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Reformation, religious revolution that took place in Western Europe in the 16th cent. It arose from objections to doctrines and practices in the medieval church (see Roman Catholic Church) and ultimately led to the freedom of dissent (see Protestantism).


The preparation for the movement was long. Opponents of orthodox views had asserted themselves over centuries, and in the 14th cent. John Wyclif had led a dissident movement. His ideas were amplified later by John Huss in Bohemia, who was burned (1415) at the stake by order of the Council of Constance. After his death his followers in Bohemia upheld his cause in the long and bitterly fought Hussite Wars. These dwindled into compromise, but Huss's challenge to the orthodox view of the Eucharist and the revolutionary effect of the wars did not disappear.

New forces fanned discontent with the church and the medieval order of society. There had long been outcries against abuses in the church, especially the blatant worldliness of some of the clergy, the emphasis on money, and the oppressiveness, not only intellectual but economic, of members of the church hierarchy. In the 15th cent. the conciliar movement (i.e., the attempt to establish the superiority of the ecumenical council over the pope) heralded the growing internal church dissent. Although the movement failed, the number of those wishing reform nevertheless grew steadily.

The desire for change was increased by the appearance of humanism and the spirit of the Renaissance. Study of the ancient Greek and Hebrew texts concentrated attention on the Bible and evoked a new critical spirit, exemplified in such men as Lorenzo Valla and Johann Reuchlin. The Renaissance also tended to develop an emphasis on the individual. The later humanists were outspoken in their attacks on the abuses in the church; Desiderius Erasmus was, perhaps, the most prominent, but there were many others, including the humanists at Oxford. The intimate connection between the new learning and the Reformation itself is shown in the pursuits of men who were to be prominent in the Reformation in central Europe; Ulrich von Hutten and Philip Melanchthon were outstanding figures in humanism, and Huldreich Zwingli arrived at opposition to the church mainly through the study of Greek and Hebrew. The very founding of the Univ. of Wittenberg, which was to be the center of revolt, was part of the urge to humanism.

The introduction of printing in Western Europe allowed more widespread dissemination of criticism. Printing was to hasten the Reformation, and the Reformation in turn was to spread printing further. In secular matters the opposition between church and state was centuries old, but it had begun to take a new turn with the building of strong nations. In Germany this opposition to the power of the church was coupled in the minds of many princes with opposition to that other supranational body, the Holy Roman Empire, and the princes were to play a decisive part in the ecclesiastical rebellion.

The rise of the cities and of the power of merchants and the middle class generally not only upset the old medieval order of things but created much discontent with the scholastic views on finance and economic affairs that fettered the enterprise of the men in search of wealth. The economy of Europe was expanding and forcing cracks in the more or less rigid walls of the system. Scholars of the 20th cent. have put a great deal of emphasis on the connection between the new modes of religious thought and economic change (i.e., the connection between Protestantism and capitalism) as a major force in the Reformation. There were, however, many influences at work, and the field was well prepared by 1517. Nevertheless, it was with suddenness and surprise that the Reformation began.

The Influence of Martin Luther

Martin Luther, a professor of theology at the Univ. of Wittenberg, had been stirred to action by the campaign for dispensing indulgences being launched under Johann Tetzel in Germany. He protested. On Oct. 31, 1517, he posted on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg his 95 theses, inviting debate on matters of practice and doctrine. Luther's action was not as yet a revolt against the church but a movement for reform within. It was, however, much more than an objection to the money-grabbing and secular policies of the clergy. Luther had already become convinced that in certain matters of doctrine the purity of the ancient church had been perverted by self-seeking popes and clergy.

His disagreement with the church on matters of doctrine soon became apparent. In 1519 Luther in a dispute with Johann Eck openly espoused doctrines that were implicit in his theses, and he denied the authority of the church in religious matters. In 1520 the pope issued a bull of excommunication against Luther, and the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, thundered against the rebel. Luther defied them, publicly burned the bull of excommunication, and issued vigorous pamphlets assailing the papacy and the doctrine of the sacraments. The breach was thus made in 1521, and the meeting of the Diet of Worms (see Worms, Diet of) not only failed to produce a compromise but forced many doubters into the camp of the rebels. Luther was declared an outlaw, but the threat was empty; under the protection of the powerful Frederick III, elector of Saxony, he was spirited off to the safety of the Wartburg.

