N.EuropeProtestant challenge to Catholicisms hegemony in Northern Europe
Protestants and Catholics have been fighting for centuries. Most of us, even some of them, have no clue as to what they are fighting about. In the 1520s a religious stirring began, where people were starting to get frustrated and angered by how the church was conducting itself. Northern European weather can be very cold and harsh at times, because of this, it made it very difficult for people to leave their homes to get to church. What these people saw were their church priests dressed in very ornate, warm, robes and living in nice warm homes eating very good meals. Half the time these people couldnt understand what the priest was preaching because he spoke in Latin and they could only speak German or English. On top of all of this the people had to pay if they wanted to be forgiven for their sins, indulgences they were called, which basically provided absolutely no hope for people who didnt have much. These were not the only things stirring feelings in northern Europe, the fact that the church was based in Rome, such a long way from their home, contributed to the restlessness of the people. People were starting to think that the church had no clue about their lives up in the north and how difficult it could be, they felt removed and unconnected with the church. The two major focal points for the reformation were Martin Luther and his ninety-five theses and also King Henry the eighth. Neither of these two men began the movements in their respective countries, they simply gave the people a focal point and a way to get organized.
Martin Luther was a monk who taught at a Wittenberg University in the 1500s. Martin Luther had questioned the practice of selling indulgences and the fact that the church said that you could only speak to God through a priest for sometime in his mind. In 1517, when an archbishop had a sale on these indulgencies to raise money, Martin Luther decided to write a question and argument paper about the churchs questionable practices, to get some debate going at the University. The paper was called the ninety-five theses and it sparked many peoples interests in Germany and other parts of northern Europe and made Martin Luther a focal point for people who felt the same, and an enemy of the church. It didnt take long for the church to get anxious about Martin Luther and his growing followers, in 1520 Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther, who upon receiving the papers burned them in public. Luthers patron Elector Frederick the Wise helped to keep Luther safe. So why didnt the church kill Luther and stop the movement right away? There is a very long and circular political reason. Fredrick the Wise supported Luther for egotistical reasons and political ones, not because he had a personal commitment to him. Fredrick the wise was actually a model of Catholic piety he had a large collection of relics, and had gone on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he was a teenager. The reasons he supported Martin Luther are that Fredrick had founded the college of Wittenberg where Luther taught, and the second reason is that Luther attacked the archbishop of Mainz, who was a political foe of Fredricks, in his ninety-five theses. So it could be speculated to keep the backing of the people in Germany, Fredrick supported Luther. Also at this time the church wanted Fredrick to seek out the Holy Roman Emperor throne, which was up for grabs because of the death of Maximilian, the current emperor. The death shifted the churchs focus from Luther to the question of who would be Maximilians successor.
For Luther the Bible was the basis for religious authority, and that a priest was not needed for a person to speak with God. Luthers teachings and beliefs became known as Lutheranism. Luthers own beliefs and ideals were spiritual, therefore I feel that his personal movement and for his close followers, the challenge to the Catholic hegemony in northern Europe was a more spiritual drive. Now, for Fredrick the Wise, other political entities, and Luthers more distant followers I feel the challenge was definitely nationalistic.
In respect to the creation of the church of England, which came about because of King Henry the eighth, I feel was definitely a nationalistic drive. Although Henrys reasons were selfish, he did the people of England a favor, who were already fed up with the Pope and Catholicism. King Henry started the push to parliament for the church of England after the Pope would not grant him an annulment for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry wanted the annulment because she hadnt produced a boy, only a girl. Henry was afraid God had given him bad luck because he married his dead brothers widow; Catherine. Henrys selfishness helped the English protestants organize and put together their own ideals and religious beliefs without fear.
The churchs response to reformation was one of typical hegemonic style. The church at first ignored Martin Luther and his growing number of followers, but after a few years they began to get annoyed with the situation and were ready to bring Martin Luther to trial. Of course Luther had the protection of Fredrick the Wise who would not allowed him to be touched with out fair evidence. Also the church formed the Council of Trent. The council of Trent was a group of Italian delegates and other papal supporters, who met in a town called Trent in northern Italy. They only met three times between the years 1545 and 1563, but they made an impact on Catholicism. The council did not agree with Luther and his beliefs but they did realize that the church had problems. They took steps to cut down abuses by the priests, most predominately by reforming the clerical education and training. The council is acknowledged as laying the present day Roman Catholic policies and thought.
Art during the reformation period, in Protestant terms was dull, which is expected from the Protestants. Some examples are engravings of Martin Luther, by Lucas Cranach, and Fredrick the Wise, by Albrecht Durer. These two engravings, while not grand, are telling, in that they give both the men strong features leading the viewer, especially one who has never seen these two men, to believe that they are powerful and intelligent. A sort of propaganda of the times. Another example, while not having a lot to do with the reformation but illustrates the dullness of Protestant art, is a painting of Katherine von Bora, another work by Lucas Cranach. The painting of Katherine, Luthers wife, is very unflattering. No dramatic lighting is used, no bright colors, no fancy pose, just a plain portrait. This painting speaks to the Protestant people because they see this painting of Martin Luthers wife and see that she is not wearing ornate expensive clothing nor is she pictured in a fancy house next to a fancy fireplace. This probably gave them comfort in knowing that their leader and his family is not being hypocritical unlike the Catholic church was. One last example of pro-Protestant art is Lucas Cranachs The Difference Between the True Religion of Christ and the False, Idolatrous Teaching of Antichrist. (The Age of Reform-Ozment, Steven: pg.214-215) This painting is a direct attack on the Catholic church and also its practice of selling indulgences.
Counter reformation art was not so much aimed at stopping the reformation, especially since it had already taken a strong foot-hold in northern Europe, it was more aimed at existing Catholics and people wavering between Protestantism and Catholicism. The art of the time was extremely dramatic and sometimes very ornate and extravagant. One example if from the famous painter of the time, Caravaggio. His painting, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew, is dramatic and eye-catching. Also Andrea Pozzos Allegory of the Missionary Work of the Jesuits is a remarkable use of depth on a flat surface. These types of paintings were commissioned by the church and some adorned actual churches. These works of art were created to show non Catholics what they were missing by not being with the Catholic church. Another very famous painter of the time was Rembrandt who painted in a more realistic fashion with respect to lighting. His biblical paintings are dramatic (The Blinding of Samson) and stir the viewers emotions, which is exactly what the church wanted. Paintings were not the only things used to catch the eye. Sculptures like Gianlorenzo Berninis The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, whose presence in a church is overwhelming to a person. The enormous sculpture is mounted on a wall to give the effect of floating, and a few dozen shiny copper rods come from the ceiling in a glow around the sculpture. Art like this excited the common Catholic and in their mind was a sort of reinforcement of why they were Catholic, which is exactly what the church wanted.
Overall I agree with the statement presented in topic six. The challenge the Protestants brought to the Roman Catholic Church was a nationalistically driven one. People were getting tired of being ruled by people who knew nothing of their home, their financial situation, their myths, and hopes and dreams for that matter. These people wanted a religion they not only that they could call their own but a religion where they related better and actually understood the preaching. The reformers did not want to reform God, they simply wanted to reform how they related to God and spoke with him. Their spiritual feelings probably did not change, once they started considering themselves Protestants and not Catholics, except for possibly growing stronger because they felt more connected.
The Age of Reform 1250-1550
Ozment, Steven, 1980
The Western Humanities
Matthews, Roy T. ; Platt, F. Dewitt, 2000
Makers of World History (volume one)
Sowards, J. Kelley