Reformers Reform What?

This post will introduce you to the idea of the Reformation, what it was, who was involved and what kind of changes actually happened.

The Reformation was a time when religious changes happened to fix problems with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, at the time, were quite corrupt and the priests lived life with a lot of luxury. They were abusing their power in many different ways.


Some of the abuses were the following; Simony, where member of the Church were bribing people for votes. Nepotism where members of the church were giving jobs to family members and friends rather than people that were more deserving of the jobs. Absenteeism, when Priests and/or Bishops were absent from their diocese or Parish. This meant that they were not there to do their jobs properly. Pluralism meant that Priests or Bishops were ruling more than one church or diocese. They could not do their job properly because there was too much for them to do! Priests were also taking money from people unfairly. The Priests led the people to believe they would pray for them and that they would spend less time in purgatory as a result and go straight to heaven. This, however, was not true but the people did not know this. This was called the Sale of indulgences.

Priests were also not trained properly and they often did not speak Latin, which meant that they did not always understand what they were preaching. The Catholic Church was corrupt.

This made the people really angry and unhappy. People began to revolt against the church. Some of these people are explained below…


Martin Luther (Not Martin Luther King!!!)

In 1517  Martin Luther led a revolt against the church. He wrote a list of grievances he had with the church and he nailed these 95 Theses (arguments against the church) to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.

These ideas spread and the church urged him to recall what had said. However, he did not and he was urging people to reject the Authority of the church in Rome. The Church were not pleased with this. They claimed that it was heresy, as it went against what they said. In 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated. Charles V also made him an outlaw when he refused to recant his views.

Luther’s supporters helped him in hiding even though it was a crime to do this. In 1530, Luther’s followers became know as Protestants or Lutherans. (They were Protesting against the Catholic Church). They still believed in the same God, however, had different ideas about how it should be practiced and taught.

In 1524, Luther denounced any revolts that were happening in Germany. In 1555, the Peace of Augsberg was signed. This gave Kings/Princes the power to chose which religion was followed in their Kingdom


John Calvin

John Calvin also wanted reform in the church. In 1536, he wrote a book, which had his beliefs on how to run a Protestant Church. He agreed with Luther that the Catholic Church were corrupt, however, he too had his own ideas about how it should be run and taught.

Calvin believed that the Bible was the only source of Religious truth and salvation could only be found through faith. He believed in Predestination, which meant that God had already decided who would get salvation.

In 1541, Genevan Protestants asked Calvin to lead them. He founded the Presbyterian Church in Geneva and set up a government/theocracy that was run by church leaders

Calvin believed in hard work, discipline, honesty and morality but had fines for swearing, fighting, dancing or laughing in church. He closed theatres and frowned on elaborate dress.

Calvinism spread through the movement of people, returning home with these new ideas. The spread of Calvinsim was a challenged for  Roman Catholics and led to wars and uprising across Europe. The Catholic Church also saw John Calvin’s ideas as heresy.


John Knox

John Know was a follower of Calvin, who returned to Scotland with his ideas. John Knox set up the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and over threw the Catholic Queen. He help to spread Calvinism in Scotland and England.


King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547)

King Henry VIII initially against this Protestant revolt. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife and marry a different woman. He asked the Pope to annul his marriage but when the Pope refused to annul his marriage in 1527, King Henry VIII revolted.

King Henry VIII took rule of the Church of England in 1534 and began to close monasteries and gave this land to nobles. This helped him to gain the support of the nobles and strengthen his newly founded religion. King Henry VIII went on to marry again…many times.

His son, King Edward brought Protestant reforms to England.

After him, Queen Mary wanted England to have Catholic Rule.

Queen Elizabeth I, enforced the ʼ’Elizabethan Settlement’, which was a compromise between Protestant and Catholic beliefs. This helped to stop the constant changes in religion and it was also an attempt to reduce the religious tension in the country.

Church of England became the Anglican Church and Queen Elizabeth I restored unity in England.


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