The Protestant Reformation
Erasmus, Luther, Calvin and the
split from the Catholic Church
Before the Reformation
In the 15th century northern Europe was a
vast and doubtful place. The shape and
size of the earth was uncertain; the
Western Hemisphere was a blank; and the
continents of Africa and Asia were
practically uncharted except for the
recurrent warning “Here be dragons.”
Before the Reformation
The ruler of the world was God, Creator of
a man-centered universe.
Nature was dark and mysterious. There
were few dependable scientific laws.
The divine scheme of life was the
redemption of sinful man to the heavenly
kingdom that Adam and Eve had lost, and
in the material world man was on trial
Before the Reformation
Europe before the Italian Renaissance had
fallen on hard times. Trading ships from
the East brought luxury goods and spices
as well as diseased rats which decimated
Europe’s population with the Black Death.
The Plague recurred again and again.
Trade sagged; fields went fallow; men who
didn’t die from the plague died from
Before the Reformation
The Europeans of the era shrank before the
mighty example of God who consigned His
own Son to the appalling death on the cross;
before the inscrutable will that had caused
millions to be carried off dead in an
inexplicable pestilence; before an angry God
who showed himself in the rustling of dry
leaves, in the howling of distant beasts in the
deep forest at night, in the flight of birds
across the moon.
Fear was everywhere. Hellfire rather than
paradise was the incentive to righteous living.
Before the Reformation
Europe was still essentially agrarian, and
rural life went on in tune with the cycle of
the seasons. Grain was the staple food,
and not until harvest time was there an
abundance—and then only if fortune smiled
and the yield was good.
Even so, much of the produce had to be
divided between storage to last until the
next harvest, and seed to be sown for the
next crop.
Before the Reformation
Cattle and oxen,
which in summer
provided dairy
products and labor,
could not be kept alive
on the scant supply of
hay that remained in
the winter, and people
could not spare their
own meager rations to
feed the animals.
Before the Reformation
Most of them therefore had to be slaughtered
in the fall for meat and their hides; their flesh
preserved by salting and smoking, and then
rationed out during the long, lean winter
The autumn slaughtering was a time of
feasting and merrymaking before nature
closed down and confined men to their
cramped shuttered dwellings, where they
would mark the time until the new spring
weaving cloth, making or mending their
clothes, and making tools.
Before the Reformation
The 16th century in Europe was a great
century of change on many fronts. The
invention of the moveable type printing
press by Johannes Gutenberg in the late
1440’s was instrumental in disseminating
not only Christian thought, but secular and
pagan thought as well, and it was reaching
a population that was growing increasingly
Before the Reformation
By 1500 there were over
1000 printers in Europe,
who collectively had
printed almost 40,000
titles totaling an
estimated nine million
books, compared with
fewer than 100,000
hand written
manuscripts some 50
years earlier.
Before the Reformation
More than half of the books printed were
religious—bibles, books of devotion, and
Next were books on history, Latin or Greek
classics, medieval grammars, legal
handbooks, and works of philosophy.
And this was important since the
Renaissance created a growing literate
public eager for whatever came off the
Before the Reformation
No other invention had so thoroughly or so
rapidly revolutionized intellectual life and
The more men read, the more they felt the
stirrings of independence, the more traffic
in ideas accelerated, and with it, criticism
of society and of the Catholic Church.
Before the Reformation
The humanists and artists of the
Renaissance would help characterize the
age as one of individualism and selfcreativity.
The Renaissance helped to secularize
European society with Man being the
creator of his own destiny -- in a word, the
Renaissance unleashed the very powerful
notion that man makes his own history.
Before the Reformation
But the 16th century was more than just
the story of the Renaissance.
During the great Age of Exploration,
massive quantities of gold and silver
flooded Europe, an event which turned
people, especially the Spanish,
Portuguese, British, Dutch, Italians and
Germans, money-mad.
Before the Reformation
The year 1543 can be said to have marked
the origin of the Scientific Revolution -- this
was the year Copernicus published his De
Revolutionibus and set in motion a wave of
scientific advance that would culminate
with Newton at the end of the 17th century.
In the meantime, urbanization continued
unabated as did the growth of universities.
Before the Reformation
The greatest event of the 16th century -and the most revolutionary -- was the
Protestant Reformation.
It was the Reformation that forced people
to make a choice, and a choice had to be
made -- to be Catholic or Protestant.
In the context of the religious wars of the
16th and 17th centuries, one could live or
die based on such a choice.
Before the Reformation
During the Middle Ages up through the
Renaissance, all Christians in Western
Europe were Roman Catholics.
They were members of the (same) Church
and they followed the directions of the
Pope in Rome as handed down through
their bishops and local priests.
Before the Reformation
The Church, up through 1500, was many
things…It was a government that taxed
and a court that administered justice.
It controlled the lives of everyone, from the
lowliest peasant to the most powerful king.
