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Transcript of The Reformation
At times, the values expressed in Renaissance art and literature provoked tensions with the Catholic Church. The Church had long regarded itself as the guardian and interpreter of knowledge and culture. But that position was challenged by the secular philosophy of humanism, which advanced the classical Greek idea that "man is the measure of all things."
In October 1517, a Catholic scholar in Germany named
wrote a letter to the archbishop of Mainz. In the letter, he criticized church corruption and called for reforms. Luther's views were spread in printed pamphlets and soon sparked a religious revolt. Many protesters left the Catholic Church and formed new Christian religious movements. This became known as the Reformation.
Martin Luther's parents wanted him to be a lawyer. Instead, he became a monk and a teacher. From 1512 until his death, he taught scripture at the University of Wittenberg in the German state of Saxony. All he wanted was to be a good Christian, not to lead a religious revolution.
Luther Challenges the Church
Luther was astonished at how rapidly his ideas spread and attracted followers. Many people had been unhappy with the Church for political and economic reasons. They saw Luther's protests as a way to challenge Church control.
The Renaissance and Religion
Humanist philosophy suggested that individuals could understand the world for themselves and even question church teachings. It implied that individuals were free to make their own moral and ethical choices. These ideas undermined church authority.
Nevertheless, most Renaissance thinkers remained faithful Christians. Although they might embrace humanism and criticize church practices, they did not question the basic tenets of Christian religion.
In fact, humanist thinkers like Erasmus promoted the search for a deeper spiritual experience. This quest for a more meaningful faith would lead to a major transformation of Christianity during the 1500s.
Problems in the Church
For centuries, the Catholic Church had commanded the loyalty and faith of most Europeans. But over time, problems had arisen within the church. Critics of the Church claimed that its leaders were corrupt. Priests took a vow of poverty and celibacy; however, the popes who ruled during the Renaissance patronized the arts, spent extravagantly on personal pleasure, and fought wars.
Problems in the Church
Pope Alexander VI, for example, admitted that he had fathered several children. Many priests and monks were so poorly educated that they could scarcely read, let alone teach people. Others broke their priestly vows by marrying, and some drank to excess or gambled.
Early Calls for Reform
Influenced by reformers, people had come to expect higher standards of conduct from priests and church leaders. In the late 1300s and early 1400s
of England and
of Bohemia had advocated Church reform. They denied that the pope had the right to worldly power.
They also taught that the Bible had more authority than Church leaders did. In the 1500s, Christian humanists like
added their voices to the chorus of criticism. In addition, many Europeans were reading religious works and forming their own opinions about the Church. The atmosphere in Europe was ripe for reform by the early 1500s.
The 95 Theses
In 1517, Luther decided to take a public stand against the actions of a friar named Johann Tetzel. Tetzel was raising money to rebuild St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. He did this by selling indulgences. An
was a pardon. It released a sinner from performing the penalty that a priest imposed for his sins. Indulgences were not supposed to affect God's right to judge. Unfortunately, Tetzel gave people the impression that by buying indulgences, they could buy their way into heaven.
Luther was troubled by Tetzel's tactics. In response, he wrote 95 Theses, or formal statements, attacking the "pardon-merchants." On October 31, 1517, he posted these statements on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and invited other scholars to debate him. Someone copied Luther's words and took them to a printer. Quickly, Luther's name became known all over Germany. His actions began the
, a movement for religious reform. It led to the founding of Christian churches that did not accept the pope's authority.
Soon Luther went beyond criticizing indulgences. He wanted full reform of the Church. His teachings rested on three main ideas:
People could win salvation only by faith in God's gift of forgiveness. The Church taught that faith and "good works" were needed for salvation.
All Church teachings should be clearly based on the words of the Bible. Both the pope and Church traditions were false authorities.
All people with faith were equal. Therefore, people did not need priest to interpret the Bible for them.
What were the main points of Luther's teachings?
The Response to Luther
The Pope's Threat
Initially, Church officials in Rome viewed Luther simply as a rebellious monk who needed to be punished by his superiors. However, as Luther's ideas became more popular, the pope realized that this monk was a serious threat. In one angry reply to Church criticism, Luther actually suggested that Christians drive the pope from the Church by force.
In 1520, Pope Leo X issued a decree threatening Luther with excommunication unless he took back his statements. Luther did not take back a word. Instead, his students at Wittenberg gathered around a bonfire and cheered as he threw the pope's decree into the flames. Leo excommunicated Luther.
