Reformation and Counter Reformation

Topics: Protestant Reformation, Catholic Church, Protestantism Pages: 7 (2269 words) Published: December 10, 2005
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Catholic church, modeled upon the bureaucratic structure of the Holy Roman Empire, has become extremely powerful, but internally corrupt. From early in the twelfth century onward there are calls for reform. Between 1215 and 1545 nine church-councils are held with church reforms as their primary intent. The councils all fail to reach significant accord. The clergy is unable to live according to church doctrine, and the abuse of church ceremonies and practices continues. In the first half of the sixteenth century western Europe experiences a wide range of social, artistic, and geo-political changes as the result of a conflict within the Catholic church. This conflict is called the Protestant Reformation, and the Catholic response to it is called the Counter-Reformation. The Reformation movement begins in 1517 when a German Augustinian friar named Martin Luther posts a list of grievances, called the Ninety-Five Theses, against the Roman Catholic Church. As the spirit of reform spreads other leaders appear: Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, French-born John Calvin who settles in Geneva, and John Knox who carries Calvin's teachings to Scotland. In the Roman church a series of powerful popes including Leo X and Paul III will respond to reform demands in various ways. Mendicant orders such as the Jesuits are formed to reinforce Catholic doctrine, and the Church will continue to be supported by t he major European monarchies. Ultimately, the Reformation creates a north-south split in Europe. In general the northern countries become Protestant while the south remains Catholic. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Reformation and Art

Protestant reformers reject the use of visual arts in the church. A wave of iconoclasm sweeps through the north. Stained glass windows are broken, images of the saints are destroyed, and pipe organs are removed from churches. The Catholic churches respond to this iconoclasm with an exuberant style of art and architecture called the baroque. The baroque is in ideological opposition to Protestant severity. Not until the Neoclassical style of the eighteenth century will there be an effective attempt to resolve this dichotomy. The theatrical designs of Saint Peter"s and the Gesù in Rome are a triumphant symbol of the Roman Catholic church's belief in itself and its history. The plain churches of the north are reminders of Protestant beliefs. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483-1546) while studying law at the University of Erfurt in Germany experiences a spiritual conversion. He joins a monastic order, the Augustinians, and is eventually assigned as a lecturer at the University of Wittenberg. While working as a parish priest, Luther becomes disgusted by the Catholic Church's practice of selling indulgences. The purchase of an indulgence assures the buyer a remission of sins and thus a shorter period in purgatory. The selling of indulgences is a papal privilege which has been worked to the breaking point. In 1517 a jubilee indulgence is being preached near Wittenberg to generate funds for the building of Saint Peter's in Rome. Luther uses this opportunity to draw up a list of church activities for which he demands resolution and change. This list, the Ninety-Five Theses is centered around a call to eliminate the sale of indulgences. The Church demands that he retract a number of his protests. Luther refuses. Luther is summoned to an imperial Diet in Augsburg in 1518. Retribution for his crime should have fallen rapidly, but the election of a new emperor, Charles V (1500-1558), slows the justice system. Luther uses his time to plan a complete reform program for the church. His reforms include: •national, rather than Roman, control of church finances,

•permission for the clergy to marry,
•a series of sacramental reforms...
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