Before the Reformation
But by the year 1500, the Church was over
1000 years old, and as such, it was the
oldest and best established institution in
the Western world.
With its growth had come such wealth and
power it was feared by kings and
commoners alike.
Before the Reformation
But before (and during) the Renaissance the
Roman Catholic Church fell on hard times.
Christians grew impatient with the corruption
of the clergy, the worldliness excesses of the
Church, the inability to explain the Black
Death, and the religious in-fighting and
bickering which for a time resulted in there
being three men who claimed to be Pope.
Before the Reformation
Between 1450 and 1520 there was a series
of popes—known as the Renaissance popes
–which failed to meet the needs of the
Before the Reformation
These popes were supposed to be
spiritual leaders but they were more often
concerned with Italian politics and worldly
It was said Pope Alexander VI had several
illegitimate children.
Before the Reformation
There was even one
pope, Julius II, who
was called the papa
terribile. He personally
led armies against his
enemies astride a
great war horse,
hurling threats of
excommunication at
his enemies as he
Before the Reformation
This was not the role most Christians
wanted for their pope.
The Renaissance popes were also patrons
of the arts and went on massive building
sprees, especially around Rome.
Julius II was the pope who commissioned
Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel and
ordered the building of St Peter’s Basilica.
Before the Reformation
Because of the
constant need to
raise more and more
money, the popes
sold high offices and
the Church sold
indulgences, both of
which were the
subject of much
Before the Reformation
According to the Church, the forgiveness
of God was contingent upon confession
and a penance (or punishment).
During the Middle Ages, some penances
were extremely severe, like fasting on
bread and water for seven years, or long
and arduous pilgrimages.
Before the Reformation
Over the centuries, the indulgence
developed as a kind of substitute: the
payment of money replaced the
performance of the deed of penance.
This idea actually grew out of Germanic
legal codes which began replacing
punishment for crimes with the paying of
But as money and indulgences became
intertwined, abuses greatly increased.
Before the Reformation
These abuses called for two major
responses. On the one hand, there was a
general tendency toward anti-clericalism,
that is, a general but distinct distrust and
dislike of the clergy.
Some people began to argue that the
layperson was just as good as the priest
when it came to matters of faith.
Before the Reformation
On the other hand, there were calls for
These two responses created fertile ground
for conflict of all kinds, and that conflict
would be both personal and social.
During the second half of the 15th century,
the Renaissance spread north of the Alps
and spawned a movement called Christian
Humanism, whose major goal was to
reform Christendom.
Before the Reformation
The Christian humanists believed in the
ability of human beings to improve
themselves through education that would
instill an inward religious feeling that would
bring about a reform of Church and
These humanists felt that to change
society, they must first change the men
and women who composed it.
The most influential of
all Christian humanists
was Desiderius
Erasmus (1466-1536).
Erasmus popularized
the reform movement
of Christian humanism.
He called his conception of religion “the
philosophy of Christ,” by which he meant
that Christianity should be a guiding
philosophy for the direction of daily life
instead of system of dogmatic beliefs and
practices that the medieval church seemed
to stress.
Dogma is an official system of principles or
tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior,
etc., as of a church (i.e. doctrine).
He emphasized inner piety (devoutness)
and deemphasized the external forms of
religion (like the sacraments, pilgrimages,
fasting, worshipping relics, celibacy,
confession, and the burning of heretics).
To Erasmus, the reform of the Church
meant spreading an understanding of
Christian philosophy, providing enlightened
education in the sources of early
Christianity, and criticizing the abuses of the
Even though Erasmus had a revolutionary
mind, he was not a revolutionary at heart,
so he did not shake up the world as Martin
Luther was about to.
But Erasmus’ work helped prepare the
way for the Protestant Reformation, as
contemporaries proclaimed “Erasmus laid
the egg that Luther hatched.”
The Protestant Reformation
In that era, there were no newspapers to
express your opinions, so it was a customary
practice for a scholar to post his ideas in a
public place.
On October 31, 1517—the date was significant
because it was the eve of “All Saints Day” and
the town would be crowded with peasants and
pilgrims—a monk and theology professor
named Martin Luther, tacked up his 95 theses
(or ideas) for debate on the great doors of
Wittenberg (Germany) Castle Cathedral.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther was fed up with the circus-like
performances of a fellow monk named
Johann Tetzel hawking Church indulgences.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther was disgusted with Tetzel taking
advantage of the poor with his favorite
slogan: “As soon as the coin in the coffer
sings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
Tetzel, a Dominican friar, was trying to
raise money to help pay for the new
church being built in Rome: St. Peter’s
Basilica (the Vatican).
The Protestant Reformation
According to the Church, indulgences took
their existence from the surplus grace that
had accumulated through the lives of Christ,
the saints, and the martyrs.
The purchase of an indulgence put the buyer
in touch with this grace and freed him from
the earthly penance of a particular sin, but
not the sin itself.