Economic, Spiritual, and Political Motives

The revolt was spreading with incredible speed over central and N Germany and almost immediately extended beyond the German borders. All the elements of discontent and rebellion coalesced. The learned, such as Luther himself, Melanchthon, and Martin Bucer, saw the opportunity to express and expand their own views. The nobles were enabled to cast off allegiance to the Holy Roman emperor and to enrich themselves by seizing the immense landed estates of the church. Too much can be—and has been—made out of this economic motive, however, for many of the princes belonged to the intellectual group that had been stirred to critical rejection of church doctrines, and they were perhaps better aware than the common people of the venality and money-mindedness of many of the clergy. Many of the pious, increased in number by a spontaneous religious revival in the late 15th cent., drank the doctrine of a new spirituality with pleasure, for Luther's doctrine of justification (i.e., salvation) by faith alone and not by sacraments, good works, and the mediation of the church placed humans in open and direct communication with God. The new insistence on reading the word of God in the Bible placed a greater responsibility on the individual.

Those who were feeling the first and welcome experience of nationalism were anxious to shake off the hand of Rome. Absolutist rulers, particularly in Scandinavia, welcomed the opportunity to end the interference of the church in state affairs; by creating national churches they were able to escape outside influence. Merchants and capitalists found the air of individual freedom exhilarating. The peasants, chafing under the old restrictions of feudalism, lifted up their heads in hope that the new dispensation would take away their burdens.

Ferment, Division, and Warfare

In Zürich, Switzerland, Huldreich Zwingli had developed his own brand of dissent. In 1529 in the Colloquy of Marburg, Luther and Melanchthon on the one side and Zwingli and Johannes Oecolampadius on the other discussed the nature of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (the Protestant form of the Catholic Eucharist) but failed to come to an agreement. The fundamental principle that every man could arrive at truth by study of the Bible also led many to more radical conclusions than those that Luther adopted. The preacher known as Carlstadt (from the place of his birth) argued for a more thoroughgoing dismissal of old practices and doctrines in Wittenberg itself and caused Luther to emerge from his retirement to halt the progress of radicalism. The Peasants' War (1524–25) showed plainly the rifts within the ranks of the rebels, and Luther, forced to choose between the revolutionary peasants and their opponents, the princes, chose the princes and orderly governance. The lower classes then in large measure followed more revolutionary social leaders, such as the communistic Thomas Münzer and John of Leiden. After their revolution had been brutally put down and the leaders tortured and executed, many of the revolutionary peasants returned to Roman Catholicism, but many continued to foster more radical sects, such as the Anabaptists.

In general the princes were able to dictate what religion should prevail in their territories, and they opposed vigorously the attempt of the Holy Roman emperor to force them back into the old church. The Knights' War (1522–23), led by Franz von Sickingen against the ecclesiastical princes, ended in failure, but the determination of Charles V to extirpate Lutheranism ultimately ended in even more abject failure. The imperial Diet of Speyer in 1526 found no answer to the division of the empire, and when a new Diet of Speyer in 1529 ordered that the emperor's ruling against the heretics should be enforced, the Lutheran princes issued a defiant protest (from which the term Protestant is derived). The Diet of Augsburg in 1530 was equally fruitless in producing a compromise between Catholic and Lutheran princes, but it did produce the Confession of Augsburg (see creed), which was drafted by Melanchthon and became the official statement of Lutheran faith.

The conflict in the empire led the Protestant princes to form a defensive union against the emperor in the Schmalkaldic League, in which the chief figures were Philip of Hesse and John Frederick I of Saxony. The league was put down in the Schmalkaldic War (1546–47), which did not, however, in the least solve the problem. Emperor Charles V, in an effort to prolong the uneasy peace, proposed to the Protestants that there be an interim agreement against change until a general church council could legislate on the dispute. This was the so-called Augsburg Interim (1548), which did not take effect because it was rejected by the Protestant princes. The confusion that political considerations brought to the religious issue is perhaps best seen in the career of Maurice, duke of Saxony, who fought first on one side, then on the other.

A sort of peace of exhaustion and compromise was reached in the Peace of Augsburg (1555; see Augsburg, Peace of). The settlement was at best uneasy and was not to endure except in principle. The conflict was merged with many other issues in the later Thirty Years War (1618–48).

