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The Reformation

Hotly disputed, closely interlinked with politics and economics, religion provided meaning, morals and morale for the vast majority of Europeans in the period. To some extremist minds it also motivated and justified murder and massacre in the name of salvation. The key question unleashed by the German monk Martin Luther in 1517 was whether or how to fundamentally reform the Catholic Church. Unexpected by most, unthinkable to some and unwelcome to many, 'reformation' of the Catholic Church was for others like Luther and John Calvin an urgent and obvious necessity: they 'protested' their aims very publicly and very soon they and their supporters were known as Protestants. What started as a 'protest for reformation', and might well have ended as a relatively minor controversy, eventually brought much greater change than anyone could have foreseen in the form of a religious revolution: the Protestant Reformation. From this long and violent transformation eventually emerged a Europe divided into Protestant and Catholic.


Portrait of Luther