14 Renaissance in Europe 1: Renaissance and Reformation

Spread of Renaissance culture across Europe:

chronology: 16th-17th c

“The Reformation” in Latin Christendom

  • religious behavior
  • theology
  • church governance
  • regional identity and political control

Our goals: identify big issues, big changes

“First wave” led by Protestants

Centers: HRE, Swiss towns; ends with Peace of Augsburg, 1556

Main groups as they developed:

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

Reform questions:

  • What is broken? –what should “fixed” look like?
  • How to fix it? –Who has the right or obligation to fix it?

Examples of “what is broken”

Behavior and conduct: by clergy and/or by laypeople

Goal: reform of “THE CHURCH”

The (Latin) Church and organizational problems ca 1500

  • Recovery from schism
  • financial problems: old-fashioned funding structure, resistance from political leaders
  • “creative” solutions
  • Italian Wars as barrier to reform
  • actual reformers: ex: Erasmus

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

“traditional” N. European intellectual: ie a theologian

personal theological crisis (about sin and forgiveness)

distaste for Rome and central church

actual fight: an abusive funding/indulgence campaign (Johannes Tetzel)

An indulgence certificate from 1498

1519 public debate with Johannes Eck

1521 Imperial ban

regional political leaders: duke of Saxony

Augsburg Confession 1530

Philip Melanchthon (theologian)

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 and Calvinists (1509-64)

Paris: law, theology; to Geneva
1st ed. Institutes of Christian Religion pub. 1536; 1559
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


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
  • control of dissent at state levels

Catholics: new theology schools, also lay education

  •      control of dissent at Church level: Index, Inquisition
  •      Trent: “Jerome” vulgate; limits to biblical scholarship


  •      increased interest in political thought
  •      efforts at regional uniformity of religious thought
  •        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

Calvinist Church, LyonsLyon Calvinist Church

Catholics: visuals as aid to worship: rise of baroque

Rome: Gesu
Plantin-Moretus Museum: website

Emmanuel De Witte: Interior of a Protastant Gothic Church, 1668
Oil on canvas, 78,5 x 111,5 cm
Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam