Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

In this established textbook, Wallace provides a succinct overview of the European Reformation, interweaving the influential events of the religious reformation with the transformations of political institutions, socio-economic structures, gender relations and cultural values throughout Europe. Examining the European Reformation as a long-term process, he reconnects the classic sixteenth-century religious struggles with the political and religious pressures confronting late medieval Christianity, and argues that the resolutions proposed by reformers such as Luther were not fully realised for most Christians until the early eighteenth century.

This new edition features a brand new chapter on the Reformation from a global perspective, updated historiography, a new chronology, and updated material throughout, including on the interrelationship between religion and politics after 1648.The Long European Reformation provides an even-handed and detailed account of this complex topic, providing a clear overview that is perfect for undergraduate and postgraduate students of History and Religious Studies.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstarct
In the spring of 1776, the Catholic pastor for the small town of Munster in Upper Alsace, Antoine Maurer, petitioned his religious superior, the bishop of Basel, to pressure Maurer’s patron, the Benedictine abbot at Munster, for an increase in wages. Maurer served Munster and a half-dozen hamlets peppering the surrounding ridges. The petition listed the religious services that the priest performed to meet the spiritual needs of his flock. One duty was to bring the consecrated host (the viaticum) to sick and dying parishioners day or night in all weather. Maurer would ride a donkey while the churchwarden preceded him with an illuminated lantern and a handbell. When they encountered someone on the road, the churchwarden rang the bell to let the mountain folk know that they should kneel to honour the real presence of Christ as it passed. Maurer commented that, because it was a new practice, Lutherans needed to be told what it was about and that he had ‘not yet met a single one who has refused to [kneel] after having been instructed’.
Peter G. Wallace

The Warp: Threads of Reformation Histories, 1350–1650

Frontmatter

2. 1 The Late Medieval Crisis, 1347–1517

Abstarct
During the four centuries covered in this study, Europeans lived under the murderous shadow of plague. Between 1347 and 1352, an epidemic, later known as the Black Death, swept through Europe and killed perhaps one-third of its population. Imagine the trauma in our own world if a virulent form of flu killed more than two billion people in the course of five years. The pervasiveness and scope of misery left the fourteenth-century chroniclers seeking moral explanations in human sinfulness and divine retribution. Processions of penitent flagellants [Latin: to whip] passed from community to community whipping themselves in hope of appeasing God’s wrath and warding off plague through their expiation. Townsfolk blamed resident Jews for poisoning wells, even though they too were dying. Christian mobs murdered entire Jewish communities and burned their homes, yet the plague continued to rage. One could imagine, along with John of Winterthur, a Swiss Franciscan, that the apocalypse promised in the Bible had begun.
Peter G. Wallace

3. 2 Resistance, Renewal and Reform, 1414–1521

abstract
In October 1414, a university professor and popular preacher travelled to the council at Constance under a guarantee of safe conduct offered by the Emperor-elect to discuss his views on the Church. There Jan Hus was arrested, tried and executed as a heretic without ever having the opportunity to articulate his call for reform. A century later, in April 1521, another university professor and popular preacher travelled to the Imperial Diet at Worms under a guarantee of safe conduct from the recently elected Emperor to discuss his views on the Church. Martin Luther was aware of Hus’s fate, but unlike Hus, he was permitted to speak. Luther’s refusal to recant put him at risk, but he managed to escape and, while in hiding, to sustain and further his movement. The different fates of these reformers had less to do with their message than with the profound shift in Church–state relations during the intervening century and the availability of the printing press to broadcast Luther’s vision of reformed Christianity. This chapter will survey the medieval traditions of religious resistance, renewal and reform and plot the changes in Europe’s political, religious and cultural landscapes in the era between Hus and Luther.
Peter G. Wallace

4. 3 Evangelical Movements and Confessions, 1521–59

Abstract
With hindsight, the division of medieval Christendom into several Christian Churches appears as the inevitable outcome of Martin Luther’s dispute with Rome, but for the early reformers, their audiences and their opponents, the trajectory of events was far from clear. Initially, the ‘Luther affair’ triggered debate among theologians, but the implications of Luther’s new view of faith soon touched all Christians and threatened the privileged status of the clergy. In an age of vernacular printing in which reading was a public act, Luther’s emphasis on the Word of God, coined in the catch-phrase ‘scripture alone’ (sola scriptura), opened the floodgates of popular enthusiasm for reform as new ideas would bubble up from below to fuel the ‘evangelical’ (gospel-based) movement throughout the 1520s. In their enthusiasm, many believed that God was directly intervening in history, and Luther along with others saw the unfolding events as a sign of the coming Apocalypse. The dynamic imagery of the ‘last days’, with its violent struggle between the saved and the damned, took on a harsh reality when thousands of peasants and artisans rose in rebellion in 1524–6. Their defeat ended the first and radical phase of the evangelical movement. In the wake of the Peasants’ War, those magistrates and princes who still favoured Luther’s message assumed firmer control over reforms of ecclesiastical institutions and practices. By the 1530s, popular enthusiasm had dampened, and the Reformation became a struggle among political authorities to determine the belief and practices of their territorial churches.
Peter G. Wallace

5. 4 Reformation and Religious War, 1550–1650

Abstract
After 1550, the European Reformation’s central battlefields spread beyond the German-speaking regions, as communities of belief galvanized into confessional camps and the political cost of religious division became clear. Religious wars in France, the Netherlands, Central Europe and the British Isles demonstrated the destructive potential of the new religious and political mix. Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed leaders drew up clear statements of ‘orthodox’ beliefs referred to as ‘confessions’, developed ecclesiastical systems to ensure discipline among the faithful and forged alliances with political authorities to foster or force consensus. Confessional solidarity demanded intolerance of religious minorities but also provided those minorities with the self-discipline necessary to resist pressures to conform. Within many states, the ruler’s power over the Church led to the integration of ecclesiastical institutions and personnel into government, broadening the state’s bureaucratic base and increasing the scope of the ruler’s patronage. Nevertheless, official churches also became arenas for factional squabbling among elites and provincial resistance to centralization.
Peter G. Wallace

The Weft: Making Sense of the Long European Reformation

Frontmatter

6. 5 Settlements, 1600–1750: Church Building, State Building and Social Discipline

Abstract
Peace of Westphalia appeared to mark the end of religious warfare between states, though confessional strife continued within territories and warfare sometimes unleashed religious persecution. During the century after Westphalia, the political and religious pressures that had driven the European Reformation slowly dissipated. In 1695, Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff first characterized the Reformation as an era in Church history, an era that had passed. In the eighteenth century, the drive for further reform played out in a series of settlements that recognized the plurality of legitimate Churches, sustained ‘regimes of coexistence’ and negotiated with dissenters within confessional communities.assaults against religious minorities sometimes victimized groups on a large scale, such as the French Huguenots in the 1680s and Protestants in the archdiocese of Salzburg in the 1730s, yet refugees from religious persecution could find safe havens in confessionally-mixed states, such as Brandenburg-Prussia, where mercantile interests overrode religious intolerance.
Peter G. Wallace

7. 6 Rereading the Reformation through Gender Analysis

Abstarct
Traditionally, Reformation scholarship was predominantly a male endeavour, and as a result, accounts of the Reformation have emphasized the role of men as theological innovators, religious activists and victims of persecution. Beginning in the 1960s, feminist scholarship, initially conducted almost entirely by women, revisited the collected writings of the reformers, reams of pamphlet literature, parish visitation protocols, spiritual autobiographies and court records to explore the Reformation’s impact on women’s lives and the effect of women on the Reformation. Their findings challenged established interpretative models. One cannot claim so pointedly, as Joan Kelly has for the Renaissance, that women had no Reformation. Women’s experiences of it were diverse, complex and often contradictory. Nevertheless, by rereading the Reformation from the perspective of contemporary women, one can see that both Catholic and Protestant authorities attempted to regulate and constrain female spirituality, yet women found ways to preserve and enhance their religious engagement.
Peter G. Wallace

8. 7 The European Reformation and Islam: From Menace to Coexistence

Abstract
The string of terrorist attacks that began in America on September 11, 2001 and spread to Europe and beyond by militants waging ‘holy war’ on the West in the name of Islam revived crusading rhetoric among some Western politicians and heightened fears about Muslims in America and Europe. For nearly two decades, American and allied soldiers have been engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Since 2011, Anti-Muslim sentiment has deepened in Europe and America in reaction the refugee crisis generated by those wars and has fuelled the rise of nationalist parties and politicians. Their fear-mongering language sometimes echoes the apocalyptic rhetoric employed by Christian writers in the early sixteenth century as the Ottoman Turks, embodying Islam, appeared to push inexorably northward toward Vienna and Central Europe. Christian fears of the ‘Turkish menace’ began with the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and would continue into the early eighteenth century, when the Turks withdrew south of the Danube and their threat to Christian Europe appeared to have ended. Since the ancient Greeks first defined ‘Europe’ as a continent distinct from Asia, which they denigrated as barbarian and effeminate, Europeans have often defined themselves in contrast and opposition to the Asian ‘Orient’.1 As we have seen in the Introduction, Christian crusades to free the Holy Land from Muslim control played a critical role in forging the collective religious identity of medieval Christendom. Nevertheless, centuries of warfare and trade had done little to familiarize early modern Europeans with Islam; and as a new and frightening threat, the Ottoman Turks would play a critical role in the course of Europe’s long Reformation.
Peter G. Wallace

9. 8 The European Reformation in a Global Perspective

Abstrcat
I have argued that much of the long Reformation’s dynamic religious energies had played out in Europe by 1750. Christianity, however, remains a vital religious force in the contemporary world outside of Europe. In North America waves of spiritual renewal swept over the religious landscape in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries fostering Evangelical Christian Churches and new religious movements, such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since the mid-twentieth century, Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches have mushroomed in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, China and South Korea. On 13 March 2013, the College of Cardinals elected an Argentinian Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as Pope Francis. Christianity has truly become a global religion in highly diverse forms.
Peter G. Wallace

10. Conclusions

Abstract
In 2017, there were commemorations in Germany and elsewhere of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of his 95 theses. Bruce Gordon has noted that since 1617 anniversary commemorations of Luther and the Reformation have tended to remould the historical account to celebrate contemporary Lutheranism. As noted in the Introduction, the past does leave its imprint on the present, but how we remember the past is also critical to our personal and collective identities. In the past the Reformation has been seen as a harbinger for modernity and secularism. In commemorating Luther’s break with Rome and with it the Reformation’s legacies for the modern world,
Peter G. Wallace
Additional information