andreas Karlstadt accelerated the implementation of Reformation in Wittenberg. On Christmas Day 1521, he administered the Eucharist in common garment; the next day he announced his engagement to a fifteen-year-old noble girl Anna von Mochau. He proclaimed that images were examples of "devilish deceit" which led to the mass destruction of religious art. Enthusiasts began swarming to Wittenberg. The Zwickau prophets, who had been incited by the radical preacher Thomas Müntzer (d. 1525), claimed that they had received revelations from God.[192][193] They rejected transubstantiation and attacked infant baptism. Luther defended art as a proof of the beauty of the Creation, maintained that Christ's Body and Blood were physically present in the Eucharist,[note 34] and regarded infant baptism as a sign of membership in the Christian community.[note 35] To put an end to the anarchy, Frederick the Wise released Luther in March 1522. Luther achieved the Zwickau prophets' removal from Wittenberg, calling them fanatics.[196] Karlstadt voluntarily left Wittenberg for Orlamünde where the local congregation elected him its minister. Luther visited most parishes in the region to prevent radical reforms, but he was often received by verbal or physical abuses. When he wanted to dismiss Karlstadt, the parishioners referred to his own words about the congregations' right to freely elect their ministers, and Karlstadt called him a "perverter of the Scriptures". Karlstadt was expelled from Electoral Saxony without a trial on Luther's initiative.[197]

Luther condemned violence but some of his followers took up arms. Franz von Sickingen (d. 1523), an imperial knight from the Rhineland, formed an alliance with his peers against Richard von Greiffenklau, Archbishop-elector of Trier (r. 1511–1531), allegedly to lead the Archbishop's subjects "to evangelical, light laws and Christian freedom".[198] Sickingen had demanded the restitution of monastic property to the grantors' descendants, stating that the secularisation of church property would also improve the poor peasants' situation.[199] Sickingen and his associates attacked the archbishopric but failed at the siege of Trier. Sickingen was mortally wounded while defending his Nanstein Castle against the Archbishop's troops.[198] Luther denounced Sickingen's violent acts.[200] According to his "theory of two kingdoms", true Christians had to submit themselves to princely authority.[201]


A middle-aged man
Huldrych Zwingli's 16th-century portrait by Hans Asper

The Swiss Humanist priest Huldrych Zwingli would claim that he "began to preach the Gospel of Christ in 1516 long before anyone in our region had ever heard of Luther". He came to prominence when attended a meal of sausages in Zürich during Lent 1522, breaching the rules of fasting.[202] He held disputations with the urban magistrates' authorization to discuss changes in church life, and always introduced them with the magistrates' support. In 1524, all images were removed from the churches, and fasting and clerical celibacy were abolished. Two years later, a German communion service replaced the Latin liturgy of the Mass, and the Eucharist (or Lord's Supper) was administered on a plain wooden table instead of an embellished altar.[202][203] Two new institutions were organised in Zürich: the Prophezei (a public school for Biblical studies), and the Marriage and Morals Court (a legal court and moral police consisting of two laymen and two clerics). Both would be copied in other towns.[204] Zwingli's interpretation of the Eucharist differed from both Catholic theology and Luther's teaching. He denied Christ's presence in the sacramental bread and wine, and regarded the Eucharist as a commemorative ceremony in honor of the crucified Jesus.[205] The disagreement caused a bitter pamphlet war between Luther and Zwingli.[206] They both rejected intermediary Eucharistic formulas coined by Bucer.[207]

Swiss Brethren


Zwingli's cautious "Magisterial Reformation" outraged the more radical reformers, among them Conrad Grebel (d. 1526), a Zürich patrician's son who had fallen out with his family for marrying a low born girl. The radicals summarized their theology in a letter to Müntzer in 1524. They identified the Church as an exclusive community of the righteous, and demanded its liberation from the state. They deplored all religious practices that had no Biblical foundations, and endorsed believers' (or adult) baptism.

In January 1525, a former Catholic priest George Blaurock (d. 1529) asked Grebel to rebaptize him, and after his request was granted they rebaptized fifteen other people.[208] For this practice, they were called Anabaptists ('rebaptizers').[209] As a featuring element of Donatism and other heretic movements, rebaptism had been a capital offence since the Late Roman period. After the magistrates had some radicals imprisoned, Blaurock called Zwingli the Antichrist.[210] The town council enacted a law that threatened rebaptizers with capital punishment, and the Anabaptist Felix Manz (d. 1527) was condemned to death and drowned in the Limmat River.[211] He was the first victim of religious persecution by reformist authorities. The purge convinced many Anabaptists that they were the true heirs to early Christians who had suffered martyrdom for their faith. The most radicals took inspiration from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation for apocalyptic prophesies. Some of them burnt the Bible reciting St Paul's words, "the letter kills".[212] In St. Gallen, Anabaptist women cut their hair short to avoid arousing sexual passion, while a housemaid Frena Bumenin proclaimed herself the New Messiah before announcing that she would give birth to the Antichrist.[213]

According to Dr Kenneth R. Davis, "the Anabaptists can best be understood as, apart from their own creativity, a radicalization and Protestantization not of the Magisterial Reformation but of the lay-oriented, ascetic reformation of which Erasmus is the principle mediator."[214]: 292 

Peasants' War

A page depicting men armed with pikes, flails, maces and pitchforks
Title page of the Twelve Articles, a manifesto by Swabian peasants in March 1525

MacCulloch says that the Reformation "injected an extra element of instability" into the relationship between the peasants and their lords, as it raised "new excitement and bitterness against established authority".[215] Public demonstrations in the Black Forest area indicated a general discontent among the southern German peasantry in May 1524. The Anabaptist preacher Balthasar Hubmaier (d. 1528) was one of the peasant leaders, but most participants never went beyond traditional anti-clericalism. In early 1525, the movement spread towards Upper Swabia. The radical preacher Cristopher Schappler and the pamphleteer Sebastian Lotzer summarized the Swabian peasants' demand in a manifesto known as Twelve Articles. The peasants wanted to control their ministers' election and to supervise the use of church revenues, but also demanded the abolition of the tithe on meat. They reserved the right to present further demands against non-Biblical seigneurial practices but promised to abandon any of their demands that contradicted the Bible, and appointed fourteen "arbitrators" to clarify divine law on the relationship between peasants and landlords. The arbitrators approached Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon and other leaders of the Reformation for advice but none of them answered.[216] Luther wrote a treatise, equally blaming the landlords for the oppression of the peasantry and the rebels for their arbitrary acts.[217]

Georg Truchsess von Waldburg (d. 1531), commander of the army of the aristocratic Swabian League, achieved the dissolution of the peasant armies either by force or through negotiations. By this time the peasant movements reached Franconia and Thüringia. The Franconian peasants formed alliances with artisans and petty nobles such as Florian Geyer (d. 1525) against the patricians and the Prince-Bishopric of Würzburg but Truchsess forced them into submission.[218] In Thüringia, Müntzer convinced 300 radicals that they were invincible but they were annihilated at Frankenhausen by Philip the Magnanimous, Landgrave of Hesse (r. 1509–1567) and George, Duke of Saxony (r. 1500–1539). Müntzer who had hidden in an attic before the battle was discovered and executed.[219][220] News of atrocities by peasant bands and meetings with disrespectful peasants during a preaching tour outraged Luther while he was writing his treatise Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants. In it, he urged the German princes to "smite, slay, and slab" the rebels.[221] Moderate observers felt aggrieved at his cruel words. They regarded as an especially tasteless act that Luther married Katharina von Bora (d. 1552), a former nun while the punitive actions against the peasantry were still in process.[222] Further peasant movements began in other regions in Central Europe but they were pacified through concessions or suppressed by force before the end of 1525.[223]



Princely Reformation in Germany

A man is falling from ladder at a tower with a city burning at the background
Sack of Rome in 1527 by Emperor Charles V's troops (1555) on a woodcut by Maarten van Heemskerck

The Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach (r. 1510–1525) was the first prince to formally abandon Catholicism. The Teutonic Order held Royal Prussia in fief of Poland. After defeats in a war against Poland and Lithuania demoralised the Knights, Albert transformed the region into the hereditary Duchy of Prussia in April 1525. As the secularisation of Prussia represented an open rebellion against Catholicism, it was followed by the establishment of the first Evangelical state church.[224] In August, Albert's brothers, Casimir (r. 1515–1527) and George (r. 1536–1543) instructed the priests in Brandenburg-Kulmbach and Brandenburg-Ansbach to pray the doctrine of justification by faith alone.[225] The Reformation was officially introduced in Electoral Saxony under John the Constant (r. 1525–1532) on Christmas Day 1525.[226] Electoral Saxony's conversion facilitated the adoption of the Reformation in smaller German states, such as Mansfeld and Hessen.[227][228] Philip of Hessen founded the first Evangelical university at his capital Marburg in 1527.[229]

At the Diet of Speyer in 1526, the German princes agreed that they would "live, govern, and act in such a way as everyone trusted to justify before God and the Imperial Majesty".[230] In practice, they sanctioned the principle cuius regio, eius religio ('whose realm, their religion'), acknowledging the princes' right to determine their subjects' religious affiliation.[231] Fully occupied with the War of the League of Cognac against France and its Italian allies, Emperor Charles had appointed his brother Ferdinand I, Archduke of Austria (r. 1521–1564) to represent him in Germany. They both opposed the compromise, but Ferdinand was brought into succession struggles in Bohemia and Hungary after their brother-in-law King Louis died in the Battle of Mohács. In 1527, Charles's mutinous[187] troops sacked Rome and took Pope Clement VII (r. 1523–1534) under custody. Luther stated that "Christ reigns in such a way that the emperor who persecutes Luther for the pope is forced to destroy the pope for Luther".[230]

After his experiences with radical communities, Luther no more wrote of the congregations' right to elect their ministers (or pastors). Instead, he expected that princes acting as "emergency bishops" would prevent the disintegration of the Church.[231] Close cooperation between clerics and princely officials at church visitations paved the way for the establishment of the new church system.[232] In Electoral Saxony, princely decrees enacted the Evangelical ideas.[233] Liturgy was simplified, the church courts' jurisdiction over secular cases was abolished, and state authorities took control of church property.[232] The Evangelical equivalent to bishop was created with the appointment of a former Catholic priest Johannes Bugenhagen (d. 1558) as superintendent in 1533.[233] The church visitations convinced Luther that the villagers' knowledge of the Christian faith was imperfect.[note 36] To deal with the situation, he completed two cathecisms—the Large Catechism for the education of priests, and the Small Catechism for children.[234] Records from Brandenburg-Ansbach indicates that Evangelical pastors often attacked traditional communal activities such as church fairs and spinning bees for debauchery.[235]

Evangelical Imperial Estates on their protestation at the Diet of Speyer

"In matters concerning God's honor and our soul's salvation everyone must stand before God and answer by himself, nobody can excuse himself in that place by the actions of decisions of others whether they be a minority or majority."

