An Impact of Protestant Reformation on Europe

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The Protestant Reformation was a religious movement that spread throughout Europe with the goal of reforming the Catholic Church during the 16th at 17th centuries. Many Europeans were beginning to see the malpractice and corruption of the church’s hierarchy, and it was during this time that reformers were able to lay a more stable groundwork for a reformation than their predecessors. Although the reformation had an effect over all of Europe, it began in Germany. Many significant events to the Reformation, such as Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses, occurred in Germany; making it the center of religious change. The prior political, economic, social, and religious aspects of German life also helped to allow the ideas of reform to take hold in Germany and flourish into the controversy that changed Europe.

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During this time, Germany was divided it many free imperial cities. A growing nationalism throughout Europe created a conflict between emerging nation-states and towns that wanted to continue their self-government. This lack of constant political control throughout Germany, compared to the control of other European countries, was one of the main reasons that the Reformation was able to take such a strong hold in Germany. All the different cities were able to maintain their own religion. German princes who supported the Reformation could enforce the reform throughout churches in their area of control. As word of reform continued to spread, more and more princes began supporting the Reformation; this gave those reformers, who were being attacked by other European leaders, the protection and support of the German principalities.

There was also an economic effect from the Protestant Reformation. One of the main objections reformers had toward the Catholic Church was the sale of indulgences. An indulgence is a pardon from the penalty God imposes for unrepented sins, and the Catholic church of the 16th century raised immense amounts of funds from the sale of indulgences. Another economic stake in the reformation was that of individual guilds, such as the printers’ guilds. The printing press had been invented in Germany, and that is where the majority of them existed. Since the population of Europe was becoming more literate, printers belonged to a rapidly growing industry that distributed Protestant propaganda to the people. Many of them also sincerely believed in the Protestant reform and were in the forefront of the Reformation.

Before the Reformation, the middle class had been growing in Europe, which opened the door for new revolts and ideas. The amount of people who supported reform was growing over the number of people who opposed it. Many of these people were the German supporters of Luther. Although many of these people initially followed Luther, they lost their respect for him after he deemed their revolts as “un-Christian”, and suggested their ruler’s deal with them harshly. Even if Luther lost his support these people were still searching for reform and still sought after it as other reformers lead the way. The social aspects of German life that helped the Reformation spread tie in with the economic aspects of the controversy. As the printers’ guild had an economic stake in the reform, the word of reformers spread more quickly throughout Europe due to the rapid rate the printing press could reproduce material, and the fact that Europeans were more literate and could understand what was being given to them. Luther spoke in terms that the common people could understand, making him more popular and getting the majority of people to support the reform.

The Reformation was first and foremost a search for religious reform. Over the past couple hundred years the church in Europe had been through the Avignon Papacy, the Great Schism, and the Conciliar Movement, all of these events helped form the church into the greedy, secular authoritative body that it had become. Before the Protestant Reformation had begun, there were other reformers who sought to change the church. John Wycliffe and John Huss were just two of the reformers that helped stir the emotions of European citizens, and helped lead the way for future reformers to change the church. The Reformation is generally deemed to have begun when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the Wittenberg Church door in Germany. The statements made against the pope and the sale of indulgences was one of the major events that helped spark the Reformation. Luther became one of the most remembered Protestant reformers, and led the way for change to take place throughout Europe- beginning in Germany. He not only lived in Germany, he had spent most of his life there, studying and teaching Scripture to others. The Reformation began in Europe and became the center of the controversy.

The political, economic, social, and religious aspects of German life played a key role in allowing the Protestant Reformation to begin in Germany. Many of the events that helped to spark the Reformation occurred in Germany, and many of the Reformation’s leaders resided in Germany. As more and more people became aware of the corruption found in the Catholic Church, more people began to follow the change occurring in the German Principalities. Princes began reforming their cities and reformers gained support. The reform that began in Germany paved the way for the rest of Europe to follow suit and change the face of the Catholic Church.

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