Throughout the Middle Ages of the 5th through 15th centuries, the Holy Catholic Church has plagued Europe as one of its most corrupt powers in Europe’s history. Many issues regarding the Church had caused lost trust and power in the people. During the Protestant Reformation, many people rose up against the ideas of the Catholic Church including reformers such as John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. The impact they had on Christianity forever shaped the different outlooks on the religion.
Before the start of the Protestant Reformation, ideas apart from the Catholic Church were known to be a disgrace to the Church and God. Those ideas were to be known as extreme and the spread of them was punishable by death. An English clergy member by the name of John Wycliffe, had a great deal in politics as he was most commonly known at the time as a man of loyalty to the King and his country. Alongside his political stances, he started to develop a new thinking as he questioned many ideas led by the Church. He believed that men held the authority directly from God and that if they were in a state of inner moral sin, they would no longer have the strength of carrying the burden of authority. He also believed that only the most righteous men could hold such authority despite their place of power. Wycliffe’s beliefs led him to be looked down upon but taken into the comfort of a man of disgust for the clergy in John of Gaunt.
In 1510, a monk by the name of Martin Luther had been studying the teachings of God. He had been sent out on a mission by the Augustinian monasteries for research in the development of Catholicism. As many cities across Europe had been very strong in their religious practices, none had been as of Rome. Regarding these facts, the monastery had sent out Luther to visit Rome. When Luther had arrived in Rome, he was astonished by the corruption he found throughout the Catholic Church of Rome. Luther increasingly became angry and distrusted with the church. More rather with the clergy selling “indulgences”, a practice in which people would pay to reduce the punishment from one’s sins. In 1517, he had published his statements in his “95 Theses”, which attacked the abuses of papal power and the selling of indulgences. It had stated how only the Bible was of central religious authority and that humans can only reach salvation through faith and not their deeds. He posted his writings on the University of Wittenberg’s chapel door. As well as posting his writings on the door, he sent a copy out to the archbishop stating for the ending of indulgences. Many other copies were spread around Germany.
With the works being out in the public, they eventually made their way to Rome. He originally intended for his writings to be more of talking points for discussion rather than distaste for the Church, however, the Church did not see the same. With Luther’s profound bravery and ideas against the Church, many also decided to join him in his reformation. However in January of 1519, a papal commission had determined Luther’s teachings to be heretical. Many arguments around this claim had then been discussed for many years. Finally in early of 1521, Luther was officially condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church. In these times, heresy was punishable by death, however in Luther’s case, there was no official hearing to be had to determine such a fate. Very soon, Luther arrived before the Diet of Worms to justify his teachings and participate in intense discussions. Eventually Luther had left Worms and the Diet officially adjourned. However, despite Luther’s leaving of Worms, he was still to be acted against by Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor of Germany. Charles was to be able to gain support from a variety of rulers who remained in Worms to attack Luther. Luther and his followers were then deemed political outlaws and his writings were ordered to be burned across Europe. To make matters worse, he was also excommunicated from the Church. As a result of this action, Luther was forced to hide away in a plot in which he was “kidnapped” by soldiers to be brought back in secret to Wartburg Castle in which he started one of his most important achievements of the time. He was able to translate the New Testament into German for many of the people to read themselves. Along with help from many others, the New Testament was spread across Europe in a variety of different languages. Luther’s brave stance against the Church had led to a great deal of people standing up against the Church to question their ways and to demand for reform. Luther was the biggest catalyst of the Protestant Reformation.
Many decades later, a French student by the name of John Calvin had been originally introduced into priesthood by the will of his parents but then decided to become a lawyer. At his time at law school, he discovered many new ideas which were seen as radical at the time, such as studying the Bible in its original languages and the idea of reformation of the Church. These ideas had a massive impact on Calvin’s thinking of the world as he was inspired by this new and unique way of thinking. Calvin soon learned to study the ancient languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin as used in the study of the Scriptures. Above all of the new ideas he inherited, the most profound that stood out to him was the idea of salvation of individuals rather than good works and ceremonies. Due to the crackdown of the radical movements, he was forced to flee and ended up in the city of Basel. In his time at Basel, he was able to receive a French translation of the Bible where he studied and soon wrote one of the most influential Protestant guides of its time, the first edition of the Institutes which contained the many ideas of Calvin. He eventually arrived in Geneva and refined his Institutes by the year 1536. His widespread popularity of his ideas gained him popularity with many of the Protestant leaders of Europe. In his time in Geneva, many of the town was not fond of the new Reformation.
As Calvin had decided to keep pushing for the reformation in Geneva, the local church leaders had decided to excommunicate and order Calvin out of Geneva once and for all. After his situation in Geneva, he was forced to flee to the Protestant city of Strasbourg where he refined his teachings and ideas. His growing popularity caused him to attend various religious conferences around the world putting him at high power with the other Protestant officials. Soon later in Geneva, they accepted him back into the city as the Protestant Reformation had become abundantly clear that it had taken control in the city. With his newfound position of power, he decided to enforce a mandate on all of the Genevans allowing them to also be able to learn the teachings of God. He also decided to set up a Church system in which consisted of pastors, elders, and deacons to teach about the will of the Lord. In addition to his new order, he established the abolition of sexual discourse, taverning, dancing, gambling, and swearing. These new ideas were highly resented by many of the Genevans as many French religious peoples migrated out of Switzerland. Hatred started to burn against Calvin as many of his followers in France were persecuted and killed for their beliefs. As control over Geneva had struggled, he had resigned from his position of power and devoted himself to more of his religious teachings. With his years growing older, he published his final commentaries of the New and Old testament more so written by his colleagues as he had grown more and more busy. His impact on the Protestant religion had been very prominent and struck a foundation for teaching in the newfound branch of Christianity.