Five imperial princes and representatives of fourteen imperial cities, Protestation at Speyer (1529)[232]

Taking advantage of Emperor Charles' victories in Italy, Ferdinand I achieved the reinforcement of the imperial ban against Luther at the Diet of Speyer in 1529. In response, five imperial princes and fourteen imperial cities[note 37] presented a formal protestatio. They were mocked as "Protestants", and this appellation would be quickly applied to all followers of the new theologies.[note 38][238] To promote Protestant unity, Philip the Magnanimous organised a colloquy (or theological debate) between Luther, Melanchton, Zwingli and Oecolampadius at Marburg early in October 1529,[239] but they could not coin a common formula on the Eucharist.[240] During the discussion, Luther remarked that "Our spirit has nothing in common with your spirit", expressing the rift between the two mainstream versions of the Reformation. Zwingli's followers started to call themselves the "Reformed", as they regarded themselves as the true reformers.[241]

Stalemate in Switzerland


In 1526, the villagers of the autonomous Graubünden region in Switzerland agreed that each village could freely choose between Protestantism and Catholicism, setting a precedent for the coexistence of the two denominations in the same jurisdiction.[242] Religious affiliation in the Mandated Territories (lands jointly administered by the Swiss cantons) became the subject of much controversy between Protestant and Catholic cantons. The Protestant cantons concluded a military alliance early in 1529, the Catholic cantons in April.[243][244] After a bloodless armed conflict, the Mandated communities were granted the right to choose between the two religions by a majority vote of the male citizens. Zwingli began an intensive proselityzing campaign which led to the conversion of most Mandated communities to Protestantism. He set up a council of clergymen and lay delegates for church administration, thus creating the forerunners of presbyteries.[245] Zürich imposed an economic blockade on the Catholic cantons but the Catholics routed Zürich's army in 1531. The Catholics' victory stopped the Protestant expansion in Switzerland.[244][246]

Zwingli was killed in the battlefield, and succeeded by a former monk Heinrich Bullinger (d. 1575) in Zürich. Bullinger developed Zwingli's Eucharistic formula in an attempt to reach a compromise with Luther, saying that the faithful made spiritual contact with God during the commemorative ceremony.[note 39][248]

Schleitheim Articles

A page with printed text
Title page of the Schleitheim Articles passed at the pacifist Anabaptists' assembly in 1527

The historian Carter Lindberg states that the "Peasants' War was a formative experience for many leaders of Anabaptism".[249] Hans Hut (d. 1527) continued Müntzer's apocalyticism but others rejected all forms of violence.[250]

The pacifist Michael Sattler (d. 1527) took the chair at an Anabaptist assembly at Schleitheim in February 1527. Here the participants adopted an anti-militarist program now known as the Schleitheim Articles. The document ordered the believers' separation from the evil world, and prohibited oath-taking, bearing of arms and holding of civic offices. Facing Ottoman expansionism, the Austrian authorities considered this pacifism as a direct threat to their country's defense. Sattler was quickly captured and executed. During his trial, he stated that "If the Turks should come, we ought not to resist them. For it is written: Thou shalt not kill."[251][252]

Total segregation was alien to Hübmaier who tried to achieve a peaceful coexistence with non-Anabaptists.[253] Expelled from Zürich, he settled in the Moravian domains of Count Leonhard von Liechtenstein at Nikolsburg (now Mikulov, Czech Republic). He baptised infants on the parents' request for which hard-line Anabaptists regarded him as an evil compromiser. He was sentenced to death and burned at the stake for heresy on Ferdinand I's orders. His execution inaugurated a period of intensive purge against rebaptisers. His followers relocated to Austerlitz (now Slavkov u Brna, Czech Republic) where refugees from Tyrol joined them. After the Tyrolian Jakob Hutter (d. 1536) assumed the leadership of the community, they began to held their goods in common. The Bohemian Brethren symphatised with the Hutterites which facilitated their survival in Moravia.[254]



Back in Germany in January 1530, Charles V asked the Protestants to summarize their theology at the following Diet in Augsburg. As the imperial ban prevented Luther from attending the Diet, Melanchthon completed the task. Melanchthon sharply condemned Anabaptist ideas and adopted a reconciliatory tone towards Catholicism but did not fail to emphasize the most featuring elements of Evangelical theology, such as justification by faith alone. The twenty-eight articles of the Augsburg Confession were presented at the Diet on 25 June. Four south German Protestant cities—Strasbourg, Constance, Lindau, and Memmingen—adopted a separate confessional document, the Tetrapolitan Confession because they were influenced by Zwingli's Eucharistic theology. On Charles's request, Eck and other Catholic theologians completed a response to the Augsburg Confession, called Confutatio ('refutation'). Charles ordered the Evangelical theologians to admit that their argumentation had been completely refuted. Instead, Melanchthon wrote a detailed explanation for the Evangelical articles of faith, known as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.[240][255]

Charles wanted to attack the Protestant princes and cities but the Catholic princes did not support him fearing that his victory would strengthen his power. The Diet passed a law prohibiting further religious innovations and ordering the Protestants to return to Catholicism until 15 April 1531. Luther had previously questioned the princes' right to resist imperial power, but by then he had concluded that a defensive war for religious purposes could be regarded as a just war.[256] The Schmalkaldic League—the Protestant Imperial Estates' defensive alliance—was signed by five princes and fourteen cities on 27 February 1531.[note 40] As a new Ottoman invasion prevented the Habsburgs from wage war against the Protestants, a peace treaty was signed at Nuremberg in July 1532.[258]

Royal Reformation in Scandinavia


Relationship between the papacy and the Scandinavian kingdoms was tense, as both Frederick I of Denmark and Norway, and Gustav I of Sweden appointed their own candidates to vacant episcopal sees.[259] In 1526, the Danish Parliament prohibited the bishops to seek confirmation from the Holy See, and declared all fees payable for their confirmation as royal revenue.[260] The former Hospitaller knight Hans Tausen (d. 1561) delivered Evangelical sermons in Viborg under royal protection from 1526. Four years later, the Parliament rejected the Catholic prelates' demand to condemn Evangelical preaching.[261] After Frederick's death the bishops and conservative aristocrats prevented the election of his openly Protestant son Christian as his successor.[262] Christopher, Count of Oldenburg (r. 1526–1566) took up arms on the deposed Christian II's behalf, but the war known as Count's Feud ended with the victory of Frederick's son who ordered the arrest of the Catholic bishops. Christian III (r. 1534–1559) was crowned king by Bugenhagen. Bugenhagen also ordained seven superintendents to lead the Church of Denmark. Christian declared the Augsburg Confession as the authoritative articles of faith in 1538,[263] but pilgrimages to the most popular shrines continued, and the Eucharistic liturgy kept Catholic elements, such as kneeling.[264]

In the Danish dependencies of Norway and Iceland, the Reformation required vigorous governmental interventions.[265] The last Catholic Archbishop of Nidaros in Norway Olav Engelbrektsson (d. 1538) was a staunch opponent of the changes, but was succeeded by the Evangelical Gjeble Pederssøn (d. 1557) as superintendent.[266] In Iceland, Jón Arason, Bishop of Hólar (d. 1550)—the last Nordic Catholic bishop—took up arms to prevent the Reformation, but he was captured and executed by representatives of royal authority.[note 41][268]

Gustav I of Sweden appointed the Evangelical preacher Laurentius Andreae (d. 1552) as his chancellor, and the Evangelical scholar Olaus Petri (d. 1552) as a minister at Stockholm. Petri translated the Gospels to Swedish. On his advice, Gustav dissolved a Catholic printing house that published popular anti-Protestant literature under the auspices of Hans Brask (d. 1538), Bishop of Linköping. Gustav also expelled the radical German pastor Melchior Hoffman (d. c. 1543) from Sweden for iconoclastic propaganda.[269][270] The royal treasury needed extra funds to repay the loans borrowed from the Hanseatic League to finance the war against Christian II. Gustav persuaded the legislative assembly to secularise church property by threatening the delegates with his abdication.[270] The peasantry remained very cautious about changes in church life. This together with heavy taxation led to uprisings. To appease the rebels, Gustav declared that he had not sanctioned the changes, and dismissed Andreae in 1531, Petri in 1533.[271] He continued the transformation of church life in Sweden and Finland after the Reformation was fully introduced in Denmark. He was assisted by two Evangelical theologians Georg Norman (d. 1552/1553) and Mikael Agricola (d. 1557).[272] In 1539, Norman was appointed as supertindent of the Church of Sweden, and Gustav took the title of "Supreme Defender of the Church".[273]

Catholic reform




The religious upheaval in Germany and the sack of Rome convinced many Catholics that their Church was in need of a profound reform. Pope Paul III (r. 1534–1549) appointed prominent representatives of the Catholic reform movement as cardinals, among them Contarini, Reginald Pole (d. 1558), and Giovanni Pietro Caraffa (d. 1559). They completed a report condemning the corruption of church administration and the waste of church revenues.[note 42] Contarini, Pole and other Spirituali were ready to make concessions to the Protestants but their liberalism shocked Caraffa and other conservative prelates.[275]

Negotiations between moderate Catholic and Protestant theologians were not unusual. In 1541, Bucer and the Catholic theologian Johann Gropper (d. 1559) drafted a compromise formula on justification.[note 43] The draft was discussed along with other issues at a colloquy during the Diet of Regensburg but no compromise was reached, not least due to opposition by both Luther and the Holy See.[276] Contarini, who represented the papacy at the Diet, died in 1541; many Spirituali such as Vermigli fled from Italy to avoid persecution.[277] Hermann of Wied, Archbishop-elector of Cologne (r. 1515–1546) completed a reform program with Bucer's assistance, criticising prayers to the saints and traditional Eucharistic theology, and proposing sermons about justification by faith.[278] The canons of the Cologne Cathedral requested Gropper to write a critical response to it,[279] and achieved Hermann's deposal by the Roman Curia.[280]

New Orders

A page with printed text
Title page of the first edition of the Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola, published in 1548

The spread of new monastic orders was an important element of the Catholic reform movement. Most new orders placed great value on pastoral care.[note 44] Among them, the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits) became the most influential.[283] Its founder Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556) was born to a Basque noble family. He chose a military career but abandoned it after being wounded during a siege. He started to write a devotional guide, the Spiritual Exercises, during his ascetic retreat at a cave.[284] His mysticism arouse the Spanish Inquisition's suspicion but the Spirituali supported him. Paul III sanctioned the establishment of the Jesuits on Contarini's influence in 1540.[285] The new order quickly developed: when Loyola died, the Society had about 1,000 members; in less than a decade, it numbered around 3,500. The maintenance of a well organised schooling system was the Jesuits' most prominent feature. Their Roman collegium prepared future priests to discuss and reject Protestant theologies primarily in Germany, Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary.[286]

Council of Trent


Paul III decided to convoke the nineteenth ecumenical council to handle the crisis caused by the Reformation. The Council of Trent met in a series of sessions from December 1545 to 1548, 1521 to 1522, and 1562 to 1563.[note 45][287] The topics dealt with included the Creed, the Sacraments including transubstantiation and ordination,[288] justification, and improvement in the quality of priests by diocesan seminaries and annual canonical visitations.[289] The council reaffirmed that apostolic tradition was as authentic a source of faith as the Bible, and emphasized the importance of good works in salvation, rejecting two important elements of Luther's theology.[290] Before being closed in December 1563, the Council mandate the papacy to revise liturgical books and complete a new catechism.[291] Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan (d. 1582) adopted a more practical approach. He completed a handbook covering everyday details of church life, including the delivery of sermons, arrangement of church interiors, and hearing confessions.[292] After the council, papal authority was reinforced through the establishment of central offices known as congregations. One of them became responsible for the list of forbidden literature. All church officials and university teachers were required to take a Tridentine confessional oath that included an oath of "true obedience" to the papacy.[293]

Lindberg suggests that (following Trent) the "spirituality of Catholic reform was the ascetic, subjective, and personal piety", as expressed in public processions, the "perpetual" adoration of the Eucharist, and the reaffirmed veneration of Mary the Virgin and the saints.[294]

New waves


English reformation under Henry VIII

A round-faced bearded middle-aged man wearing a hat decorated with a large feather
Portrait of King Henry VIII (early 1530s) by Joos van Cleve

In England, reformist clerics such as Thomas Bilney (d. 1531) and Robert Barnes (d. 1540) spread Luther's theology among Cambridge and Oxford scholars and students.[295] The young priest William Tyndale (d. 1536) translated the New Testament to English using Erasmus's Latin-Greek edition.[296] By around 1535, more than 15,000 copies of his translation had been distributed in secret.[297] Tyndale's biographer David Daniell (d. 2016) writes that the translation "gave the English language a plain prose style of the very greatest importance", and his "influence has been greater than any other writer in English".[298]