Calvin and the Spread of Protestantism

The message of the Reformation spread quickly throughout Europe (except Russia). The Scandinavian countries became firmly Protestant under Gustavus I of Sweden and Frederick I of Denmark and Norway; later attempts to win them back to Catholicism failed. Geneva had become in 1536 the headquarters of John Calvin, who is considered by many the greatest theologian of Protestantism. His Institutes of the Christian Religion, published at Basel in 1536, marked a new era in thought. He differed from Luther principally in the doctrine of predestination (the foregone choosing by God of the elect to be saved), in the austerity of the life of the godly, and in the emphasis on theocratic government (see Calvinism). His influence was immediate and enormous. France, which had hardly been touched by Lutheranism, was fired by Calvinist doctrine, and the Protestant minority, called the Huguenots, waged fierce battle against the Catholic majority in the Wars of Religion until toleration was won when the Huguenot leader Henry of Navarre turned Catholic, became King Henry IV, and issued (1598) the Edict of Nantes.

Calvinism superseded Lutheranism in the Netherlands, where the religious revolt was coupled with revulsion at the policies of Charles V and his successor, Philip II of Spain. Through bloody wars independence and Calvinism gained the upper hand in the N Low Countries. Calvinism conquered Scotland, too, through the victory of John Knox in his long duel with Mary Queen of Scots. It spread also to Hungary and Poland and took root in parts of Germany.

It proved quite impossible to reconcile the finely wrought theology of Calvinism with Lutheran doctrines, for Lutheranism rejected predestination and clung to part of the sacramental system (see Lord's Supper). Calvinist thought did greatly influence the course of the Reformation in the British Isles and the present United States. There was also a conflict of Lutheranism and Calvinism with the more radical and emotional groups, and the enthusiasm of preachers who interpreted Scripture in their own way met with a cool reception among the Calvinists.

The divisions within Protestantism were from the beginning sharp, and attempts to reconcile Calvinist, Lutheran, and other doctrine had only partial success. Moreover, in England the Reformation went its own course. It was there much more closely connected with the conflict of church and state than was the Reformation on the Continent. The conflict of King Henry VIII with Rome led to the Act of Supremacy (1534), which firmly rejected papal control and created a national church (see England, Church of). Currents of Calvinistic thought were, however, strong in England. The Reformation was begun with the creation of a state church and the dissolution of the monasteries. It was given Calvinist touches under Edward VI, suffered a complete reversal under Mary I, and reached a sort of balance under Elizabeth I with some persecution of both Catholics and Calvinists. The process was to work itself out slowly later in the English civil war, just as the fierce hatreds between Protestant and Protestant as well as between Catholic and Protestant were to be worked out later on the Continent.

The burning of Servetus was a sample of the internal strife within Protestantism itself. The divisions within the churches of the Reformation also served to forward the Counter Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church, which rewon Poland, Hungary, most of Bohemia, and part of Germany. The end of the Thirty Years War in the Peace of Westphalia (see Westphalia, Peace of) in 1648 brought some stabilization, but the force of the Reformation did not end then. It has continued to exert influence to the present day, with its emphasis on personal responsibility and individual freedom, its refusal to take authority for granted, and its ultimate influence in breaking the hold of the church on life and consequent secularization of life and attitudes.


See T. M. Lindsay, History of the Reformation (2 vol., 1906–7; repr. 1971); E. M. Hulme, The Renaissance, the Protestant Revolution, and the Catholic Reformation in Modern Europe (rev. ed. 1917); P. Smith, The Age of the Reformation (1920, repr. 1962); A. Hyma, The Christian Renaissance (1924); R. H. Murray, The Political Consequences of the Reformation (1926, repr. 1960); R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926); M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (tr. 1930); C. Hopf, Martin Bucer and the English Reformation (1946); R. H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (1952, repr. 1965) and Studies on the Reformation (1963); G. G. Coulton, Art and the Reformation (rev. ed. 1958); H. S. Lucas, The Renaissance and the Reformation (2d ed. 1960); O. Chadwick, The Reformation (1964); D. Weinstein, The Renaissance and the Reformation, 1300–1600 (1965); H. J. Grimm, The Reformation Era, 1500–1650 (rev. ed. 1965); G. R. Elton, Reformation Europe, 1517–1559 (1966); A. G. Dickens, Reformation and Society in 16th-Century Europe (1966), The English Reformation (1967), and The Reformation in Historical Thought (1985); N. Sykes, The Crisis of the Reformation (1967); H. J. Hillerbrand, The World of the Reformation (1973); L. W. Spitz, The Protestant Reformation, 1517–1559 (1984); P. Collinson, The Reformation (2004); D. MacCulloch, The Reformation (2004).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a broad sociopolitical and ideological movement of the 16th century, which was complex in its social content and in composition and which took the form of a religious struggle against Catholic doctrine and the church. Fundamentally an antifeudal movement, the Reformation spread through most of Western and Central Europe. In a narrow, literal sense, the Reformation entailed the implementation of Protestant religious reforms.