The Protestant Reformation
But Tetzel's sales pitch implied that the buyer
was freed from the sin as well as the penance
attached to it.
Tetzel also sold people on the idea that an
indulgence could be purchased for a relative
in Purgatory – this meant the relative's soul
would now fly to Heaven.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther believed that anyone truly penitent
would not whine to have punishment for
their sins lifted, but would welcome the
punishment as Christ had.
Neither the Pope nor any man, Luther said,
had jurisdiction over purgatory, therefore
the indulgence vendors who proclaimed
release from purgatory were deceiving the
The Protestant Reformation
The public generally paid little attention to
the academic debates of theologians but
they were electrified by Luther’s ideas.
Luther had sent copies of his ideas to a few
friends; they in turn circulated it among
other friends who passed it to printers, who
sent it to several German cities.
Within a few months, Luther’s ideas were
all over Europe.
The Protestant Reformation
When Tetzel (d. 1519) read Luther’s theses
he crowed: “Within three weeks I will have
the heretic thrown into the fire.”
Luther, unwavering in the face of the rising
furor, wanted to make sure everyone knew
exactly what he said in his 95 theses (to
clear up any misunderstandings among the
people) so he wrote a simplified version of
his views in German (it was originally
written in Latin).
The Protestant Reformation
Luther found himself hailed on one side
and slandered on the other.
The local Archbishop realized the brewing
controversy and called upon the Pope for
advice in the matter.
The Protestant Reformation
The pope (Pope Leo X
b. 1475-d.1521) was a
humanist and not
bothered by theological
nitpicking, so he
preferred not to make
too much of what he
called “monkish
The Protestant Reformation
Catholic doctrine emphasized that both
faith and good works (prayer + honoring
the seven sacraments) were required of a
Christian to achieve personal salvation.
The seven sacraments are:
Eucharist (Communion)
Reconciliation (Penance)
Holy Orders (Ordination for Priests)
Anointing the Sick
The Protestant Reformation
In Luther’s eyes, humans were weak and
powerless in the sight of God and could
never do enough good works to merit
Luther believed that humans were not
saved by their good works but through
faith alone.
The Protestant Reformation
This doctrine of salvation, or justification
by grace through faith alone, became the
primary doctrine of the Protestant
Because Luther had arrived at this
conclusion from studying the Bible, the
Bible became for Luther (and other
Protestants) the chief guide to religious
The Protestant Reformation
Luther argued that indulgences could not
release a soul from purgatory nor could
they cancel a person’s sins, and up until
1518, the Church considered Luther little
more than a nuisance.
Angry at the Church for not taking his
ideas seriously, Luther began writing
profusely and he rapidly became a bestselling author.
The Protestant Reformation
As excitement spread about his ideas,
Rome took more of an interest in his
In 1518 he was summoned to a meeting
with a Cardinal representing the pope and
he was told to recant; Luther quoted
scripture in support of his belief that men
were redeemed by faith and not by the
purchase of indulgences.
The Protestant Reformation
When the Cardinal said indulgences were a
matter of Church doctrine, Luther denied it
and became more radical.
He believed that the Bible, not the Church,
was the sole source of religious truth.
Up to this point, Luther was willing to
believe that the abuses in the Church
existed without the Pope’s knowledge.
The Protestant Reformation
But because of his meeting with the Pope’s
representative, Luther became convinced that
papal authority was a man-made fabrication,
that the Pope was a human invention (not a
divine one), and that this was the root of a
viscous perversion of the Christian faith.
Luther was left alone because the Pope didn’t
have time to deal with him…the Emperor of
the Holy Roman Empire (mostly today’s
Germany) had died and the Pope was too
busy focused on German politics.
The Protestant Reformation
In August of 1520, he
published a pamphlet titled
To the Nobility of the
German Nation where he
called upon German
nobles to be the leaders of
reforming the Church and
to defend their nation from
the “corrupt” Italians in
The Protestant Reformation
Luther declared that since the Church
couldn’t reform itself, it had to be done by
secular (state) authorities.
Luther argued that in times of crisis,
Scripture allowed for secular powers to act
independently of the Pope.
To suggest the Church and Pope were
negligent in their duty and should be taken
to task by state authorities was
The Protestant Reformation
In October (1520)
Luther moved onto
even more controversial
ground when he wrote
and published a
pamphlet titled On the
Babylonian Captivity of
the Church.
The Protestant Reformation
He argued that in 1,000 years of captivity under
Rome, Christianity had been corrupted in faith,
morals, and ritual.
Basing his judgment on the New Testament,
Luther discarded five sacraments (of seven)
that he couldn’t find…keeping only Baptism
(washing away original sin) and Communion
(sharing the bread and wine at the last supper).
The Protestant Reformation
• Luther also condemned papal authority
(the Pope) as a human invention, not a
divine one (because it’s nowhere in the
Bible), going so far as to claim the Pope
was the Antichrist.
