13 Renaissance and Reform

Spread of Renaissance culture across Europe:  16th-17th c

“The Reformation”

Our goals: identify big issues, big changes

  • “First wave” led by Protestants
  • Centers: HRE, Swiss towns; ends with Peace of Augsburg, 1556
  • Goal: reform of “THE CHURCH”

Main groups as they developed despite these goals:

  • Catholics
  • Lutherans: followers of Martin Luther
  • Calvinists: followers of John Calvin
  • Other city-reform groups (Protestants)
  • Radical reformers: ex. Mennonites

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

“traditional” N. European intellectual: theologian

personal theological crisis (about sin and forgiveness)

distaste for Rome and central church

actual fight: an abusive funding/indulgence campaign

regional political leaders: duke of Saxony

What political gains for supporting Luther?

taxation, monastic lands, leadership

war in HRE (League of Schmalkald)

Peace signed at Augsburg, 1556: cuius regio, eius religio

Main areas: HRE (parts), Scandinavia


anti-papal pamphlets:

Rhegius,  Wie man die falschen Propheten erkennen mag. 1539






Luther Bible, 1534


John Calvin (1509-64) and Calvinists

Paris: law, theology; to Geneva

1st ed. Institutes of Christian Religion pub. 1536; 1559

Main areas: Swiss cities; Rhineland to Netherlands; France; England; Scotland;  parts of Hungary



early reform efforts: slowed by Italian wars

Sack of Rome, 1527

Council called 1542 Trent, met 1545-62 sporadically

first sessions doctrine

later:  control over standards, reform of abuses

progress against Protestants

Political advantages to Catholicism: papal treaties; legitimacy


Religious wars: France through 1590s

succession disputes, some parties and claimants Calvinist

Religious Wars II: Thirty Years War (1618-48)

End of religion-based warfare on continent in this era


regional control over Church, headed by King

Immedate cause: divorce

doctrine: both Lutheran, Calvinist influences

Mary and return to Catholicism; Elizabeth restored Protestantism

Religious stability: 1688

Renaissance culture amid religious reform

Intellectual life

Protestants: role of Bible: Sola scriptura

  • Bibles in vernacular. Programs of translation, biblical scholarship
  • Literacy programs to max. the number of readers of Bible


  • new theology schools, also lay education
  • Trent: “Jerome” vulgate; limits to biblical scholarship


  • increased interest in political thought
  • efforts at regional uniformity of religious thought
  • control of spread of publications
  • education

Jan Steen, Village School, 1610


Notions of toleration emerge gradually, mainly 17th c+

art and architecture

  • Lutherans: little effect on visual arts
  • Calvinists: iconoclasm
  • Catholics: visuals as aid to worship: rise of baroque

Lyon Calvinist Church

Lyon Calvinist Church


Rome: Gesu


Plantin-Moretus Museum

Emmanuel De Witte: Interior of a Protestant Gothic Church, 1668. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam