What happened during the Protestant Reformation?

2 min readdecember 17, 2021

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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The Protestant Reformation 

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⛪ The Catholic Church & Corruption ⛪

  • The Catholic Church was widely noted for its large bureaucracy and corruption
  • It sold indulgences which granted a person absolution from punishments for their sins 
  • It also sold church office positions in a practice known as simony
  • Efforts to correct corruption such as the Cluniac Reforms (950-1130) failed

✝️ Theological Disagreements Arise ✝️

John Wycliffe: Wycliffe argued that priests were not needed for salvation and translated parts of the Bible from Latin into English to make it possible for the general populations to read 
  • Wycliffe's beliefs were shared by a group called the Hussites in Bohemia and the Lollards in England 
  • There were also campaigns for a religion based solely on the scriptures

New divisions in the group of protestors against the Catholic Church known as 'Protestants' emerge. Protestant beliefs still fall under the category of Christianity. There are three main early sectors of Protestantism 👇


  • Objected to the sale of Indulgences
  •  Egalitarian, women and men had equal access to God
Martin Luther: concluded that the Church's practices were violating Biblical teachings. He allegedly nailed a series of grievances known as the 95 Theses to the Church door but this could've just been a request for a meeting to discuss these issues.  The Church reacted harshly and Pope Leo X excommunicated him. Luther was not a social or political revolutionary but his theological ideas had a large social effect and his followers were branded "Lutherans".


  • Shaped around the idea of Predestination or one's fate (go to heaven or not) was predetermined 
  • People were encouraged to work hard and invest their profits which developed the ideal of the "Protestant Work Ethic" 
John Calvin: French theologian broke from the Church around 1530.  He wrote The Institutes of Christian Religion. His ideas included a society in which a group called the Elect, people predestined to go to heaven, ran the community. There was to be plain living, simple church buildings, and the church elders were to govern. His French followers were called Huguenots.
Other Branches of Calvinism:
  •  Reformed Church of Scotland
  • Puritans of England (later Boston)


  • The Church of England 
  • Allowed divorce 
  • Free of the control of the Pope 
King Henry VIII: English King who wanted to divorce his wife as she had produced a female heir and he wanted and male heir. When the Pope declined out of fear that a divorce would anger Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry sought approval from the English Parliament and created the Church of England.

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