The Emperor's Opposition
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, a devout Catholic, also opposed Luther's teaching. Charles controlled a vast empire, including the German states. He summoned Luther to the town of Worms (
) in 1521 to stand trial (
Diet of Worms
). Told to recant, or take back his statements, Luther refused.
'' I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me. Amen.''
A month after Luther made that speech, Charles issued an imperial order, the Edict of Worms. It declared Luther an outlaw and heretic. According to this edict, no one in the empire was to give Luther food or shelter. All his books were to be burned. However, Prince Frederick the Wise of Saxony disobeyed the emperor. For almost a year after the trial, he sheltered Luther in one of his castles. While there, Luther translated the New Testament into German.
Luther returned to Wittenberg in 1522. There he discovered that many of his ideas re already begin put into practice. Instead of continuing to seek reforms in the Catholic Church, Luther and his followers had become a separate religious group, called
The Peasants' Revolt
Some people began to apply Luther's revolutionary ideas to society. In 1524, German peasants, excited by reformers' talk of Christian freedom, demanded an end to serfdom. Bands of angry peasants went about the countryside raiding monasteries, pillaging, and burning. The revolt horrified Luther. He wrote a pamphlet urging the German princes to show the peasants no mercy. The princes' armies crushed the revolt, killing as many as 100,000 people. Feeling betrayed, many peasants rejected Luther's religious leadership.
Why did Luther's ideas encourage the German peasants to revolt?
Germany at War
In contrast to the bitter peasants, many northern German princes supported Lutheranism. While some princes genuinely shared Luther's beliefs, others like Luther's ideas for selfish reasons. They saw his teachings as a good excuse to seize Church property and to assert their independence from Charles V.
In 1529, German princes who remained loyal to the pope agreed to join forces against Luther's ideas. Those princes who supported Luther signed a protest against that agreement. These protesting princes came to be known as Protestants. Eventually, the term
was applied to Christians who belonged to non-Catholic churches.
Still determined that his subjects should remain Catholic, Charles V went to war against the Protestant princes. Even though he defeated them in 1547, he failed to force them back into the Catholic Church. In 1555, Charles weary of fighting, ordered all German princes, both Protestant and Catholic, to assemble in the city of Augsburg. There the princes agreed that each ruler would decide the religion of his state. This famous religious settlement was known as the
Peace of Augsburg
The Renaissance and Religion:
What factors led to the weakening of the Catholic Church and the beginning of the Reformation
England Becomes Protestant
The Catholic Church soon faced another great challenge to its authority, this time in England. Unlike Luther, t man who broke England's ties to the Roman Catholic Church did so for political and personal, not religious, reasons.
When Henry VIII became king of England in 1509, he was a devout Catholic. In fact, in 1521, Henry wrote a stinging attack on Luther's ideas. In recognition of King Henry's support, the pope gave him the title "Defender of the Faith." Political needs soon tested his religious loyalty. He needed a male heir. Henry's father had become king after a long civil war. Henry feared that a similar war would start if he died without a son as his heir. He and his wife, Catherine of Aragon, had one living child--a daughter, Mary-- but no woman had ever successfully claimed the English throne.
By 1527, Henry was convinced that the 42-year-old Catherine would have no more children. He wanted to divorce her and take a younger queen. Church law did not allow divorce. However, the pope could annul, or set aside, Henry's marriage if proof could be found that it had never been legal in the first place. Henry asked the pope to annul his marriage, but the pope turned him down. The pope did not want to offend Catherine's powerful nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
Henry took steps to solve his marriage problem himself. In 1529, he called Parliament into session and asked it to pass a set of laws that ended the pope's power in England. This Parliament is known as the Reformation Parliament.
In 1533, Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn, who was in her twenties. Shortly after, Parliament legalized Henry's divorce from Catherine. I1534, Henry's break with the pope was completed when Parliament voted to approve the Act of Supremacy. This called on people to take an oath recognizing the divorce and accepting Henry, not the pope, as the official head of England's Church.
The Reformation Parliament
Consequences of Henry's Changes
Henry did not immediately get the male heir he wanted. After Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, she fell out of Henry's favor. Eventually, she was charged with treason, imprisoned, and beheaded in 1536. Almost at once, Henry took a THIRD wife, Jane Seymour. In 1537, she gave him a son named Edward. Henry's happiness was tempered by Jane's death just two weeks after she gave birth to Edward.
