‘The beginnings of the Reformation and the principle figures responsible for it’
* The Roman Catholic Church
* The Early Reformists:
From Wycliffe to Erasmus
* Radical Reformists of the 16th Century:
From Luther to Calvin
* Literary counterparts of the movement:
A look at the work of Dante and Machiavelli
Will Durant’s book ‘The Story of Civilization – The Reformation’ was greatly relied upon in the collection of facts and general information in the following piece of writing and hence deserves special recognition. His meticulous and captivating account of the movement and those involved in its execution provided us with a rich plethora of material from which to derive our own understanding and analysis.
We have chosen the early advent of the Reformation Movement, which was a significant part of Early Modern History, as our area of focus. In this paper we will be covering the causes of the movement; the need to reassess the meaning of mans ecclesiastical relationship with God, especially through the Roman church and the said corruption of the church that gave rise to this need; key figures responsible for, firstly, introducing new ideologies, and secondly, for providing momentum to the movement, which in turn led to prominent changes in political theory and a re-ordering of the hierarchy of power. In the very beginning we shall observe the Church and the papal legacy as the sole medium between the common man and the heavens, and the first signs of the disintegration of this absolute authority, through the efforts of John Wycliffe, born 1324 in Yorkshire, England, a clergymen and a Cambridge scholar who will later on come to be known as ‘The Morning Star’ of the Reformation. From here on our geographical progression through Europe will be marked by studying the contributions of certain men; John Huss in the Early Fifteenth Century, responsible for sowing the seed of Reformation in Bohemia; Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, referred to as the ‘Prince of Humanists’; Martin Luther in Germany, whose undeniable, yet controversial legacy in the form of his translation of the Bible to local vernacular, and ‘The Ninety-Five Theses’, in addition to the changes he brought about in dictates of the lifestyle of the clergy, cumulatively led to the initiation of the Protestant Reformation; and other notable personalities such as Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, John Calvin and so forth.
Part One: The Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church was considered the successor of the Roman Imperial government as the chief authority in the European Christian world after the end of the Dark Ages, and the advent of the Middle Age. In its prime it held noble ideals, and was the foremost propagator of the restoration of civilization in the West, after it had been sunk in barbarism for a considerable amount of time. They fed the poor, through reclaiming wastelands and turning them into productive agricultural grounds; monasteries served as places of respite for the destitute and the wandering; education and hospice care also fell under their realm of responsibility, and were diligently taken care of by them. Image [ 1 ] Roman Emperor Henry IV at the gates of Cannossa after walking there barefoot to receive a pardon. In addition to this, it was the monks that were to be thanked for the preservation of many ancient Greco-Roman texts, which would be later revived by the Renaissance generation, and particularly by the Reformists, to recall what they considered an entirely Holy and irreproachable era of the Christian faith. In fact it would be in the very first universities built by the Church in the Gothic time period that scholastic philosophers would have the comfort to re-asses the human condition and dwell upon Man’s individual spiritual...
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