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Western and Central Europe, 475 CE – 1648 CE

Review Notes on Western and Central Europe, 475 CE – 1648 CE

In general, European history from 475 CE to 1648 CE has been taught from the perspective of Western and Central Europe with a tendency to see its culture as primarily Roman Catholic Christianity and its 16th century offshoots. Some of this can be explained by the adoption of Hellenistic culture and the desert religion, Christianity, by the Romans and the expansion of the Roman Empire outside of the Mediterranean Basin. Part of it is explained by literacy; history of written from documents and societies that don’t produce documents (or too few) don’t have their own histories. Someone else might mention them, giving us reason to believe they existed and, perhaps, even some knowledge of what those people did.
     Europe was larger, more complex, and influenced by events on other continents. It extends to the Arctic Circle, to Iceland after that island was settled by Norwegians in the 9th century, and eastward into Russia. Turkey considers itself European but, for many years, was generally considered Asian. Many different peoples/tribes with many different languages and daily habits and beliefs have inhabited this land mass. Events elsewhere in China or Mongolia or in Eastern Europe bumped population into different places or wars caused migration.
     Having said this, we return to the Western Roman Empire and its successors. In brief, outline form, however, for even this small piece of European history is very complex.

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Roman Empire under Trajan, 117 CE

     The Roman Republic fought “defensive wars” to secure its borders from any threat; by about 30 BC, it had become an empire ruling the entire Mediterranean Basin, reaching its greatest limits under Emperor Trajan.

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     It ruled so many diverse people over so much territory that Diocletian, a year after he won the emperorship in battle in 284, appointed a co-emperor, Maximian Augustus in 285. Seven years later, in 293, he appointed two junior co-emperors, Galerius and Constantius, thus dividing the Empire into four parts. Thus, there was no “Roman Empire” after 285 and there were four after 293 CE. They shared Greek culture as modified by Rome, Latin as the government language, transportation networks, weights, measures, money, laws and courts, and a state religion[1] among the other religions were tolerated. Flavius Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, in 476. The Eastern Roman Empire survived until 1453 although Turks had gobbled pieces for centuries.

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     Unanimity did not exist. Although Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE and, in 313 CE, the two Emperors, Licinius I and Constantine, declared that this religion from the Asian desert be officially tolerated, it did not become the government mandated religion for years. Even when it did, there were different versions of it. Moreover, there were always other religions, including Islam and Judaism; different groups migrated into the empire(s), diversity increased.

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     The central authority of the Roman Empire slowly disintegrated in the 4th and 5th centuries as people from Inner Asia migrated and fought their way into it. Lynn Nelson in his essay “Barbarian Invasions and Recovery”[2] provides a pithy description of what happened. Visgoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Franks, Suebi, Alamanni, Burgundians and Huns entered the Empire over the centuries and stayed, either as groups or through their DNA. The Huns from Asia began invading and conquering all in their path beginning in the late 4th century. They penetrated westward into present-day France before being turned back at Chalons in 451.[3] The next year, Attila invaded the Italian peninsula but left before he took Rome. His losses at Chalons and an inadequate supply system were telling. He died in 453. Although the Empire survived Attila’s invasions, it could not cope with so many disparate groups seizing local control. The unity of Mediterranean world was destroyed when Roman Empire broke up. The Western Roman Empire was gone by 476. The Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire was centered in Constantinople and extended into the Balkans, Asia Minor, Black Sea, etc. The third empire was initially Arabic but eventually became Turkish.

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     For 500 years, Western Europe was raided by outsiders, causing disruptions and genetic or DNA mixing. Trade almost disappeared. The economy reverted to rural, even frontier, conditions. Such characteristics of the Roman Empire as the use of money, trade, and urban life broke down. The life of learning continued but with less intensity. This period was the “Dark Ages” only in contrast to the Renaissance. Significant rallies occurred during this time such as the Carolingian Renaissance or Charle­magne Renaissance.[4] Charlemagne strengthened his position by association with the Pope. The work of Charlemagne was largely undone by fresh invaders from the north in the 10th century.

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     In the 11th century (1001-1100) the process of the reorganization of Western Europe began. Secular rulers adopted the feudal system of governance and the manorial economic system, achieving a degree of stability and security. The Roman Catholic Church became the leading institution of the West. The Pope became major a secular figure as well as a religious leader. Feudal institutions and Church became so pervasive that they extended their influence into 12th century.
     The term feudalism[5] came into use in the late 18th century. It refers to particular organization of society ending in various points in the countries of Europe. Modern scholarship does not use the term “feudalism” but, instead sees political power and the economy as being based on land tenure; almost everyone was engaged in agriculture. Europe was large so there were variations from place to place. As the central authority dissipated, people replaced it with more local rule, headed by elites which could command sufficient force to impose their will.
     The inability of the Western Roman Empire to adapt itself to the immigrants who came to enjoy its benefits caused its dissolution and the rise of a ruling warrior class in numerous and various parts of the old empire and its neighboring areas. These warriors and their allies, the clergy, maintained their supremacy by force and tradition, living from the labor of the peasants the vast majority of the population. The outstanding feature was the contract between the ruling lord and his vassal. The lord was always a warrior in ruling class. The vassal agreed to provide service to his lord. In return, the lord gave him a fief, an estate-unit of agricultural income, tools, peasant serfs, etc. The fief was a unit of agricultural income but also a state-within-a state­ which administered justice, tax, tolls, military forces, etc. It became inseparable from political authority; it became the new basis for political organization. The system regulated the relations among the ruling class by imposing a hierarchical structure.
All fiefs were originally granted by king. William the Conqueror divided all England into fiefs and gave them to his vassals in the process dispossessing the former English holders. A vassal receiving from king could donate to lesser person if he wished in return for his service. This process was called subinfeudation. Archbishops and bishops held land from the king. They gave land to knights who performed military services which were required of priests.
     In practice, fiefs became hereditary. Male heir had to perform homage and take oath of fidelity to his lord. A female couldn't inherit a fief because she wasn't a warrior, but her husband could. Since the fief was granted in return for military service, the vassal had to appear in person for judicial and social functions. The vassal had to provide financial aid such as payment upon the eldest son’s knighting, marriage of the eldest daughter, and ransom if the lord was captured.
As European economy changed, as money reappeared, as middle class began to grow into towns, kings began to consolidate power. Nobility suffered at the extension of king's power, but gradual change helped.
     The manorial system was labor attached to land. Land needed labor to work it. Under the terms of this system, the peasant-serfs worked the land, pro­viding food for the manor; the rulers provided defense. The system included not only peasants-serfs but also artisans. The peasant-serf had obligations and rights. He was not a slave, per se, but his freedom was circumscribed. He couldn't leave of own free will but he could be sold to another lord. Serf could pass his land tenure to his son. The average land holding was 30 acres. Fields plowed and worked in common. The layout of a community was houses built in the center of land, fields around. The farm hand had to work in his lord's fields to support the lord and the lord’s people. The serf was required to provide labor for bridges and roads (corvée). He was free from military service except during sieges. He made payments in produce. The serf was taxed if his daughter married outside of manor because the lord would be deprived of her and her offspring’s labor. The serf paid an inheritance tax. A tallage (land use) tax could be levied annually or whenever money was needed. The serf was obliged to pay bonaliter to use a mill, ovens, or wine press. The Roman Catholic Church demanded a tithe (10%) and sometimes demanded more for construction projects.
     The lord’s or vassal’s income was from the manor and this placed a heavy burden on the broad peasants' back. Income from manor was income of lord whether cleric or layman. The peasant supported whole temporal system as well as spiritual system. The lord of the manor was responsible for keeping law and order. He protected serfs in times of danger. His steward generally kept law and order. The peasant village was, generally, at the foot of the castle. Security of the castle was paramount. Frequent holidays were beneficial to the peasantry. The peasant population increased and more forests were cleared for planting. The manorial state differed from the modern state because almost all people were not legally free, having special obligations, and were subject to idiosyncratic legal systems. Nevertheless, the system was the best that could be provided; it prevented anarchy for it provided laws and rules.
     The system left valuable legacies such as trial by peers(ruling class-primarily), concept of limited sovereignty of king, mutual rights, guaranteed certain rights, ideals of the code of chivalry (standards of gentlemanly conduct honor, loyalty).

Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church

     At the same time the power of secular rulers ebbed, so, too, did the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Some argued that it was in need of reform, that it should not allow clerical marriages, simony(the sale of clerical favors), the sale of indulgences, forgiveness, and/or protection) sale of clerical offices. In other words, they argued that it had been corrupted since its founding, deviating vastly from what had been taught by its founders. In one way of looking at it, Western Christianity had become ungodly. It was much like secular society.
     To those who believed that the Church should be supreme, lay investiture-investing of the clergy with the symbols of his spiritual authority by laymen (kings) was a problem. The Papacy (which wanted to be supreme) objected because this meant that the king was all-embracing. Who had the allegiance of the clerics, the Pope or a king? Many of the Church hierarchy had a dual capacity; they were part of the ruling class possessing land, vassals, and, even, military duties and did not focus on the spiritual life.
By last half of 11th century (1051-1100), there was a spiritual revival and the rise of the papacy to significant powers and position. The Clumiae movement from monastery of same name attacked the three evils above. In mid-11th century reform carried to the English church by William the Conqueror.[6] The Germanic king and Holy Roman Emperor Henry III worked to cleanse the papacy.[7] Strong Popes, especially Gregory the 7th, changed the institution by regularizing the choosing of the Pope through the College of Cardinals[8]. The election of the Pope was taken from the hands of nobility to Rome. Gregory VII also attacked the centuries-old practice of the clergy getting married; he and his advisors demanded the sole loyalty of the clergy.[9]
     The Holy Roman Empire claimed to be the successor of the Western Roman Empire which had ended in 476; Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor in 800 CE but it was not until Otto I, the elected German king, was crowned Emperor in 962 that it really existed. Emperors were elected, as was the German custom, and anyone with any pretence to power tried to control said elections.
     The strengthening of Pope and Church created a conflict between the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.[10] These Germanic rulers were accustomed to having a large say in who became Pope. The issue came to a head over question of investiture. Who was supreme over choosing the clerical head-temporal or spiritual powers? Gregory VII asserted that only the Pope had the power.[11] Gregory won this battle with Henry IV in 1077 by excommunicating him, an act which required all true believers to shun him. Henry trekked to Canossa at the residence of Gregory VII in the northern part of the Italian Peninsula, stood bareheaded in the snow for three days, and begged forgiveness. The two continued to battle. In 1084, Gregory lost to Henry and retired into the exile in San Angelo. Henry created Clement III who then crowned Henry as Emperor in 1084. Gregory was not pleased. It took another half century before the issue was settled by compromise, the Concordat of Worms[12] in 1122 between Calixtus II (1119-1124) and Emperor Henry V (1106-1125). To wit, elections of bishops and abbots in the Germanic kingdoms would be held in the presence of emperor or his representative. Secular power was given by emperor, spiritual power to the Pope (Church).
     The struggle continued by their successors. One famous struggle was between Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was struck down at an altar of Canterbury Cathedral by four knights in 1170. They had been good friends until Beckett assumed independence of the king. There were very real struggles between strong monarchs, whether English, French, or German, and the hierarchy of Church.
     Under Innocent III in the 13th century, the Church reached the acme of intellectual, spiritual, and temporal power. The Pope became temporal head of Italy. The Pope was also feudal lord over numbers of kingdoms. King John of England became vassal of the Pope as did many other kings. Inno­cent III was a brilliant administrator, and spread himself from spiritual to temporal power. He improved money collection, laws, and courts. He asserted that canon laws covered not only ecclesiastical matters but secular aspects also. The Church was threatening the temporal power of Frederick of Sicily, John of England, and others; Innocent III overcame these monarchs.
     Two heresies threatened the spiritual power of the Roman Catholic Church. Waldensian—spread into Southern France and Low Countries. Catharism[13][1]-most sinister, support from important ruling class, slaughtered those who took up these heresies. Innocent III launched the 20-year Albigensian or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) to eliminate heresy in Languedoc. Spiritual orders—Dominicans, Franciscans, Cistercians—did great deal to reform the life of the Church and to fight heresies. The Church’s efforts to stamp out heresies in the 13th century were much simpler than in the 16th because political and social conflicts never joined with spiritual/theological issues. Western Europe remained united in the common Roman Catholic Church. In some ways, it was a kind of Christian republic (Republica Christiana) except, of course, for those areas of Europe controlled by Muslims and except for the small number of Jews and other non-believers.
     The Church continued to exercise intellectual and artistic power throughout the period. Universities were started as a school to train clerics. Almost all people were illiterate in Latin and in whatever local language but priests had the necessary ability to read. Any person accused of a crime who could read Latin was allowed to plead benefit of clergy. Clergy and those with benefit of clergy were tried in church courts which had no death penalty. Secular courts were harder, more strenuous.
     Medieval Christianity believed that the highest, the purest activity of a human was to devote one’s life to the worship of and service to God. Thus, theology was preeminent in the high Middle Ages. The highest class or first estate was the clergy. Functionally, those who were governed by the rules of a holy order, regular clergy (monks) had higher caste than secular clergy. Regular clergy were seen as being more god-devoted than those who served the common man, the hoi polloi, because contact polluted them. The clergy was also subdivided between bishops and abbots, on the one hand, and ordinary priests, on the other.
     Theology was supreme in the university; philosophy was its handmaiden. St. Thomas Aquinas summed up his arguments in Summa Theologica. He knew some P1ato and Aristotle and combined this with orthodox Christian theology. Started with the assumption of God-given truths and then used the deductive method of reasoning. The danger is in departing too widely from fact and experience. He kept within those bounds. He was one of the great philosophical systematizers of Western thought. He asserted that the human will cannot wholly transform but can adjust.
     Respectable work was done in science by clerics. The most outstanding was Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar, who did not question Church, but relied heavily on the secular Aristotle. He tested some of Aristotle’s assumptions and criticized their veracity. He believed in experience not reason to determine what is real. Rather than rely upon deductions derived from “revealed truth” he relied on inductive reasoning. He did work in optics of significant interest.


     The Church persuaded its believers to build churches, including monumental cathedrals, to the “greater glory of God” as they put it. To deny the church funds was to deny God, so the argument went. Churches were the public buildings of the medieval period and usually the only buildings that survived. Church architecture illustrates many areas we see seen in other parts of the culture. They used inductive reasoning on building. If it worked, it was copied; they were pragmatic. The 11th to 13th centuries were important in art, monumental sculpturing, breaching great spaces, and ecclesiastical building.
     Romanesque was the style from 1000 CE until 1150 CE; the Gothic style began about 1150 CE and lasted for the next three of four centuries. Gothic was more northern than Italian. Romanesque was related to Eastern Byzantine and northern barbaric styles. Northern barbaric styles were full of eccentricities, asymmetrical, and dissolving silhouettes. There was more variety than unity and many regional variants from the Roman style. No styles were identical. It used church towers, rounded arches, and compounding of vaults. Arches and buildings were not precise and sometimes faulty. The Leaning Tower of Pisa leaned from the beginning. They didn't care if it leaned. Much was left to improvisation. Many churches fell down; they had to start all over again. Romanesque churches are picturesque and lovable. Their parts are delicate rather ponderous. The use of colors was common. The plan of it is that of a Christian Basilica, a functional plan.[14] Romanesque churches are profusely adorned with sculpture, generally religious, done on a commission basis. In the north, they borrowed from books and used mythological animals, called bestiaries. Many of the pieces of sculpture were hideous. They were not concerned with beauty, but with the telling to the Christians the story of what would happen to them if they did not behave as the Church wanted.
     The Gothic style originated in 12th century France on the Île de France. Northern France remained the center for this style for 150 years. It was a region of rich soil with strong efficient government, thus bringing peace for awhile. Farmers became wealthy along trade routes. Surplus wealth facilitated building large, expensive buildings. Paris had the university where St. Thomas Aquinas worked and studied. French Gothic is the expression of the philosophical concept of harmonious balance of each part. Every part had to be examined as to its rationale. Building a cathedral required knowledge of the Christian understanding of the world. Gothic is a misnomer. Gothic reflects the freedom from Rome. It reflects the Northern barbaric style, the effect of pointed arch and ribbed vaulting. Amiens Cathedral had much glass and stone. Stone roof which is partly supported by flying buttresses which don't block windows. The Cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was completed in 60 years. Gothic is very ornate, complex. We know the names of the master builders, but nothing about how they recruited labor or anything else.

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Amiens Cathedral

     The plan of these churches is Romanesque, more or less. Amiens was built inside a town. The important facade was built on the west side of square. To construct such a church was daring for it used less mortar per cubic area and a pointed arch to control the thrust. The Gothic style spread in the 13th century as did the Church.

Economic and Social Changes in the Middle Ages

     Industry and commerce revived and towns arose[15] with commerce occurring first. There was much interaction among all three. Most of the towns were new. European civilization expanded. Commercial activity revived first in the Mediterranean because it had never ceased there. Constantinople, city of a million people, had to trade to survive. The Crusades (1096-1272)[16], Roman Catholic military invasions of the Holy Land to wrest control from Muslims, helped commerce for it brought western and central Europeans into contact with eastern Europeans and Asia Minor. Merchants from Genoa, Pisa, Venice, supplied English, French, and other Crusaders in order to get rights to trade. These merchants prospered in supplying Crusaders and trading with Orient. Commerce spread west to Marseilles and inland. The region of the Lombardy plain took lead, followed by the cities of Pisa and Venice. Soon, trade breached the Alps into Northern France and Germanies, spread to Holland, and across the English Channel to London. Then another trade developed in the North to supply other commodities than the Piedmont and Mediterranean products. The demand for Flemish woolens caused them to import raw materials (wool) from England. English wool was of finer texture. Flanders became a region of weavers and fullers in 12th century, a source of wealth for many towns.

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     Commerce into the Baltic Sea region was promoted by Hanseatic League (German merchants) formed in the early 13th century. It served as an intermediary between Eastern and Western Europe. The League’s east was a frontier; its merchants had to establish their own posts. Fur trading was important.
    Towns were born or grew. Industry stimulated migration to towns. Many were runaway serfs. If a runaway serf resided in a town for a year and a day, he was free. Towns developed their own economy. Merchants developed their own law, "jus mercatorum." They established separate tribunals, organized a town group to levy tax for defense and improvement. They assessed the tax according to individual’s wealth, that is, a progressive tax. It was collected by the town council and magistracy. Townsmen sought charters from lords of the region. Some lords saw the rise of towns as another source of revenue and gave charters upon receiving a payment. The towns could play one lord against another to secure a charter or to improve its conditions. Some members of the town formed a new class called the third estate. Civic pride pervaded medieval towns.
     Town life was inimical to peasant life. Town-rural conflict has been going on ever since the rise of towns. Prices of fuel and food were minutely regulated. Wages and production were controlled by the craft guilds, corporations enjoying the monopoly of practicing their craft in accordance with regulations set by public authority. Purpose was to protect members by assuring monopoly of their particular craft. Towns controlled price and quality.
     People sought stable conditions in a stable industry. The medieval attitude tended to limit initiative and individual progress. Stability, not change, was the ideal. Merchants came from a period of anarchy and were trying to establish themselves. The typical craft guild structure was masters, journeymen, and apprentices. The Master owned the small shop, tools, and products. They were small capitalists. A journeyman was on his way to becoming a master; he had no shop or tools. The apprentice was learning the trade; he was protected against malpractices. In towns which produced material for export like the cloth towns of Flanders, the workers organized in guilds were only wage earners. Merchants obtained raw materials, put out for spinning to one group, fulling[17] to another group, weaving to another group, dyeing to another, etc. He owned it, paid to have it worked into finished product, then traded it through the routes. Those engaged in making export products had not as much protection as other guilds. They engaged in strikes and other forms of protest. Trade experienced boom periods and depression. The periods of anarchy in this organization explain why some guilds clung to their organizations.
     Towns affected agriculture and the peasant-serfs. Provisioning these cities led to increased agrarian activity; land was utilized that hadn't been before. Villes neuves[18] in uncultivated lands used to build agrarian towns. Landowners lured men by the promise of rent payments and exempting people from the old manorial dues. The free peasant who appeared in many of these agrarian towns received charters and enjoyed same legal autonomy as the industrial towns. Some towns emerged in frontier locations. The status of the new towns affected the serfs of neighboring manors. They agreed to pay quitrents (cash payment for their work) which released them from the old manorial payments/regulations.
By 1200, serfdom had virtually disappeared in Flanders and was disappearing in France. Serfdom survived only in places remote from trade. It died out in areas where industry and commerce flourished. In conservative and backward Russia serfdom began in the 18th century, however.

Age of Renaissance in Western Europe

     Leaders of the Renaissance thought of themselves as modern, as making a complete break with the past but this was inaccurate. There was a shift in attitude, intellectual activity, and the arts but it was spread over several centuries. Learning revived in the 12th century. Trade and the money economy began in 11th and 12th centuries. Contrariwise, some medieval systems continued far past the Middle Ages. England didn't revamp its economy and its courts until the 19th century. The Christian view of the Middle Ages was not challenged until the 18th century. Earlier historians limited the movement to the intellectual emphasis which began to take place but that view is too limited.