The most general, most profound causes of the Reformation were associated with the disintegration of the feudal mode of production, the origin of capitalist relations and classes, and the exacerbation of sociopolitical contradictions. The Reformation was the first blow against feudalism. Because of the religious character of medieval ideology, the first attack on feudalism was directed against the church, which provided a religious sanction for the feudal structure, of which it was an integral part. F. Engels wrote: “The existing social relations had to be stripped of their halo of sanctity before they could be attacked” (in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 7, p. 361). In many respects the humanistic movement of the Renaissance, with its critique of the medieval world view and its affirmation of the principles of bourgeois individualism, laid the ideological foundation for the Reformation. The medieval heresies were an equally important source of Reformation ideas. Tenets that anticipated many of the ideas of the 16th-century Reformation were formulated in various heretical doctrines, especially those associated with the acute social conflicts of the 14th-15th centuries—the ideas of J. Wycliffe and the Lollards in England and those of Jan Huss and later, the Calixtins and Taborites in Bohemia.

The ideologists of the Reformation formulated the doctrine that the mediation of the church (in the Catholic sense) was not necessary for the salvation of sinners’ souls. Salvation is achieved not through an outward manifestation of religiosity (good deeds) but through the inner faith of each person in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ (justification by faith). This point of view eliminated the necessity for the Catholic Church, with its hierarchy headed by the pope, and the necessity for the clergy as a special stratum which, according to Catholic doctrine, is alone capable of transmitting divine grace to men and guaranteeing the salvation of their souls. In addition, the ideologists of the Reformation rejected the Catholic doctrine of the treasure-house of good deeds, which was associated with indulgences. The reformers declared the “holy scriptures” to be the only source of religious truth, rejecting “sacred tradition.” The repudiation of the feudalized Catholic Church led to the repudiation of the church as a large-scale feudal proprietor. Everywhere, the Reformation was accompanied by the secularization of church properties, especially the vast landed properties of the Catholic Church. The monasteries, monasticism, the church tithe and other levies, and the elaborate, sumptuous rites of the Catholic Church were also repudiated.

Various classes and social groups took part in the Reformation, imparting diversity to the critique of the Catholic Church. The burgher-bourgeois orientation in the Reformation was most clearly manifested in the teachings of M. Luther, H. Zwingli, and J. Calvin. As expressed by them, the demand for the abolition of the complex church hierarchy, elaborate rites, statuary and saints, and numerous religious holidays was essentially a demand for an “inexpensive” church that would correspond more closely to the interests of bourgeois thrift. The burgher-bourgeois current in the Reformation included a moderate burgher wing and a radical bourgeois wing. Led by Luther, the moderate wing compromised with feudalism and kept its focus on theology. Calvinism, the most consistent expression of the radical bourgeois current in the Reformation, provided the bourgeoisie with an ideological weapon and an organizational form (republicanism) for the revolutionary struggle against feudalism, as well as with a religious justification of bourgeois ethics (the doctrines of absolute predestination, the secular calling, and secular asceticism).

The popular current in the Reformation expressed the interests of the peasantry and the urban plebeians. For the masses of the people, the beginning of the struggle against the Catholic church served as a signal for an uprising against the foundations of the feudal system. Turning to the Bible and demanding the reestablishment of the early Christian equality among members of religious communities, rejecting the church hierarchy and landownership by the church, the most radical ideologists of the popular Reformation concluded that it was necessary to eliminate all ecclesiastical and secular authorities and establish social equality and community of property. The radical ideologists viewed the Reformation as a social and political revolution in the interests of the working people and as the establishment by the insurgent people of the kingdom of god on earth, a system of social justice. The ideas of the popular Reformation were important in the antifeudal struggle of the popular masses, which developed everywhere. The Anabaptists and the left wing of the Polish Brethren were among the currents associated with the popular Reformation, whose greatest ideologist and activist was T. Münzer.

