Reformation, Protestant (On the Continent)
REFORMATION, PROTESTANT (ON THE CONTINENT)
The term reformation as a restoration of an original form or norm was in common use throughout the Middle Ages. Renovation, restitution, regeneration, rebirth (re naissance), and many other expressions described the same general concept. The call for reform of the Church became more insistent in the late-medieval period. In part, the popularity of apocalyptic views of history from the twelfth century onward helped fuel the sense of urgency about reform at this time. Prophetic movements promoted the notion that the Church was experiencing a constantly worsening decline and deterioration from its early Christian state. Rising expectations, deepening piety, and the perennial appeal of monastic asceticism also fed the reforming impulse. To understand the onset of the sixteenth-century Reformations, movements more dynamic and transforming than the many medieval reforms that preceded them, we must separate perception from reality. The evidence is scanty to suggest that corruption and abuse were worse in the fourteenth-and fifteenth-century Church than they had been in the twelfth or thirteenth. Throughout Europe there were many places where ecclesiastical functions were efficiently executed and where clerical discipline was widely respected. Yet the Western Church was vulnerable to criticism on a variety of fronts because it was an enormous, international institution that performed cure of souls, but also fulfilled important social, economic, and political functions. To many, these worldly aims seemed in conflict with the institution's religious and sacramental mission.
While the idea of reform was common in Europe around 1500, Martin Luther and the other early evangelical reformers rarely used the term "reformation" to describe the movement they initiated. These early sixteenth-century reformers desired a restoration of the primitive Christian Gospel, which in their view, had been obscured through centuries of human innovation. Luther's view often discounted the human ability to effect change in the Church, and instead insisted that it was the Word of God that would accomplish reform in God's own time. Luther's reserve in adopting the term "reformation" to describe the evangelical movement may help to explain why the word Reformation was not used to describe his work until a century and a half following his death. [see V. L. Von Seckendorf, Commentarius historicus et apologetic de Lutheranismo seu de reformatione (1688–92)]. In the eighteenth century the term was extended to describe the reform movements that followed the work of John Calvin, and from the nineteenth century onward, the word "Reformation" has commonly been used to designate the rise and growth of Protestantism in the sixteenth century.
Causes of the Reformation
The roots of the Continental Reformation are primarily religious and reach back into the later Middle Ages. Several features of the doctrines of wyclif, hus, the waldenses and unorthodox fifteenth-century theologians anticipated the later attacks of Luther and other early Protestant reformers. These included criticisms of transubstantiation, priestly status, the wealth and political power of the Church, and the corruption of biblical teaching. No direct lineage existed, however, between these figures and the later reformers. Instead the early evangelicalism of Luther, Zwingli, and others was the result of their search for religious truths that occurred within an orthodox context.
Philosophical Climate. The scholasticism of the later Middle Ages, particularly in its Ockhamist and nominalist forms, was incisive in the development of Protestant theology (see nominalism). The via moderna, as late scholasticism was called, contrasted with the via antiqua of St. Thomas Aquinas. The reformers accepted some of the new philosophical and theological presuppositions of the nominalists, while disregarding others. The nominalist school denied the validity of universals, insisting instead that theological concepts were mere names created to describe certain ideas and things revealed in the Word of God. Most nominalists drew a sharp distinction between God's absolute power, the potentia absoluta, and the ordering power, the potentia ordinata, He had displayed in Creation and revelation. By virtue of his "absolute power," God could have created the world in an infinite number of ways, but His Word revealed the covenant He had established with humankind. The duty of the theologian, according to the nominalists, was not to deploy reason to understand God's absolute power, but to illuminate the nature of these promises.
Through his education at the University of Erfurt, a center of the via moderna, Martin Luther came in contact with these nominalist teachings. Although he would eventually come to distance himself from Ockham and nominalism in the years after 1515, the school's emphasis on the limits of human reason and on a covenantal theology left a residue in his work, as it did in other sixteenth-century reformers.
Role of Scripture. There is no doubt of the beginning of a Biblical revival in the later Middle Ages. The scriptures were widely available to scholars in the Vulgate and in a good number of vernacular translations. Further, a movement toward the study of the Scriptures in their original languages can be discerned among the humanists and theologians of the later fifteenth century. This return to the sources could produce controversy, as in the famous Reuchlin Affair that began in 1506 when the humanist Johannes reuchlin (1455–1522), author of a Hebrew grammar, attacked the converted Jew Johannes fefferkorn for his attempts to destroy Jewish manuscripts he considered dangerous to Christians. Reuchlin's persecution by members of Germany's Dominicans resulted in the championing of his cause by humanists from throughout Europe and did nothing to retard the deepening study of the Bible in its original tongues. It did produce ill feelings, though, that persisted even as the Reformation began. In 1516 erasmus published a Greek version of the New Testament, and a subsequent corrected version of the Vulgate. Although Erasmus's Greek edition may not have been of the same caliber as that contained in the Complutensian Polyglot (1502), edited by Cardinal Francisco ximenes de cisneros, his commentary emphasized the popular concept of the "philosophy of Christ" and downplayed medieval sacramental theology. His undermining of the scriptural foundations for the sacrament of penance, in particular, would win admirers among early evangelical reformers.
State of Religion among the Laity. The requirements for participation in the late-medieval Church had largely been drawn by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and included among their hallmarks annual attendance at the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. The evidence suggests that in most parts of Europe lay attendance did not exceed the yearly duties of Lent and Easter, the one commonly shared way in which most people came into contact with the Church. Baptism and confirmation were also important events in the life of all Europeans, since they functioned as religious events, but also as important rites of passage that marked off various life stages. Differences of emphasis in religious life have long been identified between the countryside, where the vast majority of the population lived, and Europe's burgeoning cities. Preaching in the towns and the ministration of the friars meant that city dwellers were probably more effectively indoctrinated in "official" Church teaching than were country people. Urban confraternities, too, provided a way for the laity to practice some of the offices and devotions normally undertaken only by the clergy. In the countryside priests were nevertheless vital members of the village community who were called upon to deliver benedictions, perform exorcisms, lead rogations and other rites that aimed to insure communal life. It is a mistake, though, to draw the distinction between town and country as one of a dichotomy between a ritualistic and superstitious rural religion, and a doctrinal and sacramental urban one. Superstition was common to both spheres. In Europe's towns, moreover, mortality was always high, and in each generation immigrants from the surrounding countryside renewed the population. The religious practices noted in the countryside, with their emphasis on perpetuating and insuring the community, also pervaded Europe's cities.