Economic and Social Changes

     There was no sharp break. Little change occurred in the manner and spread of land or sea transport. Distant communications depended largely on horseback and caravans. Wheeled vehicles were used for short distances because of the lack of good roads. For sea transport, sails were modified but oars were still in use. Ninety percent of the population lived from the soil. Only half dozen cities exceeded 100,000 populations. The bourgeoisie (town-dwellers) were a small minority but they were a dynamic element in European society; their influence was far out of proportion to size. This “middle class” still lacked wide recognition, for much of the medieval law recognized only three classes-lords, clergy, peasants.
     Class structure and social mobility changed by the 15th century. Nobles had more political power than the middle class but were losing military power. The clergy was hardly social and economic class; it enjoyed a separate legal status with certain privileges and immunities, such as only being bound by canon law. Members of higher clergy owned land and were feudal vassals with obligations to a lord. The positions of abbots and bishops were often filled by members of the nobility. The parish priest frequently came from peasant class, often a bright peasant son. These priests were no better off than the peasants they served. They, of course, were the front line of the Church.
     Middle-class towns had even less homogeneity. Both the upper and lower middle class were lumped together as bourgeoisie. The special quality of the bourgeois was being a man on the make, expanding, q professional. All such occupations were subversive to the established order. The discovery of the New World brought inflation as gold and silver poured in from Peru and Mexico, inflating the currency, and creating hardships on those with fixed incomes. Lawyers investigated feudal charters so that the king could take away special privileges of nobles. Townsmen were a revolutionary element in Europe. The economy expanded so rapidly, it was almost a revolution. New industries­ such as printing, cannon founding and silk were created, in part, because of explorations. The New World became a vast hinterland, an extension of Europe. The expansion of the European economy was chance rapid but little understood. The pace was very different from what Europe had experienced in centuries and it squeezed static structures. For example, some landowners converted to sheep runs, forcing peasants off the land, so they could sell raw wool to the cloth trade. Lesser nobility often racked by money lenders and usurers. It was difficult for the average person to understand the changes. Few understood or believed in progress; they were conservatives, seeing change as a worsening of life. Characteristic was Sir Thomas More, Utopia, wherein he condemned change, blaming it on Christian failing. The money economy caused the development of banks and sophisticated devices to handle the expansion of business.

Political Changes in 1500 and thereabouts

     Similar to the tempo of change of economic and social conditions, the political change was not sharp or abrupt. Europe wasn’t unified, in spite of the claims and hope of the Holy Roman Emperors. There existed many independent states with distinct boundaries and kings at the head who were com­peting for power. They weren’t as absolute in power as would later be, for these governing units were still linked with the medieval past, which set limits. Monarchs were stronger than before and the feudal nobility was greatly diminished and would become even more so as rulers found more ways to emasculate them. The peasants were burdened no matter who ruled—monarch, feudal lord, or clergy. Whenever it appeared that a ruler who could rule, the “middle class” (bourgeoisie) backed him for despotism was better for business than feudal anarchy.
     Who should rule is a constant question, of course, and whoever rules seeks justification in some kind of theory. In the latter half of the 16th century, Jean Bodin [19](1576), in De Republica, provided a secular justification for monarchical rule. He asserted that power is expressed in an association of individuals and their possessions ruled by a sovereign power, who, according to reason and the essential manifestation of sovereignty is to make and enforce laws. He cannot be bound by what he makes, because king made the laws. He is bound by the law of reason of nature, the divine law common to all nations; he is bound by constitution of the State. Bodin reflected Roman and medieval tradition. The trend was towards strong centralized power/government, providing authority and order first and liberty second. This tendency was exemplified by Italian states.

Background of Italy

     Hohenstaufen rulers sought to extend their control over northern Italy but failed (11th and 12th centuries). By the 13th century (1201-1300) Italy was free from Germanic domination. Northern cities were independent. The Papal States were no longer threatened by foreign encroachment. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had passed from the German line to the French Angevin line. After 1300, city-state history is important for Italy was only geographical expression and not a country until 1861. In the northern part of the peninsula, Venice, Florence, and Milan were the major cities. By 1500, these three had become the cultural centers of Europe as their mercantile wealth accumulated by “international” trade provided the funds to subsidize cultural activities. Merchants had taken full advantage of their geographical position and had traded in luxuries, for such brought the highest value for their weight. Later other imports, such as fruit, cotton, silk, and perfume were added. Milan on the Lombardy plain became the center for trade between Italy and North, as well as for goldsmiths. Florentine artists refinished and dyed cloth from Flanders and were masters of the tooled leather industries. Venice became a ship building center and was the most important port of Italy. It was famous for its glassworks, particularly Murano glass. Northern Italian cities experienced a major industrial revolution. Money lending became banks, replacing the money services which had been provided by Jews because Christians were forbidden to charge interest on loans. The Church objected to loaning money at interest (usury) because it asserted that doing so taking advantage of people in need. That the Church loaned money at interest was seen as different because the profits were spent by the Church to maintain itself and do good works. Florence took the lead. The Florentine gold piece, the florin, was the symbol of the wealth of Florence and highly sought in Europe and in the Mediterranean. Italian bankers worked out the fundamental techniques of capitalism such as partnerships, double entry bookkeeping, and investment capital. Religious scruples against the taking of money gave way to needs of commerce and of the Church to finance trade, industry, wars, and such.
     Trade led to commercial and political rivalry. Each city reached out to bring rural areas into its power. Rich burghers invested some surplus in rural land, often country estates for prestige. By 1300, nearly all the rural land was owned by these burghers or lords who delved in trade and industry. One result was the disappearance of manorialism; serfdom was replaced by wage system or sharecropping. Agriculture changed to cash-profit basis, supplying city market from surplus.
     In these urban republics or city-states, actual authority resided in rich merchants known as grandi. The old patriciate of nobles and burghers possessed prestige of having led city-state away from the domination of Pope or emperor. The nouveau riche was eager to harness state policy to further own interests. In Florence they were known as Fat people, popolo grosso, in Florence. Below these were the plain people, populo-artisans, guild men, and the middle class of burghers. They opposed the economic imperialism of populo grosso, but sided with them rather than the grandi or the popolo minuto. Most numerous people were the popolo minuto.
     Between 1300 and to 1500, the classes struggled among themselves for relative position and wealth. Venice was the exception for the merchant families ruled under a republican form of government. The Doge was elected from one of the ruling families. The populo grosso were strong enough to exclude the grandi from office by admitting some of the populo to minor office. In 1378, successful rising of the popolo minuto, the Revolt of the Ciompi,[20] was short-lived proletarian rule. By 1382, the populo grosso was back at head of states until 1434. Cosimo di Medici[21] relieved them of their power de facto not de jure. Medici family was the uncrowned head of the Florentine state.
     In the interest of security and peace, upper class chose One person in which to put all of the power, podesta[22]. The chaotic condition of Italian city politics encouraged a strong man to take control of the city.
     Milan’s bitter warfare between nobility and the people led to the rise of two groups, the Della Torre[23] and the Visconti[24]. The latter won and ruled to the middle of the 15th century. They were harsh, cruel, and prone to assassinate one another. They patronized the arts to gain prestige. After last male died, Francesco I Sforza[25] took over, married a female Visconti, and patronized the arts tremendously.
     The government of the city-states on the Italian peninsula were often more rational than the Northern states. They were social laboratories with the first graduated income tax, public works programs, and first census. They were less bound by traditional, moral laws. Public morality was different from private morality. Niccolò Machiavelli[26], The Prince, defended what was rather than what should be. Acts of clemency, morality, and justice were second to the interests of the state. So much for traditional Christian morality.
     South of the northern city-states lay the Papal States, for the Bishop of Rome was also a secular ruler. This temporal area of the Popes could not be isolated from the North from 1305 to 1378 when the Popes resided in Avignon (sometimes called the Babylon Captivity)[27]. The Great Schism[28] followed, lasting through 1417. Two popes and then a third, the first John XXIII, were elected and consecrated as Pope while Christians in Western Europe fought to insure that one of their own would lead the “universal church.” The Papal States were attacked by neighbors and Roman nobles. Rome became a provincial city. Popes returned and the city started recovering. The Papacy weakened by schism and Conciliar Movement,[29] which asserted that the Council was final authority. Not until the mid 1400s did the Papacy recover. Strong popes used temporal methods such as war to fight their neighbors.
     Further south on the peninsula, The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had been divided in late 13th century when the island of Sicily was captured by the King of Aragón. The capture of the fa11 of the Eastern Roman Empire by Ottoman Turks in 1453, led to the decline of brilliant civilization under Roger II, Norman king[30]. With the great revival under his grandson Frederick II, the Kingdom was converted it into a modern state with centralization and a brilliant intellectual life. Trouble plagued the Kingdom as outsiders intervened, rugged mountains fostered isolation is area; peasants were landless; landowners hired pug uglies (Mafia, Black Hand) to maintain power, and factionalism was rife. Commerce failed to keep pace with northern city-states. By 1500, it became a backward area. The House of Aragón became the ruling house over Spain and Aragonese rulers were able to exert influence. The Kingdom of Two Sicilies was going to play an important part in the politics of Italy. Mercenary armies and strife kept the states apart. A disunited Italy escaped invasion because neighbors were otherwise engaged. The French fought England and Burgundy in the 100 Year's War. The Iberian Peninsula fought the Moors. Each was trying to force influence on other Christian states. The German states suffered from terrible internal strife.
In this period, the first balance of Power system developed, a group of independent states trying to keep each other from becoming too powerful in Italy, Florence and Milan alliance with Kingdom of Two Sicilies against Venice and Papal states. The alliance system weak against foreign invaders; England, Spain, France, once united, were able to look elsewhere for expansion. The Italian Peninsula offered the chance to divide and conquer; it began in 1494, Charles VIII of France led expedition into Italy as far as Naples. The invasion collapsed in 1496 as the result of disease and bad organization; foretaste of what was to come. Italy in the 16th century became a battlefield between France and Spain. The Italian states used as pawns during these wars.
     France, by 1500, had become one of the leading European powers; it was the largest territory in Western Europe under one ruler. By 1453, it had won the 100 Year's War[31]. English kings since William the Conqueror had possessed French feudal lands. The 100 Year's war began when Edward III pursued his legitimate claim to the French throne over the claims of Philip of Valois, the choice of the French nobility who would not tolerate an English ruler. It ended as a war between two nations. It created nationalism; national feeling was aided by the “moat: that was the English Channel. The French crown was aided by the rise of the middle class in towns who sided with the king because he meant security. France had geographical and climatic advantages and a rich soil. France prospered in spite of the war. Charles VII (1422-61) had a weak character but was surrounded by able people (“the Well-Served”). Joan of Arc, whose military feats insured the coronation of Charles, is also a symbol of French nationalism. During his reign, the English driven from French soil and the first permanent army was created and a military supply system was created. Militaries consume vast amounts of funds. The Estates General voted the first land tax, the taille. Once levied, it became permanent. Finances were put into order by Jacques Coeur[32]. The monarch was strengthened in the secular realm but also in Church affairs. The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges[33] (1438) granted the French or Gallican Church a large amount of autonomy. The French king exercised substantial degree of control over church in France and enjoyed a high degree of freedom from Papacy.
     Louis XI improved the things that Charles had started, pursuing broad economic policies. He was a good administrator. He extended the royal domain with his victory over Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold[34]. He took part of the Low Countries. The remainder passed to the House of Hapsburg when Duke's daughter Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian and he agreed to defend it. Maximilian was heir to the Holy Roman Empire. The Angevin Louis XI assured the direct annexation of Brittany by marrying his son to the heiress of Brittany. The grateful people of France allowed Louis to proceed without much interference. At one meeting, the members of the Estates General said that the king could rule without them, that he could levy taxes including the taille, aide (an excise tax), and the gabelle [35](salt). These taxes produced the necessary money for diplomacy and war but stepped on liberties. There was a steady encroachment upon municipal liberties, feudal rights, etc.[36] on the other hand; he sought support from the Pope by repealing the Pragmatic Sanction 1461.
     The Estates General declined under Louis XI. There were three Estates in France, the clergy, nobility, and commoners. Nobles had to attend it as service to king. There were different ways of choosing who went to the Estates General. The Estates General was an advisory (not a legislative) body which the king expected to support him. He wanted approval of his line of conduct; he wanted as many people as possible to support his policy. When Louis XI died in 1483, the royal authority was paramount and buttressed by permanent army, permanent taxes, institutional support, and encroachment of liberties. Estates General had been called only once. France was on its way to becoming a strong centralized state.
     England was a power to be reckoned with even though it had been weakened by losing to France and then the War of the Roses[37], when the House of Lancaster fought the House of York. It was an anarchic period. The English middle class welcomed the peace and security the Welshman Henry Tudor (Henry VII) brought when he defeated Richard III on Bosworth Field in 1495. His claim to the throne came via his mother of the house of Lancaster but he wisely married Elizabeth, daughter of the House of York. He created the Star Chamber[38] as the only way he could prevent certain nobles from continuing anarchy was to bring them to court. He created the foundation of powerful monarchy not based upon standing army because of English Channel. Tudor power rested on popular approval. Parliament had developed into intricate part of the Constitution and developed a life of its own. It had taken its present bicameral form and become a truly legislative body with power of taxation. The boundary of power between Parliament and the monarchy was always disputed, of course. A king who wanted to levy a tax had to go to Parliament (Commons) for approval. Popular monarchs with popular program could handle Parliament. By time of Elizabeth I's death England counted as major power, one that could and did resist Spain.
     Spain[39] was a geographical expression containing several kingdoms but which was finally virtually united by the wife and husband team of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón. The Moors were conquered and driven off the Iberian Peninsula at Granada[40] in January 1492. The Peninsula contained the kingdoms of Portugal, Castile, Aragón[41], and Navarre. It would not be until the accession of their daughter, Juana la Loca that both kingdoms had the same monarch but Juana’s parents t­ook measures to create some unity while each administering the affairs of their respective kingdom. Close relations with the Church allowed them to use the Inquisition to seek uniformity. They followed a common economic policy as much as possible. Augmentation of monarchical power was facilitated by commerce and revenues from the New World. See Donald. J. Mabry, Spain, 1492-1598.[42]
      Portugal,[43] the tiny kingdom on the western shore of the Iberian Peninsula, was established as a kingdom in 1139 by its leader Afonso Henríques; recognition came from King Alfonso VII, king of León and Castile in 1143 and Pope Alexander III in 1179. By and. By 1249, its borders were set with the Moors having been driven out of the Algarve in the south. It is the oldest nation-state[44] in Europe. It was also the first nation to make contact with the Far East, directly. Its explorers gave it claim to Ceuta, the Azores, Brazil, Macau, Goa, Ormuz, and Malacca. Portuguese independence disappeared from 1580 to 1640 because the Spanish king, Philip II, the son of a Portuguese princess, invaded and took control, and had himself crowned Philip I of Portugal.
     Three distinct religious groups—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—lived on the Iberian Peninsula in relative peace until the Crusades. Muslims invaded in 711 and conquered most of the peninsula but tolerated Jew and Christians as fellow people of the Book, the Old Testament. Learning and culture flourished. The Christian crusades against the Moors excited Spaniards against Jews and Moslems and they became intolerant. Religious conflict agitated by merchant conflict. The policy of persecuting non-Christians became popular. To be Spanish was to be Christian according to Spanish nationalists. Portugal was not so intolerant.
      Germany, a geographical expression, was a bewildering patchwork of independent states/countries varying in size, complexity, and importance. It was the center of the Holy Roman Empire which was none of these three things but a collection of duchies, counties, two kingdoms (Denmark and Hungary), many autonomous groups, a large number of bishoprics (which were secular powers as well as religious institutions), a large number of free towns (granted independence by royal charter, and knights with autonomous powers living in their Rhineland castles. The northern Italian states excluding Venice were part of it for a time. The head was traditionally a Hapsburg. The Emperor was elected, but the policy was to keep the crown in Hapsburg family who had established dominance and who were beginning to think it belonged to them.

