Protestant Reformation with characteristics in detail

Protestant Reformation

The religious movement started by Martin Luther in 1517, which led to the division of Catholicism and the emergence of many churches called Protestants. Protestant Reformation with characteristics in detail

It is called Protestant Reformation, or simply Reform, to a religious movement that caused the division of Catholicism and the emergence of various churches, which are generically called Protestant.

The Reformation began in Wittenberg , capital of the Duchy of Saxony, in present-day Germany, in the early 16th century . Its promoter was the German monk and theologian Martin Luther , who on October 31, 1517 nailed The 95 Theses , on the door of the Wittenberg castle church. In this document of his authorship, he criticized various practices of the Catholic Church, including the sale of indulgences and the accumulation of material goods . His preaching, in favor of a return to the values ​​of ChristianityPrimitive and contrary to the authority of the Pope over all Christendom, it gave rise to Protestantism. Many of the princes who ruled the more than 300 states into which the Holy Roman Empire were divided joined this religious movement .

The word “Protestants” began to be used from 1529, when several German princes signed the Speyer Protest, a document in which they expressed their dissatisfaction with the attempts of Emperor Charles V to submit them to the authority of the Pope.

In the beginning, the doctrine of Luther and Protestantism were synonymous. But the subsequent emergence of other reformists, such as the German Thomas Müntzer, the Swiss Ulrich Zwingli, the French John Calvin, and the Scotsman John Knox, gave rise to branches of Protestantism other than Lutheranism, including Calvinism , Anabaptism, the Anglicanism , and Presbyterianism.

In this way, Protestantism spread to other regions of Europe, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, England, Scotland, and some regions of France. Protestant Reformation with characteristics in detail

Characteristics of the Protestant Reformation

The most important characteristics of the Protestant Reformation are the following:

  • It does not recognize the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church and proposes to recover the values ​​of primitive Christianity .
  • Considers the Bible as the only source of the word of God and faith as the only path to salvation of souls.
  • Consider that the Holy Scriptures can be freely interpreted by all believers.
  • Reduce the sacraments to just two: baptism and the Eucharist .
  • It does not accept the veneration of images or purgatory.
  • Reject the immaculate conception of Mary and her assumption in body and soul to Heaven.
  • Accept Jesus Christ as the only mediator between God and believers .
  • It does not have an ecclesiastical hierarchy , only spiritual references, since it considers that all believers can be priests.

Causes and consequences of the Protestant Reformation


The main causes of the emergence of the Protestant Reformation were the following:

  • The sale of indulgences promoted by the Papacy to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The delivery of money to obtain the indulgence or forgiveness of sins by the ecclesiastical authorities was a common practice since the 11th century.
  • The preaching against the sale of indulgences and the riches of the Church by precursors of the Reformation, such as the Englishman John Wyclif (1320-1384), creator of the Lollards movement, and the Bohemian Jan Hus (1370-1415), founder of the Hussite church.
  • Luther’s rejection of what he considered corrupt practices of the Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy and his call to the German nobility to deny authority to the Pope and support the creation of a German national church. Protestant Reformation with characteristics in detail
  • The socio-political structure of the Holy Empire , in which the high nobility wanted to have greater margins of autonomy in the face of centralizing attempts by the emperors of the Habsburg dynasty. The lower nobility, for their part, wanted to appropriate the unproductive lands owned by the Catholic Church , thus improving their economic situation.
  • The influence of some of the ideas of Humanism , especially the criticism of the theology of the Catholic Church and the excessive wealth of the representatives of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
  • The claim of the Papacy to have authority not only over spiritual matters, but also over earthly ones. This conception led the Pope to try to impose his authority over the kings and generated multiple conflicts with the European monarchies of the time.
  • The invention of the printing press , which quickly made it possible to spread Wittenberg’s 95 Theses throughout much of northern and central Europe.


The most important consequences of the Protestant Reformation were the following:

  • The division of Western Christendom into two great branches :
    • The Roman Catholic Apostolic , who after the Council of Trent (1545-1563) claimed herself as heir to the medieval Christian tradition and accepted the infallible authority of the Pope.
    • Various Protestant churches, such as Lutheranism , Calvinism, Anglicanism, and Presbyterianism, which rejected the authority of the Pope and set out to restore the values ​​of early Christianity.
  • The confrontation between the Holy Roman Emperor, the Catholic Charles V (1520-1558), and the German princes who adhered to the Protestant reform. This confrontation resulted in the Peace of Augsburg (1555), in which the emperor recognized the right of princes to adopt the religion of their choice. The attempts of Emperor Ferdinand II (1619-1637) to ignore the religious tolerance agreed in Augsburg led to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
  • The extension of religious wars to other regions of Europe, such as Switzerland (Kappel wars between 1529 and 1531), England (fights between Catholics and Anglicans between 1534 and 1558), the Netherlands (Eighty Years’ War between 1568 and 1648 ) and France (wars of religion between 1562 and 1598).
  • The launching of the Counter-Reformation by the Papacy. This process of spiritual renewal included a series of measures to reorganize the Catholic Church and answer the questions of the Protestants.
  • Translation of the Bible into various languages, including German, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, and Icelandic.

Protagonists of the Protestant Reformation

Among the main protagonists of the Protestant Reformation are:

  • Martin Luther (1483–1546) : German theologian and friar, main promoter of the Protestant Reformation .
  • Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) : promoter of the Protestant Reformation in the Helvetic Confederation and creator of the Swiss Reformed Church.
  • Thomas Müntzer (1489-1525 ): German preacher, one of the creators of Anabaptism.
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) : King of England, founder of the Protestant movement known as Anglicanism.
  • John Calvin (1509–1564) : French-born theologian and main promoter of the Calvinist Reformation or Calvinism, one of the branches of Protestantism.
  • John Knox (1514–1572) : Scottish preacher, father of the Scottish Reformation, and founder of Presbyterianism. Protestant Reformation with characteristics in detail

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