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Protestant Reformation

Medieval life and Times

Protestant Reformation
The practises of the Catholic religion were questioned during the Reformation and the beliefs of men such as Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) prompted a new religion called Protestantism. The term 'Protestant' was adopted when supporters of Martin Luther formally protested against efforts to limit the spread of Luther's new ideas.

Causes of the Protestant Reformation - Indulgencies
The Protestant Reformation was a Christian reform movement in which members looked to reform practises of the Catholic church particularly involving the teaching and sale of indulgences. An indulgence was the remission of punishment due for sins which had already been confessed and absolution given. Medieval Religious scholars and Theologians, such as Albertus Magnusand Thomas Aquinasviewed the merits of the Catholic Saints as the basis on which indulgences could be granted. A "treasury" from the proceeds of Indulgencies was established in 1220 to be used by the Catholic Church. However, the later Medieval period saw the growth of considerable abuses, such as the unrestricted sale of indulgences by professional 'pardoners'.

Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther and the 95 Theses
The Protestant Reformation started in earnest in 1516 when Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar and papal commissioner for indulgences, was sent to Germany by Pope Leo X to sell 'indulgences' to raise money to rebuild St Peter's Basilica in Rome. In 1517 Martin Luther wrote a scholastic objection protesting against the Catholic church practice of indulgencies which came to be known as the 95 Theses. In the 95 Theses Luther denied that the pope had the right to forgive sins. He nailed a copy of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg which were subsequently translated from German into Latin and were printed and distributed across Europe leading to the Protestant Reformation.

Protestant Reformation- Attack on Catholic Beliefs and Practises
The Protestant Reformation gathered momentum and other beliefs and practices of the Catholic church came under attack by Protestant reformers. The beliefs and practises attacked included:

  • Purgatory
  • Devotion to Mary (Mariology)
  • The intercession of and devotion to the saints
  • Many of the sacraments
  • Celibacy requirement of the clergy (including Monasticism)
  • The authority of the Pope

Effects of the Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation brought about two different types of Christian - the established Catholic church and the Protestant churches. So what exactly were the differences between the Catholic and Protestant beliefs? What were the effects of the Protestant Reformation?

  • Church Services and the Bible
    • Catholics believed that Church Services and the Bible should be in Latin, as it had been for 1000 years
    • Protestants believed that Church Services and the Bible should be in the language of the people so that the ordinary people could understand them
  • Priests
    • Catholics believed that Priests were the link between God and the people and that the Pope was ordained by God. Priests were special and expected to devote their lives to God and remain unmarried and wear elaborate robes
    • Protestants believed that people could find God without a priest or a Pope and that Ministers were ordinary people who should lead normal lives and wear ordinary robes
  • Sins
    • Catholics believed that Priests and the Pope were able to forgive sins - at a price. Gifts, or indulgences, were given to the church
    • Protestants believed that only God could forgive sins
  • Churches
    • Catholics believed that Churches celebrate God and elaborately decorated with statues and shrines
    • Protestants believed that Churches should be plain allowing the congregation to concentrate on the sermons

Impact of the Protestant Reformation
The impact of the Protestant changed the religious beliefs, practises, culture and society of Christians in Europe.

  • The Protestant reformation divided Christians and reshaped political and religious values in all of Europe
  • The Protestant Reformation challenged the authority of the Catholic Popes over regional rulers
  • Kings gained absolute control over their kingdoms
  • The Protestant Reformation also led to Anti-Authoritarianism resulting in contempt for the Medieval Feudal Systemand the power of the the Feudal Lords and a preference for government by the people
  • The Protestant Reformation led to modern concepts of Democracy
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