1.10 Reformation in Europe
The Church of Rome dominated Europe in the 16th century. Most of the socio-political and economic activities of various countries were highly influenced by the Church and the higher Clergy had become worldly and corrupt. People saw these irreligious acts in the name of religion. They did not like it. They desired a change in the entire Church system. This strong desire of the people led to a revolution in the religious life of Europe in the 16th century. This is termed as "The Reformation." It aimed to reform the entire institution of the Church. The reformers targeted certain major areas of change. They sought to improve the moral lives of the Clergy. They attempted to repudiate the Papal claim to ecclesiastical supremacy. They asserted the political power and importance at the national level.
There were several reasons for this revolt against tradition.
Since the 13th century, the Roman Catholic Popes had paid less attention
to their main work, that of spreading religion. They were occupied
with other activities and pleasures of the world. In other words,
they indulged in what their religion considered excess. They were
also interested in the politics of Europe for personal reasons.
The common people saw all this. Antagonistic feelings were clearly
on the rise.
Another sore factor was that the Church owned large amounts of land etc. The revenue from these lands directly went into the Roman coffers. It caused a heavy drain to the National Treasury as this money could be used for the national development of the country.
The Pope used to dominate European politics. He acted as per his own whim, often setting aside the desires of the Kings and Princes. With the rise of nationalism, discontent was latent.
The Reformation helped several national governments to free themselves from the Papal authority. Nations now could take their decisions without the interference of the Church. Poor peasants were now freed from paying taxes to the Church. Countries like England, Scotland, Denmark, North Germany etc. were freed from Church authority.
The new faith Protestantism gave importance to the authority of the Bible. Church authority reduced to a great extent. People now started to question every aspect of religion and its importance.