The Lord Chancellor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (d. 1530) had strong links to the Roman Curia, he was unable to achieve the annulment of the marriage of Henry VIII and the middle-aged Catherine of Aragon (d. 1536).[note 46][300] They had needed a papal dispensation to marry because Catherine was the widow of Henry's brother Arthur, Prince of Wales (d. 1502). As she had not produced a male heir, Henry became convinced that their incestuous marriage drew the wrath of God.[301]

Henry charged a group of scholars including Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) with collecting arguments in favour of the annulment. They concluded that the English kings had always had authority over the clergy, and the Book of Leviticus forbade marriage between a man and his brother's widow in all circumstances.[302] In 1530, the Parliament limited the jurisdiction of church courts. Wolsey had meanwhile lost Henry's favour and died, but More tried to convince Henry to abandon his plan about the annulment of his marriage. In contrast, Cranmer and Henry's new chief advisor Thomas Cromwell (d. 1540) argued that the marriage could be annulled without papal interference.[299] Henry who had fallen in love with Catherine's lady-in-waiting Anne Boleyn (d. 1536) decided to marry her even if the marriage could lead to a total break with the papacy.[303] During a visit in Germany, Cranmer married but kept his marriage in secret. On his return to England, Henry appointed him as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Holy See confirmed the appointment.[304]

The links between the English Church and the papacy were severed by Acts of Parliament.[note 47][306] In April 1533, the Act of Appeals decreed that only English courts had jurisdiction in cases of last wills, marriages and grants to the Church, emphasizing that "this realm of England is an Empire".[307][308] A special church court annulled the marriage of Henry and Catherine, and declared their only daughter Mary (d. 1558) illegitimate in May 1533.[309] Pope Clement VII did not sanction the judgement and excommunicated Henry.[310] Ignoring the papal ban, Henry married Anne, and she gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth (d. 1603).[311] Anne was a staunch supporter of the Reformation, and mainly her nominees were appointed to the vacant bishoprics between 1532 and 1536.[304] In 1534, the Act of Supremacy declared the king the "only supreme head of the Church of England".[306] Many of those who refused to swear a special oath of loyalty to the king—65 from about 400 defendants—were executed. More and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (d. 1535) were among the most prominent victims.[311] Cromwell gradually convinced Henry that a "purification" of church life was needed. The number of feast days was reduced by about 75 per cent, pilgrimages were forbidden, all monasteries were dissolved and their property was seized by the Crown.[297]

The Parliament of Ireland passed similar acts but they could only be fully implemented in the lands under direct English rule. Resistance against the Reformation was vigorous. In 1534, the powerful Lord Thomas FitzGerald (d. 1537) staged a revolt. Although it was crushed, thereafter Henry's government did not introduce drastic changes in the Church of Ireland.[312] In England, the dissolution of monasteries caused a popular revolt known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. The "pilgrims" demanded the dismissal of "heretic" royal advisors but they were overcame by royalist forces.[313][314] The principal articles of faith of the Church of England were summarized in the Six Articles in 1539. It reaffirmed several elements of traditional theology, such as transubstantiation and clerical celibacy.[315]

As Anne Boleyn did not give birth to a son, she lost Henry's favour. She was executed for adultery, and Elizabeth was declared a bastard. Henry's only son Edward (d. 1553) was born to Henry's third wife Jane Seymour (d. 1537). In 1543, an Act of Parliament returned Mary and Elizabeth to the line of the succession behind Edward.[316][317] Henry attacked Scotland to enforce the marriage of Edward and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots (r. 1542–1567) but her mother Mary of Guise (d. 1560) reinforced Scotland's traditional alliance with France.[318] The priest George Wishart (d. 1546) was the first to preach Zwinglian theology in Scotland. After he was burned for heresy, his followers, among them John Knox (d. 1572), assassinated Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews (d. 1546), but French troops crushed their revolt.[319]


A fortified town on a river surrounded by soldiers
Münster besieged by Prince-bishop Franz von Waldeck

Having been banished from Sweden, Hoffman was wandering in southern Germany and the Low Countries. He turned Anabaptist[320] but suspended adult baptism to avoid persecution.[321] He denied that Christ had become flesh,[note 48] and preached that 144,000 elect were to gather in Strasbourg to witness Christ's return in 1533.[320] His followers known as Melchiorites swarmed into the city, presenting an enormous challenge for its charity provisions. Hoffman also came to Strasbourg, but the authorities arrested him. After the deadline for Christ's return passed uneventfully, many disappointed Melchiorites accepted the leadership of a charismatic Dutch baker Jan Matthijszoon (d. 1534). He blamed Hoffman for the suspension of adult baptism, and proclaimed the city of Münster as the New Jerusalem. Although Münster was an episcopal see, the town council had installed a Protestant pastor Bernhard Rothmann (d. c. 1535) in clear defiance to the new prince-bishop Franz von Waldeck (r. 1532–1553). Those who expected a radical social transformation from the Reformation flocked to Münster. The radicals assumed full control of the town in February 1534.[323]

Bishop Franz and his allies, among them Philip of Hessen, attacked Münster but could not capture it. Under Matthijszoon's rule, private property and the use of money was outlawed in the town. Believing that God would protect him, Matthijszoon made a sortie against the enemy, but he was killed. Another charismatic Dutchman, John of Leiden (d. 1536)—a former tailor—succeeded him. Leiden announced that he was receiving revelations from God, and proclaimed himself "king of righteousness" and "the ruler of the new Zion". Church and state were united, and all sinners were executed.[324] Leiden legalized polygyny, and ordered all women who were twelve or older to marry. The protracted siege demoralized the defenders, and Münster fell through treason on 25 June 1535. After the fall of Münster, most Anabaptist groups adopted a pacifist approach under the leadership of a former priest Menno Simons (d. 1561).[325] He associated the Anabaptist communities with the New Jerusalem. His followers would be known as Mennonites.[326] Nearly all Anabaptist communities were destroyed in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland,[327] but moderate Anabaptist groups survived in East Frisia,[328] and were mainly tolerated in England.[329]

Calvin and the Institutes of the Christian Religion

A long-faced bearded middle-aged man wearing a hat
Portrait of John Calvin (c. 1550) by an unknown French painter

The future reformer John Calvin (d. 1564) was destined to a church career by his father, a lay administrator of the Bishopric of Noyon in France.[note 49] He studied theology at the Sorbonne, and law at Orléans and Bourges. He read treatises by Lefèvre and Lefèvre's disciples at the newly established Collège Royal, and abandoned Catholicism under the influence of his Protestant friends, particularly the physician Nicolas Cop (d. 1540).[331] The persecution of French Protestants intensified after the so-called Affair of the Placards. In October 1534, placards (or posters) attacking the Mass were placed at many places, including the door to the royal bedchamber in Château d'Amboise. In retaliation, twenty-four Protestants were executed, and many intellectuals had to leave France.[332]

Calvin was one of the religious refugees. He settled in Basel and completed the first version of his principal theological treatise, the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. He would be rewriting and expanding it several times until 1559. As the historian Carlos Eire writes, "Calvin's text was blessed with a lawyer's penchant for precision, a humanist's love for poetic expression and rhetorical flourishes, and a theologian's respect for paradox".[333] With Eire's words, Calvin "revived the jealous God of the Old Testament". He warned King Francis that the persecution of the faithful would incur the wrath of God upon him but sharply distanced moderate Protestants from Anabaptists.[note 50][335][336] Already the first edition of the Institutes contained references to two distinguishing elements of Calvin's theology, both traceable back to Augustine: his conviction that the original sin had completely corrupted human nature, and his strong belief in "double predestination". In his view, only strict social and ecclesiastic control could prevent sins and crimes,[337] and God did not only decide who were saved but also those who were destined to damnation.[79][338]

In 1536, Farel convinced Calvin to settle in Geneva. Their attempts to implement radical reforms in discipline brought them into conflicts with those who feared that the new measures would lead to clerical despotism.[339] After they refused to acknowledge the urban magistrates' claim to intervene in the process of excommunication, they were banished from the town. Calvin moved to Strasbourg where Bucer made a profound impact on him.[340] Under Bucer's influence, Calvin adopted an intermediate position on the Eucharist between Luther and Zwingli, denying Christ's presence in it but acknowledging that the rite included a real spiritual communion with Christ.[340]

Calvin on the "double pedestrination"

No one who wishes to be thought religious dares simply deny predestination, by which God adopts some to hope of life, and sentences others to eternal death...For all are not created in an equal condition; rather eternal life is fore-ordained for some, eternal damnation for others.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559)[341]

After Calvin and Farel left Geneva, no pastors were able to assume the leadership of the local Protestant community. Fearing of a Catholic restoration, the urban magistrates convinced Calvin to come back to Geneva in 1541. Months after his return, the town council enacted The Ecclesiastical Ordinances, a detailed regulation summarizing Calvin's proposals for church administration.[342] The Ordinances established four church offices. The pastors were responsible for pastoral care and discipline; the doctors instructed believers in the faith; the elders (or presbyters) were authorized to "watch over the life of each person" and to report those who lived a "disorderly" life to the pastors; and deacons were appointed to administer the town's charity. All townspeople were obliged to regularly attend church services. Calvin established a special court called the consistory to hear cases of moral lapse such as blasphemy, adultery, disrespect to authorities, gossiping, witchcraft and participation in rites considered superstitious by church authorities. The consistory was composed of the pastors, the elders, and an urban magistrate, and the townspeople were encouraged to report sinful acts to it. First-time offenders mainly received lenient sentences such as fines, but repeat offenders were banished from the town or executed.[343] Resistance against the Ordinances was significant. Many continued visit shrines and pray to saints, while many patricians insisted on liberal traditional customs for which Calvin called them "Libertines".[344]

Reformation in Britain


Henry VIII died on 27 January 1547. His nine-year-old son Edward VI (r. 1547–1553) succeeded him, and Edward's maternal uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (d. 1552) assumed power as Lord Protector. Somerset halted the persecution of religious dissidents, making England a safe haven for religious refugees from all over Europe. They established their own congregations, served by prominent pastors, such as the Polish Jan Łaski (d. 1560) and the Spanish Casiodoro de Reina (d. 1594). Most of them adhered to Reformed theology.[345] Cranmer introduced further religious reforms: images were removed from the churches, the doctrine of purgatory was rejected, and all endowments for prayers for the dead (or chantries) were confiscated. With the introduction of Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer, the Mass was replaced by a vernacular liturgy.[note 51][347]

Marshall notes, that it is "safe to say that the greater part of the population disliked what was taking place". The liturgical changes caused popular revolts in Devon and Cornwall and other places but they were quickly suppressed, just like the riot against the dissolution of chantries in East Yorkshire. Even in Norfolk, where the peasants adopted a Protestant rhetoric, they assembled under the banners of their parish saints.[348] Somerset's opponents take advantage of the unrest to get rid of him. He was replaced by John Dudley (d. 1553) who was made Duke of Northumberland.[346] Cranmer continued the liturgical reforms, and the new version of the Book of Common Prayer rejected the dogma of transubstantiation.[349] He completed the Forty-two Articles, a new confessional document combining elements of Reformed and Evangelical theologies.[350]

