A religious split that persists to today
The Reformation started as a religious reform movement that arose in the 16th century. It began as a reaction to practices within the Roman Catholic Church that some held to be either
unsupported by scriptural teaching or simply corrupt and abuses of authority.
The movement ultimately gave rise to the various Protestant churches. Although earlier movements for church reform had arisen in
Europe, the Reformation dates from 1517, when Martin Luther issued his Ninety-five Theses. Other Protestants, such as John Calvin, also spread the movement for reform and then ultimately the establishment of an
alternative anti-Catholic church. This was fuelled by religious zeal, by the new spirit of Renaissance humanism, and by social changes arising from the growth of a prospering mercantile class.
Key dates in the history of the Reformation include:
14th cent. John Wycliffe led an early movement for the reform of the Roman Catholic church.
The Council of Constance was an attempt to introduce reforms in the Roman Catholic Church.
John Huss, Bohemian religious reformer, was burned at stake for heresy. His death led to the outbreak of the Hussite Wars in the Holy Roman Empire.
On October 31st Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses at Wittenberg. The Reformation had begun.
In Switzerland, Huldreich Zwingli began a campaign against the sale of indulgences within the church. This led to the growth of Reformation in Swiss cantons.
Luther defended the Protestant doctrine in the famous Leipzig Debate in July.
1520 Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church.
Luther refused to recant after being called before the Diet of Worms.
The Knights' War was an unsuccessful rebellion by knights to ensure ancient privileges against the Reformation.
The Peasants' War. Luther condemned the violence of peasants' uprising, which was partly inspired by his teachings. The peasants were savagely repressed.
The First Diet of Speyer was convened and it decreed that German princes could embrace Lutheran teachings.
At the Colloquy of Marburg Luther and Philip Melanchthon debated against Johannes Oecolampadius and Huldreich Zwingli on elements of Reformation doctrine.
The Second Diet of Speyer overturned the ruling of the first. Lutheran princes issued a protest against its decrees, thereby becoming known as the Protestants.
The Diet of Augsburg was convened. Melanchthon drew up the Confession of Augsburg, which became the foundation for Lutheranism.
Protestant nobles in the Holy Roman Empire formed the Schmalkaldic League to oppose Emperor Charles V's threats to use force against Lutheranism.
In England, Henry VIII's conflict with the pope over his attempt to divorce Catherine of Aragon (since 1527), came to a climax. He was excommunicated, and he secured the Act of Supremacy, establishing the Church of England. Though Henry maintained the Catholic character of church, later rulers introduced Protestant liturgy.
1536 John Calvin settled in Geneva and issued Institutes of the Christian Religion, the foundation for Calvinism.
Lutheranism in England was suppressed by the Act of Six Articles.
The Council of Trent was convened, marking the beginning of Catholic Reformation. These reforms were introduced to counter rising tide of Protestantism.
The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V defeated the Schmalkaldic League in the Schmalkaldic War.
Edward VI reigned in England and began the reorganisation of the Church of England into a Protestant church, and in 1547 secured the repeal of the Act of Six Articles and in 1549 issued the Book of Common Prayer.
1555 The Peace of Augsburg provided formula for ending conflict between Catholics and Protestants within the Holy Roman Empire.
The Synod of French Protestant churches was held in Paris and led to the organisation of Huguenot movement in France.
1560 John Knox secured the establishment of
Calvinism in Scotland.
1562-98 French Catholics and Huguenots engaged in a civil war during Wars of Religion.
1598 The French King Henry IV issued the
Edict of Nantes, granting religious freedom to the Huguenots.
1618-48 The Thirty Years' War began as a revolt in Bohemia in the Holy Roman Empire and soon became general European war fought between
Protestant and Catholic forces.
champion of the
first English Bible
1648 The Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War and established a measure of religious peace in Europe.