1470.gif (46967 bytes)

     The Emperor/king had prestige but little power, which came from hereditary Austrian power and the Low Countries by marriage. Within the Empire, war was en­demic because emperor failed to raise the money necessary to keep order. Free cities formed alliances to protect their commerce. The Swabian League, established in 1488, was a confederation of bishops, principalities, knights, and cities which asserted that the Emperor had to consult them, that he could not impose his rule. Such was not the view of the Emperor Maximilian.[45]
     As a result of this weak central authority, there was more tension there than the rest of Europe. Peasants were rebellious. Some of the Germanic upper class began developing nationalist attitudes. They directed their hostility against the Roman Catholic Church, which was Italian. They expressed a willingness to follow anyone who would defend the Germanies (prostrate) against Italian harpies. They believed that the Church hierarchy was draining money from Germany through indulgences, and the temporal undertakings of the Pope and the bishops.

The Renaissance

     European culture became less collectivist as it was in the Middle Ages and more individualistic. People became more acutely aware of their own genius and faith. Benvenuto Cellini[46] showed no modesty in describing a button or morse he made for Pope Clement VII. This sense of the consciousness of the liberation of the individual doesn’t mean that everyone changed attitudes nor did those who change believe in the “people.” Instead, the humanist, artist, and man of letters believed in a privileged class of talent, of intellect. From the Renaissance, the West inherited the idea that careers should be open to talent. Humanism is a cover-all term; the beliefs of humanists were neither worldly nor religious. The humanist did not accept the rationalist view of the universe but rejected medieval cosmology. An individualist, he did know what he wanted; he was not a scientist in the modern sense but a person committed to scholarship, to Greek and Roman literature.
Interest in the classics never died but had become somewhat static as theologians dominated intellectual life before the period of the Renaissance. Medieval scholars had little access to the original classical texts but the fall of the Byzantine Empire[47] in 1453 brought many Greek scholars and texts to Italy. Pure Latin was revived by Manuel Chrysoloras[48]. Both literary and artistic activity came first in Italian city-states. Their extensive commerce begat wealth. The wealthy ­aristocracy supported culture. By end of 15th, humanism had spread to the North.
     Literary outpouring became greater than ever before. The invention of metallic, movable type using a wine press by Johannes Gutenburg eliminated the need for human copiers. Gutenburg published the Bible, a smart move because so many literate people would want to read it.

mzguten2 (540K)

      Printing quickly spread to other lands, such as Venice. Humanists were interested in publishing Greek works in Greek. Incunabula­[49] were books, pamphlets, or broadsides of a certain kind, in the infancy of printing, printed from 1450 to 1500. Literary production increased with the establishment of libraries. Florence had the Medici library. The Papal library in the Vatican used copiers to copy manuscripts he could obtain himself.
     Printing stimulated the growth of vernacular literature and the humanist revival of Greek and Latin. By the late 13th century, Italian poets were writing love lyrics in troubadour style, copying the French troubador. The most important poet was Dante Alighieri[50] (1265-1321), a transitional figure because he was medieval in his religion but his Divine Comedy shows respect and appreciation of early writers such as Virgil, Homer, and Cicero. He supported laymen and townsmen in his anti-papal, De Monarchia[51], a work wherein he refuted papal supremacy as stated in the Papal Bull, Unum Sanctum[52], and upheld monarchial supremacy. The Italian writer, Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)[53] wrote in the Italian vernacular in his Sonnets to the Life and Death of Laura. He inspired a group of admirers and students, one of whom was Giovanni Boccaccio[54] (1313-75), The Decameron[55]. National literature became popular. Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales and Edmund Spencer’s, The Fairie Queen were English writers.
     Humanist writers used the vernacular (the everyday language spoken by the people) to create a literature of the here and now, of life, instead of the religious writing Christianity used. Petrarch saw Cicero as the perfect Roman writer. Boccaccio was enthusiastic for the classics. The study of the work of the ancients had some non-literary consequences, for it encouraged the tendency to seek natural not supernatural causation of events and to base political theory on observed instances rather than theology. Italian humanists learned to discuss man, nature, and such from different points of view eschewing the official Christian ideology. Lorenzo Valla's investigation of Emperor Constantine's letter of authority to his successor proved it was written in the ninth century rather than the fourth.[56] Very few humanists' writings in Latin are important today. Plato became the philosopher for the humanist. Humanists admired the foundation of an Academy which taught the philosophy of ideal truth and beauty. Baldassari Casligtiona's Virtue sums up the talents of a gentleman whose skills embraced heroism, artistic, man1y, and intellectual.
     Renaissance architecture borrowed from classical architecture. Fillipo Brunelleschi[57] was the first great architect of Renaissance. He was daring in his design. His dome in Florence was 150 feet in diameter (the last one of that size was the Hajia Sofia in Constantinople). It was almost vertical at the top. His Pazzi Chapel used classical component parts, round arch, and the use of columns mounted one classical temple upon another. In essence, he recombined classical to found a brand-new style.
     Whereas prior images tended to be iconic (flat looking), Renaissance artists began using perspective and painted non-religious subjects as well. The work of Jan Van Eyck (c.1395-1441), the first great artist of the North from Flanders, illustrates this. Van Eyck served Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, who paid him very well, and also took private commissions. He used oil paint, canvas, sometimes wooden panel, and mineral paints. His cobalt blue was famous. He was the first great master of mode of total visual effect, using an enormous amount of intricate detail. His portraits were excellent portraits and highly valued. His Arnolfini Portrait, a depiction of the Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and spouse, is a signed masterpiece. Van Eyck signed it in the mirror behind the couple.
     The High Renaissance of the 16th focused more on Idealism.[58] Neo-Platonism started in Florence at the Academy then moved to Rome. The Academy fostered the cult of love and beauty with religious significance. The giants of the High Renaissance were Leonardo de Vinci, Raphael,[59] and Michelangelo in Italy and the Germans Albrecht Dürer and Pieter Bruegel. De Vinci created the painting and sculpture style of the High Renaissance. He collected many things within his visual spectrum. His ideas were close to people of today. He used deductive reasoning and was an acute observer. He exercised great control of his figures in his paintings. He experimented with waterproofing and oil and tempra. In his Last Supper, he painted at the point when Jesus said “One of you will betray me." He shows the astonishment and self-examina­tion of the group. In the painting, the windows and the perspective of walls focus on Jesus. Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura, a Vatican room used for signing documents, depicts both the Classical age and Christianity.[60] Michelangelo designed the Great Dome of St. Peters in the Vatican State. His Sistine Chapel frescoes deal with Creation, Wrath of God at Adam and Eve, and Noah. Dürer worked with precision engraving. Breughel depicted the brutality of the Inquisition.