Edward died of tuberculosis on 6 July 1553. He had designated his Protestant relative Jane Grey (d. 1554) as his heir to prevent the succession of his Catholic sister Mary, but most English remained loyal to the Tudor dynasty. Initially, Mary I (r. 1553–1558) took advantage of her royal prerogatives to dismiss married clergy, appoint Catholic priests to bishoprics, and restore the Mass.[351] She had to make concessions to landowners who had seized church property to achieve the restoration of papal supremacy by the Parliament in November 1554. Cranmer was forced to sign six documents condemning his own acts but withdrew his recantations while being burned for heresy in public in March 1556. Reginald Pole was appointed as the new archbishop of Canterbury, but he was accused of heresy after his old enemy Carafa had been elected pope as Paul IV (r. 1555–1559).[352] The restoration of the altars and images gained popular support in many places, but recatholisation faced significant resistance—around 300 Protestants were burned, and about 1,000 were forced into exile during Mary's reign.[353] Her marriage with Philip II of Spain was unpopular, and she died childless on 17 November 1558.[354]

Mary's sister and successor Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603) sought a via media ('middle way') between religious extremists. Her first Parliament restored the royal leadership of the Church of England, and introduced a modified version of the Book of Common Prayer. The Anglican liturgy retained elements of Catholic ceremonies, such as priestly vestments, and contained ambiguous sentences about the Eucharist, suggesting the real presence of Jesus's Blood and Body for conservatives, and a memorial service for reformers. Elizabeth supervised the revision of the Anglican articles of faith in person. The subsequent Thirty-nine Articles were formulated in a way that adherents to the major mainstream Protestant theologies could accept them. However, the most resolute Protestants were determined to purify the Church of England from the remnants of Catholic ceremonies, hence they were called Puritans. They were especially influential at the universities. Many of them rejected the authority of bishops, the Presbyterians emphasized the equal status of all priests, whereas the Congregationalists wanted to strengthen the position of local communities in church administration.[355]

England's recatholisation contributed to the triumph of Reformation in Scotland. James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran (d. 1575), heir presumptive to Queen Mary of the Scots, assumed the leadership of the Protestant lords. Incited by Knox's passionate sermons, anti-Catholic sentiments led to a popular revolt of elementary force in 1559, causing the destruction of monasteries and friaries.[356]

Servetus and the Restoration of Christianity

A page with printed text
Title page of the Restoration of Christianity (1553) by Michael Servetus

The first radicals who rejected the dogma of Trinity were put on trial in Augsburg in 1527. A scholar from Navarre Michael Servetus (d. 1553) adopted antitrinitarian theology in the 1530s. MacCulloch proposes that Servetus rejected the Trinity, a dogma extremely offensive to Jews and Muslims, because he wanted to present Christianity as a universal religion.[357] After studying medicine and anatomy in Paris,[note 52] Servetus became the court physician of the elderly Catholic archbishop of Vienne in southern France. While in Vienne, he sent the first (unpublished) versions of his theological work, the Restoration of Christianity to Calvin. He disrespectfully described the Trinity as a three-headed Cerberus, attacked infant baptism, and denied original sin. He also wrote insulting comments on Calvin's Institutes. The Restoration was published anonymously in Lyon in 1553, but the Catholic Inquisition identified Servetus as its author by using documents from Calvin's personal files. Servetus fled from France but attended a church service delivered by Calvin in Geneva. He was recognised and arrested, and the urban authorities sentenced him to death with Calvin's consent. He was burned at the stake on 27 October 1553.[358][359]

Bucer, Melanchthon and other leading Protestant theologians agreed with Servetus's execution. Only the Basel-based schoolmaster Sebastian Castellio (d. 1563) condemned it in a manifesto for religious toleration. He also addressed a letter to Calvin, stating "To burn a heretic is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man".[360] Antitrinitarian theology survived among Italian exiles in Basel. Lelio Sozzini (d. 1562), a scholar from Siena, argued that Biblical texts calling Jesus "Son of God" did not refer to his divinity but to his faultless humanity. His nephew, Fausto Sozzini (d. 1604) rejected the theory of satisfaction (the concept that Christ's sufferings brought about atonement to God the Father for the original sin). The two Sozzinis also believed that human nature was essentially good. Their followers became known as Socinians.[361]

After Servetus's execution Calvin strengthened his position as the leading figure of Reformed Protestantism.[362] In Geneva, the Libertines rose up but they were quickly overcame, and forced into exile or executed. The confiscation of the property of the wealthy Ami Perrin (d. 1561) and his family provided the city with funds to create an academy. It served both as a preparatory school for local youths and as a seminary for Reformed ministers. Calvin's chief assistant Theodore Beza (d. 1605) was appointed as its first rector. The academy quickly developed into a principal center of theologian training for students from all over Europe, earning Geneva the nickname "the Protestant Rome". It was especially popular among French Protestants.[363]

Wars of religion and tolerance


Schmalkaldic Wars

A fully armed bearded man riding a horse with a lance in his right hand
Portrait of Emperor Charles V at the 1547 Battle of Mühlberg (1548) by Tizian

Scandals and internal conflicts weakened the Protestants' position in Germany in the early 1540s.[280] Philip the Magnanimous committed bigamy by secretly marrying a lady-in-waiting of his court although his wife was still alive. Bucer, Luther, and Melanchthon had discretely sanctioned the bigamious marriage allegedly to prevent adultery.[280][364] In 1542, Philip and John the Constant's successor, John Frederick I (r. 1532–1547) invaded the Duchy of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel which brought disapproval from other princes. Disputes over lands renewed the old rivalry between the Ernestine and Albertine branches of the Wettin dynasty of Saxony. Taking advantage of the situation, Emperor Charles built a broad coalition of Catholic and Evangelical princes against Hesse and Electoral Saxony. The coalition included the Albertine duke Maurice of Saxony (r. 1541–1553). During the ensuing Schmalkaldic War, Charles and his allies won a decisive victory, and Maurice was rewarded with John Frederick's title of elector.[365]

The triumphant Charles V regulated religious issues with an imperial edict known as the Augsburg Interim. The Interim sanctioned clerical marriage and the communion in both kinds in Protestant territories, but denied further concessions. Maurice issued an alternative regulation called the Leipzig Interim for Saxony which ordered the clergy to wear surplices. Melanchthon supported the Leipzig Interim, stating that such issues were "matters indifferent" but uncompromising Lutheran theologians such as Nicolaus von Amsdorf (d. 1565) and Matthias Flacius (d. 1575) rejected all concessions to imperial demands. Different views on justification and the Eucharist caused further heated debates between Melanchton's followers, known as Philippists, and their opponents, called Gnesio-Lutherans ('authentic Lutherans') in the 1550s. The Augsburg Interim was only implemented in the southern German Protestant cities. This led to the expulsion of recalcitrant clerics, including Bucer from Strasbourg.[366][367] Alarmed by Charles's triumph, Calvin and Bullinger agreed on a consensual Eucharistic formula, now known as Consensus Tigurinus ('Consensus of Zürich'), emphasising that Christ "makes us participants of himself" in the Lord's Supper, but also stating that God "uses the ministry of the sacraments" without infusing divine power into them. Luther had died in 1546 but his followers rejected the Consensus.[note 53] The rift between Evangelical and Reformed Protestants widened to the extent that Reformed refugees faced an unfriendly reception at Evangelical countries.[369] In Bohemia, Hussite and Evangelical aristocrats and townspeople rose up against King Ferdinand I. Although Ferdinand crushed the revolt, he had to sanction religious plurality in Moravia as a reward for the Moravian Estates' loyalty during the Bohemian revolt.[370]

Distrusting Emperor Charles, Maurice brokered a coalition of Evangelical princes, and promised four prince-bishoprics to King Henry II of France (r. 1547–1559) for financial support. Maurice and his allies invaded the Habsburgs' domains, forcing Charles to flee. Signed on 10 August 1552, the Peace of Passau prescribed that the religious issues were to be discussed at the following Imperial Diet. The Diet was opened at Augsburg on 5 February 1555. Already exhausted, Charles appointed Ferdinand to represent him. Ferdinand's negotiations with the Evangelical princes ended with the Peace of Augsburg on 25 September. The document reaffirmed the principle cuius regio, eius religio, but the Imperial Estates could only choose between Catholicism and the Augsburg Confession. Evangelical imperial free cities had to tolerate the existence of Catholic communities within their walls, and prince-bishoprics could not be secularised in case the bishop abandoned the Catholic faith.[371][372] Charles, who did not sign the peace treaty, abdicated, ceding his imperial title to Ferdinand, and his vast empire to his son Philip II of Spain (r. 1556–1598).[373]

French Wars of Religion


Many French Protestants did not risk to profess their faith in public. They were known as Nicodemites after Nicodemus, a Pharisee who visited Jesus in secret. Calvin condemned this practice describing those who attended the Mass as soldiers "in the army of Antichrist". Under his influence, the French Protestants started to stay away from Catholic church services. They were called Huguenots for uncertain reason.[374] The poet Clément Marot (d. 1544) provided them with popular stirring songs by translating forty-nine Psalms to French.[375] Francis I promised to exterminate heresy in France in a peace treaty with Charles V in 1544. Next year, Waldensians were massacred in the Luberon region. In 1547, Henry II established a special court for heresy cases, named la chambre ardente ('the burning chamber'). The lawyer Jean Crespin (d. 1572) completed a catalogue of martyrs to commemorate the victims of the purges, and it gained immense popularity in the Protestant communities all over Europe.[376] After around 1555, prominent French aristocrats converted to Protestantism, including Marguerite of Angoulême's daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, (d. 1572), Jeanne's husband Antoine de Bourbon (d. 1562), and Gaspard II de Coligny (d. 1572), admiral of France. Their patronage encouraged less distinguished Huguenots to express their faith in public.[377] In 1559, delegates from seventy-two congregations attended the first synod of the Reformed Church of France, representing about 1.5–2 million believers. The synod adopted the Gallican Confession, a confessional document drated by Calvin. [378][379]

Fully preoccupied with a new war against Emperor Charles, Henry II did not take severe measures against the Huguenot nobility.[380] After his sudden death after an accident, his eldest son Francis II (r. 1559–1560) ascended the throne. His wife, Mary, Queen of Scots was the niece of Francis, Duke of Guise (d. 1563) and Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine (d. 1574), two leaders of the most resolute Catholic faction of the nobility.[381] The queen mother Catherine de' Medici (d. 1589) distrusted them but the persecution of Huguenots intensified under their influence.[380] When Francis died by an ear infection, Calvin considered his fate as divine deliverance. Francis was succeeded by his brother Charles IX (r. 1560–1574) under Catherine's regency.[382] She enacted the Huguenots' right to freely attend church services and hold public assemblies because she wanted to avoid a civil war along religious lines.[383]

Two sides of a medal, one depicting a bearded man in monk's habit, the other an armed angel killing people
Pope Gregory XIII's medal commemorating the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in Paris with the inscription "VGONOTTORVM STRAGES 1572" ('Massacre of Huguenots, 1572')

Uncompromising Catholics and Huguenots considered their confrontation inevitable.[289] The first of the French Wars of Religion—a series of armed conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots—began after Guise's retainers massacred more than fifty Huguenots at Vassy on 1 March 1562.[383][384] As Antoine de Bourbon had returned to Catholicism, his brother Louis I, Prince of Condé (d. 1569) assumed the leadership of a Huguenot revolt.[384][385] They concluded a treaty with England in September 1562.[386] To achieve a reconciliation, Catherine de'Medici married off her daughter Margaret of Valois (d. 1615) to the Protestant son of Jeanne d'Albret and Antoine de Bourbon, Henry de Bourbon, King of Navarre (r. 1572–1610). Mutual mistrust between Catholics and Huguenots, and the Parisians' determination to cleanse their city of heresy led to the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre after the wedding. On 24 August 1572, a fanatic mob slaughtered 2,000–3,000 Protestants in Paris, and by early October further 6,000–7,000 Huguenots fell victim to pogroms in other cities and towns.[387] Many Huguenots returned to the Catholic Church or fled from France, and those who remained gathered in southern and southern-west France and continued the armed resistance.[388] Known as "Malcontents", moderate Catholics concluded that only concessions to the Huguenots could restore peace.[389]