Other distinctions have been observed between elites and people in the religious life of the later Middle Ages. Again, these differences should not viewed as hard and fast, since the late-medieval Church held out a variety of ways in which those without means could deepen their devotion. Still, the endowing of anniversary masses, the establishment of religious houses, enrollment in confraternities, the praying of the hours, and the amassing of indulgences—all important signs of late-medieval devotion—could generally only be practiced by those who possessed sufficient financial resources and leisure. The dichotomy between elites and people begins to break down when we realize that many nobles, patricians, and merchants—those possessed of the amenities of time and money—often evidenced little interest in these religious practices.
Scholars have long debated the precise character of late-medieval lay piety and its relationship to the subsequent Reformation. Some have argued that the institutional hierarchy of the Church ignored the needs of Europe's laity, and as a result a low level of knowledge and devotion existed among Europeans at the close of the Middle Ages. In this way the Reformation, and the later Catholic response, the Counter Reformation, have been interpreted as events that accomplished a final, effective "Christianization" of Europe. Others have judged the late-medieval Church to be too intrusive and demanding, an institution that fostered a vigorous, but ultimately unsatisfying piety. Such generalizations prove perilous for several reasons. They evaluate late-medieval religion against the subsequent Reformation. During the sixteenth century Protestant Reformers relied on propaganda and polemic to attack the Church and in the process, they sometimes obscured the character of late-medieval religion. The documentary evidence suggests that many fifteenth-century Europeans found adequate spiritual sustenance within the Church, while others were indifferent to it. For some, like Luther, the Church's teachings produced doubt and anxiety, even as for others, they were a source of consolation. The Church was, in other words, too large and diverse an institution to allow for such generalizations.
Clerical Abuse and Corruption. The papacy. On the eve of the Reformation abuse and corruption continued to exist within the Church, as it had for centuries. From 1309 to 1378 the papacy had resided in voluntary exile in the French city of Avignon, followed by a 40-year schism in which first two, then three, popes had simultaneously demanded the allegiance of Catholic Christendom. In the century between 1417 and 1517 the papacy also become involved in numerous dynastic intrigues, both in Italy and throughout Europe.
The avignon papacy, the period that subsequently was dubbed the "Babylonian Captivity," has long been synonymous with a growing worldliness within the papal court. The Avignon popes, though French, did not capitulate to the French monarchy, but by reason of their residence at Avignon (a fief of Naples which since 1228 had acknowledged the papacy as overlord) they were able to maintain feudal independence. The personal lives of the Avignon popes were not scandalous except for nepotism and they did attempt reform. The most significant development of the period was the great increase in the machinery of papal government, that is in the pope's Curia, and the equally large increment in papal taxation, which touched the entire Church and caused irritation. The sums collected helped to sustain the temporal power of the papacy.
The Great Schism (1378–1417) damaged the prestige of the Church hierarchy when it presented the spectacle of rival popes mutually excommunicating each other and their adherents (see western schism). Eventually, the Council of Constance (1414–1418) acted to heal this breach, but the survival of conciliarism within the Church was the result and this movement continued to be a challenge to papal authority. The most extreme supporters of conciliar theory advocated the establishment of a permanent Church council at Rome, a move that would have, in effect, made the pope a constitutional monarch.
Despite such problems the papacy revived by the second half of the fifteenth century, and its prestige and authority were generally well respected by 1500. If the papal court was a worldly place, filled with pomp and luxury and tolerant of sexual immorality, most Western Christians knew little about these things. The pope, it is also true, was an important Italian prince, who warred and intrigued against other princes and powers in the peninsula. But for most Renaissance Europeans, it seemed natural that the papacy must enjoy its share of political power so that the Church might be safeguarded from the challenges of secular kings and princes.
Ecclesiastical hierarchy. It is not easy to generalize about the conditions of the episcopate on the eve of the Reformation. Saintly, reforming bishops existed alongside corrupt and worldly ones. In many places in Western Europe, admission to a cathedral chapter, the pool from which most bishops were selected, was restricted to those from verifiable noble lineages. In some places one had to demonstrate, not only the noble births of one's parents, but of grandparents and great-grandparents as well. In other places bishoprics were awarded to those who had served royal interests. In these circumstances the episcopacy's goals were often more aristocratic and worldly than spiritual. The households of bishops and cathedral chapters were also seen as a path to professional advancement by humanists and university-educated clergy. Bishoprics could be looked upon primarily as sources of income, and in the inflationary spiral of the later Middle Ages, it was sometimes necessary for churchmen to acquire several sees to support themselves. The Reformation itself may be said to have begun out of just these circumstances. The precipitating Indulgence Controversy of 1517 arose from the pluralism of albrecht of Brandenburg. Upon his election to the Archbishopric of Mainz, Leo X allowed Albrecht to retain the Sees of Magdeburg and Halberstadt at a tax of 10,000 ducats above the pallium fee of 14,000 ducats for the See of Mainz. To reimburse the Fugger banking house, Leo X allowed him to retain half of the returns from the preaching of St. Peter's indulgence in his territory.
In the Holy Roman Empire and in Italy, in particular, many bishops were also temporal authorities as well. These figures, known as prince bishops, were consequently more often concerned with the political interests of their territories than they were with spiritual matters. Often deputies performed the religious functions of their offices. Since these territories were usually quite small, the machinery of state bureaucracy and defense exacted a heavy burden upon their peasant populations, who bore the lion's share of the cost of financing these states. Between 1475 and 1525 a number of peasant rebellions occurred in the Holy Roman Empire and some were protests against the governments of Germany's prince bishops.
