Protestant Reformation in Italy between 1500 to1600

In 1500, there was only one church in the Western Europe now known as Roman Catholic Church which was led by the Pope. During this time, the church was powerful spiritually and politically in Western Europe and it ruled a vast territory in Italy known as Papal State (Linder 12). Other sources of power were also available in the region. The Holy Roman Empire was under the leadership of the princes, dukes and electors and mostly represented by the German speaking regions. Other forces were from England and unified states in France. In the previous century, the power of these rulers increased because of their anxiousness to take advantage of the reformations that were taking place to weaken the papacy powers and boost their own powers as far as the Rome church and other rulers were concerned. Popes lived like kings and had the authority to command armies and even waged in war because they had temporal and spiritual powers (MacCulloch 22).

                When I went to church, I could witness some internal power struggles, simony and nepotism in the open. Corruption was also evident in the church despite Jan Hus and John Wyclif attempts to reform the church.  Their efforts were fruitless until in 1517 when Martin Luther sparked reformation by posting at least 95 theses according to traditions on the Castle Church’s door in Wittenberg, Germany. These postings were the beginning of protest of some practices of the Catholic Church that martin Luther raised concerning the church doctrine. Pope Leo X allowed for indulgence so that he could raise money to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These indulgences were sold offered by Johann Tetzel. The sale of indulgences was one of the concerned of Martin Luther as he questioned the connection between heaven and financial transactions (Hillerbrand 3).

                Martin Luther believed that alone could grant a person a place in heaven and not good works as the Catholic Church believed was an agency to salvation. His arguments were based on the verse in Bible Romans 1:17 which say that “the just shall live by faith”. As a result, Luther and his fellow reformers turned to bible as the only reliable source of instruction. In mid of this century, Gutenberg invented the printing press and also the Bible was translated from Latin to other languages such as Italian, German (MacCulloch 45). English and French. These two developments allowed people who had the ability to read to learn directed from the Bible without relying on the priests or any other church official. Before this invention, books were handmade hence extremely expensive. The translation of the Bible to the vernacular made the bible to exist outside the church and people could have a direct relationship with God without necessarily passing through the church (Linder 43).

                On looking at the bible and their efforts to improve its accuracy, Luther and other reformers realized a lot of deviations from the church’s teachings and Christ’s teaching. This resulted in Luther challenging the central sacraments of the Catholic Church. Despite the Church initially ignoring Luther’s ideas, these ideas spread very fast in Europe and he was asked to disavow his claims at the Diet of Worms. Upon refusal, he was excommunicated from the church. This was the Church’s counter-reformation in response to his threats. A council of Tent was formed in 1545 to discuss the issues raised by Luther. The council reaffirmed the usefulness of images but urged the church to use them carefully to prevent the possibility of idolatry (MacCulloch 62).

                Reformation was violent, family members fought against each other in the religion wars. Both the Protestants and the Catholics were absolutely certain that they were on the right while the other was on the wrong and was carrying out the works of the devil. Catholics focused on seeing that the church used the images to communicate the scriptures perfectly while for the Protestants, they lost patronage to religious and Church images and destroyed them in iconoclastic riots (Hillerbrand 61).

References

Hillerbrand, Hans J. Historical Dictionary of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1999. Print.

Linder, Robert D. The Reformation Era. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2008. Print.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books, 2005. Print.

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