Charles IX died in May 1574 leaving an almost empty treasury to his brother Henry III (r. 1574–1567).[387] Henry adopted a moderate religious policy but the uncompromising Catholics established the Catholic League in 1576. They entered into a secret alliance with Philip II of Spain to prevent the spread of Protestantism. In 1589, the monk Jacques Clément mortally wounded King Henry. He named Henry de Bourbon as his heir, but the League and many cities refused to obey to a Huguenot king. Henry IV secured the support of moderate Catholics by converting to Catholicism. He defeated his French opponents and their Spanish allies, and put an end to the civil war early in 1598. He enacted many of the demands of the Huguenots, about fifteen per cent of the population, in the Edict of Nantes. Among others, they were allowed to attend religious services in many places, and their right to hold public offices was confirmed.[390]

Revolt in the Netherlands

People dragging down sculptures and breaking windows in a large church
Engraving of the sack of the Church of Our Lady in Antwerp (1566) by Frans Hogenberg

More Protestants fell victim to persecution in the seventeen provinces of Habsburg Netherlands than in any other country between 1523 and 1555.[note 54][392] The ruthless persecution prevented the establishment of Evangelical congregations although Luther's ideas were widely discussed in Flemish communities.[393] Reformed theology spread among the Walloons through individuals' correspondence with Calvin and the Genevan academy from the 1540s. Nicodemism was not unusual but uncompromising Protestants disturbed Catholic ceremonies.[note 55][395] The preacher Guido de Bres (d. 1567) established the first permanent Reformed congregations.[391] He was a main contributor to the Belgic Confession, a confessional document based on the Gallican Confession, first published in Walloon in 1561, and in Dutch in 1562. The Confession sharply criticised the Anapabtists, and emphasized the importance of church discipline.[391][396]

In 1566, 300 nobles requested Philip II's governor Margaret of Parma (d. 1586) to moderate anti-heretic legislation. Although the petitioners were mocked as "beggars",[397] Margaret was open to a compromise. Protestant refugees returned from abroad, and religious enthusiasts stirred up public demonstrations.[398] On the night of 20–21 August 1566, a Protestant mob sacked the Antwerp Cathedral, introducing a popular iconoclastic movement that spread all over the Netherlands.[399][400] In 1567, Philip appointed Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba (d. 1582) to crush the riots. Alba arrived at the head of a 20,000-strong army, and introduced a reign of terror, leading to the execution of thousands of people.[397] A prominent aristocrat William the Silent, Prince of Orange (d. 1584) assumed the leadership of the resistance. His "Sea Beggars"—a squadron of privateers—seized the provinces of Holland and Zeeland by 1572,[401] although the Reformed communities were in the minority in most towns.[note 56][402]

Philip II's government faced bankruptcy and his unpaid Spanish troops sacked Antwerp in 1576. This led to a general revolt against Spanish rule. The Catholic aristocrat Philippe III de Croÿ, Duke of Aarschot (d. 1595), made an alliance with William the Silent but rivalry between Catholics and Protestants did not abate. In 1581, the northern provinces united under William's leadership, and renounced allegiance to Philip. In the south, Margaret of Parma's son Alessandro Farnese crushed the revolts,[403] forcing about 100,000 Protestants to seek refugee in the north.[404] Developed from the union of seven northern provinces, the Dutch Republic remained under the loose leadership of the House of Orange.[403] The Reformed pastors were eager to transform the whole society along their ideas. They failed because William preferred a more tolerant approach, and significant Protestant groups associated church discipline with Catholicism. As a consequence, Evangelical, Annabaptist and Catholic communinities survived in the Dutch Republic.[405] Heterodox theologies could also spread, such as the views of Jacobus Arminius (d. 1609) who argued that an individual could resist divine grace. Although Arminianism was rejected at the international Synod of Dort in 1619, it continued to influence Protestant theologians.[406]

Edict of Torda


After King Louis's death at Mohács, two claimants John Zápolya (r. 1526–1540) and Ferdinand I of Habsburg (r. 1526–1564) competed for the Hungarian throne.[407] They were Catholic but neither of them risked to alienate potential supporters by anti-Protestant purges.[408] The Transylvanian Saxon leader Markus Pemfflinger (d. 1537) promoted Evangelical preaching in the Saxon metropolis Hermanstadt (Sibiu, Romania) from around 1530. Evangelical teaching spread among ethnic Hungarians, Slovaks, and Croats after Protestant aristocrats started to appoint Evangelical preachers to the churches under their patronage in the 1530s. After Zápolya's death, the Ottomans conquered central Hungary, his widow Isabella Jagiellon (d. 1559) assumed the regency for their infant son John Sigismund Zápolya (r. 1540–1571) in eastern Hungary under Ottoman suzerainty, and Ferdinand ruled Royal Hungary in the north and west.[409] Often in need of funds, Ferdinand seized church revenues, while Isabella and her treasurer the Catholic bishop George Martinuzzi (d. 1551) secularised the estates of the Transylvanian bishopric.[410] The Transylvanian Saxons adopted the Augsburg Confession in 1544; five years later, five free royal boroughs accepted an Evangelical confession in Royal Hungary.[411]

Two former Catholic priests Mátyás Dévai Bíró (d. 1547) and Mihály Sztárai (d. 1575) were among the first Hungarian pastors to teach Zwinglian Eucharistic theology. "Sacramentarianism" (the denial of Christ's presence in the Eucharist) and rebaptism were outlawed by the Diet in Royal Hungary in 1548.[412] John Sigismund was open to religious innovations. Under the influence of his court chaplain Ferenc Dávid (d. 1579), he adhered to Reformed theology from 1562, and accepted antitrinitarian views during the last years of his life.[note 57] The Edict of Torda legalised three Protestant denominations—Evangelical, Reformed and Unitarian—in eastern Hungary in 1568.[415] Eastern Hungary transformed into the autonomous Principality of Transylvania under Ottoman suzerainty in 1570. The coexistence of four officially recognised churches—Catholicism and the three legalised Protestant denominations—remained a lasting feature of religious politics in Transylvania.[416] The most radical antitrinitarians rejected the New Testament and held Saturday (or Sabbath) as weekly holiday; hence they were called Sabbatarians.[417]

Warsaw Confederation


As the Bohemian Brethren were famed for their diligence, many Polish aristocrats eagerly settled them on their estates.[418] Ethnic Poles became receptive to Protestant ideas, especially to Calvin's theology from the 1540s. The Hetman Jan Tarnowski (d. 1561) entered into correspondence with Calvin in 1540; in 1542, Jan Łaski (d. 1560) converted although his uncle (and namesake) had been the Primate of Poland. In 1548, Sigismund the Old's tolerant son Sigismund II Augustus (r. 1548–1572) ascended the throne. Two years later, the first synod of the Polish Reformed Church assembled at Pińczów.[419] Proposals for the introduction of vernacular liturgy and communion in both kinds, and the abolition of clerical celibacy were forwarded by Sigismund Augustus to the Holy See but Pope Paul IV (r. 1555–1559) rejected them.[420] The Catholic prelates tried to put Protestant nobles and married priests on trial for heresy but the legislative assembly, or Sejm suspended such persecutions on the initiative of the Protestant Marshal of the Sejm Rafał Leszczyński and Tarnowski in 1552.[419] In 1556, Łaski organised a synod in the hope of reuniting all non-Lutheran Protestants but failed. At the meeting, Piotr of Goniądz (d. 1573) openly attacked infant baptism and the doctrine of Trinity.[421] The antitrinitarian Polish Brethren established their own church, known as Minor Church in contrast with the Reformed Major Church.[422] From 1565, Polish nobles could no more be persecuted on religious grounds which allowed them to freely choose between competing theologies.[419] By this time, around one-fifth of the nobility had converted to the Reformed faith, and most secular members of the Senate were Protestant. Relationship between Poland and Lithuania was redefined by the 1569 Union of Lublin which created the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[423] After Sigismund Augustus died, the Sejm passed the Warsaw Confederation prescribing that only candidates who promised to protect religious freedom could be elected king.[419]

Counter-Reformation and regional conflicts


The continuous expansion of Protestantism stopped in Germany after the Peace of Augsburg. The Bavarian duke Albert V (r. 1550–1579) took the lead of recatholicisation. He overcame the opposition of Evangelical nobles, and exiled all clerics who refused to take the Tridentine oath.[424] With Albert's support, the Jesuits opened a college in Ingolstadt that accepted Evangelical and Hussite students.[425] Emperor Ferdinand I's eldest son and successor, Maximilian II (r. 1564–1576) pursued a tolerant religious policy but his brothers, Ferdinand II of the Tyrol (r. 1564–1595) and Charles II of Inner Austria (r. 1564–1590) were determined to subdue their Protestant subjects. After the predominantly Evangelical Estates of Inner Austria who controlled taxation extracted concessions from Charles II, he promoted Catholicism by appointing Catholics to state offices even if he needed to hire Bavarian and Tyrolian nobles.[426]

Interreligious conflicts led to wars in many regions of Central Europe. The Cologne War broke out after Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg, Archbishop-elector of Cologne (r. 1577–1583), abandoned Catholicism and married his Protestant lover Agnes von Mansfeld-Eisleben (d. 1637) in 1582. The war ended with the victory of his Catholic opponent Ernest (r. 1583–1612), a younger son of Albert V.[427] The Strasbourg Bishops' War began when both the Catholic and Protestant canons of the Strasbourg Cathedral elected their own candidate to the see of Strasbourg in 1592. At the end, the Protestant candidate Johann Georg von Brandenburg (d. 1624) renounced in favor of his opponent Charles of Lorraine (r. 1592–1607).[428]

Charles II's son and successor Ferdinand II (r. 1590–1637) set up "reformation commissions"—a group of clerics and state officials led by a senior clergyman—to visit the Inner Austrian parishes between 1598 and 1601. The commissioners seized and destroyed Evangelical churches, burned Protestant books and expelled Evangelical priests, often with the support of the local (mainly Slovenian) peasantry.[429][430] His cousin Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576–1612) introduced anti-Protestant measures in Royal Hungary and Transylvania, provoking a rebellion. The Ottomans supported the rebels whose leader, the Reformed aristocrat Stephen Bocskai was proclaimed prince of Transylvania (r. 1605–1606). Rudolph appointed his brother Matthias to conduct negotiations with Bocskai, and the peace treaty sanctioned the freedom of the Evangelical and Reformed Churches in Royal Hungary in 1606.[431][432] Rudolph was forced to cede Hungary, Austria and Moravia to Matthias in 1608, and to confirm religious freedom in Bohemia in 1609.[433]

Reformation outside Germany


The Reformation also spread widely throughout Europe, starting with Bohemia, in the Czech lands, and, over the next few decades, to other countries.

Nordic countries

The seal of the Diocese of Turku (Finland) during the 16th and 17th centuries featured the finger of St Henry. The post-Reformation diocese included the relic of a pre-Reformation saint in its seal.

All of Scandinavia ultimately adopted Lutheranism over the course of the 16th century, as the monarchs of Denmark (who also ruled Norway and Iceland) and Sweden (who also ruled Finland) converted to that faith.



Luther's influence had already reached Iceland before King Christian's decree. The Germans fished near Iceland's coast, and the Hanseatic League engaged in commerce with the Icelanders. These Germans raised a Lutheran church in Hafnarfjörður as early as 1533. Through German trade connections, many young Icelanders studied in Hamburg.[434] In 1538, when the kingly decree of the new Church ordinance reached Iceland, bishop Ögmundur and his clergy denounced it, threatening excommunication for anyone subscribing to the German "heresy".[435] In 1539, the King sent a new governor to Iceland, Klaus von Mervitz, with a mandate to introduce reform and take possession of church property.[435] Von Mervitz seized a monastery in Viðey with the help of his sheriff, Dietrich of Minden, and his soldiers. They drove the monks out and seized all their possessions, for which they were promptly excommunicated by Ögmundur.