Lower Clergy. Below the episcopal government were the members of the secular clergy, who served as parish priests, vicars, and chantrists. Although great differences existed in the living conditions and educational level of priests, the lower clergy was the clerical proletariat of the Church. Seminaries for the training of the clergy would not be created until the post-Tridentine era, and thus most priests learned their craft by apprenticing themselves to those whom already held clerical offices. Many understood relatively little about Church teachings and some priests were illiterate and had learned the Mass merely by rote. This situation was likely most pronounced among the chantrists, who were paid only to say masses for the dead. Since the gregorian reform of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Western Church had redoubled its campaign against clerical marriage and clerical concubinage (the keeping of mistresses by priests). By the time of the Reformation the ban against clerical marriage had been generally established throughout Europe. The Church had experienced less success, though, in outlawing clerical concubinage, and it persisted unevenly throughout Europe. In some regions—England, the Netherlands, Northern France—the requirement of clerical celibacy seems to have been generally respected. In more remote and mountainous regions, however, many priests kept concubines. Diocesan governments often dispensed priests from their vows of celibacy through the imposition of an annual concubine tax. This casual attitude toward celibacy was a corruption of the standard set by the Gregorian Reform. But in those places where the custom of keeping concubines was widespread, the laity seems to have accepted the practice as the natural state of affairs, preferring priests who had a helpmate and sexual partner to those who were strictly celibate.
Many members of the lower clergy lived in poverty, the revenues of the benefice they held, if there was any benefice at all, went almost entirely to some person or corporation higher in the ecclesiastical power structure for which they were simply vicars. This numerous class of vicars and chantrists—some churches had many—lived on small benefices in exchange for which they were obliged to say Mass and the Office for particular intentions. Still others were unbeneficed and complaints about the sale of the sacraments from these quarters can be found. Many bishops expressed little interest in this category of the clergy and control was a matter of indifference.
Religious Communities. The same breadth of financial circumstances and religious observances as well as problems of oversight that have been noted among the secular clergy prevailed in religious communities. There were both exemplary and lax communities. In many cases monasteries and convents, having amassed rich endowments in previous centuries, admitted their novices primarily from the nobility, the urban patriciate, or the merchant class. Royal abbeys, and in the German Empire imperial foundations, controlled vast tracts of land and exercised temporal rule over thousands of peasants. In these cases conditions were sometimes similar to the territories of prince bishops. Reports of worldly behavior in monasteries and convents—dancing, gaming, and so forth—were common at the end of the Middle Ages. Still the monastic ideal of a life spent in ascetic self-denial was alive and well, too. Numerous "observant" reform movements developed in fifteenth-century Europe with many following a similar pattern of development. A charismatic founder convinced an existing order to take over a rundown or abandoned monastery that he and his followers then built into a model of strict observance of the order's rule. In time, imitators reformed their houses along similar lines or invited advisers from the initial observant house to reform them. The most successful of these Observant movements occurred among the Augustinians, particularly among the group known as the Windesheim, Congregation, which grew out of the devotional movement known as the Brethren of the Common Life. Founded in 1387 in the Dutch town of Windesheim, the congregation established its control over more than 83 houses. In Germany a similar reform movement also occurred among the Augustinian Eremites, and eventually affected Martin Luther, who was a member of the Eremites' houses at Erfurt and Wittenberg. It has long been debated whether the piety practiced by these Augustinian reform movements, the Modern Devotion (devotio moderna ), influenced the later Reformation. Members of the Brethren of the Common Life wrote numerous devotional tracts that advocated intense self-examination and a life of prayer and Bible reading. Their writings influenced numerous humanists and later reformers, including Erasmus and Luther. In the main, though, the Modern Devotion was extremely traditional and demonstrates that monastic asceticism continued to have great appeal to those seeking to undertake a vocation at the end of the Middle Ages.
Influence of Humanism. The word humanism, a nineteenth-century term derived from the Latin studia humanitatis or "humane studies," was primarily an educational philosophy, rooted in the study of languages, rhetoric, moral philosophy, and history. While no humanist creed or manifesto existed, many of the generation of Northern Renaissance humanists who came to maturity around 1500 advocated the reform of the Church and biblical and patristic study, even as they criticized clerical corruption, scholastic theology, and popular superstition. These attacks were most widely broadcast through the work of the "Prince of Humanists" Erasmus, who, it was charged in the sixteenth century "laid the egg that Luther hatched." Erasmus, like many other humanists of his generation, would not admit his relationship to the developing Reformation, but a number of his younger disciples were won over to its cause in the 1520s and 1530s. Many of these, including Philipp melanchthon, Ulrich zwingli, Martin bucer, and John calvin, would come to play dynamic roles in the development of Protestantism. Differences of emphasis and theology continued to separate many humanists from evangelicals. While humanism was an elite and learned movement, for instance, Protestantism appealed to a mass audience. Despite these distinctions, it is difficult to imagine the Reformation's success without the preparation that humanism provided in its criticisms of the Church or its turn to focus on the study of the Bible.
The Reformation in Germany began with Luther's campaign against indulgences and would eventually result in the formation of a new evangelical church. Luther was once seen as the great formative personality in the creation of sixteenth-century Protestantism. More recently scholars have come to realize that, while Luther's influence was important, he was only the first and most prominent of a vast number of evangelical reformers active upon the early sixteenth-century scene.
The Development of Luther's Doctrine. Luther had entered the monastery of the Augustinian Eremites at Erfurt in 1505 and passed the next decade of his life wrestling with the central problem of his spiritual life: how he could find a merciful God and achieve assurance of his salvation. During this period his study turned, in particular, to the Epistles of St. Paul, particularly those to the Romans and Galatians. By 1516 Luther had emerged as one of Germany's most brilliant biblical scholars, and now as a professor at the new University in Wittenberg in Saxony, he took on the task of academic reform. During 1516, Luther, a theologian trained in the scholastic traditions of nominalism, began to criticize scholastic theology publicly and to promote a new view of justification. Luther taught that good works did not make a man righteous, but that one who had been made righteous performed good works. While this was a radical departure from late-medieval orthodoxy, Luther's teachings seem to have gone unnoticed, that is, until he criticized the selling of indulgences during the autumn of 1517. As a priest, Luther had learned of the methods that indulgence sellers were using in nearby territories, and on October 31 he wrote Albrecht of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, to warn him that if the abuses did not stop, he would be forced to speak out against them. At the same time he prepared the 95 theses, a document intended to become the subject of an academic disputation. It remains an open question as to whether Luther posted these theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, as legend has long suggested. Certainly, he circulated the theses privately, and although he had not intended to have them published, they soon appeared in unsanctioned editions printed in five cities throughout the empire. By the following spring reaction against the theses grew more intense, as Johannes tetzel, Albrecht of Brandenburg's chief indulgence preacher, and other members of Germany's Dominicans lobbied Rome for Luther's condemnation. Leo X (1475–1521) responded by dispatching Cardinal cajetan (1469–1534) who attempted unsuccessfully to secure Luther's recantation. A staged disputation between Luther, Eck, and Karlstadt, held in June 1519, confirmed Luther's opponents and supporters in their positions, even as it extended Luther's notoriety throughout the empire.