Henry married THREE MORE times. None of these marriages, however, produced children.
After Henry's death in 1547, each of his three children ruled England in turn. This created religious turmoil. Henry's son, Edward, became king when he was just nine years old . Too young to rule alone, Edward VI was guided by adult advisers. These men were devout Protestant, and they introduced Protestant reforms to the English Church. Constantly in ill health, Edward reigned for just 6 years. Mary, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, took the throne in 1553. She was a Catholic who returned the English Church to the rule of the pope. Her efforts met with great resistance, and she had many Protestants executed. When Mary died in 1558, Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn's daughter, inherited the throne.
Elizabeth Restores Protestantism
Elizabeth I was determined to return her kingdom to Protestantism. IN 1559, Parliament followed Elizabeth's wishes and set up the Church of England, or
Church, with Elizabeth as its head. This was to be the only legal church in England.
Elizabeth decided to establish a state church that moderate Catholics and moderate Protestants might both accept. To please Protestants, priests in the Church of England were allowed to marry. They could deliver sermons in English, not Latin. To please Catholics, the Church of England kept some of the traditions of the Catholic service such as rich robes. In addition, church services were revised to be somewhat more acceptable to Catholics.
Elizabeth Faces Other Challenges
By taking this moderate approach, Elizabeth brought a level of religious peace to England. Religion, however, remained a problem. Some Protestants pushed for Elizabeth to make more far-reaching church reforms. At the same time, some Catholics tried to overthrow Elizabeth and replace her with her cousin, the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth also faced threats from Philip II, the Catholic kings of Spain.
Elizabeth faced other difficulties. Money was one problem. In the late 1500s, the English be to think about building an American empire as a new source of income. While colonies strengthened England economically, they did not enrich the queen directly. Elizabeth's constant need for money would carry over into the next reign and lead to bitter conflict between the monarch and Parliament.
Protestants in Switzerland:
Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1530)
Other Protestant groups arose in different part of Europe. Switzerland was a major focus of reform activity. In Zurich, Huldrych Zwingli (HUL-drick ZVING-lee), a Catholic priest inspired by Martin Luther's ideas, founded a new religious
. The Reformed Church emphasized Bible study and banned all images and music from church service.
In Geneva, the reformer
founded an even stricter denomination. Calvin emphasized the values of thrift, hard work, and the rejection of worldly pleasures. Members who did not uphold these values were excommunicated. Calvin also stressed the notion of
. This is the idea that some people are chosen by God for salvation. Calvin's church gained followers throughout Europe. His ideas later had a major impact on religion in British North America. Calvin influenced many other reformers. One of them was John Knox. Knox led the Protestant reform that established the Presbyterian Church.
approx. 1491- 1536
William Tyndale was an English priest, scholar, and writer. Tyndale traveled to Germany and met Martin Luther. His views became more and more Protestant. He attacked corruption in the Catholic Church and defended the English Reformation. After being arrested by Catholic authorities, he spent over a year in prison. In 1536, he was burned at the stake.
Tyndale is especially important to the Reformation because of his translations of the Bible; he translated the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament into English. His work was used in the preparation of the King James Version of the Bible.
The Catholic Response
To meet the challenges of the Reformation, the Catholic Church began its own campaign known as the Counter-Reformation. In 1545, it began a series of meetings known as the
Council of Trent
. This council defined Catholic doctrine and called for needed reforms.
One reform was to end the sale of indulgences. Another was to improve education for priests. The council also imposed more rigid discipline on Catholics, making church attendance mandatory and banning certain books. These and other changes helped establish more order and unity in the church.
The church also sought to increase its membership through renewed missionary activity and a more personal style of worship. It founded a new religious order, the Jesuits, to win Catholic converts in Europe and overseas. It also built lavish new churches, filled with magnificent art to inspire the faithful. This splendid style was designed to appeal to the emotions. It offered a stark contrast to the simple, severe quality of Protestant religion.
The Counter-Reformation helped revive the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, by the 1600s the Reformation had changed the face of Europe. The continent was no longer united around the Catholic religion. Rulers claimed more freedom from religious authority. Europeans were also more educated and literate, thanks to the Protestant emphasis on Bible study and the effects of the printing press. Although Europe remained highly religious, these changes encouraged secular trends in European society.