• In his earlier quarrels with the Church,
Luther had been condemning practice;
now he was attacking dogma (and the
The Protestant Reformation
The Babylonian Captivity struck a direct
and piercing blow to the Church’s
ecclesiastical and economic core and
threatened to completely discredit the
authority of church officials from the Pope
all the way down to parish priests.
This was an act of revolution, a revolution
the Church hoped to avoid by trying to
persuade Luther, under threat of execution,
to publicly deny that he ever wrote it.
The Protestant Reformation
In November (1520), Luther published
another pamphlet that was a blow to the
Called Freedom of a Christian (sometimes
titled Treatise on Christian Liberty) it stated
that faith, not good works, led to salvation.
Luther declared that man was bound only to
the law of the Word of God, and the Word
of God was Scripture.
The Protestant Reformation
To Luther, even though the clergy had
legitimate functions in administration and
teaching, they were not to be elevated
above the rest of mankind for all believers
were priests.
The Pope issued a papal bull condemning
Luther’s works and ordered them to be
Luther was given 60 days to recant or be
The Protestant Reformation
Luther’s ideas inflamed the German nation
and all along the route to Wittenberg, the
papal bull met with obstruction.
Students rioted and burned anti-Luther
publications instead of Luther’s works and
they threatened physical violence to the
bearers of the bull.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther responded to the papal bull:
“This bull is the sum of all impiety,
blasphemy, ignorance, hypocrisy,
lying—in a word, it is Satan and his
Antichrist…You then Leo X, you
cardinals, and the rest of you at
Rome…I call upon you to renounce
your diabolical blasphemy…and if you will
not, we shall consider your seat as
oppressed by Satan and the damned
The Protestant Reformation
Because of these works and his earlier
theses, Luther was summoned to appear
before the Diet (or assembly) of the Holy
Roman Empire (in the city of Worms) to
face charges of heresy (April 1521).
When the Emperor arrived, they found the
city of Worms overwhelmingly on Luther’s
side (poems, placards, pictures of him and
stacks of his writings were everywhere).
The Protestant Reformation
One of the Pope’s officials wrote to the
pontiff “Nine tenths of the people are
shouting ‘Luther’ and the other tenth
shouts ‘Down with Rome.’
Luther was given a trial, but it was not at
all what he expected.
He thought he would be asked specific
questions and given the opportunity to
explain his views.
The Protestant Reformation
Instead, 20 of his writings were piled on a
bench and he was asked to recant the
heresies contained within.
He asked for time to consider his choices
and was given 24 hours.
Luther was advised to deny his teachings
and beg forgiveness (to spare his life) but
he refused.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther before the Diet of Worms:
The Protestant Reformation
He returned to the Diet the next evening
and made a famous reply that became the
battle cry of the Reformation:
Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply.
I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I
am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not
accept the authority of popes and councils, for they
have contradicted each other—my conscience is
captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not
recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither
right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
God help me. Amen.
The Protestant Reformation
The young Emperor Charles V of the Holy
Roman Empire (who was only 19) was
outraged. He famously said “A single friar who
goes counter to all Christianity for 1000 years
must be wrong…Therefore, I am resolved to
stake my lands, my friends, my body, my life,
and my soul to defend the Church of Rome.”
The Protestant Reformation
A month later Charles V issued the Edict
of Worms declaring Luther
excommunicated and an outlaw to be
killed on sight and his writings were to be
burned. It was a crime to shelter Luther or
read or print his writings.
But he was neither captured nor killed
mainly because several German princes,
many knights, and thousands of peasants
threatened rebellion if Luther was harmed.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther was secretly taken to a mountain
fortress (the Castle of Wartburg) where he
remained in hiding for almost a year.
He spent that year translating the Vulgate
(Latin) Bible into German (Why was that
The Protestant Reformation
But neither the Edict of Worms nor
Luther’s seclusion could stem the tide that
now swept over Germany.
The Reformation was under way and no
one could stop it.
Luther’s attacks on Church authority and
the Pope quickly caused the sale of
indulgences to drop about 80% of their
“pre-Luther” levels.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther had brought into open debate
several issues against the Church, and
while he was hidden at Wartburg, some
men took these ideas and put them into
One of Luther’s theology professors
celebrated Mass on Christmas Day 1521
without clerical vestments and he
conducted the Mass in German (not Latin).
The Protestant Reformation
Others eliminated days of fasting and
Priests began to marry, and so did monks.
Luther himself married a former nun four
years later and his family became the model
of the Protestant family.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther reflected the traditional role of the
husband as ruler/master and the wife as the
obedient servant whose chief duty was to please
her husband.
Luther once stated:
The rule remains with the husband and the wife is
compelled to obey him by God’s command. He rules
the home and the state, wages war, defends his
possessions, tills the soil, builds, plants, etc. The
woman on the other hand is like a nail driven into the
wall…so the wife should stay at home and look after
the affairs of the household…she does not go
beyond her most personal duties.