Despite his problems with church authorities Luther remained actively engaged in his academic pursuits during 1520, publishing a number of defenses of his positions. Three of these, in particular, were widely circulated, and were to exercise a profound effect on the subsequent evangelical movement. The first, The Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, advocated that the German nobility should take on the task of reforming the church in their territories. The second, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, outlined a new theology of the sacraments, arguing that only baptism, communion and perhaps a reformulated penance could be said to have clear scriptural justification. And the third, The Freedom of a Christian, defended his teachings on justification, arguing that those who received faith through God's grace were simultaneously justified and sinful, and that their good works were the product, not the cause, of their justification. These treatises were widely circulated in the early 1520s and spread the Reformer's message far beyond Saxony. These works did not present a systematic theology. Luther's close associate, Philipp Melanchthon, undertook the task of ordering Luther's ideas into a definitive statement for the evangelical cause, when in 1521 he published the Loci Communes, the Reformation's first systematic theology. By that date, Luther's denial of the infallibility of Church councils and his burning of the papal bull condemning his heresies had led to his formal excommunication, and he was summoned to an imperial diet at Worms to respond. In Worms, Luther still refused to recant and as a result, he was placed under the imperial ban. This ban would continue to plague Luther for the rest of his life since it limited his travel to Saxony and other neighboring friendly states within the empire. The ban thus prevented Luther from taking a direct role in the many discussions that would aim to heal the breach between evangelicals and Catholics during the coming decades. Luther had been prudent, however, to request a safe conduct to attend the imperial diet, and as he left Worms, he was kidnapped as part of a plan hatched by his protector the Saxon Elector Frederick the Wise. He was spirited away to the Wartburg castle near Eisenach, and there for the next two years he devoted himself primarily to completing a German translation of the Bible.
Diffusion of Evangelical Ideas. The extraordinary events of the years 1517–1521 had transformed a scholastic dispute into an international controversy that resonated far beyond the confines of the academy. At the same time a number of preachers and reformers had appeared who promoted doctrines that were either similar to Luther's or more radical in their implications. This rapid diffusion and multiplication of religious positions made the Reformation difficult to suppress. To the south, Ulrich Zwingli had begun a reform of Zürich's church establishment as early as 1518. By 1522 and 1523, radical reformers like Andreas Karlstadt and Thomas Müntzer came to promote ideas more extreme than either Zwingli's or Luther's. The appearance of anabaptism further clouded the religious landscape. In Germany's semiautonomous imperial cities the evangelical message spread quickly during the 1520s and 1530s. In the cities of Southern Germany many local reformers emerged, or towns bowed to popular pressure for reform and appealed to Wittenberg or to Zürich for advisors to aid them in their efforts. Nuremberg, Strassburg, and somewhat later Augsburg emerged as the first leaders of this urban evangelicalism, but within the first two decades of the Reformation, upwards of two thirds of the empire's 65 imperial cities initiated reforms of their church establishments. Although their populations were a tiny fraction of the empire's total population, Germany's imperial cities were far more important than mere size would indicate. These towns were one of the backbones of the Holy Roman Empire, providing charles v (1500–1558, ruled 1519–1556) with his major source of revenue for administering his government. Further, these imperial cities were important arenas for debate, centers of commerce, trade, and learning, and markets for agricultural goods. Since 1499, the Empire had been engaged in conflicts with a confederation of its Swiss cantons that had declared their independence in 1495. The fear of appearing disloyal to the emperor helps to explain the essentially conservative nature of many urban reforms during the 1520s and 1530s. While some town's initially turned toward the Zürich reformer Zwingli, most eventually came to favor Luther's more conservative approach. In addition, most town councils modulated their response to growing popular demands for reform, allowing just enough evangelical teaching and innovation to satisfy their populations. This initial stage of the Reformation in the cities aimed to translate the liturgy into the vernacular, reform the sacraments, establish "biblical" preaching, and abolish monastic institutions.
The unfolding events of the 1520s fed the ruling class's fears of rebellion. Already in 1523, several hundred members of Germany's imperial knights, a servile order of nobility, had taken up Luther's charge to reform the Church and initiated a series of raids against several prince bishops. The revolt was soon suppressed, but not without the destruction of more than twenty noble castles. One year later, an outbreak of rural rebellion began in the southwest along the upper Rhine, and quickly spread into the central and southern empire. This "Peasants' War" came to attract supporters beyond the rural peasantry as Anabaptists and other radicals as well as members of the urban proletariat joined the movement. In March 1525, representatives of the rebellion met in Memmingen and adopted the "Twelve Articles" as their manifesto, and thousands of copies of the document circulated in more than 25 editions printed during the coming months.
In April 1525 Luther responded to the rebellion by publishing his Admonition to Peace, a document that indicted both the nobility for their oppression and the peasantry for their rebellion. As the violence increased, however, Luther reissued the Admonition in June 1525 with a new addendum titled Against the Robbing and Murderous Hordes of the Peasantry. Now Luther advised the peasant movement's swift and decisive repression. The Reformer's response, unpopular among many of his supporters including Melanchthon, was to produce a measure of disaffection from the evangelical cause in the German countryside during the coming years.