Great Britain




The English Reformation is a complex historical series of events and reversals, whose nature and effect has been debated by historians.[436][437]: 23  The results of the reformation included an established church with a "Prayer Book consciously aligned with Swiss theology,...(but) the most elaborate liturgy of any Protestant Church in Europe" practiced in Cathedrals, with plain, sermon-centred services in parish churches,[438]: 30  politically imposed by a "literate Protestant elite".[437]: 28 

English North America

The most famous emigration to America was the migration of Puritan separatists from the Anglican Church of England. They fled first to Holland, and then later to America to establish the English colony of Massachusetts in New England, which later became one of the original United States. These Puritan separatists were also known as "the Pilgrims". After establishing a colony at Plymouth (which became part of the colony of Massachusetts) in 1620, the Puritan pilgrims received a charter from the King of England that legitimised their colony, allowing them to do trade and commerce with merchants in England, in accordance with the principles of mercantilism. Civil and religious restrictions were most strictly applied by the Puritans of Massachusetts which saw various banishments applied to dissenters to enforce conformity, including the branding iron, the whipping post, the bilboes and the hangman's noose.[439] Notable individuals persecuted by the Puritans include Anne Hutchinson who was banished to Rhode Island during the Antinomian Controversy and Quaker Mary Dyer who was hanged in Boston for repeatedly defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the colony.[440] Dyer was one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs. Executions ceased in 1661 when King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism.[441] In 1647, Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting any Jesuit Catholic priests from entering territory under Puritan jurisdiction.[442][443] Any suspected person who could not clear himself was to be banished from the colony; a second offence carried a death penalty.[444]

The Pilgrims held radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas, and its celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681.[445] The ban was revoked in 1681 by the English-appointed governor Edmund Andros, who also revoked a Puritan ban on festivities on Saturday nights.[445] Nevertheless, it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region.[446]



Bishop Richard Davies and dissident Protestant cleric John Penry introduced Calvinist theology to Wales. In 1588, the Bishop of Llandaff published the entire Bible in the Welsh language. The translation had a significant impact upon the Welsh population and helped to firmly establish Protestantism among the Welsh people.[447] The Welsh Protestants used the model of the Synod of Dort of 1618–1619. Calvinism developed through the Puritan period, following the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, and within Wales' Calvinistic Methodist movement. However few copies of Calvin's writings were available before the mid-19th century.[448]


John Knox was a leading figure in the Scottish Reformation

The Reformation in Scotland's case culminated ecclesiastically in the establishment of a church along reformed lines, and politically in the triumph of English influence over that of France. John Knox is regarded as the leader of the Scottish reformation.

The Reformation Parliament of 1560 repudiated the pope's authority by the Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560, forbade the celebration of the Mass and approved a Protestant Confession of Faith. It was made possible by a revolution against French hegemony under the regime of the regent Mary of Guise, who had governed Scotland in the name of her absent daughter Mary, Queen of Scots (then also Queen of France).

Although Protestantism triumphed relatively easily in Scotland, the exact form of Protestantism remained to be determined. The 17th century saw a complex struggle between Presbyterianism (particularly the Covenanters) and Episcopalianism. The Presbyterians eventually won control of the Church of Scotland, which went on to have an important influence on Presbyterian churches worldwide, but Scotland retained a relatively large Episcopalian minority.[449]



Catholicism remained the official state religion, and the fortunes of French Protestants gradually declined over the next century, culminating in Louis XIV's Edict of Fontainebleau (1685), which revoked the Edict of Nantes and made Catholicism the sole legal religion of France, leading some Huguenots to live as Nicodemites.[450] In response to the Edict of Fontainebleau, Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg declared the Edict of Potsdam (October 1685), giving free passage to Huguenot refugees and tax-free status to them for ten years.

In the late 17th century, 150,000–200,000 Huguenots fled to England, the Netherlands, Prussia, Switzerland, and the English and Dutch overseas colonies.[451] A significant community in France remained in the Cévennes region. A separate Protestant community, of the Lutheran faith, existed in the newly conquered province of Alsace, its status not affected by the Edict of Fontainebleau.


The New Testament translated by Francisco de Enzinas into the Spanish language (Castilian), published in Antwerp (1543)
The New Testament translated by Joanes Leizarraga into the Basque language (1571) on the orders of Navarre's Calvinist queen, Jeanne III of Navarre

In the early 16th century, Spain had a different political and cultural milieu from its Western and Central European neighbours in several respects, which affected the mentality and the reaction of the nation towards the Reformation. Spain, which had only recently managed to complete the reconquest of the Peninsula from the Moors in 1492, had been preoccupied with converting the Muslim and Jewish populations of the newly conquered regions through the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. The rulers of the nation stressed political, cultural, and religious unity, and by the time of the Lutheran Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition was already 40 years old and had the capability of quickly persecuting any new movement that the leaders of the Catholic Church perceived or interpreted to be religious heterodoxy.[452] Charles V did not wish to see Spain or the rest of Habsburg Europe divided, and in light of continual threat from the Ottomans, preferred to see the Catholic Church reform itself from within. This led to a Counter-Reformation in Spain in the 1530s. During the 1520s, the Spanish Inquisition had created an atmosphere of suspicion and sought to root out any religious thought seen as suspicious. As early as 1521, the Pope had written a letter to the Spanish monarchy warning against allowing the unrest in Northern Europe to be replicated in Spain. Between 1520 and 1550, printing presses in Spain were tightly controlled and any books of Protestant teaching were prohibited.

Contemporary illustration of the auto-da-fé of Valladolid, in which fourteen Protestants were burned at the stake for their faith, on 21 May 1559

Between 1530 and 1540, Protestantism in Spain was still able to gain followers clandestinely, and in cities such as Seville and Valladolid adherents would secretly meet at private houses to pray and study the Bible.[453] Protestants in Spain were estimated at between 1000 and 3000, mainly among intellectuals who had seen writings such as those of Erasmus. Notable reformers included Juan Gil and Juan Pérez de Pineda who subsequently fled and worked alongside others such as Francisco de Enzinas to translate the Greek New Testament into the Spanish language, a task completed by 1556. Protestant teachings were smuggled into Spain by Spaniards such as Julián Hernández, who in 1557 was condemned by the Inquisition and burnt at the stake. Under Philip II, conservatives in the Spanish church tightened their grip, and those who refused to recant such as Rodrigo de Valer were condemned to life imprisonment. On May 21, 1559, sixteen Spanish Lutherans were burnt at the stake; 14 were strangled before being burnt, while two were burnt alive. In October another 30 were executed. Spanish Protestants who were able to flee the country were to be found in at least a dozen cities in Europe, such as Geneva, where some of them embraced Calvinist teachings. Those who fled to England were given support by the Church of England.[citation needed]

The Kingdom of Navarre, although by the time of the Protestant Reformation a minor principality territoriality restricted to southern France, had French Huguenot monarchs, including Henry IV of France and his mother, Jeanne III of Navarre, a devout Calvinist.

Upon the arrival of the Protestant Reformation, Calvinism reached some Basques through the translation of the Bible into the Basque language by Joanes Leizarraga. As Queen of Navarre, Jeanne III commissioned the translation of the New Testament into Basque[note 58] and Béarnese for the benefit of her subjects.


Waldensian symbol Lux lucet in tenebris ("Light glows in the darkness")

Word of the Protestant reformers reached Italy in the 1520s but never caught on. Its development was stopped by the Counter-Reformation, the Inquisition and popular disinterest. Not only was the Church highly aggressive in seeking out and suppressing heresy, but there was a shortage of Protestant leadership. No one translated the Bible into Italian; few tracts were written. No core of Protestantism emerged. The few preachers who did take an interest in "Lutheranism", as it was called in Italy, were suppressed, or went into exile to northern countries where their message was well received. As a result, the Reformation exerted almost no lasting influence in Italy, except for strengthening the Catholic Church and pushing for an end to ongoing abuses during the Counter-Reformation.[454][455]

Some Protestants left Italy and became outstanding activists of the European Reformation, mainly in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (e.g. Giorgio Biandrata, Bernardino Ochino, Giovanni Alciato, Giovanni Battista Cetis, Fausto Sozzini, Francesco Stancaro and Giovanni Valentino Gentile), who propagated Nontrinitarianism there and were chief instigators of the movement of Polish Brethren.[456] Some also fled to England and Switzerland, including Peter Vermigli.

In 1532, the Waldensians, who had been already present centuries before the Reformation, aligned themselves and adopted the Calvinist theology. The Waldensian Church survived in the Western Alps through many persecutions and remains a Protestant church in Italy.[457][page needed]


Primož Trubar, a Lutheran reformer in Slovenia

Primož Trubar is notable for consolidating the Slovene language and is considered to be the key figure of Slovenian cultural history, in many aspects a major Slovene historical personality.[458] He was the key figure of the Protestant Church of the Slovene Lands, as he was its founder and its first superintendent. The first books in Slovene, Catechismus and Abecedarium, were written by Trubar.[459]



The Protestant teachings of the Western Church were also briefly adopted within the Eastern Orthodox Church through the Greek Patriarch Cyril Lucaris in 1629 with the publishing of the Confessio (Calvinistic doctrine) in Geneva. Motivating factors in their decision to adopt aspects of the Reformation included the historical rivalry and mistrust between the Greek Orthodox and the Catholic Churches along with their concerns of Jesuit priests entering Greek lands in their attempts to propagate the teachings of the Counter-Reformation to the Greek populace. He subsequently sponsored Maximos of Gallipoli's translation of the New Testament into the Modern Greek language and it was published in Geneva in 1638. Upon Lucaris's death in 1638, the conservative factions within the Eastern Orthodox Church held two synods: the Synod of Constantinople (1638) and Synod of Iași (1642) criticising the reforms and, in the 1672 convocation led by Dositheos, they officially condemned the Calvinistic doctrines.

In 2019, Christos Yannaras told Norman Russell that although he had participated in the Zoë movement, he had come to regard it as Crypto-Protestant.[460]


Religious fragmentation in Central Europe at the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War (1618).

The Reformation spread throughout Europe beginning in 1517, reaching its peak between 1545 and 1620. The greatest geographical extent of Protestantism occurred at some point between 1545 and 1620. In 1620, the Battle of White Mountain defeated Protestants in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) who sought to have the 1609 Letter of Majesty upheld.

The Thirty Years' War began in 1618 and brought a drastic territorial and demographic decline when the House of Habsburg introduced counter-reformational measures throughout their vast possessions in Central Europe. Although the Thirty Years' War concluded with the Peace of Westphalia, the French Wars of the Counter-Reformation continued, as well as the expulsion of Protestants in Austria.

Approximation of the Reformation at its peak, superimposed on modern European borders.
Approximations of the Reformation & the Counter-Reformation at the commonly-used end year of 1648, superimposed on modern European borders.

