History of the Reformation
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Our digital history of the Reformation focuses on the a major reform movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe. It posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church, especially to the authority of the pope. Specifically, this challenge arose from errors and excesses of the Catholic Church. With that, the Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church. What’s more, it marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the early modern period in the West.
The Reformation began with the Ninety-five Theses nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral by Martin Luther in 1517. But he was not excommunicated until January 1521, by Pope Leo X. Soon after, the Edict of Worms of May 1521 condemned Luther and officially banned the spread of his ideas in the Holy Roman Empire. But Gutenberg’s printing press enabled the spread of religious materials in the vernacular. Despite being declared an outlaw, Luther survived with the protection of Elector Frederick the Wise. In fact, the Protestant movement in Germany took many divergent paths, as with reformers like Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin.
In 1521, the Diet of Worms summoned Martin Luther to defend his views in response to a papal bull. The Lutheran Duchy of Prussia arose out of the State of the Teutonic Order during the Protestant Reformation. In fact, it became the first Protestant state when the Duke of Prussia, formally adopted Lutheranism. The English Reformation took place in England when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in order to accommodate the demands of Henry VIII for divorce and remarriage. The Council of Trent (1545–63) was the first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, and became the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation. With the Peace of Augsburg (1555), peace was restored between the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the Protestant Schmalkaldic League. Then, England’s Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated in 1570, the Edict of Nantes (1598) ended the war on the Huguenots, and the Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the Thirty Years’ War and effectively separated church from state. The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation, was the period of Catholic reforms undertaken in response to the Protestant Reformation.
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