Christianity in crisis in the Western Europe
At the beginning of the XVIth century, several factors were to combine to shatter the unity of Western Christianity and bring about a new relationship with God in the midst of a climate of intolerance, of passion and of violence, worsened by political deviation and abuse. Amongst these factors figured the following :
- the moral and political crisis of Western Christianity,
- pre-reformation ideas that had been condemned by the Church,
- the Renaissance ideas from Italy,
- Gutenberg‘s invention of a new technique for massive diffusion : the printing press.
Christianity in the West in 16th century
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Church of Rome had been in a state of moral and political crisis for two centuries, but had not managed to overcome it.
Pierre Valdo (1140-1217) and the Waldenses
Pierre Valdo started the Waldenses movement, which spread throughout southern Europe.
John Wyclif (c. 1328-1384) and the Lollards
Wyclif, a distant precursor of the Reformation, challenged the Church’s authority and hierarchy. His followers, the Lollards, instigated a peasant revolt. They denounced the established Church.
Jan Hus (1369-1415) and the Hussite wars (1419-1436)
Hus was a Czech priest, who, a century before Luther, called for a reform of the Chuch and was burnt at the stake. His death set off a religious, political and social revolution in Bohemia and 18 years of war.
Forerunners of the Reformation
The Forerunners of the Reformation developed many ideas which inspired Luther. Among them Pierre Valdo was the first, in the XIIth century.
Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples (1450-1537)
Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples was a theologian who founded the “Cenacle of Meaux” and was the first to translate the Bible into French.
The "Cenacle of Meaux" (1521-1525)
The “Cenacle of Meaux” was founded in 1521 by Lefèvre d’Etaples ; its function was to encourage reflexion on the Scriptures and to spread new ideas – notably, it advocated the preaching of the Scriptures in the parishes.
Michel de l'Hospital (1505-1573)
Michel de l’Hospital was a Catholic lawyer, who was called on by Catherine de Médicis to try to establish the peaceful coexistence of Catholics and Protestants. However he failed in his attempt.
The revolution of printing
Block print technology was now highly developed and had a considerable impact on the dissemination of ideas – it was thanks to printing that the ideas of the Reformation spread so quickly.