According to a 2020 study in the American Sociological Review, the Reformation spread earliest to areas where Luther had pre-existing social relations, such as mail correspondents, and former students, as well as where he had visited. The study argues that these social ties contributed more to the Reformation's early breakthroughs than the printing press.[461]

Conclusion and legacy


There is no universal agreement on the exact or even the approximate date the Reformation ended. Various interpretations emphasise different dates, entire periods, or argue that the Reformation never really ended.[462] However, there are a few popular interpretations. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 officially ended the religious struggle between the two groups and made the legal division of Christianity permanent within the Holy Roman Empire, allowing rulers to choose either Lutheranism or Catholicism as the official confession of their state. It could be considered to end with the enactment of the confessions of faith. Other suggested ending years relate to the Counter-Reformation or the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. From one Catholic perspective, the Second Vatican Council ended the Counter-Reformation.[463]

Thirty Years' War: 1618–1648

Treaty of Westphalia allowed Calvinism to be freely exercised, reducing the need for Crypto-Calvinism

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation era conflicts are termed the European wars of religion. In particular, the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) devastated much of Germany, killing between 25 and 40% of its population.[464] The Catholic House of Habsburg and its allies fought against the Protestant princes of Germany, supported at various times by Denmark, Sweden and France. The Habsburgs, who ruled Spain, Austria, the Crown of Bohemia, Hungary, Slovene Lands, the Spanish Netherlands and much of Germany and Italy, were staunch defenders of the Catholic Church.

Two main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War, were:

  • All parties would now recognise the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, by which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio).
  • Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.

The treaty also effectively ended the Papacy's pan-European political power. Pope Innocent X declared the treaty "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all times" in his apostolic brief Zelo Domus Dei. European sovereigns, Catholic and Protestant alike, ignored his verdict.[465][page needed]

Consequences of the Reformation


Today, Protestantism—broadly defined—constitutes the second-largest form of Christianity (after Catholicism), with a total of 1.17 billion adherents worldwide or about 44% of all Christians.[466][467][note 59] [note 60]

In nations that remained Catholic, or reverted to it, remaining Protestants sometimes lived as crypto-Protestants, also called Nicodemites, contrary to the urging of John Calvin, who wanted them to live their faith openly.[469] Some crypto-Protestants have been identified as late as the 19th century after immigrating to Latin America.[470] In Britain from the Elizabethan period, dissenters called Recusants included both Catholic families and English Dissenters (Quakers, Ranters, Diggers, Grindletonians, etc.): almost the entire Irish population were recusants from the imposed Protestant Church of Ireland.[471]

Travel and migration between countries became more difficult. "In 1500, a Christian could travel from one end of Europe to another without fear of persecution; by 1600, every form of Christianity was illegal somewhere in Europe."[472] Two prolonged series of conflicts, the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598) and the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) resulted in between six and sixteen million deaths.

Radical Reformation


In parts of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, a majority sympathised with the Radical Reformation despite intense persecution.[473] Although the surviving proportion of the European population that rebelled against Catholic, Lutheran and Zwinglian churches was small, Radical Reformers wrote profusely and the literature on the Radical Reformation is disproportionately large, partly as a result of the proliferation of the Radical Reformation teachings in the United States.[474]

Despite significant diversity among the early Radical Reformers, some "repeating patterns" emerged among many Anabaptist groups. Many of these patterns were enshrined in the Schleitheim Confession (1527) and include believers' (or adult) baptism, memorial view of the Lord's Supper, belief that Scripture is the final authority on matters of faith and practice, emphasis on the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount, interpretation of Scripture in community, separation from the world and a two-kingdom theology, pacifism and nonresistance, communal ownership and economic sharing, belief in the freedom of the will, non-swearing of oaths, "yieldedness" (Gelassenheit) to one's community and to God, the ban (i.e., shunning), salvation through divinization (Vergöttung) and ethical living, and discipleship (Nachfolge Christi).[475]


Modern High German translation of the Christian Bible by the Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1534).[476] The widespread popularity of the Bible translated into High German by Luther helped establish modern Standard High German.[476]

The Protestant Reformation was a triumph of literacy and the new printing press.[477][note 61][177][479] Luther's translation of the Bible into High German (the New Testament was published in 1522; the Old Testament was published in parts and completed in 1534) was also decisive for the German language and its evolution from Early New High German to Modern Standard German.[476] Luther's translation of the Bible promoted the development of non-local forms of language and exposed all speakers to forms of German from outside their own area.[480] The publication of Luther's Bible was a decisive moment in the spread of literacy in early modern Germany,[476] and stimulated as well the printing and distribution of religious books and pamphlets. From 1517 onward, religious pamphlets flooded Germany and much of Europe.[481][page needed][note 62]

By 1530, over 10,000 publications are known, with a total of ten million copies. The Reformation was thus a media revolution. Luther strengthened his attacks on Rome by depicting a "good" against "bad" church. From there, it became clear that print could be used for propaganda in the Reformation for particular agendas, although the term propaganda derives from the Catholic Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith) from the Counter-Reformation. Reform writers used existing styles, cliches and stereotypes which they adapted as needed.[481][page needed] Especially effective were writings in German, including Luther's translation of the Bible, his Smaller Catechism for parents teaching their children, and his Larger Catechism, for pastors.

Using the German vernacular they expressed the Apostles' Creed in simpler, more personal, Trinitarian language. Illustrations in the German Bible and in many tracts popularised Luther's ideas. Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), the great painter patronised by the electors of Wittenberg, was a close friend of Luther, and he illustrated Luther's theology for a popular audience. He dramatised Luther's views on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, while remaining mindful of Luther's careful distinctions about proper and improper uses of visual imagery.[483]



Protestants have developed their own culture, with major contributions in education, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy and the arts and many other fields.[484] The following outcomes of the Reformation regarding human capital formation, the Protestant ethic, economic development, governance, and "dark" outcomes have been identified by scholars:[485]

Human capital formation

  • Higher literacy rates.[486]
  • Lower gender gap in school enrollment and literacy rates.[487]
  • Higher primary school enrollment.[488]
  • Higher public spending on schooling and better educational performance of military conscripts.[489]
  • Higher capability in reading, numeracy, essay writing, and history.[490]

Protestant ethic

  • More hours worked.[491]
  • Divergent stated attitudes about the absolute priority work between Protestants and Catholics.[492]
  • Fewer referendums on leisure, state intervention, and redistribution in Swiss cantons with more Protestants.[493]
  • Lower life satisfaction when unemployed.[494]
  • Pro-market attitudes.[495]
  • Higher relative income growth in Protestant cities compared to Catholic cities (correlated with larger growth in Protestant city size.)[486]

Economic development

Katharina von Bora played a role in shaping social ethics during the Reformation.
  • Different levels of income tax revenue per capita, % of labor force in manufacturing and services, and incomes of male elementary school teachers.[486]
  • Growth of Protestant cities.[496][497]
  • Greater entrepreneurship among religious minorities in Protestant states.[498][499]
  • Different social ethics facilitating impersonal trade.[500]
  • Industrialization.[501]



Other outcomes

  • Witch trials became more common in regions or other jurisdictions where Protestants and Catholics contested the religious market.[515]
  • Christopher J. Probst, in his book Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany (2012), shows that a large number of German Protestant clergy and theologians during the Nazi Third Reich used Luther's hostile publications towards the Jews and Judaism to justify at least in part the anti-Semitic policies of the National Socialists.[516]
  • In its decree on ecumenism, the Second Vatican Council of Catholic bishops declared that by contemporary dialogue that, while still holding views as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, between the churches "all are led to examine their own faithfulness to Christ's will for the Church and accordingly to undertake with vigor the task of renewal and reform" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 4).
  • Beer production switched from using herbs to hops.[517]



Margaret C. Jacob argues that there has been a dramatic shift in the historiography of the Reformation. Until the 1960s, historians focused their attention largely on the great leaders and theologians of the 16th century, especially Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Their ideas were studied in depth. However, the rise of the new social history in the 1960s led to looking at history from the bottom up, not from the top down. Historians began to concentrate on the values, beliefs and behavior of the people at large. She finds, "in contemporary scholarship, the Reformation is now seen as a vast cultural upheaval, a social and popular movement, textured and rich because of its diversity."[518]

For example, historian John Bossy characterized the Reformation as a period where Christianity was re-cast not as "a community sustained by ritual acts, but as a teaching enforced by institutional structures," for Catholics as well as Protestants;[note 63][note 64] and sin was re-cast from the seven deadly sins —wrong because antisocial— to transgressions of the Ten Commandments —wrong as affronts to God.

Music and art


Partly due to Martin Luther's love for music, music became important in Lutheranism. The study and practice of music was encouraged in Protestant-majority countries. Songs such as the Lutheran hymns or the Calvinist Psalter became tools for the spread of Protestant ideas and beliefs, as well as identity flags. Similar attitudes developed among Catholics, who in turn encouraged the creation and use of music for religious purposes.[519]

