The Factors Leading To The Protestant Reformation

Renaissance was the rebirth that welcomed progress and revolution in all spheres of life in Europe. The revolution had spread all over Europe by the 16th century and led to changes in the social and religious sphere, rise in scientific inventions such as printing press, growth of art and literature. The revolution owes greatly to Pope Leo X, whose rampant abuse of papal powers led to the decline of the Catholic faith, led to the birth of Protestantism.

The cause and effect theory is an essential approach to a historical event. The theory states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Several factors were responsible for the rise in renaissance and the decline in the power of the Catholic Church. The social structure in Europe before renaissance was rigid; since education was a privilege; unquestioning Christian faith dominated the mindset of the people. The Reformation emphasized on humanity, promoted thought and learning and encouraged people to question the faith. Renaissance liberated people’s minds and promoted the growth of art and literature.

The increase in literacy rate brought in a massive change in the attitude of people. One of the most important inventions was the Printing press by Johannes Gutenberg was a revolution in the renaissance movement. It was a faster and less expensive method to print books and helped to spread new ideas enhancing the movement. The invention of the printing press fostered education among the middle class and lower class people that made them challenge the traditional practices and the noble hierarchy that had been abusing them. It is important to note that the first book to be printed was the bible. As more people began reading the holy text, they started to interpret the text differently and challenged the malpractices of the church. This caused crucial reformation in the orthodox Catholic Church system.

The printing of ninety-five theses by Martin Luther, a German monk and reformer were revolutionary. He challenged the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church and preached that only faith in God could gain salvation; this clashed with Pope Leo X ideologies. Ninety-five theses preached true dedication to God himself and urged people to stop spending on the Catholic Church’s indulgences. Ninety-five theses circulated all over Germany and gained a following, due to which Martin Luther was excommunicated. He translated the bible from Latin to German and encouraged people to read the bible in their local language. The translation was a revelation that reduced dependency on the clergy, allowed people to notice the corruption of the Catholic Church, and later contributed to the demise of the church supremacy. The mass production of books made books cheaper and accessible; it also encouraged the translation of various and allowed the exchange of knowledge across the continent. The breaking of the rigid and regressive social structure reduced the hold of the church on public considerably; knowledge replaced fear and allowed for the reformation of the Catholic Church.

The reign of Pope Leo X was a period of lavish extravagance, under his reign art, architecture and literature flourished, and Rome became the center of High Renaissance. This also drained the church resources that consequently led to abuse of power. The church offered salvation, marriage tax, absolution for all sins and introduced paying of indulgences a holy tax that ensured a place in heaven. Furthermore, when the Black Death killed millions across Europe, the church refused help to the poor and issued high tax on people who wanted burial for their dying relatives, the selfishness added to the growing resentment. It triggered people to seek an alternate religious approach that would be humane and accepting. The 95 theses acted as a catalyst to promote a different ideology to the masses that was inclusive irrelevant of one's social standing.

Additionally, translation works of the Bible from Latin to English John Wycliffe; John Huss further translated Wycliffe’s Trialogus to Czechoslovakian. These factors helped to propagate the protestant belief and diminished the Catholic supremacy. The art and architecture excelled and the religious influence that previously dictated the art and architecture of Europe underwent a huge change. Humanism influence was prominent among the artists who created art pieces that were inspired by daily life.

The assimilation of these factors caused the reformation that followed and affected the attitude of the western hemisphere eternally. The rigid social structure, mass illiteracy, poverty and abuse of papacy were a contributing factor for the rise in the renaissance. The reign of the Catholic papacy by Pope Leo X contributed significantly to the separation of the Christian faith and diminished the church’s influence in politics.

14 May 2021
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