Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.



Catholic reaction, an ecclesiastical and political movement in Europe in the mid-16th to 17th century that was led by the papacy and that was directed against the Reformation, with the aim of restoring the position lost by Catholicism in several countries during the first half of the 16th century. In essence the Counter-Reformation was one of the manifestations of feudal reaction (embracing not only the economic and political spheres but the ideological as well), the religious form of the “counterattack” of feudal forces attempting to strengthen the feudal system at a time when it had already begun to disintegrate.

The Inquisition, monastic orders, and the Roman curia were the chief instruments of the Counter-Reformation. The Inquisition, reorganized in 1542 into one of the congregations of the Roman curia and placed under the direct authority of the pope, unleashed in the Catholic countries a struggle against progressive ideas, freethinking, science, and all manifestations of Reformation thought (popular movements in the Reformation were persecuted with particular force). G. Bruno and G. Vanini were burned at the stake, and T. Campanella, Galileo, and many other progressive thinkers were subjected to persecution.

The Jesuit Order, created in 1534—40, took the most active part in the Counter-Reformation. With the help of the Jesuits and other forces of Catholic reaction the papacy succeeded at the Council of Trent (1545–63) in obtaining, in particular, recognition of the unconditional authority of the pope in matters of faith, introduction of a strict ecclesiastical censorship, publication of the Index of Forbidden Books, and other measures. The resolutions of the council became something of a program for the Counter-Reformation. The Trent Profession of Faith was adopted, which all ecclesiastics had to sign; any deviation from it was considered heresy and was persecuted.

During the Counter-Reformation there were created in Rome a number of educational establishments for the special training of Catholic clergymen, who were sent, above all, to the countries that were the arena for the most intense struggle between the forces of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (such as Germany, the Netherlands). During the Counter-Reformation the Jesuits seized control of many universities, which in turn became instruments of Catholic reaction. Among the church figures who most zealously waged the Counter-Reformation were Popes Paul III, Paul IV (Cardinal Carafa prior to his election as pope), and Pius IV, as well as Cardinal Carlo Borromeo and the Jesuit P. Canisius.

The Counter-Reformation was not only the work of institutions of the Catholic Church. It was also energetically waged by the secular powers of several countries, including the Hapsburgs in Spain and the so-called Holy Roman Empire, Maximillian of Bavaria, and Sigismund III Vasa in Poland. Supporters of the Reformation were subjected to state persecution; special government edicts were issued that demanded the return of Protestants to the “bosom of the Catholic Church” under the threat of high fines, expulsion from the country, or even execution. One of the manifestations of the Counter-Reformation was the struggle for the return of lands lost by Catholics during the carrying out of the Reformation (publication of the Edict of Restitution of 1629 by Ferdinand II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire). Under the banner of the Counter-Reformation, Spain waged its struggle against the Dutch bourgeois revolution of the 16th century, and the Hapsburgs suppressed the liberation movement of their subjugated peoples and struggled for the realization of the idea of the creation of a “universal Christian empire” (as during the Thirty Years' War of 1618–48).

Having brought together the forces of feudal reaction, the Counter-Reformation to a certain extent strengthened the position of the papacy and the Catholic Church (having restored Catholicism and suppressed Reformation movements in several countries) and temporarily retarded the onset of the forces of the new, bourgeois society.


Mikhnevich, D. E. Ocherki po istorii katolicheskoi reaktsii (lezuity). Moscow, 1953.
Lozinskii, S. G. Istoriia papstva. Moscow, 1961.
Brandi, K. Deutsche Reformation und Gegenreformation. Vol. 2:
”Gegenreformation und Religionskriege.” Leipzig, 1930.
References in periodicals archive ?
Chapter 1 is an investigation of the Counter-Reformation contexts of Italian women writers.
His genius is appropriately described at a number of places in The Arts of the Counter-Reformation, for hardly anyone else seems to have achieved so much in this period of Laudian ascendancy, as designer, architect, author, administrator, liturgist.
Such a perspective will also allow us to begin considering how Constable writes not only at the edges of the English Counter-Reformation but also within the transitional space that Michel de Certeau identifies as sixteenth and seventeenth-century mystics, the re-interpretation of contemplative traditions originating in the work of Meister Eckhart and other late medieval mystics.
These vernacular tomes, consisting largely of sermon collections and devotional works expounding the ideals of the Counter-Reformation, were intended for broad lay consumption.
Years ago, Vonnegut attended the New York City premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem, based on the choral mass for the dead promulgated by the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent.
The range is impressive, although the promise of extended coverage of the little-known Reformations in eastern Europe could have been taken further, and the collection concentrates after the Luther explosion on the Protestant side of the Reformation: there is little on the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation and the associated Council of Trent.
On a trip to Moravia, in the Czech Republic, in 1995, he canonized a 17th-century priest who had been tortured to death during the religious wars that followed the Counter-Reformation.
Rather than linking these changes to changing perceptions of the poor and begging, whereby poverty and begging became criminalized and something to be punished, or to the impact of the Counter-reformation, Cavallo attributes them to the evolution of Turin's social matrix.
The hero is based upon the historical figure of Lamoraal, Count of Egmond (Egmont), a 16th-century Dutch leader during the Counter-Reformation.
Those whose knowledge of transalpine Counter-Reformation music is limited to Vienna and its tributaries will profit from this and Sehnal's other writings.
He was a seventh century baroque master who, more than any other artist of his day, evoked the counter-Reformation spirit by combining the physical reality of his subjects with the underlying mysticism of their religious experience.