The Protestant Reformation
For women, obeying their husbands and
bearing children was part of the divine
The role of a mother and wife was a holy
vocation and it left few alternatives for
For most women, family life was their only
Do you think the lives of Catholic women
were any different?
The Protestant Reformation
Luther approved of the orderly changes
taking place while he was hidden away,
but soon the situation took a turn towards
Students rioted and desecrated churches
and their altars.
Luther would not condone the violence
and returned to Wittenberg to help restore
The Protestant Reformation
A transformation
had taken place in
him during his
seclusion in the
He grew a beard
and a full head of
hair (he had been
The Protestant Reformation
He gained weight and seemed much more
He took charge of Wittenberg and in a few
days had returned the town to peace and
The power of his personality would
dominate Wittenberg for another 25 years,
as long as he lived.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther’s battles were not over, because he
didn’t anticipate other men would read the
same Scriptures and come to different
But Luther had precipitated reform where
other men had tried and failed for more
than a century.
He seems to have appeared at a decisive
moment in history.
The Protestant Reformation
Luther’s Germany, more than any other
country in Europe, wanted to detach itself from
Luther spoke to the people in a language they
understood, not the intellectual elite like
Thanks to the fortune of Luther’s timing and to
his remarkable facility with language,
Germany became the theater of religious
conflict that was to sweep through Europe in
less than fifty years.
The Protestant Reformation
Because of what Luther
started, several kings and
princes (many of whom had
long disputed the political
authority of the Pope) felt
justified by declaring
independence and taking
the opportunity to gain lands
and taxes previously held by
the Church.
The Protestant Reformation
Protestants believed that all
vocations were of equal
merit, so middle-class urban
dwellers found new religious
legitimacy for their growing
role in society…in their eyes,
the Catholic Church was
associated with the rural and
feudal world of aristocratic
The Protestant Reformation
For the common people, who were offended
by the corruption and luxurious lifestyles of
some cardinals, bishops, abbots, and
popes, Luther’s ideas galvanized their
opposition to the entire social order.
The Protestant Reformation
In 1525, Luther became involved in a
peasant uprising known as the German
Peasants’ War (the largest popular
movement before the French Revolution in
The Protestant Reformation
The peasants fully expected their hero,
Luther, to support their demands (lower
taxes), as Catholic and Protestant princes
joined forces to crush the rebellion.
They were to be disappointed.
The Protestant Reformation
Armies of the princes destroyed those of
the peasants, and within a year, nearly
100,000 peasants had been killed or
Even though Luther chastised the princes
for their brutality, he condemned the
peasants for their insurrection…God
ordained rulers and they should be
followed, even if they were bad.
The Protestant Reformation
As the Protestant Reformation grew, the
Catholic Church began to reform itself.
The Church had been battling opposition
for several hundred years before Luther,
and so in reaction, it developed a series of
reforms to try to keep Protestantism in
This is known as the Catholic CounterReformation.
However, these measures ended up being
too little, too late.
The Protestant Reformation
In 1545, and for the next 20 years, the
Council(s) of Trent met to set the course
of Catholicism.
The Councils decided to emphasize
church pageantry and ritual and the
decoration of churches (as opposed to
Protestant austerity).
The Councils said that salvation came
from faith and good works, not faith alone.
The Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation
The Councils reaffirmed that the bread of
communion became the body of Christ.
The Councils rejected divorce, permitted
by Protestants, and it legitimized the sale
of indulgences.
But Bishops were now forced to live in the
region where they presided over their
churches and Rome stopped the sale of
Church offices.
The Protestant Reformation
But perhaps the most important thing that
came out of the Councils of Trent was the
schism between Catholic and Protestant
became permanent.
The increased religious zeal, however, led
to widespread intolerance and persecution
on both sides.
The Protestant Reformation
In the Holy Roman Empire, an aging
Emperor Charles V in 1555 compromised
with the followers of Luther and agreed to
the Peace of Augsburg.
This allowed each German prince to
determine the religion of his own
territory…but it excluded Calvinists,
Anabaptists, or any other dissenting group
(Catholic or Lutheran only).
The Protestant Reformation
With the Peace of Augsburg, the division
in Christianity was formally acknowledged
in Germany; Lutheran states were to have
the same legal rights as Catholic states.
Although the German states were now
free to choose between Catholicism or
Lutheranism, the Peace of Augsburg did
not recognize the principle of religious
toleration for individuals.
The Protestant Reformation
Though Charles V remained true to his
faith, he was not able to subdue the
rebellious princes of his Empire.
In 1556 he abdicated his throne and went
to Spain to die in a monastery.
Not all of the princes went over to the
Reformation, but the universal character of
medieval religion was broken, never to be
The Protestant Reformation
Not long after Luther’s success in Germany,
two major Reformation movements formed in
Switzerland—Zwinglianism and Calvinism.