The Magisterial Reformation. In Germany's imperial cities the reforming impulse had usually come from the populace writ large, not from the ruling class, and town councils adapted themselves gradually to the demands for Church reform. In the empire's territorial states, greater distance separated rulers from their people, and princes, fearing reprisals from the empire, were even slower to adopt reform measures. Still in the 1520s the Reformation did make inroads into the important territories of East Prussia, Brandenburg-Ansbach, Electoral Saxony, and Hesse. By 1546, 23 territories had adopted reformed Church ordinances, an impressive number, but still only ten percent of the secular states within the empire. As Luther's homeland, Saxony continued to take the lead in fashioning the reforming methods many territorial states came to use. Saxon universities at Wittenberg and somewhat later at Jena became important seminaries for the training of Lutheran pastors. In the years following the Peasants' War, a more authoritarian pattern of reform emerged. In 1527, the Elector Johann the Constant of Saxony introduced the Reformation in his territory by imitating a practice of the medieval Church, the Visitation. Philipp Melanchthon provided the instructions that the state's Visitors were to use in examining ministers and laity, and a complete inventory of religious practices and beliefs was made in the countryside. The results of this first Saxon Visitation pointed up the low level of religious knowledge, even indifference that existed in the territory, and a scheme for mandatory primary education and catechizing of youth was the eventual result. It remains an open question as to how effective education was as a vehicle for indoctrinating youth in evangelical principles. Lutheran educational schemes, with their heavy emphasis on the rote memorization of catechetical formulas, seem to have been widely unpopular among the populace. Still such measures were to be imitated by the major Protestant and Catholic reform movements of the sixteenth century. The remaining hallmarks of this territorial reformation included the obligatory adoption of Luther's reformed and translated liturgy and the suppression of the territory's monasteries and convents, sometimes over the vigorous protests of their religious. In the cities the abolition of benefices and monastic foundations had often been used to establish community chests for social welfare. But in the territories, these resources usually flowed into princes' coffers. In this and other ways the adoption of the Reformation allowed sixteenth-century princes, who were increasingly jealous of their prerogatives, to establish greater fiscal and political control over their territories. The sixteenth-century Reformations did produce princes who seem to have motivated primarily by these political considerations. It would be a mistake, though, to stress mere political advantage as most rulers' sole motivation. Most expressed sincere religious convictions while acting on political opportunities.
In addition, politics both hindered and permitted the spread of evangelical teaching within the empire's territorial states. In the 1520s, the Holy Roman Empire's religious issues were never more than secondary to Charles V, who was distracted by problems throughout his nu merous possessions. These included sporadic revolts from his Spanish and Netherlandish subjects, wars in Italy waged against the French and the papacy, and the threat of the Turks in Eastern Europe. Charles V's absence from Germany allowed the formation of leagues among the empire's princes. Under the Emperor's brother, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Catholic princes organized themselves into one such league during the summer of 1524, while a Lutheran alliance followed in 1526. In 1526, both leagues converged to lobby the imperial diet at Speyer. The result was a decree that, while prohibiting religious innovation, left the enforcement of the Diet of Worms's prohibition of 1521 against the spread of Luther's teachings up to the individual consciences of Germany's princes. The religious issue was to be postponed until a national or general council could address it. The Diet of Speyer in 1529 changed these provisions by annulling the earlier decree and prohibiting further innovations. In Lutheran principalities, the Catholic clergy were to retain their rights and incomes, and Catholic worship was to be allowed. Against this measure seven princes and 14 imperial cities protested on April 19, 1529, and thereafter they became known as "Protestants." In the coming decades politics continued to cloud efforts at reconciliation.
Failure of Religious Reconciliation. An attempt was made to heal the religious division at the Diet of Augsburg (1530) presided over by Emperor Charles V. Melanchthon prepared an irenical statement of Lutheran doctrine, the Confession of augsburg, which was approved by Luther and signed by seven Protestant princes and two cities. Four southern German cities in opposition produced the Confessio Tetrapolitana, a document influenced by the spiritual and symbolic eucharistic doctrines of Zwingli. Despite earnest negotiations, the attempt at reconciliation failed. The Protestants were called upon to accept the final decree of the Diet, which if enforced would have restored Catholicism. Instead the Protestants in 1531 formed the schmalkaldic league, an alliance of seven princes and 11 cities. The Emperor, preoccupied by the Turkish threat, was forced to grant them immunity and toleration until the Peace of Frankfurt of 1532. During the coming nine years, the Emperor was again absent from Germany and the Lutheran cause strengthened through reformations enacted in the territories of Württemberg, Pomerania, Dessau, the Duchy of Saxony (Albertine Saxony), the Electorate of Brandenburg and many more cities. Under the aegis of the Emperor, theological conversations continued at the Colloquies of Regensburg in 1541 and 1546, but without success. The atmosphere of mistrust and bad faith had grown through two decades of bitter polemic, now hindering doctrinal agreement and leading eventually to the Schmalkaldic War (1546–47). But politics also came to aid Charles V in his attempts to suppress the Protestant league, since he was able to secure the support of the evangelical Duke Moritz of Albertine Saxony. Maurice abandoned the Schmalkaldic League in support of Catholicism after he secured a promise from Charles V that he might succeed to control neighboring Electoral Saxony. In 1547 Charles V won a decisive victory against Protestant forces at Mühlberg. The Schmalkaldic League was dissolved, and Charles V was briefly master of the religious situation. He attempted to settle at least provisionally the differences between Protestants and Catholics with a compromise, the Interim of Augsburg of 1548 (see interims). The Interim's moderate Catholic reform position, however, pleased neither Protestants nor Catholics. His erstwhile ally, Moritz of Saxony, having secured the position of an imperial elector through his previous political maneuvers, now defected again and joined forces with a small band of Protestant princes. In March 1552, the brief Prince's War they staged against the Hapsburg's led to the abandonment of the policies of the Interim. The religious issues were to be resolved through a compromise formulated at the next imperial diet, held at Augsburg in 1555. Through the Peace of augsburg Lutheranism achieved legal recognition, and the princes were allowed to determine the religion of their territories. Lutheranism's growth was to be tolerated within the imperial cities, although the towns were expected to tolerate Catholic worship within their walls as well. No other religious group (e.g. Calvinism) was recognized. A further important provision, the "ecclesiastical reservation," specified that any bishop or abbot who adopted the Augsburg Confession would be required to surrender his territory.