In Germany the Reformation was exploited by individual princes, and in Scandinavia and England, by members of the feudal class, who launched the royal princely Reformation, or the Reformation of the elite, to strengthen the economic and political influence of the royal power. The elite Reformation was accompanied by the confiscation of church lands, which favored the secular power. The new churches, which had broken away from Catholicism, were completely subordinate to the secular power. In some countries, such as France, the feudal aristocracy used the Reformation to further its aims in the struggle against royal absolutism.

The center and source of the Reformation was Germany, which, owing to the characteristics of its socioeconomic and political development, saw the opening of the bourgeois revolution in Europe in the first quarter of the 16th century. In Germany, one of the principal tasks of the antifeudal revolution was to overcome feudal fragmentation and establish a unified state. Under these conditions, opposition to the church assumed particular importance, because the church, which had been unimpeded in its exploitation of the fragmented country in the interests of the papacy, had become an object of general hatred. A broad social movement was launched by Luther’s appearance on Oct. 31, 1517, in the Saxon city of Wittenberg with 95 theses attacking the trade in papal indulgences. At first, the movement united various strata of the opposition: the burghers, the peasant and plebeian masses, the knights and some princes. However, by 1520–21, the various classes and groups affiliated with the Reformation in Germany were becoming sharply delineated.

The popular Reformation was manifested in the Peasant War of 1524–26, the culmination of the popular movement. As a result of the Peasant War, the moderate conservative circles of German burghers, whose ideologist was Luther, compromised with the feudal princely camp. The radical burgher current of the Reformation, represented by Karlstadt and M. Bucer, was not able to assume the leading position in Germany. The popular movement, which was manifested in the Peasant War and later, the Münster commune (1534–35), was suppressed, making it possible for the German princes to use the Reformation for their own purposes. In implementing the Reformation on their own territory, the princes of Saxony, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Hesse, Pfalz, and Braunschweig appropriated all of the wealth of the church for themselves. A protracted struggle between the Protestant princes and the Catholic princes, who united around the emperor, ended in the religious Peace of Augsburg (1555), only to flare up with renewed force during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48).

Reformation ideas spread through Denmark during the reigns of Christian II (1513–23) and Frederick I (1523–33). The greatest representative of the Danish Reformation was H. Tausen. In the 1530’s the Reformation in Denmark gave rise to a popular movement that was intertwined with a struggle in the ruling class, the Counts’ War (1534–36). Suppressing the movement, Christian III carried out a royal Lutheran Reformation (1536), which he used to further his own political aims. The Lutheran Reformation was imposed with violence in Norway (1536) and Iceland (from 1540), which were subject to Denmark, in order to strengthen Danish rule. The implementation of the royal Reformation in Sweden, which freed itself from Danish rule under Gustavus Vasa I, contributed to the consolidation of an independent royal regime and the Vasa dynasty. The most outstanding representatives of the Swedish Reformation were the brothers O. Petri and L. Petri. In Sweden the Reformation was legally formalized and legislatively consolidated by the Riksdag of Västerås (1527 and 1544) and the Swedish church council of 1529 in Örebru. The Reformation also spread to Finland, which was subordinate to Sweden. The most outstanding representative of the Finnish Reformation was M. Agricola.

In Switzerland the economically developed cantons and cities, including Zurich, Bern, Basel, and Geneva, became the centers of the Reformation. Backward, forested cantons, such as Schwyz, Uri, and Zug, supported the feudal Catholic reaction, as did the nobility. They resisted the spread of the Reformation and the aspirations of the urban cantons for a centralized state. In Zürich (the center of Zwinglianism), Berne, Basel, and other cities, the Reformation, which was carried out in the 1520’s, was initially dominated by Zwingli. At the same time, a peasant and plebeian movement emerged under the leadership of the Anabaptists. Failing to gain support from the burghers, it was suppressed shortly after the defeat of the Peasant War of 1524–26 in Germany. In the 1540’s progressive burgher elements, most of whom were “new townspeople” (émigrés from France and other countries), came to power in Geneva. Subsequently, Calvinism, a new Reformation current, developed and soon acquired importance throughout Europe, providing the nascent bourgeoisie with an ideology that substantiated its claims for political rule.

