The Protestant Reformation

In the 16th century, Martin Luther and John Calvin led which revolution?

And the answer: Protestant Reformation.

Photo courtesy: history.com

The Reformation was a series of events in the 16th century, stemming from criticism of the Catholic Church. In 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses, outlining his criticisms of the Church. The Reformation eventually led to a split in the Christian church, into Catholic and various Protestant churches.  

During the European Middle Ages, the Catholic church dominated European civilization. For one, the Catholic church was considered to be the caretaker of the Christian soul, which were eternal and determined the direction of one's afterlife. What's more, the Parish priest played a pivotal role in nearly every significant event in one's life: baptizing, marrying, and hearing confession were all performed by the Parish priest. The priest was also usually the only individual known to families who could actually read the Bible. The Catholic church owned much of the land, and was the source of education, and social services. As such, the Church was the seat of immense power and cultural significance during this time.

Then, Martin Luther changed everything. After a trip to Rome, he became disgusted by what he saw as obvious corruption running rampant in the city. Priests seemed to abuse their power, giving little weight to their preaching and carrying out performative acts such as asking for "indulgences," or money for the church in exchange for everlasting salvation. Taking a queue from Paul the Apostle's epistemology, who argued there was no greater path to salvation than simple faith, Martin Luther drafted 95 theses against these corrupt practices and, as the story goes, nailed them to the door of the church.

In 1521, Luther was called to defend his ideas in front of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, or else be declared a heretic. However, something else was afoot. Thanks to the recent creation of the printing press, Luther's ideas and new, German translation of the Bible were everywhere. For the first time ever, non-priests could read the Bible for themselves. Hundreds of thousands of Luther's bible were created, memorized and circulated. New ideas, theories and sects of Catholicism began cropping up. What started as a doctrinal dispute quickly turned into a social revolt, and in 1525, German peasants began standing up to landlords and serfdom. An army of around 300,000 people assembled, and the dispute turned bloody.

When the dust settled, an entirely new branch of Christianity stood: Protestantism. Anglicans, Puritans, Quakers, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists (to name a few) began practicing their own religions, independently from the Catholic church.

Learn more about this pivotal moment in history below.


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