Lutheranism outside Germany. Lutheranism was not to remain a reformation force only within the boundaries of Germany. It spread throughout Northern Europe easily, and even in places where it did not become the dominant reformation settlement, it influenced later reform movements.
France. The importance of the diffusion of Lutheranism in France is not to be found in the persistence of any Lutheran group but rather in the preparation that Lutheran ideas laid for the acceptance of the Reformed Churches of Calvin. Lutheranism spread through the printed writings of Luther, Melanchthon, and their followers, and by means of French students who went to Wittenberg, and German and Swiss students who came to the university of Paris. It met opposition, but repression was intermittent due to political reasons and the reluctance of Francis I to stigmatize indiscriminately as heretics all those with reformist ideas. For even before the Reformation, an orthodox reform group (the Circle of Meaux) had appeared with the desire of purifying the Church in France, though some of its members later joined the Reformation. Many other intellectuals imbued with Erasmian ideals were eager for reform. Before the arrival of Calvin, the lines between orthodox and heterodox were not clearly drawn despite condemnations of Lutheranism by the University of Paris.
Netherlands. The Lutheran Reformation also attracted disciples in the Low Countries, especially in urban centers such as Antwerp. It had to compete early on with sacramentarianism and anabaptism; eventually the growth of Calvinism supplanted all these movements (see reformed churches; netherlands reformed church).
Italy. In Italy, the situation was different. Calvinism was less congenial to the Italians than the very moderate form of Lutheranism that began to circulate in many cities, for example, Venice and above all Naples, where a reforming circle gathered around the Spanish humanist Juan de valdÉs. As in the case of the Circle of Meaux, certain members of this group became Protestants. There were also a number of spectacular conversions of notable Italian clerics to Protestantism: Bernardino ochino, Pier Paolo vergerio, and Peter Martyr Vermigli, but each of these figures eventually left Italy and thus did not develop a widespread following. After Trent through the agency of the Inquisition, Lutheranism disappeared in Italy. As in Spain, the Inquisition succeeded in preventing almost completely the infiltration of Protestantism.
Scandinavia. In Scandinavia, the state furthered progress of the Reformation. A priest, Olaus petri, who had studied at Wittenberg, and who had married a few months before Luther, openly preached Lutheran doctrine in Sweden. King Gustavus I Vasa, who was ultimately responsible for the official acceptance of Lutheranism in his kingdom, approved both his teaching and his marriage. The Riksdag of Västerås in 1527 broke the ties of the Swedish Church with Rome. The moderate Synod of Oerebro in 1529 laid the foundations for the Swedish form of Lutheranism. In 1535 Laurentius Petri, brother of Olaus and an ardent Lutheran, became archbishop of Uppsala; he can justly be called the reformer of Sweden. There was Catholic resistance, even beyond the Riskdag of Västerås in 1544, which had proclaimed the kingdom evangelical, but gradually the entire country adopted a conservative Lutheranism.
The Reformation was likewise introduced into Denmark and established by the agency of the crown. King Christian II, who was deposed in 1523, had encouraged the propagation of Lutheran doctrine. His successor, Frederick I, made Hans tausen, a Wittenberg-trained Lutheran, his personal chaplain. Tausen, "the Danish Luther," became the leading exponent of the new doctrine in Denmark. The Diet of Odense in 1527 gave protection and recognition to both Catholics and Lutherans, but with the King favoring Lutheranism and the nobles acquiring ecclesiastical properties, the Reformation made rapid progress. The final triumph of Protestantism came following a three-year civil war that began at the death of Frederick I in 1533. Christian III, who became king in 1536, called Luther's friend Johann bugenhagen to organize the Danish Church. Though only a priest himself, Bugenhagen undertook to consecrate seven other priests as the new Church's superintendents. Thus in contrast to the Swedish Church, the episcopacy did not prevail in Denmark, as it had not in Protestant Germany either. The King himself became the head of the Danish Church in a manner similar to the Anglican reforms being worked out in England at roughly the same time. Through the Danish conquest of Norway, the Lutheran Reformation was imported there along the same lines. In Iceland also, once a colony of Denmark, Lutheranism was successfully introduced despite resistance.
Finland, which was under the rule of Sweden, gradually became completely Lutheran. The Lutheran Reformation had penetrated early into the other Baltic states, especially in those cities where there were German-speaking populations. Estonia, Livonia, and Kurland also witnessed forms of Lutheran Reformation. After the collapse of the authority of the Order of the Teutonic Knights in the region, these countries came under the control of Sweden, Denmark, and Poland respectively and their Lutheran Church ordinances were safeguarded.
Elsewhere in Eastern Europe it was not monarchs who introduced Lutheranism, but rather German-speaking burghers. Some members of the nobility in Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia, and Hungary were attracted to Lutheranism, but eventually Calvinism was to attract considerably more adherents in these countries.
The Development of Reformed Christianity
The Reformation in Switzerland and parts of Southern Germany came to develop different theological and political teachings and thus it constitutes a separate chapter in the history of the continental Reformation. The Zwinglian reform and the Calvinist, which virtually supplanted it, belong to that branch of Protestantism customarily called "Reformed," in contrast to the Lutheran or Evangelical and to the forms of Radical Protestantism.
Zwingli and the Reform at Zürich. While Ulrich Zwingli was theologically indebted to Luther in some respects, he was an independent thinker very much influenced by humanism and the ideas of Erasmus as well. His assessments of the effects of original sin were less pessimistic than Luther's; he was less tolerant of the medieval Church's liturgy and ceremonialism. Zwingli's ideas about the relationship between Church and state tended towards the theocratic. His insistence upon the mere symbolic presence of Christ in the Eucharist could not be resolved with Luther's retention of the doctrine of the real presence, and the two eventually parted company. (see eucharist.)
