The Protestant Reformation

Causes of the Protestant Reformation:

For a time, Pope Leo X of the wealthy Medici family authorized an indulgence, or a forgiveness of the punishment due for past sins, to raise funds for building the magnificent Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Yet, this indirectly caused the beginning of the movement called the Protestant Reformation. The reason the new indulgence caused this enormous movement was because it was objected by Martin Luther, a young professor of sacred scripture. Martin Luther wrote to Pope Leo to ask him to stop with the abuse of this indulgence, yet Pope Leo regarded the letter as a challenge to papal power and wanted to silence Luther. In 1519 during a debate, a papal representative led Luther into disagreement with some church doctrines, for which the papacy condemned him. Blocked in his effort to reform the church from within, Martin Luther burned the document, or papal bull of condemnation.This marked the rejection of the pope's authority and began the Protestant Reformation.


This picture illustrates Martin Luther's burning of the papal bull. This is
significant because this resulted in the beginning of the Protestant
Reformation and of many new ideas.


This picture shows the grandeur of the Saint Peter's Basilica. Indirectly,
this was the basis for the Protestant Reformation because Pope Leo's goal
in authorizing indulgence was to gain money to build this grand basilica.

Significance of the Protestant Reformation:

To begin, the Protestant Reformation occurred during the Renaissance, which is appropriate because it ultimately developed new ideas. Although traditional Roman Catholics may not have liked the Protestant Reformation because of the opposing views it brought to the papacy, it did gain many supporters who previously had no purpose to rebel against the Roman Catholics. After the burning of the papal bull, Luther established his own teaching, which stated that salvation could not be achieved by the "good works" that Roman Catholics believed in, but instead by faith in Jesus Christ. Martin Luther used the printing press to promote his ideas, and won the support of powerful Germans, who soon believed that Pope Leo was using German funds to glorify his own city. Now that Luther had started something that had never been done before, a revolution against the Roman Catholic Church, others followed in his footsteps. John Calvin, a Frenchman who turned from the study of law to theology, became another important Protestant leader. He created Calvinism, which differed from Roman Catholic and Lutheran thought in two aspects. First, Calvin believed that not even faith in Jesus Christ could merit salvation. Instead, salvation was a gift predestined to people by God. Also, Calvin went farther than Luther and simplified religious rituals, in addition to dress, life and worship. Calvinists would wear simple black clothes, and would worship at churches without statues and other elaborate architecture. Overall, the Protestant Reformation marked a significant change in religious devotion.

This video explains John Calvin's history is the most simplistic of ways, so the
listener can grasp the main ideas easily. It highlights the fact that Calvin was
inspired by Martin Luther, which led to the creation of his own belief. Finally,
the video stresses that predestination by God was solely a Calvinist belief.


This picture is another example of the Calvinist lifestyle. Notice that even
though the whole church is not in the picture, the background is not
covered with any elaborate statues or mosaics. Also, notice the man wearing
all black clothing. Overall, this picture is an accurate portrayal of the Calvinist beliefs.

Effects of the Protestant Reformation:

Of course, the major result of the Protestant Reformation was the establishment of many new ideas of thoughts of religion, with Lutheranism and Calvinism being two predominant beliefs. Until the present time, these two branches of Christianity still exist, separated from the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the difference today is that these theological differences between Roman Catholics and other branches of Christianity have been resolved. Besides the development new branches of religion, a direct social effect of the Protestant Reformation was bitter "wars of religion." These wars continued in parts of western Europe until the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648, and were fought over a mixture of religious and secular issues. Another social result of the Protestant Reformation, especially in the Baltic, was a change in Church services. Previously, all Church services were given in Latin, the predominant language. Yet after the Protestant Reformation, Church services were delivered in the local vernacular. In conclusion, the Protestant Reformation had many social effects on the future.


Although this picture looks like any other war scene one usually views,
it is actually a picture of the Thirty Years War, which was one of the many
wars of religion that resulted from the Protestant Reformation. The Thirty
Years War was a war between the Protestants and Roman Catholics fought
primarily in what is considered Germany. This war had no victor. Instead,
two peace treaties known as the Peace of Westphalia were constituted.


This is a map showing the distribution of different Christians throughout Europe.
Note that although the Protestant Reformation had tremendous effects, the Roman
Catholic Church still seemed to be the major branch of Christianity in Europe.
Lutheranism influenced Germanic and Scandinavian colonies because of the
similarities in their linguistics, and Calvinism seems to have its effects in multifarious
locations. Anglicanism is one extra branch of Christianity on this map. Overall, the
Protestant Reformation may have marked a turning point European religion, but it
still did not convert a majority of the Roman Catholics.