The Age of Reformation

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The Age of Reformation

The Age of Reformation - religious revolution in Western Europe in the 16th cent. Beginning as a reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformation ultimately led to freedom of dissent. The preparation for the movement was long and there had been earlier calls for reform, e.g., by John WYCLIF and John HUSS. Desire for change within the church was increased by the RENAISSANCE, with its study of ancient texts and emphasis on the individual. Other factors that aided the movement were the invention of printing, the rise of commerce and a middle class, and political conflicts between German princes and the Holy Roman emperor. The Reformation began suddenly when Martin LUTHER posted 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Open attack on the doctrines and authority of the church followed and led to Luther's breach with the church (1520), which the Diet of Worms (1521) failed to heal. His doctrine was of justification by faith alone instead of by sacraments, good works, and meditation, and it placed a person in direct communication with God. Luther's insistence on reading the Bible placed on the individual a greater responsibility for his own salvation. The new church spread in Germany and Scandinavia, especially among princes and people who hoped for a greater degree of freedom. The conflict between the Lutherans and the Catholic Emperor CHARLES V was long and bitter. A temporary settlement was reached at the Peace of Augsburg (1555), but continued discord contributed later to the THIRTY YEARS WAR. Outside Germany, a different type of dissent developed under Huldreich ZWINGLI in Zurich, and within Protestantism differences arose, such as doctrinal arguments on the Lord's Supper. These were debated, inconclusively, at the Colloquy of Marburg (1529) by Luther and Philip MELANCHTHON on one side and Zwingli and Johannes Oecolampadius on the other. More radical ideas were spread, particularly among the...
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