In history, I've been learning about the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. The Reformation refers to the movement that pushed for reforms in the Roman Catholic church. In the 1500s, the Catholic Church needed reforming in many areas.
Firstly, some Renaissance popes lived like kings. Pope Sixtus IV was guilty of nepotism; he gave many important church positions to family members. Julius II was one such family member. Also known as the "Warrior Pope," Julius built himself lavish new palaces after deciding that the papal apartments were not good enough. He was famous for leading papal armies into battle against defiant city-states. The picture shown depicts Julius II.
Of course, there were some "grassroots" problems in the Catholic church as well, starting with nuns and monks. If you came from a noble family, you might live in lavish apartments, with "worldly goods" around you. In fact, the saint and nun Teresa of Avila, who later founded the Discalced Carmelites, at first lived in a spacious suite with its own kitchen in her convent, thanks to her noble birth. This picture of a sculpture by Bernini depicts Teresa of Avila having a vision.
The problems of the church became more apparent when Pope Leo X started actively marketing "indulgences." Basically, if you paid enough money for an "indulgence," you could skip purgatory (where sinners were "purged" of their sins) and go right to heaven. Obviously, this idea appealed to a lot of people. However, one monk and theology teacher, Martin Luther, thought that the sale of indulgences was wrong--and said so. Martin Luther posted what he called his "Ninety-Five Theses" on a church door. The "Ninety-Five Theses" criticized the Catholic Church.
Of course, it was dangerous to criticize the church. In fact, a monk named Jan Hus who had criticized the sale of indulgences in the 1400s had been burned at the stake. The Catholic Church gave Martin Luther a chance to recant, or take back, his Ninety-Five Theses, summoning him to appear in a city called Worms. Martin Luther met with church officials and refused to recant the Ninety-Five Theses. The meeting was known as "The Diet of Worms." However, as far as I know, no worms were eaten. The picture at the side depicts Martin Luther (in the habit, with the shaved head) at the Diet of Worms.
Martin Luther's ideas spread. Other reformers began spreading their own ideas. John Calvin helped to spread Protestanism, which was created as a protest against the church. Slowly, the Protestants began gaining support.
All of this worried the Church. Between 1545 and 1563, Pope Paul III held a series of meetings, called the Council of Trent, in the small city of Trent. The Council of Trent attempted to answer basic questions about the Church and their policies, and to define what it meant to be Catholic.
As a result of the Council of Trent, some church members were inspired to lead more pious lives. The Archbishop of Milan gave up many of his worldly goods, and, when the plague spread through his city-state, he stayed behind (and later died) in Milan. People like Ignatius of Loyola, who led an order of priests who became the Jesuits, and Teresa of Avila, who encouraged nuns to give up worldly posessions and distractions and live simple lives dedicated to prayer, led the charge.
But the Catholic Church used more macabre methods to intimidate "heretics." They set up courts of Inquisition, which tried people for heresy or blasphemy against the church. If suspected "heretics" did not confess, they could be tortured.
I hope that you've enjoyed reading my post. Feel free to leave comments!