The Swiss were kindred to the Germans
through language, but they were distinct in
terms of temperament and politics.
Throughout history foreigners had tried to
subdue the Swiss (to no avail) which created
an independent, very patriotic Swiss national
The Protestant Reformation
Switzerland was made up of 13 cantons
(states) that had a remarkable degree of
Even though the Swiss were technically
part of the Holy Roman Empire, they
governed their own affairs.
They had governing assemblies of elected
men (some were actually the entire male
The Protestant Reformation
And as the Swiss were independent of
emperors, they were largely independent of
The most advanced city of the country was
Zurich, located near the Rhine River and at a
nexus point of trade between Italy and
The first Swiss
reformer was Ulrich
Zwingli (1484-1531)
who was two months
younger than Luther.
He was a priest at the
cathedral of Zurich,
and beginning in
1519, he began to
reform his city.
Even though Zwingli was much more of a
humanist than Luther, he agreed with many
of Luther’s ideas.
Zwingli got rid of all pageantry, and
following the Second Commandment
literally (“Thou shalt not make unto thee
any graven image”), he eliminated all the
implements of Catholic ritual: all relics,
images, crucifixes, statues, censers and
clerical vestments were abolished.
All paintings and decorations were removed
from churches and replaced with plain,
whitewashed walls.
The traditional Mass was replaced with a
new Lutheran kind of service consisting of
scripture reading, prayer, and sermons;
the veneration (reverence) of saints, and
the authority of the pope was abolished.
Zwingli even had church organs removed
and banned the singing of hymns because
he couldn’t find authority in Scripture (even
though he was an accomplished musician
and loved liturgical music).
Zwingli and Luther agreed on many points,
but Zwingli did not think that Luther’s
Reformation went far enough.
They both rejected the
authority of the Pope and
held to the authority of
Scripture alone.
They both agreed to the
principle of justification by
faith alone and rejected
the concept of the mass
as a sacrifice.
But Luther thought
Zwingli was a Schwarmer
(a fanatic).
Luther believed that the body and blood of
Christ were miraculously present in the
bread and wine served at Communion;
Zwingli (a humanist) tried to interpret the
Bible through reason.
Zwingli believed the bread and wine were
simply symbolic commemoration of the Last
In 1529 a German prince invited Luther and
Zwingli to his castle for a meeting to discuss
the issue.
They tried hard to come to an agreement
but they couldn’t come to terms. The
meeting ended as it had begun, in
Zwingli held out his hand to shake
Luther’s, but Luther indignantly refused.
Luther later compared Zwingli to the
Apostle Judas betraying Christ.
Also in 1529, a Protestant missionary from
Zurich was burned at the stake for
preaching the Gospel in the Catholic
Canton of Schwyz.
Zurich stopped trading with Schwyz in
In 1531, the Catholic Cantons declared
war on Zurich and the Protestant cantons.
The Protestant cantons were mostly urban
and the Catholic cantons were mostly
mountain forest and conservative.
The Catholic states sent an army of 8,000
men to battle Zurich.
Zurich fielded an army of only 1,500…too
great were the odds against Zurich that
even Zwingli donned a helmet and led the
fight (he famously said “They can kill my
body but not my soul”).
The army of Zurich was crushed and
scattered…Zwingli was felled by a pike.
As the victorious Catholic soldiers
scavenged the battlefield, they came across
Zwingli wounded but still alive underneath a
pear tree.
Knowing he was near death, they asked if
he wanted to confess his sins to a priest or
call upon Mother Mary…he said “No.”
They told Zwingli he was an obstinate,
cantankerous heretic and should get what he
deserved (so they then ran him through with a
When Zwingli’s body was identified, it was
said a tremendous shout of joy arose in
the Catholic camp.
His enemies then cut up his body, mixed it
with pig entrails, burned the pieces, and
scattered his ashes (so he couldn’t be
buried as a martyr).
The leadership of Protestantism in
Switzerland then passed to John Calvin of
John Calvin
Calvin (1509-1564) was
originally from France,
but moved to
Switzerland to escape
He studied the law as
well as religion and
seems to have been
influenced by Greek
John Calvin
In Basel (Switzerland)
Calvin wrote The
Institutes of the
Christian Religion,
which was both a
defense of the reform
movement and a
textbook for instruction.
It was an instant bestseller.
John Calvin
Calvin looked at Luther as his father in the
Faith (Luther was 25 years older).
Luther was very aware of the distinguished
young scholar and author, and praised his
In 1536 Calvin was leaving France to live in
Strasbourg when he took a detour to Geneva.
His fame preceded him; when he arrived in
Geneva, he planned only on staying the night.
He stayed 28 years.
John Calvin
Geneva was a wealthy center of trade and
manufacturing, a republic independent of
the Swiss Confederation.