The first preachers of the Reformation in France were J. Lefèvre d’Étaples and G. Briçonnet, the bishop of Meaux. During the 1520’s and 1530’s, the Lutheran and Anabaptist religions spread among the wealthy townspeople and the plebeian masses. A new, Calvinist upsurge took place in the French Reformation during the 1540’s and 1550’s. In France, Calvinism provided the ideological leadership not only for social protest by the plebeians and the nascent bourgeoisie against feudal exploitation but also for the opposition of the reactionary, separatist feudal aristocracy to a stronger royal absolutism. To strengthen its power the French monarchy used not the Reformation but Catholicism, at the same time asserting the independence of the French Catholic Church from the papacy (royal Gallicanism). The opposition of various strata to absolutism was expressed in the Wars of Religion in France, which ended in the victory of royal absolutism and Catholicism.

In Hapsburg territory (Austria, Bohemia, and parts of the Kingdom of Hungary) the Reformation provided the leadership for the antifeudal struggle of the masses and for the liberation struggle against national oppression. For some members of the nobility, sympathy with the Reformation was an expression of opposition to the Hapsburgs’ aspirations toward centralization.

In Poland the Reformation was used primarily by feudal lords, both magnates and gentry, as a pretext for seizing church lands.

In its radical forms the Reformation posed a serious threat to the feudal system. The Counter-Reformation, a reactionary movement, emerged in the mid-16th century. Led by the papacy, it resulted in the suppression of the Reformation on Hapsburg territory and in parts of Germany and Poland. Weak Reformation movements in Italy and Spain were cut short by the Counter-Reformation.

In the Netherlands and England, the economically advanced countries of 16th-century Europe, the Reformation was more successful. Calvinism became the ideology of the Dutch bourgeois revolution of the 16th century, spreading not only among the bourgeoisie and some members of the anti-Spanish nobility but also among the peasant and plebeian masses. The Calvinist consistories preached the ideas of the Reformation and provided the masses with organizational and political leadership. The Reformation was carried out in the northern provinces of the Netherlands, where the bourgeois revolution was victorious. The property of the Catholic Church was gradually confiscated, and Calvinism replaced Catholicism as the official religion (1573–74).

In England the Reformation had several distinctive features. The 16th century was marked by the strengthening of English absolutism, which had entered into a sharp conflict with the papacy. The outcome of this conflict was the Act of Supremacy (1534), under which the king was declared the head of the English church. The Anglican Church became the state church and the bulwark of absolutism, and Anglican worship was declared compulsory. However, the English Reformation, which was carried out by the state, was halfhearted and incomplete. For example, the episcopacy and episcopal lands were preserved, as were many elements of Catholicism, especially the elaborate ritual. Consequently, the growing opposition to absolutism, as well as the exacerbation of the social struggle, owing to economic progress, was accompanied by demands for the deepening of the Reformation. From the second half of the 16th century Calvinism spread throughout England, where its adherents were called Puritans. During the English bourgeois revolution of the 17th century, which, like the bourgeois revolution in the Netherlands, was led by the Calvinists, the Puritan opposition disintegrated into several independent parties, including the Presbyterians, the Independents, and the Levelers. By the late 17th century, Calvinism had ceased to be a political current in England, and its role was limited to religious and ideological concerns. Anglicanism remained the official state church.

The Reformation was an important stage in the struggle against feudalism. In many countries the bourgeois revolution of the manufactory period was carried out under the Reformation. The Catholic Church lost its monopoly on religion in Western Europe as a result of the Reformation. In parts of Germany and Switzerland, in the Scandinavian countries, in England and Scotland, in the Netherlands, and in parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, where the Reformation triumphed in a religious sense, new, Protestant churches were established. The secularization of church lands undermined the economic power of the Catholic Church. Wherever it triumphed, the Reformation simplified church organization and made it less expensive. The Reformation provided a divine sanction for the norms of bourgeois practice and ethics. In countries where the Reformation was victorious, the churches were largely dependent on the state, enjoying less power than did the Catholic Church in countries dominated by Catholicism. The subordination of church to state promoted the development of science and secular culture. The cultural and intellectual dictatorship of the church was destroyed. The Reformation was the last great anti-feudal movement to assume a religious form. The subsequent stage of the struggle against feudalism was dominated by progressive forms of secular ideology, such as Enlightenment thought.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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