Growth of Zwinglianism. Due to the success of the Reformation in Zürich and to the widespread desire of Swiss burghers to be free of episcopal control, Zwinglianism expanded swiftly through the German-speaking cantons of Basel, Berne, and St. Gall, as well as elsewhere. The forest cantons resisted, and were eventually successful in retaining Catholicism, but in 1531 Zwingli was killed on the battlefield during one of these conflicts. The leadership of the church in Zürich passed to Heinrich bullinger, who eventually prevailed in establishing the eucharistic doctrine of Calvin throughout the Zwinglian churches of Switzerland. They retained only the Church organization that Zwingli had instituted.
Bucer and Strasbourg. The Confessio Tetrapolitana, presented by the four cities of Strassburg, Constance, Memmingen and Lindau to the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, had been written by Martin bucer, the leading reformer of Strassburg. Bucer was in general agreement with many of the puritanical features of Zwinglianism and he came to exercise an influence, not only upon his city Strassburg, but upon the ideas of John Calvin too. The Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas cranmer called him to England in 1549 and in the two years before his death, Bucer helped shape the course of the English Reformation, first by serving as a theological adviser and later as Regius Professor at Cambridge. Both Bucer's and Zwingli's reform programs contributed importantly to the religious life of Southern German and Swiss cities, too. In time, however, their influence was to be overshadowed by the development of the Lutheran Confession in Germany and the advent of Calvinism in Switzerland.
Calvin accepted and codified the theology of Luther, but with a number of shifts in emphases. Calvin embraced the idea of the sinner's sanctification following justification, something that Luther sometimes denied and always tended to downplay. He also rejected Luther's notion of consubstantiation, that is, that the elements of communion were accompanied "with" the physical body and blood of Christ. Calvin came to an imaginative fusion of both Lutheran and Zwinglian ideas concerning the Eucharist. He rejected Zwingli's purely symbolic teachings concerning communion, but agreed that the body of Christ was not made physically present in communion. At the same time Calvin upheld Luther's notion of a real presence, insisting that after the reception of the sacrament, Christ's spiritual presence came to suffuse the believer. While Luther, Zwingli and Calvin all stressed the majesty of God, Calvin's theology came to accentuate the remoteness of the Creator from His creatures. And while both Luther and Calvin stressed the principle of sola scriptura (scripture alone), Luther had been tolerant of customs and traditions that did not expressly violate divine law. Calvin, on the other hand, argued for a more thorough reformation and purification of the Church based upon scriptural warranty for all Church practices. Thus God's law, as well as a rigorous organization of the Christian community, assumes a prominence in Calvin's theology.
The Institutes. In contrast to Luther whose literary output was prodigious, Calvin was a systematic theologian, and the essence of his doctrine can be gleaned from a single book, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. From the first Latin and French editions in six chapters (1536), through successive Latin and French editions constantly augmented, the work became by its last edition in Calvin's lifetime (1564) an ingenious summa of Protestantism that comprised four books and 80 chapters. Translated into a number of other languages, it had an incomparable role in the diffusion of Calvinism. (see insti tutes of calvin.)
Calvinism in France. Calvinism gradually replaced Zwinglianism in the Protestant regions of Switzerland. Similarly in France, it tended to supplant Lutheran influences, which had prepared the way for it. The first national synod of the Reformed Church was held in Paris in 1559. Intermittent periods of toleration had permitted Calvinism to grow into a sizable minority. The Wars of Religion (1562–98) in France were of unparalleled ferocity, but eventually gave way to a compromise position. Through the Edict of nantes (1598), Calvinists were granted a limited degree of religious toleration and civil equality. During the course of the next century these rights were gradually restricted until Louis XIV revoked the Edict in 1685. Under severe harassment, most French Calvinists emigrated or converted to Catholicism. A small minority managed to survive, though, and they were eventually granted religious freedom during the French Revolution.
The Low Countries. Calvinism also replaced Lutheranism as an influence in the northern provinces of the Low Countries. Calvinist Church organization did not rely upon the aid of princes, and thus its institutions penetrated into the Dutch cities quite readily. Calvinism came to play a role in the northern provinces' rebellion against Spanish authority, and once independent, the provinces became the strongest Reformed Protestant power on the continent.
Germany & Eastern Europe. In Germany, Calvinism made inroads in the Electoral Palatinate in 1562 and in several smaller territories thereafter. The presence of Calvinism within the empire provoked bitter controversy and elicited polemical attacks from Lutheran theologians and preachers. By the end of the sixteenth century, Calvinism had won converts in some princely families and even among the Lutheran Confession's theologians and pastors. Calvinism, though, would not be legally recognized until the ratification of the Peace of westphalia in 1648. In Eastern Europe, the Reformed religion often replaced Lutheranism. In Hungary and Bohemia especially, Calvinists were to develop into strong minorities.
The Radical Reformation. Calvinism, less conservative than Lutheranism in advocating religious change, was itself conservative when compared to the program of the Radical Reformation. Under this term are included many widely scattered and differing groups such as the Zwickau Prophets of Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525), the Swiss Brethren of Balthasar hubmaier (1485?–1528), the Jorists of David joris (1500–56), the Familists of Hendrick niclaes (1502–80), the Hutterite Brethren of Jakob Hutter (d. 1536), the Melchiorites of Melchior hoffman (1500–43), and the Mennonites of Menno Simons (d. 1561). This list, however, comprises only a small fraction of the many Radical Reformation sects active in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Europe. Despite variant doctrines most agreed in their common commitment to the doctrine of "Scripture alone," and their acceptance of the necessity of resting worldly influences. Most pursued the ideal of a "gathered" Christian community, and most were passive, if not always pacifist. Their refusal to submit to oaths and vows was usually interpreted as a sign of political resistance, and Protestants and Catholics consequently persecuted them alike. Social and economic grievances played a role in the formation of many of these sects, but the leadership of the Radical Reformation included devout humanists, pious biblical Christians, and rationalists, as well as some fanatical extremists.
