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Reformation Case

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There are many different interpretations of what the Reformation actually was and what it was about. Most people associate the Reformation with the word 'change' because essentially that is what was at the heart of the Reformation.

People sometimes use the word 'Reformation' as the term to describe the complex set of events lasting for most of the 16th century, by which a large minority of the membership of the Catholic Church change allegiance and joined one of the new Protestant Churches which had set themselves up as rivals to the Church of Rome (pg.302). The essence of the Reformation was almost completely about religion and that people started questioning religion - something that had never been done before. It was seen as being made up of two related sets of events: the first, the early Reformation, taking place almost entirely in Germany and being centered on the life and activities of Martin Luther; and the second, the later Reformation, its heart being in Switzerland, from which it spread far across Europe and revolving around the teachings of John Calvin (pg.297).

There were many reasons behind the cause of the Reformation - some played more of a significant part than others obviously. The first long-term cause was to do with the state of religion at the time. The societies of Western Europe were very much based on religion. This was illustrated in three ways: in the different status attached to the various leaders in society; in the aims most people had in living their lives; and in their reactions to everyday situations. We are used to there being one main power structure in British society. In the Europe of 1500 there were two: the civil power represented by a Prince, and the ecclesiastical power wielded by the Church, led by the Pope in Rome. For most people, the most motivating force in their lives was the desire to be certain of salvation, and for this they had to turn to the Church (pg.302). To have contact with God, it had to be done via his representatives on Earth e.g. the clergy or the saints. People prayed to the saints, gave charitable gifts in their name and basically worshipped them to the utmost. It was almost universally believed that special favors, including salvation, could be 'bought' in this way by various 'good works'.

Another element, which is not always recognized, was the religious movement of the Devotia Moderna. These were the humanists that encouraged the people to worship very simply - which the Church did not like at all.

The fifth long-term cause was of greater concern to historians than to the people of the time. The widespread 'abuses' within Germany is the final long-term cause of the Reformation (pg.303). Higher positions had little education and viewed their position as sources of power, prestige and income. Many lower positions were completely uneducated and knew nothing about basic fundamentals. But this was unremarkable



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