Key Concept 1.3
Religious pluralism challenged the concept of a unified Europe.
Late medieval reform movements in the Church (including lay piety, mysticism, and Christian humanism) created a momentum that propelled a new generation of 16th-century reformers, such as Erasmus and Martin Luther. After 1517, when Luther posted his 95 Theses attacking ecclesiastical abuses and the doctrines that spawned them, Christianity fragmented, even though religious uniformity remained the ideal. Some states, such as Spain and Portugal, which had recently expelled Muslims and Jews, held fast to this ideal. Others — notably the Netherlands and lands under Ottoman control, which accepted Jewish refugees — did not. In central Europe, the Peace of Augsburg (1555) permitted each state of the Holy Roman Empire to be either Catholic or Lutheran at the option of the prince. By the late 16th century, northern European countries were generally Protestant and Mediterranean countries generally Catholic. To re-establish order after a period of religious warfare, France introduced limited toleration of the minority Calvinists within a Catholic kingdom (Edict of Nantes, 1598; revoked in 1685). Jews remained a marginalized minority wherever they lived.
Differing conceptions of salvation and the individual’s relationship to the church were at the heart of the conflicts among Luther, subsequent Protestant reformers such as Calvin and the Anabaptists, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church affirmed its traditional theology at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), ruling out any reconciliation with the Protestants and inspiring the resurgence of Catholicism in the 17th century. Religious conflicts inevitably merged with and exacerbated long-standing political tensions between the monarchies and nobility across Europe, dramatically escalating these conflicts as they spread from the
Holy Roman Empire to France, the Netherlands, and England. Economic issues such as the power to tax and control ecclesiastical resources further heightened these clashes. All three motivations — religious, political, and economic — contributed to the brutal and destructive Thirty Years’ War, which was ended by the Peace of Westphalia (1648). The treaty established a new balance of power with a weakened Holy Roman Empire. The Peace of Westphalia also added Calvinism to Catholicism and Lutheranism as an accepted religion in the Holy Roman Empire, ensuring the permanence of European religious pluralism. However, pluralism did not mean religious freedom; the prince or ruler still controlled the religion of the state, and few were tolerant of dissenters.
Chapter 13: Wars and Reformation
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Sub-Concept 1: The Protestant and Catholic Reformations fundamentally changed theology, religious institutions, and culture.
Sub-Concept 2: Religious reform both increased state control of religious institutions and provided justifications for challenging state authority.
Sub-Concept 3: Conflicts among religious groups overlapped with political and economic competition within and among states.