When Calvin arrived, the people were
boisterous and undisciplined, and the town
council was ready for the austerity Calvin
The city adopted reforms like monasteries
being dissolved, mass was abolished, and
papal authority was renounced.
John Calvin
Calvin was a strong
believer in behaving
as God wished.
There was to be no
work or pleasure on
In Geneva, every sin
was made a crime.
John Calvin
Calvin and his followers frowned on luxury
and idleness and games and dancing.
Calvin stopped all gambling, drinking, and
singing…transgressors were exiled.
Singing lewd songs could get your tongue
You would be punished for drunkenness,
swearing, or playing cards.
Blasphemy could be punished by death.
John Calvin
He tried shutting down the taverns and
replacing them with “evangelical
refreshment places” where you could drink
alcohol but that was accompanied by Bible
In other words, fun was considered sinful.
Everyone was expected to work hard
because the “devil waits for idle hands.”
John Calvin
Calvin’s “Bluelaws” for Inns:
If anyone blasphemes the name of God or says, “By the
body, ‘sblood, zounds” or anything like, or who gives
himself to the devil, he shall be punished.
If anyone insults any one else the host shall deliver him
up to justice.
The host shall be obliged to keep in a public place a
French Bible, in which any one who wishes may read.
He shall not allow indecent songs.
Nobody shall be allowed to sit up after nine o’clock at
night except informers.
John Calvin
Calvin created a theocracy (rule by
religious, not secular, leaders) in Geneva
where the law was the Bible, the pastors
were the interpreters of the law, and the
civil government was obliged to enforce
that law as the pastors interpreted it.
There are two theocracies in the world
today…do you know where?
John Calvin
Geneva’s constitution created a
Presbytery, a council of five pastors and
twelve elders.
This Presbytery determined the worship
and oversaw the moral conduct of every
citizen of Geneva.
It sent an elder to inspect every house at
least once a year; it might at any time
summon any member of the congregation
to account for their actions.
John Calvin
Calvin believed that man was corrupt and that
God had chosen who would be saved before
the world began.
Known as predestination, God had
predetermined who would achieve eternal
salvation (known as the elect) and the others
that were to be damned (known as the
reprobate): neither good works nor faith
would change God’s plan for men.
John Calvin
Calvin taught that followers must lead a
God-fearing life daily, since one did not
know whether or not they would be saved
or doomed.
You might have led what you considered a
perfectly good life that was true to God but
if you were a reprobate, you remained one
because for all your good qualities, you
were inherently corrupt and God would
know it even if you didn’t.
John Calvin
The elect could never fall from grace.
Calvinists had the firm conviction that they
were doing God’s work on Earth and living
a righteous life might be the sign of a
person who has been chosen for salvation.
This idea of predestination became the
cornerstone of Calvinistic belief.
Because of Calvin, Geneva became the
most influential city in the Protestant
John Calvin
A few citizens who hated Calvin called him
Cain and named their dogs Calvin; but
dissenters paid for their sins with their lives
or eviction from Geneva.
Calvin was to rule this theocracy for 23 years
(until his death), and it was a rule that knew
no mercy.
But to most, Calvin’s idea of the elect
flattered their vanity…they were proud to be
the chosen of God.
John Calvin
Calvin’s Geneva had a large impact on
Europe for the following reasons:
Calvin sought the participation of all
believers in local church administration,
which promoted the idea of wider access
to government.
John Calvin
This spreading of
Calvinism was to be
the result of a new
educational system
based in Geneva:
both primary and
secondary schools
were created (so more
people could read the
Bible), and in 1559
Calvin established the
University of Geneva.
John Calvin
Calvin introduced sanitary regulations that
gave Geneva a cleanliness (“Cleanliness
is next to Godliness”) and neatness for
which it is still noted for today.
He also persuaded the city council to
finance new industry.
John Calvin
Despite Calvin’s stern ideas, during the late
1500’s Calvinism spread to France,
England, Holland, and Scotland.
In France, followers were known as
Huguenots, and in England they were
known as the English Calvinists or
Puritans (the exiles who will bring his ideas
to America).
John Calvin
In England, the Puritans tried to ban card
playing, dancing, and drinking in taverns.
They at one point they also tried to outlaw
the celebrating of Christmas.
Dutch Calvinists also tried to ban the
tradition of giving small presents to
children on the feast of St. Nicholas
The modern Presbyterian and
Congregational faiths originally based their
teachings on the ideas of Calvin.
In France during the 16th century, the
Reformation led to over 30 years of civil strife
between those who followed Calvin (the
Huguenot minority) and Catholics.
On a single day, August 24, 1572 (St.
Bartholomew’s Day), Catholic mobs in Paris
massacred over 3,000 Huguenots, and
thousands more died in the provincial
towns…known as the “St. Bartholomew’s Day
The disputes
(actually a civil war)
didn’t end until the
French king Henry
IV proclaimed the
Edict of Nantes
(1598) which
granted a (limited)
tolerance of
In Germany, the Thirty Years War would
break out in 1618, pitting German
Protestants and allies such as Lutheran
Sweden against the Holy Roman Emperor,
backed by Spain.
