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Protestant Reformation Essay

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Reformation this is a religious movement, which appeared in Western Europe in the sixteenth century, the aim of it was internal renewal of the Church, but it led also to a revolt against it and abandonment of some principal Christian beliefs.

The roots of the causes of Reformation go back to fourteenth century. Ecclesiastical and religious life in many places was different, religious art had a living force. There were many domestic missionaries and they were rather influential, religious literature was widespread and appreciated. Gradually, in many parts of Europe developed political and social conditions, hindering the free reformatory activities of the Church and thus heresy and schism, which were hold in check by civil and ecclesiastic authorities, were set free.

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At the beginning the main method of spreading the Reformation was that of denunciation of real and supposed abuses in religious and ecclesiastical life. The reformers could support any movement, aiming to bring changes. Soon the papal authority was attacked by them, spreading pamphlets among people and shaking the respect for authority, preparing shameless caricatures of the pope, to illustrate these pamphlets. All this was a kind of preparation for the reception of Reformation.

Another method of spreading the Reformation was influence on human emotions. The ideas of Christian freedom, of the right for everybody to find his own faith on the Bible and others of the innovators seemed acceptable and tempting for people.

There were several main forms of Reformation: Lutheranism, Zwinglianism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism. All these branches however viewed the individual representatives differently and by negotiations and compromises it was possible to establish unity.

Martin Luther is believed to be a rather bright figure for the beginning of the Reformation. He was born in Eisleben 10.11.1483.” His father once beat him so mercilessly that he ran away from home and was so “embittered against him that he had to win me to himself again.” His mother, “on account of an insignificant nut, beat me till the blood flowed, and it was this harshness and severity of the life I led with them that forced me subsequently to run away to a monastery and become a monk.” (ELCA Perspective: Braaten, Carl E., Principles of Lutheran Theology Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983 pp.5-7) For him Reformation was something more important as a simple revolt against ecclesiastic abuses. In 1517 Martin Luther put his 95 theses on the door of Wittenburg castle church. It was not the aim of Luther to throw off the Roman spiritual authority (though to Luther Rome was anti-Christ) or change the worships, for him this reform movement was close to sinner’s personal justification before God. He wanted the Church to return to its pure spiritual ideals and purposes, instead of growing corruptions around it; he wanted the faith initiative to return to individual believers. As the Word of God was to be available for all common people according to Luther, he translated the Bible into German. Between 1517 and 1520 Luther published a number of books and pamphlets, criticizing the Roman Church. Many Christian theologians supported his ideas, Luther had supporters and followers from different levels of society, peasants considered him to be a folk hero and knights swore to protect him, the rulers of German lands hoped to get rid of papal interference in their domestic policies. The enemies of Luther were Pope in Rome and Roman Emperor Charles V. When he was supported by some political forces, his revolt exploded. This movement was called “Lutheran” and started in the North of Germany, spreading to Scandinavia, Medieval Europe and gradually turned into a civil war.

“I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as day they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture … I cannot and will not retract … Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God, Amen!” – This historical stand was made by Luther in 1521. (ELCA Perspective: Braaten, Carl E., Principles of Lutheran Theology Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983 pp.25-27).

Another bright figure that can be mentioned talking about Reformation is Erasmus of Rotterdam. As Martin Luther he also attended school, where he had a chance to learn Latin. In 1509 Erasmus wrote “The Praise of Folly”, when he had lumbago and stayed at Thomas Moore’s home, who was his friend. To write this booked he needed seven days, it should not be considered his most important work, but with the help of it he achieved international renown. In his book the author criticizes institutions and beliefs of his times, his satire touches marriage, self-love, war, corruption of the Church, speculations of the scientists, ignorance and diversity of religious orders, the neglect of spiritual duties and responsibilities of bishops, cardinals and popes. He tried to expose the abuses of Church and did a lot to advance of Revival of Learning. A simple humanistic form of Christianity was close to Erasmus, he was critical towards Church, but refused to leave it and join the Protestants.

The force called Reformation, which emerged in Europe and rapidly divided the whole continent, could not just pass by the art, which actually became “a great source of disagreement between the Protestants and Catholics, and a great disparity emerged between the art produced in the North and South.” (Art of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, Rit Nosotro, 2003 pp.2-4). The focus of the art of Middle Ages was on religious content, for example using of the halo over a saint was common in Middle Ages. When the Reformation began, Protestant leaders: John Calvin and Huldreich Zwingli encouraged iconoclastic movements. Protestant did not deny all art, they opposed the Catholic religious art. Protestant artists painted scenes from the Bible occasionally, but really often they painted usual people, doing their every-day activities. During the Reformation the portrait painting became popular.

The Protestant Reformation’s demands to art were reflected in a new style called Baroque, which was full of religious ecstasies and powerful psychological performances. The Baroque style was practiced by Pietro Bernini (1562-1629 Italian Sculptor) and Peter Paul Reubans (1577-1640), Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) and JanVerneer (1632-1675) showing the daily life of people in the Flemish countries.

Some examples reflecting the influence of Reformation on the art can be mentioned: “The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary” by a Netherlandish Painter, possibly Goswijn van der Weyden, the depicted mysteries are associated with the life of a Virgin, full of joy and sorrow. The legend was connected with the origin of the cult of the Rosary, a popular form of personal devotion during the age of the Reformation; ”Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” by Albrecht Duerer, who was a follower of Martin Luther, and his painting shows the influence of the new beliefs of the author – the motif of the Virgin adoring the sleeping Christ Child; and “Martin Luther as a Monk” by Lucas Cranah the Elder, who produced some of the most lifelike images of the man.

Overall, such names as Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam are known to most people and are connected with the Reformation, which took place in the sixteenth century. It was a great historical event, but for all participants it had its own value and goals. It influenced greatly the spiritual development of people, their attitude to the Church and the development of art styles of those times.

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