The Reform of the Church
Well before Luther and Calvin, men had worked at reforming the Church. The picture to the right suggests this symbolic filiation.
They advocated a return to the simplicity of the Gospel, called into question the hierarchy of the Church and believed in the exclusive authority of the Bible
The main forerunners of the Reform movement were :
- Pierre Valdo in the XIIth century in France,
- John Wyclif in the XIVth century in England,
- Jan Hus between the XIVth and the XVth century in Bohemia
Their doctrine influenced Luther and the reformers of the XVIth century.
- FRIDENTHAL R., Jan Hus, hérétique et rebelle, Calmann-Lévy, 2005
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.
Jean Calvin (1509-1564)
A generation after Luther, the Frenchman Jean Calvin became the organiser of the Reformation : he organised the Church, shaped the doctrine and defined the role of the Church in state government.
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Martin Luther’s theology is based on the Bible and not on dogmas. Referring to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he claims that salvation is given through God’s grace and not through deeds. It was adopted by Lutheran Churches, and also by the other Reformed Churches, in principle.
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.
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 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.
Renaissance and Humanism in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries
At the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453, Europe was peaceful for a while as there were less disease epidemics and less conflicts. The population grew, cities developed and trade increased. Large banks financed noteworthy initiatives, such as maritime expeditions leading to Great Discoveries. In those good times, later called the Renaissance, the humanist movement evolved.