Reformation in continental Europe and England and Essay

This essay has a total of 1634 words and 7 pages.

Reformation in continental Europe and England and its consequences


Reformation is the religious revolution that took place in Western Europe in the 16th
century. It arose from objections to doctrines and practices in the medieval church, loss
of papal authority and credibility as well as other societal, political and economical
issues of the time. This revolution had a major impact on Europe and it gave way to short
term and long-term consequences, which still can be seen today.

There were many causes of Reformation, some go as far back as the fourteenth century. One
of the main ones was that the papal authority and credibility were damaged. This was done
through, Avignon papacy, - a time where the headquarters of the Holy See had to be moved
from Rome to Avignon, it brought uncertainty to the people, as they did not trust the
Pope, and believed the Pope favoured the French. Following this, the Great Western Schism
also contributed to the loss of papal authority as it split Christian Europe into hostile
camps, because three different men were claiming to be the true Pope, each having some
support from different kings and princes of Europe. Finally, the corruption of the
Renaissance papacy, such as that of Alexander VI (who did not keep the celibacy vow)
resulted in loss of papal credibility.

As the Holy See was not as powerful anymore, it was suffering from attacks on the papacy.
Many felt that the Pope and his Bishops had developed into an abusive feudal monarchy.
They were not happy that the Church was concentrating on making profits and not on the
spiritual well being of people. Early reformation movements such as the Lollards and the
Hussites that were founded by John Wycliffe and John Huss respectively were suppressed for
their attacks on the papacy.


People also resented the Church, because of practices such the indulgences a€" when
individuals paid to church for forgiveness of their sins. The society was aware that the
higher clergy was interested in political power, material possessions, and privileged
position in public life. Many bishops and abbots (in some countries they were territorial
princes) thought of themselves as secular rulers and not as servants of the Church.
Members of the Church went to great lengths to increase their income, sometimes even
uniting Episcopal sees to boost their funds and power. Basic obligations were abused -
practice of celibacy was not always observed. This resulted in lowering of moral standards
of the clergy. The former prestige of clergy has vanished; people regarded them with
disrespect and lost their faith in the Church


As well as above causes, Renaissance a€" a period of great cultural rebirth was a
catalyst for Reformation. It raised the level of education and brought about new
scientific discoveries. Renaissance emphasized biblical languages, and allowed for
critical analysis of the Bible. This led to different doctrinal interpretations such as
that of Martin Luther in Germany, who was convinced that salvation came through faith in
Jesus and not the sacraments of Church and John Calvin in Switzerland, who believed God
has decided the destiny of a person and nothing could change this. The invention of
printing by Johann Gutenberg provided a powerful instrument for the spread of these
learning and Reformation ideas e.g John Calvina€™s a€œInstitutes of the Christian
religiona€�. This sped up the Reformation because it allowed widespread broadcasting
of criticism of the Church around Europe.


While these were the main causes of Reformation in continental Europe, in England, King
Henry VIII initiated the Reformation. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife,
Catherine of Aragon, after she had failed to produce a male heir to the throne. However, a
divorce was not a simple issue. Henry VIII was a Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholic
faith believed in marriage for life. It did not recognise, let alone support, divorce. He
also wanted to prevent the interference of foreign powers in the national and
international affairs of the country. By initiating the Reformation, Henry VIII intended
to change the organization of the Church, its doctrines and methods regarding worship and
make himself the Supreme Head of Church, which would allow for divorce.

There were many consequences that were results of the Reformation. An immediate and
unfortunate effect was intolerance to other denominations that were founded during
Reformation, which was expressed through many persecutions and religious wars. In Spain,
Portugal and Italy those who were not Catholic suffered death or imprisonment during the
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