See also



  1. ^ Bossy characterized late-medieval parish Christianity as a "community of believers whose religious ideal was peace and mutual love." Duffy, Eamon (1 November 2016). "The End of Christendom". First Things. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  2. ^ Historian Hendrik Enno van Gelder suggested that the Reformations of Luther and Calvin were minor affairs compared to the Reformation of Erasmus and the humanists, "which propelled Christianity further than (the others) could do, away from medieval Catholicism and towards the modern world." Historians Edward Gibbon and Hugh Trevor-Roper also wrote of a "third church".[7]: 149 
  3. ^ "This ‘rhetoric of reform’ crops up in a variety of sources all of which originated in the royal court of Charlemagne and his successors. Subsequently, words such as corrigere, emendare, renovare, reformare and their synonyms, readily became the instruments for achieving unity, and unity gave the Christian empire of Charlemagne pax, caritas and concordia."[12]: 158 
  4. ^ As Wittenberg academics regularly published their disputation papers by posting it to the door of the castle church, the story is quite probable even if it was first mentioned years after the events.[18][19]
  5. ^ Examples of exceptionally influential prelates include the Spanish cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (d. 1517), and the German archbishop Matthäus Lang (d. 1540).[35]
  6. ^ The archbishops were also the heads of ecclesiastical provinces that included several dioceses.[33]
  7. ^ For instance, religious orders were regularly exempted of the authority of the bishops, and laymen could be released of the obligation of fasting.[37]
  8. ^ Examples include the 1447 Princes' Concordat that established the German prince-electors' control of appointments to benefices in their principalities, and the 1516 Concordat of Bologna that confirmed the French kings' claim to nominate candidates to most major French church offices.[55][56]
  9. ^ The baptism of Nzinga a Nkuwu, King of Kongo (r. 1470–1509) in 1491 is the earliest example. By the end of the rule of his son Alfonso I (r. 1509–1543), about 2 million people received baptism in Kongo.[62]
  10. ^ Though in medieval High Masses in at least France, Germany and England, the Prône, "a vernacular para-liturgy within the Latin whole" (see Bidding Prayers from Medieval Regensburg) became common. (See "prone". Oxford Reference.)
  11. ^ In some Dalmatian dioceses, Old Church Slavonic was used as liturgical language.[65]
  12. ^ Except for the common prayers, see Medieval Catechesis.
  13. ^ Saints were supposed to assist those who faithfully venerated them. It was not unusual that disappointed believers who thought that a saint had unjustly failed to assist them dragged down his or her statue or spattered it with mud.[69]
  14. ^ For instance, Catholic commentators read the Law of Moses in a symbolic or mystical sense thinking that the Jewish ceremonies and laws were irrelevant for Christians.[72]
  15. ^ A notable example was the Dominican nun Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) whose revelations convinced Pope Gregory XI to return his seat from Avignon to Rome.[47]
  16. ^ Biel employed the axiom Latin: Facienti quod in se est, Deus non denegat gratiam. 'God does not refuse his grace to the one who does what is in him' Scheck, Thomas P. (2013). "Bishop John Fisher's Response To Martin Luther". Franciscan Studies. 71: 463–509. ISSN 0080-5459. JSTOR 43855981.
  17. ^ One of the enthusiasts, Henry of Lausanne (d. c. 1148) persuaded French prostitutes to repent their sins, but opposed confessions, and attacked the wealth of the clergy. Although his calls for a church reform attracted many commoners, his movement quickly disintegrated when he died.[82]
  18. ^ For instance, Duns Scotus (d. 1308) stated that "theology does not concern anything except what is contained in Scripture, and what may be drawn from this". Theologians associated with the Augustinian Order such as Gregory of Rimini rarely cited other sources of faith.[92]
  19. ^ The price of the books decreased by about 85 per cent after printing machines started to work.[99]
  20. ^ The Vulgata text of Exodus 34 is a well known case of Jerome's mistranslations: the Hebrew text writes of Moses's shining face when narrating the revelation of the Ten Commandments whereas Jerome describes Moses as wearing a pair of horns as he mistook a Hebrew function word.[105]
  21. ^ For instance, Erasmus's translations did not support the traditional proof text for the concepts of infused grace[106] and the treasury of merit, by choosing the adjective gratiosa ('gracious') instead of the traditional gratia plena ('full of grace') to address the Virgin Mary in the Latin text of the Hail Mary.[107]
  22. ^ A good example is the Benedictine congregation that began with the reform of monastic life at the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua under the auspices of the Venetian nobleman Ludovico Barbo (d. 1443). By 1505, the congregation included nearly 50 abbeys, and had an effect on the reform of further monasteries, such as Fontevraud Abbey and Marmoutier Abbey in France.[110]
  23. ^ A member of the Hohenzollern dynasty, Albert ruled the Archbishoprics of Mainz and Magdeburg and the Bishopric of Halberstadt simultaneously. He had borrowed money from Fugger to pay the fees to the Roman Curia for his appointment to the see of Mainz, and his share in the revenues from the sale of indulgences was expected to allow him to repay the loan.[113]
  24. ^ Frederick rebuilt the castle church at Wittenberg to store his collection of nearly 20,000 relics. This collection was thought to include a straw from the stable of the Nativity, the corpse of a holy innocent, and drops from the Virgin's breast milk.[116]
  25. ^ "Luther himself had said that he found his new insight "auff diser cloaca auff dem thurm" (on or over the toilet on the tower); however some historians dispute the account.[127]
  26. ^ Luther's friendship with Frederick's secretary George Spalatin (d. 1545) secured him Frederick's favour, and Leo X wanted to influence the forthcoming imperial election with Frederick's assistance.[125]
  27. ^ Historian Volker Leppin writes "anti-Catholicism does not lie at the root of Reformation, even if later on it obviously became part of the whole Reformation framework," but notes "the anti-Catholic tendency of Luther research".[132]
  28. ^ For instance, he stated that "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."[140]
  29. ^ Between 1517 and 1520, Luther completed 30 treatises, and more than 300,000 of their copies were sold.[151]
  30. ^ According to an econometric analysis by the economist Jared Rubin, "the mere presence of a printing press prior to 1500 increased the probability that a city would become Protestant in 1530 by 52.1 percentage points, Protestant in 1560 by 43.6 percentage points, and Protestant in 1600 by 28.7 percentage points."[154] Cities with a competitive printing market were even more likely to accept new theologies.[155]
  31. ^ "Sixteenth-century Protestants and Catholics knew that iconoclasm was not simply a byproduct of the Reformation, or a violent spasm, but its very essence."[167]
  32. ^ Pfaff demonstrates in a study that the presence of a local saint's shrine in a city doubled the likelihood of resisting the Reformation.[175]
  33. ^ Contarini, according to his own words, "changed from great fear and suffering to happpines" when he concluded on Holy Saturday 1511 that believers were justified by faith rather by their acts.[187]
  34. ^ Luther compared the physical presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist to the heating of a piece of iron that changes its physical features.[194]
  35. ^ Luther likened infant baptism to the circumcision of Jewish male infants prescribed in the Book of Genesis. His radical opponents would emphasize that the command of circumcision could not justify the baptism of infant girls.[195]
  36. ^ Many of the believers could not cite the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, or the Lord's Prayer.[234]
  37. ^ The protestation was signed by John the Constant, Philip the Magnanimous, George of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen (r. 1508–1566), and Ernest I, Duke of Brunswick (r. 1527–1546), and the delegates of Strasbourg, Nuremberg, Ulm, Constance, Lindau, Memmingen, Kempten, Nördlingen, Heilbronn, Reutlingen, Isny im Allgäu, St. Gallen, Weissenburg (now Wissembourg, France), and Windesheim at Speyer.[236]
  38. ^ Although not unusual, the use of the appelation "Protestant" when describing events before 1529 is anachronistic.[237]
  39. ^ Bullinger stated that "Believers ... bring Christ to the Supper in their hearts; they do not receive him in the Supper."[247]
  40. ^ Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Brunswick-Lüneburg, Anhalt-Köthen, Mansfeld, Strasbourg, Ulm, Constance, Reutlingen, Memmingen, Lindau, Biberach an der Riß, Isny im Allgäu, Lübeck, Magdeburg, and Bremen were the founding members of the Schmalkaldic League.[257]
  41. ^ Bishop Jón was arrested along with two of his sons by a royalist wealthy peasant Daði Guðmundsson (d. 1563). Their guards executed them because they feared that Catholic Icelanders would come to their bishop's rescue.[267]
  42. ^ Among others, the report suggested the dissolution of most monastic orders, allowing only the strictest orders to survive.[274]
  43. ^ The compromise included the statement that "the sinner is justified by a living and effectual faith".[187]
  44. ^ The Theatines offered pastoral care for the needy and the sick, especially for those who suffered from syphilis,[281] the Capuchins were itinerant friars also preaching to the poor and the sick.[282]
  45. ^ "It ran in two tracks: alongside the reformulation of Catholic doctrine in contrast to Protestant teaching stood the many general…reform decrees which would influence the life of Catholicism for centuries to come.Campi, Emidio (19 June 2013). "Was the Reformation a German Event?". The Myth of the Reformation: 9–31. doi:10.13109/9783666550331.9. ISBN 978-3-525-55033-5.
  46. ^ Charles V was Catherine's nephew, and after the sack of Rome by imperial troops Pope Clement VII did not dare to offend Charles by annulling the marriage of his aunt.[299]
  47. ^ Henry's lawyers took inspiration from the Defensor pacis ('The Defender of Peace'), a legal treatise by Marsiglio of Padua (d. c. 1342) who argued that the Church was subordinated to the state.[305]
  48. ^ The lay preacher Clement Ziegler was the first to proclaim (in 1524) that Christ had had a celestial body before Mary gave birth to him. Hoffman went as far as comparing Mary with a bag, likely unaware that he adopted a metaphor from the Gnostic theologian Valentinus (d. c. 180). According to Valentinus, Christ passed through Mary "as water through a pipe".[322]
  49. ^ Calvin was only twelve when received a benefice at the Noyon Cathedral.[330]
  50. ^ In the preface to the Institutes, Calvin described moderate Protestants as examples of "chastity, generousity, mercy, continence, patience, modesty, and all other virtues",[334] contrasting them with the Anabaptists who in his view "only wished to govern themselves in accordance with their foolish brains, under the pretence of wishing to obey God"[335]
  51. ^ The new Anglican liturgy was heavily influenced by Evangelical church services, and Archbishop Hermann of Cologne's liturgical proposals.[346]
  52. ^ Servetus was one of the first to discover the pulmonary circulation.[358]
  53. ^ The Evangelical pastor Joachim Westphal (d. 1574) described Calvin as "the cow" and Bullinger as "the bull" in a pamphlet against the Consensus in 1552.[368]
  54. ^ Around 1,900 individuals were executed for heresy; about two-thirds of them were Anabaptists.[391]
  55. ^ In Tournai, a Protestant man seized the sacramental bread during the mass, condemning "papist idolatry". An other man called a Catholic cleric a false prophet in Ghent.[394]
  56. ^ For instance, Protestants made up less than 3 per cent of the population in the town of Alkmaar in 1576.[402]
  57. ^ An exceptionally flexible theologian, Ferenc Dávid was bishop of the Evangelical, Reformed and Unitarian Churches during his life. John Sigismund was also heavily influenced by his antitrinitarian court physician Giorgio Biandrata (d. 1588).[413][414]
  58. ^ See the wikipedia entry on Joanes Leizarraga, the priest who did the translation. His manuscript is considered to be a cornerstone in Basque literature, and a pioneering attempt towards Basque language standardization.
  59. ^ Most current estimates place the world's Protestant population in the range of 800 million to more than 1 billion. For example, author Hans Hillerbrand estimated a total Protestant population of 833,457,000 in 2004,[468] while a report by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – 1,170,803,000 (with inclusion of independents as defined in this article) in 2024.[467]
  60. ^ However, over half of this population are in Modern Protestant denominations such as Pentecostal churches which are not derived from the historical Reformation denominations; and the remaining Historical denominations include Arminian denominations such as Methodists which do not hold to certain key Reformation doctrines, such as sola fide.
  61. ^ In the end, while the Reformation emphasis on Protestants reading the Scriptures was one factor in the development of literacy, the impact of printing itself, the wider availability of printed works at a cheaper price, and the increasing focus on education and learning as key factors in obtaining a lucrative post, were also significant contributory factors.[478]
  62. ^ In the first decade of the Reformation, Luther's message became a movement, and the output of religious pamphlets in Germany was at its height.[482]
  63. ^ "But in the Renaissance era, and even more so in the Reformation period which followed, reliance on symbol and image gave way to the privileging of the printed or spoken word. Peace remained a fundamental Christian aspiration, but ritual and sacrament gave way to persuasion and instruction as the means to achieve it." Duffy op. cit.
  64. ^ "Until the seventeenth century,…Christianity meant a body of people, but since then it refers only to a body of beliefs." Lewis, Eleanor V. (June 1986). "(Review) Christianity in the West, 1400–1700. By John Bossy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985". Church History. 55 (2): 225–226. doi:10.2307/3167429. JSTOR 3167429. S2CID 162279854.


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Further reading



  • Appold, Kenneth G. The Reformation: A Brief History (2011) online
  • Collinson, Patrick. The Reformation: A History (2006)
  • Elton, Geoffrey R. and Andrew Pettegree, eds. Reformation Europe: 1517–1559 (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Elton, G.R., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History, Vol. 2: The Reformation, 1520–1559 (1st ed. 1958) online free
  • Gassmann, Günther, and Mark W. Oldenburg. Historical dictionary of Lutheranism (Scarecrow Press, 2011).
  • Hillerbrand, Hans J. The Protestant Reformation (2nd ed. 2009)
  • Hsia, R. Po-chia, ed. A Companion to the Reformation World (2006)
  • Lindberg, Carter. The European Reformations (2nd ed. 2009)
  • Mourret, Fernand. History of the Catholic Church (vol 5 1931) online free; pp. 325–516; by French Catholic scholar
  • Naphy, William G. (2007). The Protestant Revolution: From Martin Luther to Martin Luther King Jr. BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-53920-9.
  • Spalding, Martin (2010). The History of the Protestant Reformation; In Germany and Switzerland, and in England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, France, and Northern Europe. General Books LLC.
  • Reeves, Michael. The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation (2nd ed. 2016)
  • Spitz, Lewis William (2003). The Protestant Reformation: 1517–1559.



Primary sources in translation

  • Fosdick, Harry Emerson, ed. Great Voices of the Reformation [and of other putative reformers before and after it]: an Anthology, ed., with an introd. and commentaries, by Harry Emerson Fosdick. (Modern Library, 1952). xxx, 546 pp.
  • Janz, Denis, ed. A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts with Introductions (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Littlejohn, Bradford, and Jonathan Roberts eds. Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions (2018).
  • Luther, Martin Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, 2 vols., tr. and ed. by Preserved Smith, Charles Michael Jacobs, The Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, Pa. 1913, 1918. vol.2 (1521–1530) from Google Books. Reprint of Vol. 1, Wipf & Stock Publishers (March 2006). ISBN 1-59752-601-0.
  • Spitz, Lewis W. The Protestant Reformation: Major Documents. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1997. ISBN 0-570-04993-8.