     Ideas are seldom static and thinkers had been chafing at some of the ideology of Christianity in western and central Europe. The Lollard movement in England and the Hussite movement in Bohemia were foundations of the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church was subject to all the tendencies which came with the decline of medieval society. The clergy became more worldly and secular. John Wyclif in England insisted that the Bible alone was the true source of Christian knowledge in opposition to the Roman Catholic Churches view that Church tradition was also important. He promoted a movement to make the Bible accessible to everyone. The Lollard Movement[61] was an unsuccessful peasant revolt in 1381; its leaders were punished for the nobility and clergy would not tolerate any challenge to the status quo. The movement influenced John Hus (1369-1415) of Bohemia who denounced indulgences and the supremacy of the pope in spiritual power.

john-huss-1.jpg (21989 bytes)    John Hus     wyclif.jpg (9231 bytes)    John Wycliff 

     The locus of power was an argument within the Church itself. In temporal matters, it was a King versus the Pope. In spiritual matters, there was the Spiritual­ Church (all believers) versus the Pope. The Hussite wars in the 15th century were a nationalistic, religious revolt against the Roman Catholic Church. German kings. Peace was restored but Bohemia remained a heretic state. Nevertheless, Wyclif influenced Hus who influenced Martin Luther.
     Economic conditions added to the Reformation, for much learned inquiry came as a result of new capitalism. Wealth created leisure time to contemplate or to fund those who did. The acquisition of wealth by merchants and such was not a product of religious belief and, at some level, they knew it.
    Why did Protestantism succeed in some areas and not others? Not all Northerners accepted Protestantism, nor did all Southerners reject it.
     It succeeded in England but not Ireland (in part because of anti-English sentiment). It largely succeeded in the Low Countries but failed in France. Where it came to be the “in group” feeling, it succeeded. In 16th century France, it succeeded partially. The very influential theologian John Calvin (Jean Cauvin) was French but Protestantism made converts only among nobles and upper merchant class; it did not catch fire with peasants, monarchy, and intellectuals. The nobility could not get their own peasants to agree with them. The French crown and its supporters had nothing to gain from split with Rome. It enjoyed privileges from the Concordat of Bologna (1566); the French king appointed bishops and guided the money which flowed to the Papacy from France. In essence, the Church was not universal; in France it was French. Most Frenchmen did not identify being Protestant with being French. For the Dutch, Protestantism meant patriotism whereas loyalty to Catholicism meant conspiracy with the Roman Catholic enemy. The Dutch were more worldly and wealthy because they supported themselves from the sea, fishing and trade but the southern part of the Low Countries remained Roman Catholic under the domination of Spain.
calvin.jpg (13756 bytes)    John Calvin

     Who became Protestant is not easily explained. Protestants were not necessarily modern or progressive. Luther's individualism was not that of the 19th century the l9th. Calvin and Luther were not secular and rationalistic in spirit. Both believed in hierarchy, the necessity of its domination, and the irrational. Such men were the last medieval effort to justify God's way to men. Not until later did Protestantism turn modern in spite of itself and its leaders. Some people remained Roman Catholic because their rulers did just as others became their rulers became Protestant. Very, very few people were acquainted with Christian theology, much less understood its complexities. Even the clergy disagreed.
luther.jpg (24896 bytes)    Martin Luther       Source:

     Although there were rumblings long before his time, Martin Luther (1483-1546), an Augustine monk, was the immediate impetus for the Reformation. He was the son of a mine owner from Eisleben, Germany whose father sent him to school, wanting him to become a lawyer. By 1505, he had earned a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Erfurt and then began his legal studies. His fear of a thunderstorm changed all that for he was so terrified that he promised to St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, to become a monk if he survived. He kept his promise and very soon joined an Augustinian monastery although he later regretted it. Why is not clear. He could never seem to be free of a sense of guilt. Psychological doubt set in. He saw a severe Christian God–in sculpture, paintings, stories, and his father. Luther vowed to become monk in thunderstorm. This decision may have contributed to his unhappiness. He was sensitive, poetic, and impetuous. Although he followed the Order's practices, he failed to gain assurance of forgiveness. In 1511, he was appointed Professor of Bible at Wittenberg. After year of study, he experienced a conversion finding the road to salvation by faith. He believed that a Christian was not saved by good works or by anything he or she did but by a loving God who incarcerated himself in a living God, Jesus. This experience lifted Luther from a moment of black despair in winter of 1512-13. Luther was not a systematic, logical thinker. Hid thought developed from own immediate personal experience, from the existential.[62]
      His personal experience with the practice of indulgences made him oppose the Mainz Indulgence (1515) which was granted under a Papal Bull. The Mainz Indulgence prescribed the method of selling these indulgences and the rates for them. The purpose was to raise money for Basilica of St Peter’s, the Mainz Cathedral, and the money Archbishop Albert of Hohenzollern had borrowed from the Pope to buy a second bishopric. One monk, John Tetzal said the "Soul flies out of Purgatory as soon as the money rattles in the chest". In other words, indulgences meant salvation could be purchased, that salvation was simply a commercial transaction. Most never got to the Papacy, however, for monks kept it or it went into the pockets of bankers or Archbishop Albert of Hohenzollern. Luther was appalled at the number of students who were too sure of their salvation. They bought indulgences, not penances, to spare the pain and penalties of Purgatory. He also pointed out that Luther drafted his 95 Theses in Latin and nailed them to the door of the church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. He challenged the theory of salvation by good works as his salvation by faith; he challenged the power of the Pope that he can relieve man of any penalties laid on by God. Luther insisted that any Christian who is repentant in his heart is saved is important. The Theses were presented in Latin, the language of the Church, not German. Luther was not sure of all his propositions and wanted them debated, aired, and considered.
     It was at once apparent that he had touched upon a sensitive nerve, vulnerability in the Church’s theology and practices. The immediate effect was the drying up of the sale of indulgences. Pope Leo X ignored the controversy but then adopted a hard attitude. He made an appeal to the authority of general council. Dr. Johann Maier von Eck, at the Leipzig Disputation in 1519; Luther pointed out that even the Council was not infallible, only the Bible and conscience of a person were. At the Diet of Worms (1521), a general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire, he faced the Holy Roman Emperor and his minions. Luther refused to recant. Moreover, he presented his position in his "Treatise On Good Works" not in Latin but in German in an effort to reach the people. Morally and politically, he was preaching anarchy; the individual should only listen to his conscience. Luther appealed to free men because they believed, face to face with reality and the full logic of his position. The German Peasant War 1524-25), gave him pause and he recoiled and trans­formed his Lutheran Church into a hierarchy without a Pope.
     Luther parted with the Roman Catholic Church on important questions such as these:
  1. Salvation comes from faith alone not good works
  2. The seat of religious authority are scriptures and conscience versus the Pope
  3. The Church as the whole community of Christian believers vs. clergy
  4. The essence of Christian 1iving is serving God in one's calling versus being a bishop, abbot, priest, monk, or nun.
  5. All can be saved- predestination vs. softening of early Catholic position.

Luther was trying to remodel Christianity after earlier Christianity, the religion before it had been corrupted by humans, before it became selfish and egotistical and self-serving. In short, before Christianity became anti-Christian.[63]
     His ideas were spread partly by books, converts, and Wittenberg events, which remained the nerve center of Lutheranism. He had an educational institution in which to develop his ideas. Enrollment increased. His main interests were the Germans and Scandinavians, but his Latin writings went everywhere. Other places that were strongholds were Zurich (Ulrich Zwingli) and Strasbourg. Zwingli argued that the Eucharist was not the eating of human and divine flesh and drinking of human and divine blood but nothing more than a memorial of the Last Supper. Luther had argued that the Eucharist/Communion was the presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine but neither was transformed into flesh and blood, the position known as consubstantiation.[64] Martin Bucer (1538-41)[65] made Strasbourg the most tolerant city in Europe, influenced Calvin to take refuge there. He asserted that Jesus was present only to true believers in Eucharist.
      The rapid spread of Lutheranism in three decades was appalling to Catholics. First to feel the impact were the free German cities; by 1530, a number of German princes had swung to Luther as well as the kings of Denmark and Norway, and Sweden. In 1530, the Augsburg Confession (the Lutheran Creed) was adopted. Phillip Melanchthon[66], the other great founder of Lutheranism and the principal author of the Augsburg Confession, was more moderate than Luther. When Luther died, the Germanies were split religiously. There was a religious war between Charles V, the Hapsburg ruler, encouraged by the Pope, and the Lutheran Schmalkalden League.[67] Finally it ended under the Peace of Augsburg (1555) which granted toleration to those princes and subjects who had adopted the Augsburg Confession, and that the prince determined the religion of his subjects, that no other form of Protestantism would be tolerated. Protestants were allowed to retain all the church property received up until 1552. After that date, any priest or prelate who defected lost his church and land. This latter part was never fully accepted by the Protestants and it had been added by the Emperor
     Lutheranism seemed revolutionary to the Catholics but was conservative to the left wing of Christianity which believed he had gone only part of the way. Official Lutheranism seemed too close to Roman Catholicism. They wanted to restore the early church of first century. They were called Anabaptists by critics, Baptists by themselves. They argued that people should understand the faith before they could be baptized into it; thus they rejected infant in favor of adult baptism. To them, the true church was only the people who have received regeneration of faith and are baptized into the elect. The Church is not identical with the community at large as Luther believed, but the community of saints. They became martyrs, refusing to bear arms and take oath in court. Within their own organization, they practiced strict democracy. All were equal. They had a communitarian or communist belief. They fought for separation of Church and State, for religious freedom. Many of these descendents came to the U.S., people who were peasants, artisans, miners, and especially those affected by the economic change and dislocation caused by the discovery of the New World. In many of the industrial cities where Protestantism took hold, the Anabaptists flourished.[68]
     Christianity split into two wings, the Right of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, the Left of the Anabaptists/Baptists. Lutheranism kept a good deal of the medieval church because of the fear of radicals. Lutheranism fought radicals who argued for the literal meaning of the Bible which few could translate. Anabaptists held two prominent theories:

1. Second Coming of Christ—immediately
2. Inner voice said that person was saved.

They proceeded to do anything they wanted because it was ordained by God. They were called antinomians (against the law). The Anabaptist movement climaxed with the uprising at Münster, 1531-35. Peasants were fighting social conditions. There is a parallel between the outbreak of the peasant rebellion and the rise of Anabaptist influence. Some Anabaptists indicted for their part. The suppression was violent. Luther condemned the Anabaptist movement and the Peasant War whose manifesto was the Twelve Articles.[69] In the Peasants' War, the upper classes were thrown into panic, and the peasants were hunted down and killed by Lutherans and Catholics. The Ana­baptists turned to quietism and pacifism under the Dutch reformer Menno Simons[70] and became known as Mennonites. Some went to Moravia, others moved around. Christian left wing was composed of many different kinds of people and groups, all rejecting the authoritarian structures of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. Unitarianism appeared.
v The Reformation in England began as an act of state by decision of the monarch, Henry VIII, to break with the Papacy. This institutional break occurred before rather than after the doctrinal beliefs. John Wyclif’[71] movement had been stamped out so it was not a cause. The immediate cause was the desire of Henry to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragón annulled because he and others believed that she could not give him a male heir.[72] Although he had condemned Luther, he could not persuade the Pope Clement VII to grant his divorce. When the Pope wouldn't agree, Henry stripped the Papal Legate, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, from power and replaced him with Thomas Crammer who helped organize and mobilize public opinion. In 1529, Parliament backed Henry; Thomas Crammer[73] was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and he granted Henry his divorce so that he could marry the pregnant Anne Boleyn[74]. Unless he had a male heir, the Tudor line would die out. Furious, the Pope excommunicated Henry.

