Gabriel Lugo & Autumn Moore
The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century schism, or a division between two religious groups, within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther and John Calvin. It was ignited by the 1517 posting of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the rituals and structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led to the creation of reformed Protestant churches. The Reformation was prematurely caused by earlier events within Europe, such as the Black Death, which eroded people's faith in the Catholic Church that governed it. This, as well as many other factors, such as the mid 15th-century invention of the printing press, and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, contributed to the creation of Protestantism.
Martin Luther's spiritual predecessors included John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, who had attempted to reform the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation started on 31 October 1517, in Wittenberg, Saxony, where Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of the Castle Church. The theses debated and criticized the Church and the Pope, but mainly focused upon the selling of indulgences and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgment, Catholic devotion to Mary, known as The Mother of God, the devotion to the saints, most of the sacraments, and the authority of the Pope. Other religious leaders, such as Ulrich Zwingli, soon followed in Martin Luther’s footsteps.
Sixtus IV established the practice of selling indulgences to be applied to the dead, thereby establishing a new stream of revenue with agents across Europe. Pope Alexander VI was one of the most controversial of the Renaissance Popes. He fathered seven children by at least two mistresses. Fourteen years after his death, the corruption of the papacy that Pope Alexander VI exemplified—particularly the sale of indulgences—prompted Luther to write the The Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed to the door of a church at Wittenberg in Saxony.
Unrest due to the Great Schism of Western Christianity excited wars between princes, uprisings among the peasants, and widespread concern over corruption in the church. The first of a series of disruptive and new perspectives came from Jan Hus at the University of Prague. The Roman Catholic Church officially concluded this debate at the Council of Constance. The conclave condemned Jan Hus, who was executed by burning in spite of a promise of safe-conduct. Wycliffe was posthumously burned as a heretic.
The Council of Constance confirmed and strengthened the traditional medieval conception of church and empire. It did not address the national tensions stirred up during the previous century. The council could not prevent schism and the Hussite Wars in Bohemia.
As these events took place in Germany, a movement began in Switzerland under the leadership of Ulrich Zwingli. These two movements quickly agreed on most issues, but some differences kept them separate. Some followers of Zwingli believed that the Reformation was too conservative, and moved independently toward more radical positions. Other Protestant movements grew up along lines of humanism, sometimes breaking from Rome.
After this first stage of the Reformation, following the excommunication of Luther and condemnation of the Reformation by the Pope, the work and writings of John Calvin were influential in establishing a loose agreement among various groups in Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, Germany and elsewhere.
Even though Luther and Calvin had very similar theological teachings, the relationship between their followers turned quickly to conflict. Michel de Montaigne told a story of a Lutheran pastor who declared over dinner that he would rather hear a hundred masses than take part in one of Calvin's sacraments.
The Reformation was a triumph of literacy