Three main groups stand out in the history of the Radical Reformation: Spiritualists, Anabaptists, and Rationalists. The first group tended to repudiate the real presence, the efficacy of infant baptism, and outward ceremonies and rites. The second and most important group was derisively called Rebaptizers or Anabaptists. They held that infant baptism was unscriptural, and differed from the Spiritualists mainly in the degree to which they insisted on the rebaptism of adult Christians. The cities of Zürich, Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Strassburg, as well as the Low Countries and Moravia were early centers of their activity. An attempt to set up a millenial New Jerusalem at Münster in Westphalia in 1534–35 led to their brutal repression. There, Bernhardt Rothmann, chaplain of St. Mauritz Church near the city, and Bernhardt Knipperdollink, a prosperous cloth merchant from within the town walls, were won over to Anabaptism. By February 1534 Knipperdollink had been elected Münster's burgermeister and Anabaptism was made the city's official religion. Jan Mattyssoon, a former baker from Haarlem, and his disciple, Jan Bokelszoon, a Dutch tailor known as John of Leyden, joined Knipperdolinck's reform program. Their dream of a Christian commonwealth with equality of goods shared in common soon proved untenable. The city's bishop, Franz von Waldeck, laid siege to the town, recapturing it on June 24, 1535. The final group of radical reformers, the Rationalists, attracted the fewest adherents and was bitterly persecuted. They denied the divinity of Christ, and included the Spaniard Michael servetus, and the Socinians in Poland (see socinian ism).
Consequences of the Reformation
The force of the Reformation was felt in all spheres of society and extended far beyond the geographical boundaries of Europe.
Geographic Divisions. In the resultant religious division of Europe into Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed, Catholicism's greatest strength was now to be concentrated in the Latin countries. Significant pockets of Catholic strength persisted in Ireland, Poland, Hungary, and parts of German-speaking Europe. But by the seventeenth century the character of Catholicism was beginning to change because of the dominance of the Mediterranean countries in the life and government of the Church. In addition, the fracture of Europe into three (and if one includes Anglicanism, four) combative religious confessions ended the medieval reality of a united Western Christendom.
Confessional Disputes. The Reformation and subsequent Counter Reformation often bred bitter hatred both within and between the confessions. For more than thirty years after his death, doctrinal infighting ensued between the German theologians who followed Luther. By 1580, the Lutheran Churches throughout the Holy Roman Empire adopted the Formula of concord, Lutheranism's last great creedal statement. The Reformed churches in Europe generally formulated their confessional statements for communities within their national boundaries, such as the Confessio Czengerina of 1557–58 for Hungary, the Confessio Gallicana of 1559, the Confessio Belgica of 1561, and others (see confessions of faith, protestant). calvinism, too, experienced its own internal rivalries and stresses throughout the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
As a result of the Reformation, Catholicism weathered a period of theological confusion, a confusion that was in large part resolved by the Council of trent (1545–1563). Trent's decrees did not designate the Protestant reformers by name, hoping to leave open the door for future discussions, but the Council nevertheless condemned Protestant teaching. It helped as well to establish a body of doctrine that would give unity and stability to modern Catholic theology. And its impact on modern Catholic Church government and organization was immeasurable.
Sacramental De-emphasis and Individualism. In many parts of Europe official state forms of Protestantism retained much of their medieval inheritance. In Lutheranism and Anglicanism, in particular, the fabric of medieval ritual and ceremonial continued to live on until the modern period. Yet the Protestant religions of the sixteenth century had also won many adherents through their emphasis on the gospel, the scriptures, and a personal faith as well as their de-emphasis of the sacraments and priestly orders. These were radical departures from the traditions of the Church, and they have been seen as helping to destroy the strongly communal religious experience of late-medieval religion. Certainly, in both the evangelical and Reformed traditions, human salvation was now seen as something that was accomplished individually, worked out "with fear and trembling" between the sinner and God.
Similarities of the Post-Reformation Churches. Scholars of the sixteenth-century Reformations and Counter Reformation have recently realized the many essential political and social similarities that existed among the post-Reformation churches. Through a process of confessionalization Europe came to be carved up into mutually exclusive and competing religions in which states heightened their efforts to control religious beliefs and practices. This enhanced authority of the state over religious life was a reality in both Catholic and Protestant countries. Most states moved to enforce printed confessions and Church ordinances as the standard of orthodoxy. Those who deviated from these norms were often bitterly persecuted. At the same time religious heterodoxy grew in most of Europe during the seventeenth century, pointing up the ultimate failure of state-directed religious policies. Rising literacy rates and improving educational systems meant that more and more people could examine the scriptures and Christian texts on their own. In addition, a growing skeptical climate toward the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, aided in part by the rise of modern scientific mentalities, was to make it increasingly difficult for the state to enforce a single set of beliefs. Religious heterodoxy increased in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; at the same time the process of confessionalization had helped to create enduring religious identities and divisions among Europeans, as certain rituals, symbols and beliefs came to be identified with a particular confession's most firmly held convictions. Calvinism, with its emphasis on biblical law, became identified as a religion of the book whose adherents practiced the most spare and severe style of worship; early-modern Catholicism, on the other hand, emerged in the minds of non-Catholics as a religion of ritual, the sacraments, and the saints.
Movement toward Ecumenism. This identification of religious teachings with cultural identities helped to sustain bitter rivalries between Protestants and Catholics into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, long after most Westerners had lost a precise knowledge of the Reformation and Counter Reformation's intricate theological controversies. At the same time, however, Protestant ecumenism emerged as a movement that tried to heal the divisions that existed among its various religious traditions, a movement that would result in the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948. During the pontificates of Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, the Catholic Church has again entered into these dis cussions, although a unified Christendom continues to be more a desire than reality.
Bibliography: p. blickle, The Revolution of 1525, t. a. brady and h. c. e. midelfort, ed. and trans. (2nd ed., Baltimore, 1985). j. bossy, Christianity in the West 1400–1700 (Oxford, 1985). t. a. brady, Turning Swiss (Cambridge, 1985). e. cameron, The European Reformation (Oxford, 1991). b. moeller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, h. c. e. midelfort and m. u. edwards, trans. (Philadelphia, 1972). h. oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New Haven, 1989). s. ozment, The Reformation in the Cities (New Haven, 1975). g. strauss, Luther's House of Learning (Baltimore, 1978). t. tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton, 1978).
w. s. barron, jr.]