399px-Henry8England.jpg (83490 bytes)    Henry VIII     409px-Elizabeth_I_Darnley_Portrait.jpg (104006 bytes)     Elizabeth I

     In 1534, England made a complete break with the Church of Rome through the Act of Supremacy passed by Parliament. It established the King as the head of the Church of England and that children of his marriage to Boleyn would be the heirs to the throne. In 1535-36, lesser monasteries were confiscated through the Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries. Some of the faithful rose in protest, notably in the Pilgrimage of Grace in northern England but were suppressed. Henry distributed some of this property to supporters. Henry was a strong and smart enough ruler to have his way but he was also aided by the insular and anti-continental attitudes so prevalent.
     That the State could force the Protestant movement on the people for the first time was important for the course of the English Reformation. It was the first time that such a large unit had broken from Rome; without England, it is doubtful that the Protestant movement could have lasted. The English state absorbed the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church has seemed Erastian, for followers of Thomas Erastus believed the church should be subservient to the State. Change occurred with relatively little bloodshed. Thomas More and others were killed for heresy. What were the reasons for the non-violent acceptance of this change?

l. Recent memory of the violence of the War of the Roses.
2. Henry's caution and ostentatious respects for the forms of legality
3. Skill with which he appealed to nationalism, and to anti-clerics, for backing of the divorce question.
4. Henry retained the Catholic liturgy and sacraments
5. Confusion over actual issues; few knew what was happening and most would not want a complete break.

     Regardless, Henry had released powerful new forces by substituting himself, a secular person, as head of the Church. The Church of England tried to stay close to Catholicism but with important difference. It used an English liturgy. Priests, who married before the 12th century, could once again marry. The Six Articles (l539) placed Anglicanism on record as true to Catholic dogma and required everyone to subscribe to them. All was not well, however. Archbishop Crammer founded a Protestant faction. When Henry died, his heir, Edward VI ruled, but he was only 10 years old. Crammer, in the name of the king, drafted the 42 Articles, a more Protestant doctrine, and had them enacted. Thus, the Book of Common Prayer was created and it was much more Protestant. Edward died. Mary I succeeded. The daughter of Catherine, she was Catholic. She married Philip II of Spain, her cousin. She reintroduced Catholicism with a vengeance earning the sobriquet Blood Mary by her detractors. Cranmer, after public humiliation in ecclesiastical and secular courts was burned at the stake in 1536. Hundreds of other Protestants died. She died after five years on the throne in 1558 and was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I, a Protestant. The faithful suffered a heavy burden from these shifts. Somehow, the mass of Englishmen were able to accommodate themselves to the shifting theological lines. Many were fearful of transgressing against the king but many simply did what their neighbors did.

calvin.jpg (13756 bytes)    John Calvin    

      John Calvin (1509-1564) shaped Protestantism more than any single person. Whereas Luther was the ground breaker, Calvin was the systematizer and organizer of the movement. He thought logically, rationally. Calvin built upon Luther's work. They shared five basic Protestant beliefs:

1. salvation by faith alone
2. salvation only by grace of God
3. the priesthood of all believers
4. the Bible as the sole authority concerning faith and order
5. Glory to God alone.[75]

     Calvin borrowed and leaned heavily upon the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who had developed the doctrine of original sin, the concept that humans are naturally selfish.[76] Calvinism became a distinct form of Protestantism, the militant form of European Protestantism. As Puritanism it left an indelible imprint on English in America. Calvin, a humanist scholar and lawyer, wed his fine Latin and French style to his legal turn of mind. He converted to Protestantism about 1533. On a chance visit in 1536 to Geneva, he met William Farel[77] who induced him to stay and help spread the gospel in that city. Talented in organization and administr­ation, he inspired great loyalty but also hatred. His system and organization were different from Luther because he built out of experience in commercialized town. Calvin didn't sit down to write a blueprint for middle class in his Institutes of Christian Living (1536). He created a highly organized church when he returned home in 1541. The combination of scholarly and practical ability is rare.
     The Institutes were translated into every European tongue. Calvin's church in Geneva was model for reform churches in France, Netherlands, parts of Germany, and elsewhere. His theology spread across Europe but did not succeed everywhere. From the middle of the 16th century onwards, Geneva was the fountainhead of Protestant training, the Protestant Rome, supplanting Wittenberg.
    Calvin excluded free will entirely in his theology for he believed in the absolute sovereignty of God, the Almighty God, the omniscient God, the timeless, limitless God who determined that all men would inherit the original sin of Adam and set Jesus upon Earth to redeem Man. He has already determined who will be saved. Time is a human construct and constraint and therefore ungodly. Calvin argued the concept of predestination[78]. The Bible, the authority and the beliefs of the elders of the church became the authority of Christian living for Calvin. (The Latin word for elder is Presbyter, hence Presbyterian). Asceticism in selection of worldly goods and desires was valued. Calvinism chose those which would further salvation as being good such as marriage and the market. One should serve by doing well in one's calling. Calvin stressed ethical improvement; he believed in a high moral code for everyone; this led to the desire to suppress bad conduct in others. He did believe in the method of per­suasion as method of salvation. He was not anti-intellectual. First Calvinists could not be called rational.
     Calvinism raised, to a high pitch, the tension which exists between individual and higher authority. It had to stress some individualism, arguing that people had to give up obedience to the Roman Catholic Church. He encouraged the competition of businessmen. Calvinists had to defy civil authority in England, France, Scotland, Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia. The individualism of Calvin could be overemphasized. In 16th century Geneva and 17th century Boston, a minority of officeholders—clergy, teachers, elders, and deacons—ruled. The economy as well as the social contact was regulated. These were societies of status and oligarchies; ministers and magistrates (Boston) and ministers and elders (Geneva) had high status. Its form of church government was the election of minister and elders by the majority. Calvinism emphasized the separation of Church from State, an educated clergy, and the militant people of God, very much like the medieval church of the Crusaders. It preserved some Catholic traditions akin to the Middle Ages. In 1559, he published the definitive edition of The Institutes and founded the University of Geneva. The first national synod met in France and the religion became rooted in the Netherlands and Central Europe. There seemed to be no stop to Calvinism.
     The Pope and fellow believers launched a counter reformation to bring people back into the fold of the Church of Rome. About half of the Europeans had defected to Protestantism, a severe blow to Catholicism. The northern third of Europe became Protestant but the subversion of the Church’s teachings and defections occurred in such areas as France, Poland, and the British Isles, even in parts of Ireland. So the Church went on the offensive. The clergy became more pious and encouraged the people to do so as well. The Papacy made a number of institutional reforms and changes in administration and dogma. There were a remarkable number of Catholic saints created in this period—Pius V, Thomas More, Francis DiSalle, Theresa. Some of the saints founded new orders. Phillip Neri[79] founded the Oratory of Divine Love[80] in Rome which gathered together for prayer and singing music (sacred). “Reformation of Church and Society begins in one's soul” was the mantra. It contributed leaders to the Council of Trent. Charles Barromeo[81] founded the Order of Oblates who placed themselves under the Pope directly. The faith of Spanish Catholics kept vivid by attacks on Moors and Jews.
     The most influential figure of the Catholic Reformation was Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He was a soldier for Charles V in Spain who suffered an leg injury and was hospitalized at Manresa. In 1522, he underwent a conversion and vowed to become a knight of Christ. Whereas Luther believed that sin was inherent in man and only God could save man, Loyola believed that Satan (sin) was apart; that man had the ability to choose between God and sin; and by his imagination, man can reinforce his will and make a decision for Christ and resist Satan. He wrote a volume called Spiritual Exercises (1548). The Society of Jesus (1540), endorsed by Pope, revealed the military sympathies of its founder; its members take special vows to the Pope in addition to the vows of poverty, charity, and celibacy. Jesuits did not make strenuous ethical demands upon their converts; the goal was numbers. They saw education as the way to influence minds so they became educators. In that era, it meant educating the elite, the only ones who went to school. They were able to influence key people by becoming confessors to the monarchs and nobility of Europe. In central Europe, they were the commandos of the counter­reformation bringing Poland, southern Germany, and Bohemia back into the Catholic fold.
      Beginning with Paul III[82] (1534-49), men of responsibility became Popes and appointed Cardinals of like quality. Popes and the Council of Trent reformed the Roman Catholic Church. Council of Trent met in three separate sessions from 1545-1563. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, strongly advocated the Council. The Popes feared that the Council would shear them of their powers, so they managed to control the vote, using the Jesuits to guide discussions. The Council concerned itself with dogmatic definition and articles of reform. The articles of faith were sharply defined and made dogma, to wit, salvation by faith and good works but with a little more emphasis on good works, penances, and sacrifices. The Council asserted that authority was not in Bible alone but also in the Latin Vulgate Bible as interpreted and understood by the Church and according to the traditions of the Church. Seven sacraments, including transubstantiation, were confirmed. Saints were to be venerated; a practice which most Protestants believed was treating humans as lesser deities. The practice of granting indulgences was upheld but no longer on a monetary basis. Other moral prohibitions adopted—the sale of Church offices, ordering prelates and bishops to live in their dioceses, more training of priests in seminaries. It was an ecumenical reform, that is, all of the Catholic churches. The net result was that the Church closed ranks, reformulated essential dogma, instituted some of moral and institutional reforms demanded, thereby saving half of Europe from becoming Protestant Christian. The medieval Inquisition was revived in Spain and Italy. Index of Books began in 1559 by body called the Body of the Index of the Cardinals. The Roman Catholic Church reasserted its independence from lay rulers and regained much of the prestige lost in the high middle ages.
      The Catholic and Protestant Reformations tended to hurt secular progress. Some assert that Martin Luther revived the Christian consciousness of Europe; people were willing to die for their faith. Life was becoming permeated with secular ideas when this happened. At this very point there was the great religious revival. By 1550, Calvinist Church and Jesuits led the way in a supranational and supernatural drive demanding allegiance to Christianity transcending secular bodies and nationalism. The clashing of these influences with secular force gave the latter 16th century its significance, characterized as a struggle between deep-seated dynastic national power, on the one hand, and religious armies, on the other.
      Western Christianity, i.e. the version based in Rome had been tied to secular rulers since it became the state religion of the Roman Empire. After the Empire had split into different parts, some small, some large, the secular rulers still tried to control the religion in their realms even though they claimed to be members to believe in a single, universal church, the Church of Rome. The Pope and kings made deals as to who controlled the appointment of church officers and which church doctrine would be spread in a kingdom. A king might be Roman Catholic and resist the Pope. He acted in what he thought his self interest was. When it was to his advantage he would become Protestant or ally with a Protestant ruler or become an ally of a Muslim ruler. The Protestant Reformation revealed these issues.
      The first half of the 16th century was a period of dynamic, dynastic personalities: Henry VIII (1509-47) of England, Francis I (1517-1547) of France, Suleiman (1520-1566) of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and Charles V (1519 -56) of the Hapsburg Empire. Charles V is the central figure because of the location of his dominion in Central Europe.

