Causes, Key Events and Results of the Reformation


The Gathering Storm
Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries the Church was faced with numerous direct challenges.   Dissatisfaction with the Church could be found at all levels of European society. Many devout Christians were finding the Church's growing emphasis on rituals unhelpful in their quest for personal salvation. People began to have a different outlook on salvation, no longer focusing on salvation of whole groups of people, but rather to something more personal and individual. The sacraments had become forms of ritualized behavior that no longer "spoke" to the people of Europe. They had become devoid of meaning. And since more people were congregating in towns and cities, they could observe for themselves and more important, discuss their concerns with others.

Another problem facing the Church was that in the 16th century there were a multitude of reformers who were openly criticizing the Church for its numerous offenses. Priests married and then took mistresses, holy offices were bought and sold for the highest price, incompetence among the clergy became the rule. In a word, the problem was corruption. Popes and bishops were acting more like kings and princes than they were the spiritual guides of European men and women. Because so many people were now crowding into cities, the lavish homes and palaces of the Church were noticed by more and more people from all walks of life.  

Meanwhile, peasants in England, Italy, France, Germany and elsewhere were also on the move. They began to revolt openly against both the clergy and the aristocracy. Their grievances were the most complicated of all - their revolt was against political, economic, social and religious authority. And despite the Inquisition, the work of the Dominicans and Franciscans, and even a holy crusade, heretics and heresies continue to grow more numerous and more vocal
These abuses called for two major responses. On the one hand,...