Council of Trent Stages Historic context Principles Consequences

Council of Trent

Council summoned by Pope Paul III to try to resolve the crisis in which the Catholic Church was plunged from the Protestant Reformation. In this article we will provide you information about the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent was a council summoned by Pope Paul III to try to resolve the crisis in which the Catholic Church was plunged from the Protestant Reformation . Between 1545 and 1563 a total of 25 plenary sessions were held in which all points of doctrine and ecclesiastical discipline were discussed. The issues were discussed by commissions supervised by the pontifical legates and advised by specialists, mostly Jesuits, appointed by the pontiffs.

The resolutions emanating from those sessions were approved by Pope Pius IV on January 24, 1564 .

Stages of the Council of Trent

This council developed in the city of Trento, in northern Italy, had three stages:

  • The first, between 1545 and 1549 , with interruptions, corresponds to the papacy of Paul III . The doctrinal issues questioned by the Protestants were dealt with. This stage was hampered by conflicts between the pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who tried to impose his principles on the Council to avoid the separation of the German Protestant princes.
  • The second stage corresponds to the papacy of Julius III and lasted between 1551 and 1552 . These meetings were attended by some German princes and delegates from Lutheranism . Faced with the impossibility of reaching an agreement, tensions re-emerged and the Council was suspended again.
  • The third one carried out by Pius IV took place between 1562 and 1563 . During this stage it became clear that the separation of the Protestant territories was inevitable and the discussions centered on the reforms to the Catholic Church necessary to reinforce its position and maintain its faithful.

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Historic context

The moral crisis of the Catholic Church had led many Christians to make a strong criticism of the pontiffs. In Germany, this criticism ended in the Protestant Reformation begun in 1517 by Martin Luther .

As a consequence of the Reformation, a good part of Christendom separated into different branches. At first, the Church sought the reunification of Catholicism with the support of the Catholic Emperor of the Holy Empire. However, the resistance of Carlos V to submit to the papacy, added to his territorial ambitions, made an alliance between the two powers difficult.

In this context, the pontiffs found it necessary to take drastic measures to prevent Christendom from continuing to disintegrate. The Council of Trent at first tried to establish a dialogue with the Protestants to establish common points, but during its development, in the face of the refusal to give in on both sides, it ended up establishing combative strategies to consolidate the power of Catholicism .

Principles established in the Council of Trent

The Council of Trent established the principles of the Roman Catholic Church in different aspects:

  • In the dogma :
    • He reaffirmed the free will and inclination to the good of human beings.
    • He affirmed that freedom feeds on grace through the seven sacraments.
    • He established that the Holy Scriptures are the foundational basis of faith. However, these can only be interpreted by Church authorities.
    • He confirmed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as well as the transubstantiation during the mass.
    • He determined that the Roman Catholic Church is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is not mistaken in matters of faith.
  • In the pastoral :
    • The conditions of access and the duties of the priesthood were established.
    • Religious congregations were organized and preaching and missions were encouraged in Protestant countries.
    • Mechanisms were established for the formation of priests. The bishops, especially, had to have a comprehensive education in order to guide the faithful of their diocese.
  • The government of the Papal States was reorganized :
    • Nunciatures were established. These are diplomatic delegations in Catholic countries to advise kings and control religious hierarchies.
  • The performance of popular piety rites such as the recitation of the rosary, the celebrations of religious festivals such as Holy Week and Corpus Christi were encouraged ; the processions and the devotion of the saints.
  • It was urged to use sensory resources to attract the faithful such as the profuse ornamentation of the churches, the organization of dramatizations, the use of music, images, gold and silver instruments with precious stones in the celebrations, etc.
  • severe control of literary and artistic production was imposed by regulating the way in which sacred situations should be represented at the same time as heavy censorship was exerted on publications.

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Consequences of the Council of Trent

Some of the consequences of the Council of Trent were the following:

  • The Counter-Reformation was consolidated , the process of strengthening the Catholic Church to confront the Protestant Reformation.
  • The publication in 1566 of the Catechism of the Council of Trent that was in force until 1959, when the Second Vatican Council was held, established the foundations of Catholicism for 4 centuries.
  • In the tensions between Catholics and Protestants, the Catholic Church uncompromisingly fixed its final position. As a consequence, conflicts between those who held both religious positions became more severe and numerous wars of religion broke out in Europe during the seventeenth century .
  • The power of the papacy was strengthened, which managed to concentrate all control mechanisms of the Catholic faithful.
  • In Catholic Europe, especially in Italy, the Baroque developed into an art aimed at exalting religious values ​​by stimulating the senses.

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