francis1.jpg (93043 bytes)     Francis I     charles (70K)      Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire

      Charles V (Charles I of Spain)[83] headed a large unwieldy empire, controlling much of central and Western Europe as well as Latin America. His dominions came to him through marriage, inheritance, and the Hapsburg luck in acquisition. He was heir to Hapsburg dominions and Low Countries. He had possession of Italy and Spain and the New World. He came into his inheritance in two ways. Spain, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, and later Milan came when grandfather, Ferdinand, died. When his other grandfather, Maxmilian, died, he got Hapsburg lands in the Germanies. He got himself elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. This was a formidable empire on paper. Charles had wealth of Flanders and gold and silver from Peru and Mexico. His soldiers were the best fighting force in Europe. The very size of his army was a threat to the balance of power in Europe.
      The Hapsburg-Valois War (1522-59) demonstrated some of Charles’ problems. The French Valois monarchy, the only other monarchy as strong as the Hapsburgs, began to attack Charles V to prevent Hapsburg hegemony while, at the same time, Lutherans were fighting him for religious reasons. Charles and Francis, the French king, were long-term bitter rivals. Francis had been beaten out for Holy Roman Emperor by Charles. Their armies clashed in the Paria Valley of Italy in February, 1525; Francis I was captured. He was released in 1526 when he signed the Treaty of Madrid which required him to give his two sons as hostage. Once freed, however, he repudiated the treaty and launched the War of the League of Cognac (France, Pope Clement VII, the Republic of Venice, England, the Duchy of Milan and Republic of Florence). That league failed so he allied with the Muslim Ottoman Empire to fight another Italian war (1536-38 with Charles. Francis lost again and lost still again in another war. The rapid revival of the French, however, showed the weakness of Charles' empire. He had to expend time, money, and energy holding on to what he had and could not go in for the kill. He never went to conquer the world but followed a conservative policy.
      Ruling was not easy. The Spanish did not want Charles because he was not Spanish but Flemish. He fought numerous religious wars against Protestants. Most threatening of all were the Ottoman Turks who were marching westward and defeated the Christians at Mohács in Hungary in 1526. By 1529, they were at the gates of Vienna, which alarmed Christendom. The fortifications of Vienna held and the Turkish invasion receded. For 30 years, until his abdication in 1556, he was fighting somewhere in his domain. Charles couldn't solve his domestic political problems, his Turkish and French problems, and the religious problem.
      By the 16th century, Europe was a network of political relationships that a war or heresy or economic change or other factors in one part could cause repercussions everywhere. Europe was never unified in terms of religion; after all, some of its people were Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Wiccan, and any number of religions, but the vast majority asserted that they were Christian and it was Christianity the defined European civilization. Europe lost its spiritual unity. There were struggles for power and clashes of religious ideologies in the years 1501-1600. The European economy was subjected to strain by the inflationary effect of gold and silver pouring into Spain from New World. Prices tripled. Inflation spread into the “four corners of Europe” and was followed by social distress. Those on fixed incomes (such as the older nobility and urban workers suffered. It adversely affected persons who had no way of increasing their income such as peasants. Such people attempted to hold down the prices of necessities. A new nobility appeared in France and England as some of the bourgeoisie was knighted or titled for service to the kings. They climbed on each other’s backs to achieve a title. Inflation favored the capitalist class whose income was dynamic. They acquired Church lands.
Religious animosities—religious refugees, Jews, Anabaptists, Calvinists out of several areas; Lutherans in Catholic areas; Catholics in Lutheran areas—and dynastic rivalries were political reflections of all the tensions. Both civil and international wars occurred as many urged princes to make war. Bitter religious exiles hoped war would make things better for them. In short, there were economic, political, and ideological differences.
Strong national monarchies emerged which sought to dominate not only their subjects but also other monarchies in a shifting milieu where the concept of a balance of power was emerging.
Financing the expansion of royal power were the discoveries and conquests made by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and French. Spices from the East Indies were extremely valuable. Silver and gold from the New World funded Spanish bureaucrats and warriors and created an inflationary spiral that hurt royal rivals.[84]


Spain dominated Europe.[85] When Charles V abdicated and entered a monastery in 1556, he divided his empire between his brother Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, who received Hungary, Bohemia, and the eastern empire and his son, Phillip II (1556-1598), who received Spain, Milan, the overseas empire, Low Countries, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and Franche-Comté.
In the second half of the 16th century, Spain exercised preponderant power over Europe, both materially and spiritually. Spain had the best military organization, resources, trade with Italy and the Low Countries, and the industry of the Low Countries. However, its military expenditures cost it dearly. It paid soldiers instead of investing capital. It cut forests for naval Armadas. The costs of war caused a serious damaging effect on the whole economy.
Philip II and the ruling class had a sense of destiny, believing their mission was to realize the Christian Empire that had been envisioned in the Middle Ages. Philip II was bitterly disappointed when Holy Roman Empire crown went to his uncle Ferdinand for the decision made it moiré difficult to achieve his messianic mission of Spain saving Catholic Christendom from the Moslem Turks and Protestant heretics and carrying the Gospel throughout Europe. The glory of this Crusade went to Phillip of Spain, not the Pope.
In the first half of his reign, he pressed against the Moslem Turks and supplied troops to the Danube Valley to drive Turks out. In 1571, a Christian naval defeated theW Turkish fleet in the Battle of Lepanto[86] (now Corinth) in Greece, ending Moslem naval dominance in the Mediterranean. He opposed Protestantism’s spread by sending the Duke of Alba in 1567 to crush a revolt in the Netherlands. In 1588, he sent an Armada to invade England from the Netherlands. Neither succeeded. When Phillip died in 1598, Spain and her economy were exhausted. He lost one-half of the Netherlands. France was regaining power.

16th Century France

Under Francis I (1507-47) and Henry II (1547-1559), the French monarchy grew stronger. In 1559, however, Henry II died in a tournament (France was still participating in forms of chivalry), leaving three weak sons and his despised wife Catherine of Medici. His death seemed to be signal for political, religious, and social battles to break loose. The kingdom was kept in civil war for forty years. It became an arena for the contending forces of manorialism/feudalism versus centralism with Spanish intervention and English intervention. France fell to being a second-rate power, ineffective as a European power.
      Frenchmen battled over which version of Christianity would prevail—French Catholicism or French Calvinism (Huguenots[87]) in eight civil wars between 1562 and 1598. Huguenots or Reformed Christians had made many converts among the merchant classes of France. In addition, many of the lesser nobility and few of the higher nobility such as Henry of Navarre of the House of Bourbon, one of the claimants to the throne, and Gaspard II de Coligny, seigneur de Châtillon and head of the French fleet. Their members were in the influential positions in the legal profession, the monarchy, and parlements[88]. The 2,000,000 Huguenots (out of 16 million persons) were militant and confident that they were doing God’s will. They received tangible aid from Geneva in their wars against Catholics. Nevertheless, Catholics still occupied the main parts of French life. The Calvinists failed to capture the French monarchy and that doomed them. The leader of the extreme Catholic party was the House of Guise which, along with the House of Bourbon, wanted the French throne. The issue of the monarchy was complicated by claims to the throne because of intermarriages.
      In between the extremes were the politiques who were to win in the end when France tired of bloodshed and placed peace and security before religion. They decided that nothing was worth civil war. The Catholic–Huguenot conflict between see-sawed with each side committing atrocities. In 1572, the Catholic party of Guise perpetrated the St. Bartholomew Massacre in which organized hoodlums killed thousands of Huguenots. This was the most spectacular of the atrocities committed. In the 1580s, the politiques began to gain adherents. Suddenly, the religious wars ended. Henry, Duke of Guise, was murdered by order of the king; Henry III[89] who was then was assassinated in 1589 by Jacques Clément, a fanatical Dominican friar. Henry IV of Bourbon, a Huguenot, became king. He consolidated his throne five years later when he became Catholic in 1593. His conversion opened the way for French peace and conciliation. His Edict of Nantes[90] in 1598 settled the religious wars, granted freedom of conscience, and freedom of worship for Huguenots in designated areas but not Paris and archiepiscopal cities. They also received political rights. Mixed courts of Catholics and Protestants were created. Two hundred fortified towns were left in the hands of Huguenots, later to be source of trouble because future monarchs would view them as a State within a State. Peaceful co-existence of two ideologies was now possible. This modus vivendi was revoked in 1685 by Louis XIV. Although, by 1610, Henry IV was assassinated, the French kingdom was gaining political power.
      Christians battled each other in the Low Countries as well, aided by dynastic rivalries and co-religionists. This Hapsburg dominion consisted of seventeen provinces, the southern third of which were French speaking. Under Hapsburg administration, the central­ized Estates General had representatives of all provinces thus giving the higher nobility and the upper middle class a sense of Netherland patriotism. There was no native dynastic king on which to focus. They came to resent the levy of heavy taxes on their trade; the constant demand to supply men for Hapsburg wars; and the Spanish drive to force all to be Catholics. Phillip II brought these resentments to a head with his Reformation of the Church in the Netherlands which touched off a riot led by Calvinists. The uprising was brutally repressed by the Duke of Alba who had been sent by Phillip II. By 1507-73, the country was in a shambles. This led to organized repression (depicted by Pieter Breughel) especially in the North.
      William of Nassau and Orange emerged as the leader of the anti-Hapsburg dissidents. He was gifted with patience, tolerance, and altruism. Phillip put a price on his head. Spanish Hapsburg and Dutch armies fought numerous battles. The Netherlanders flooded dikes as a tactic to ward off the Spanish. In 1584 William was assassinated in Delft by a cabinet maker's apprentice.
      The Dutch, aided by isolation, fought on. In 1581, the United Provinces of the Netherlands[91] was proclaimed but independence required nearly a generation of bloodshed because it became a three-cornered prize contest among France, France, and England. The Dutch were greatly he1ped by international events including the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the accession to the throne of France by the Huguenot Henry IV. In 1609, peace was concluded, establishing the present border between Belgium and Holland, followed by forty years of strife. The Netherlands prospered based on herring fishing, preying upon the Spanish gold fleet, being preeminent in the spice trade, the carrying trade, the woven cloth (linen and wool) industry, distilling, and pottery making. They became the most prosperous people in Europe. Dutch merchants spent some of their excess capital in the patronage of the arts.
      Across the English Channel, Elizabeth I (1533-1603), the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII, was husbanding people and wealth. She declared that she didn't intend to open windows into men's minds; she was only concerned with actions. Overt acts were severely punished; there was to be no freedom of worship for dissenters. She thought of England first in international terms and encouraged trade and industry. She promoted mercantilism. She looked after her subjects. England prospered.
      She took her kingdom through a diplomatic revolution. Spain became her chief rival and enemy instead of her ally. Both kingdoms were Atlantic shippers. In the 1560s and 1570s, Englishmen began to free boot against Spanish ships. In 1567, the Spanish attacked Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins which had managed to land in Vera Cruz, the chief port of New Spain (Mexico today).[92] The Spanish Crown intervened in English internal affairs, promoting dissension in northern England. Elizabeth feared a Catholic conspiracy to dethrone her. She arrested Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic and one of focal figures in this clash. Mary was an heiress to the English throne as a granddaughter of Margaret Tudor. After she became too involved in one of the Spanish plots, she beheaded in 1587. She was a figure around which Catholics could focus. From 1585 to 1604, the English and Spanish fought each other in intermittent warfare, aiding each other’s enemies. James I, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, ascended the throne in 1603 and signed a peace treaty with Spain in 1604.
In the Elizabethan Age, England developed its own sense of destiny as expressed by Richard Hakluyt.[93] The English mission was to spread Protestant Christianity and English freedom, like Spanish mission of Catholicism. Both missions composed of religion and politics, idealism and realism.