This war was so devastating that it
reduced German power and prosperity for
a full century, cutting populations in some
areas as much as 60%.
In England, the Reformation became more
of a revolt.
Here, politics played a bigger role than
Ill feelings had developed between the
people of England and the Pope.
The English government was tired of the
Pope’s interference in national affairs.
The government had to
pay heavily to the
Church and the English
didn’t like foreigners
occupying church
offices in England.
But the real push came
from King Henry VIII in
Henry VIII was a popular
and effective king; he was
handsome, athletic,
educated, and generous to
his friends.
He was also egotistical
despotic, and perfidious.
When he came to the
throne in 1509, he married
the widow of his brother
His wife (and former sister-inlaw) was Catherine of
Aragon, the daughter of
Ferdinand and Isabella of
Spain (and the aunt of the
Emperor Charles V).
The marriage was purely
political: to reinforce an
alliance with Spain against
Henry’s marriage to Catherine had been
questioned from the beginning: he needed
papal dispensation for marrying his sister-inlaw—dispensation the pope granted as a favor
to Ferdinand and Isabella.
When there was no male heir after a decade,
people quoted from the Book of Leviticus: “if a
man shall take his brother’s wife…they shall be
This was a religious and superstitious age, and
everyone wondered if Henry was being
punished by God.
Henry had become
infatuated with one of
Catherine’s ladies-inwaiting, so he wanted
to divorce his wife of
20 years.
Catherine had not
provided a male heir to
the throne (only a pale,
thin girl, Mary Tudor).
Old (and very chubby)
Henry wanted to marry
the young (and very
pregnant) Anne Boleyn,
but the Pope refused to
grant Henry a divorce
(the pope was
dependent on the Holy
Roman Emperor,
Charles V.
Henry was determined to marry Anne
Boleyn (he was tired of Catherine and it
was said she had grown withered and
unattractive) so with the help of Parliament
and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry
broke with the Church and the Pope.
First he married Anne Boleyn in secret.
Henry’s marriage to Catherine was
declared “null and void” on the grounds
that it had been illegal to begin with.
Anne was crowned Queen and three
months later she gave birth to the future
queen Elizabeth I.
The Pope (Clement VII) excommunicated
Henry and declared his marriage to Anne
The English overwhelmingly supported
their King over the Pope.
Henry had the Catholic Church in England
abolished and the Church of England was
established, with Henry, not the Pope, as the
Henry confiscated monasteries and their
wealth, appointed the clergy, and the clergy
now had to swear loyalty to him, not the
But Henry had no Luther-like quarrel with
dogma…he wanted a divorce and he wanted
Henry made few changes to matters of
doctrine, theology or ceremony.
Today the followers are known as the
Anglicans or Episcopalians and their
services, in many ways, are very similar to
Roman Catholic services.
The last ten years of Henry’s life were taken
up with trying to find the perfect wife and
acquiring a male heir.
After three years, Henry tired of Anne
Boleyn, mainly because she hadn’t
provided a male heir.
Henry had her charged with adultery (which
was considered treason) and incest and
had her beheaded.
His third wife, Jane
Seymour, produced
the long awaited male
heir (Edward VI) but
she died during
His fourth marriage, to a German princess
named Anne of Cleves, was arranged for
political reasons and on the basis of a
Henry was shocked at her actual looks
when he first saw her in person and soon
divorced her.
His fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was more
attractive but less moral.
When she committed adultery, Henry
wasted little time in having her beheaded.
His last wife was
Catherine Parr, who
outlived him.
Henry died in 1547 and
was succeeded by the
nine year-old, sickly
Edward VI, the son of his
third wife.
Edward lived to be 15.
When Edward VI died,
he was succeeded by his
much older half sister,
Mary Tudor.
She was dour and not
well liked, especially
after she disregarded
national sentiment
against Spain and
married her cousin, King
Philip II.
Mary tried to restore Catholicism as the
faith of the land by reversing any religious
acts her father or Edward passed.
She became intolerant and harsh of
Protestants (she became known as “Bloody
Mary” after having 300 burned at the stake).
This made people want Protestantism
more—not for its dogma, but because it
seemed to represent freedom from tyranny.
When Mary died in 1558 (she ruled for five
years), her half-sister Elizabeth I became
Elizabeth proved to be a masterly ruler, in
character and in politics she was the very
opposite of her half-sister.
Having no strong faith herself, she was
careful not to offend her subjects.
Elizabeth was pragmatic enough to know
that England had many Catholics, but the
influential classes were Protestant.
She would rule for 45 years and would be
the English monarch that put Protestantism
on a firm footing.

The Protestant Reformation