20 Facts About the Reformation | History Hit

20 Facts About the Reformation

Samuel Higson

28 Mar 2023

The Protestant Reformation or simply ‘the Reformation’, as it is commonly referred to, was the religious revolution within Europe in the sixteenth century that led to a split in the Catholic Church.

Christianity became no longer a religion only tied to the Pope in Rome. The many denominations that now exist within Christianity-that is believing that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose from the dead as the son of God-proliferated because of the protests and reforms that took place in this period.

1. The word ‘Protestantism’ originates from German princes issuing a ‘protest’ against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

Charles v

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 1516-1556.

2. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was the most influential figure of the Reformation

martin luther

Initially an Augustinian friar, Luther strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment could be purchased with money. ‘Lutheranism’ is the first major branch of Protestantism to emerge.

3. Luther’s ninety five thesis represented the symbolic start of the Protestant Reformation in 1517

95 thesis

Luther is believed to have nailed the thesis on a church in Wittenburg.

4. ‘Justification by faith alone’ or Sola Fide in Latin is at the core of the new Lutheran ethic

sola fide

1861 painting of Luther discovering the Sola fide doctrine at Erfurt, Germany.

5. Luther’s ideas spread throughout Europe. John Calvin the French theologian founded ‘Calvinism’ in Geneva from 1541

john calvin

6. The doctrine of Predestination is a key difference between ‘Lutheranism’ and ‘Calvinism’

This is the belief that God chooses some to be destined to salvation whilst others to damnation.

7. Predestination only became the hallmark of Calvinism until after Calvin’s death in 1564

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8. Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull of 1520, Exsurge Domine, was the first response from the papacy condemning Luther


9. The Edict of Worms declared Luther an obstinate heretic and banned the reading or possession of his writings

edict of worms

10. Guttenburg’s revolutionary printing press was central to the spread of new protestant ideas

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11. The selling of indulgences was directly challenged by Luther in the ninety five Thesis (1517)


Johanen Tetzel was a German friar renowned for selling indulgences. Indulgences granted quicker passage through Purgatory and had traditionally only been granted through good works.

12. The Western Schism from 1378 to 1417 greatly lowered the reputation of the Catholic Church

western schism

13. The burgeoning spirit of learning as part of the Renaissance period made people question traditional thought


Florence was the city at the centre of the Renaissance. The sculptural masterpiece David, by Michelangelo (right) is at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

14. The rise of commerce and the shift to a moneyed economy was creating a stronger middle class

middle class

The headquarters of the Catholic Church was in Vatican City, Rome. It was largely controlled by the upper classes and administered for their benefit.

15. Henry VIII challenged the convention that the Church wields ultimate power

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16. Many new sects of Christianity emerged.

john wesley

John Wesley’s split with the protestant formed Anglican Church instigated Methodism in the early 18th century.

17. The Catholic Church responded via their own ‘Counter Reformation’

council of trent

18. As part of the Counter Reformation, Ignatius Loyala became the founder of the Society of Jesus


19. The Bible was translated from Latin into vernacular languages across Europe

bible translated

20. The Reformation led to a series of religious wars that culminated in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648)

30 years war

This huge war devastated much of what is now Germany, killing between 25% and 40% of its population.

Tags: Henry VIII

Samuel Higson