Baltic Powers of Sweden Denmark, Norway

The same forces contributed to the rise of national monarchies in Scandinavia. In 1523, Gustav Vasa (1496-1560), defeated Christian II of Denmark which controlled most of Sweden. He became regent in 1521 and elected king in 1523. Gustav I made Lutheranism as the state religion, centralized government, and expanded trade. Half a century passed before the outstanding monarch of this house, Gustavus Adolphus [Gustav II Adolph](1611-32), a scholar and warrior, ascended the throne. He conquered Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, and cut Russia from the Baltic. The Swedish desire for Baltic coast lands aroused the Danes.
      The Danish king, Christian III, strengthened his power over Norway, Lutheranized the State, began intervening in German affairs. As Duke of Holstag, he influenced power over part of the Holy Roman Empire. Such men desired to check the power of the Emperor but also there was a Lutheran desire to help other Protestants against encroachments of the Catholic Hapsburgs. He wanted extension of Danish influence over the North coast. Denmark occupied a strategic position over the straits into the North Atlantic. He levied tolls on passing ships. The products of the Baltic region—naval stores, pitch, and timber—were in great demand as navies and merchant ships expanded their fleets. Danish policy clashed with Swedish ambitions, the goals of the old Hanseatic League cities, and the Atlantic powers wanting to extend their influences into the Baltic Sea.
      The Hapsburg imperial family was not a national monarchy as the Scandinavian, English, and French were but its problems helped determine much of European history. Charles V’s problems in Central Europe plagued his heirs in the second half of the 16th century. They enjoyed centralized authority in the Austrian duchies, but were elsewhere stymied because they were elected monarchs. The Holy Roman Empire consisted of separate units—-Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, the independent German princes, and some Archbishoprics, among others. Many independent German princes flaunted the Roman Catholic Emperor by becoming Protestant. There was nationalism in Bohemia, the Moslem Ottoman Turks in Hungary, and Protestants throughout the Empire. The Peace of Augsburg (1555) created a division which hindered the Hapsburg goal of power, for it made a permanent cleavage of power in Holy Roman Empire and left two issues unsettled, (1) recognition of Calvinists who grew in strength and (2) ecclesiastical reservation (Catholic clergy who turned Protestant should not turn lands into secular ownership or take them with their new religion. The Bourbons in France, now with the ascension of Henry IV, meant a revival of clashes with the Hapsburgs. Even though the House of Hapsburg was divided, the two branches continued to cooperate for 150 years. When Hapsburg arms threatened France with encirclement, France fought back. It seemed that only defeating the Hapsburgs could they gain power and prestige.

Thirty Year's War (1618-1648)

The issue of who would rule, politically or religiously or both, in much of Europe was decided by war, the method that humans so love. It took them thirty years (1618-1648) to do it as Christian battled Christian to save Christianity by imposing their own very human views and as rulers sought to destroy the Holy Roman Empire, that fantasy founded in the 10th century. The 30 Years War can be divided into four periods with four wars. The first two wars, the Bohemian and Danish, were predominantly religious starting as a Bohemian revolt and becoming a Roman Catholic versus Protestant Europe. The last two were the Swedish and the Swedish-French, political wars of conquest against the Hapsburg dynasty fought mostly on German soil.
      The Bohemian War was touched off by the 1618 decision of Hapsburg Emperor Mathias to make Ferdinand the King of Bohemia. Ferdinand II was a devout Catholic trained by the Jesuits and very hostile to Protestantism. The Catholic Church had ordered the end to the building of some Protestant chapels in 1617, claiming that the land belonged to it but the Protestant Bohemians counterclaimed that it was royal land and they had to right to use it. One of the last things the Protestants wanted was for an arch-Catholic to become king of Bohemia. They feared that their liberties would be stolen by the Catholics. One group of Hussites, the Utraquists[94], pushed for resistance. In May, 1618, Protestant leaders in Prague seized two governors and threw them out a third story window of the Prague Castle in the Hradc(any District, the Second Defenestration of Prague. [95] All three men survived; Roman Catholic officials immediately claimed they were saved by angels; Protestant leaders pointed out that they had landed in horse manure. The line had been drawn in something other than sand.
      When Emperor Matthias died the next spring, Ferdinand was elected but the Bohemian Estates formally opposed him and elected Frederick V of the Palatine of the Rhine, leader of the Protestants and a well connected son-in-law of James I of England. Frederick accepted the offer and was crowned in Prague in 1619. Emperor Ferdinand II decided the repress these leftists to make good his right to the possessions. His relatives, Maxmilian of Bavaria and Phillip II of Spain, joined the fight both to defend Catholicism and acquire territory from those who supported the Czechs. With all this help, Ferdinand II crushed the revolt in a year. In November, 1620, Baron Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, defeated the troops of Frederick and Bohemia at White Mountain. Estates were confiscated; Protestants were forbidden, Maximilian was recognized as the elector of the Holy Roman Empire, and he got Bohemia.

Danish Period (1625-1629)

Lutheran princes began to take notice of Hapsburg successes in the Netherlands and Bohemia which they saw as disturbing the balance of power. They were further alarmed at the expansion of Catholic Belgium and Bavaria. They wanted to right this balance, according to their lights, as well as increase their trade. So, in alliance with the Dutch, the English, and some German Protestant princes, the Dane intervened. Christian IV and other troops (League of The Hague) invaded Germany aided by money from James I. They were routed by the Duke of Tilly and Albert of Wallenstein. Wallenstein's private army, paid by the Emperor, ravaged the 1and. After the defeat of the Danish forces, Brandenburg and other cities switched to the Hapsburg side. Christian IV promised no interference in German lands and to return some bishoprics. Ferdinand II thought that was not enough. He issued an edict of restoration, ordering the return all lands taken. He was reneging on the rules. He tried to disrupt the Protestant religion in violation of treaties. Wallenstein's army carried out the orders in a ravaging way, so terrible that even the Catholic League persuaded Ferdinand to discharge him.
      Gustavus Adolphus (1630-35), the Swedish king, wanted the whole south coast of the Baltic so he invaded the Holy Roman Empire through Pomerania. He feared that Frederick’s control of the cities on that coast might hurt him. Roman Catholic Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to Louis XIII, was ready to help the Protestants weaken the Hapsburgs. Richelieu valued worldly considerations more than religious ones. He succeeded in making an alliance with reluctant Brandenburg and Sweden. Gustavus Adolphus attacked, defeating Tally’s army at Breitenfeld[96] in September, 1631; Tilly would die in 1632 by Swedish forces. Then the Swedish king moved victoriously south. The desperate Emperor Ferdinand recalled Wallenstein in 1631. The two great generals led forces into battle against each other at Lutzen in 1632. Wallenstein was defeated. Gustavus died in battle. The Imperial side was hindered when Wallenstein was assassinated in 1634 because his loyalty was in doubt. He had been seeking personal aggrandizement. The death of these Gustavus Adolphus and Wallenstein, economic exhaustion, and the desire to free Germany of foreign troops led to the Peace of Prague in 1635. The German Protestant princes agreed to support Emperor Ferdinand II. Captured lands were returned but Church lands held as of 1627 remained in the hands of those who held them. Strife ended. Calvinists won equality. The Church land problem solved. The Catholic Church crushed Protestants in the Hapsburg dominion. However, war gave the decisive negative answer as to whether Germany would become united under Hapsburg rule. The German parts of the Holy Roman Empire became more separated than before.
      The War was not just in the Germanies. The Dutch beat the Spanish in the Low Countries and at sea, achieving independence. As Spain weakened, the Portuguese regained their independence for Spain in 1640. The French, who had been subsidizing the anti-Hapsburg wars, defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Rocroi in 1643. It was time to stop but it would take about five more years of fighting and disputing before the Peace of Westphalia occurred, facilitated by ending of the 80 Years war between the Dutch and the Spanish in 1648.
      Europe would never be the same. France no longer had to worry about the Hapsburgs—Austrian or Spanish—encroaching on its borders. Sweden acquired territory on the southern Baltic shores. The Dutch and the Portuguese were free. Christianity in the Empire was permanently split. Each ruler decided what the religion of his subjects would be. Catholic Bavaria and Lutheran Brandenburg would begin their climb to influence and power in Germany. With the Peace of Westphalia (1648), each state was given the power to make its own laws instead of obeying the Emperor. There was widespread loss of wealth and population in the German states was reduced by a third. Education declined and trade fell. The Holy Roman Empire became more a paper empire than a solid unified organization (it was finally dissolved in 1806. The War (actually numerous wars) demonstrated that Christians would kill each other with great abandon because of doctrinal disputes but also for material gain.
      The Treaty of Westphalia marked the emergence of the modern state system. All independent sovereign states are legally equal and the public law of Europe was to be made by representatives of all nations according to Hugo Grotius in his Concerning the Laws of Peace and War. Hegemony in Europe shifted from the German Hapsburgs to the French Bourbons. Richelieu made the King supreme in France and France the leader of Europe. Poland, which survived the Swedish invasion because France mediated, remained a defective monarchy, an antiquated state, because its system of legislation required unanimity. Russia, also an Asian power, began to expand eastward and, by 1637, had reached the Sea of Ocate on the Pacific Ocean. Italy remained outside this conflict. The Turks still held vast territories in Europe in the Balkans and Hungary.


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The Holy Roman Empire


[1] “Roman Religion,”


[3] Arthur Ferrill, “Attila the Hun and the Battle of Chalons, “





[9] “Medieval Sourcebook: Gregory VII: Simony and Celibacy 1074,”

[10] Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, essentially covering central Europe, asserted they inherited the Roman Empire. This was not true. The Roman Empire survived I the east and was generally called the Byzantine Empire. Even in the West the HRE did not encompass as many people or as much territory.

[11] “The Investiture Controversy ,”;




[15] Lynn Harry Nelson, “The Rise of Commerce and Towns,”

[16] E. L. Skip Knox, “The Crusades,” The First Crusade was in 1095 as Christians invaded the Holy Lands to wrest control of Jerusalem from Turks.











[27] “Avignon Papacy,”


[31] Lynn H. Nelson, “The Hundred Years’ War, 1336-1453,”







[43] Donald J. Mabry, “Portugal, Colonizer of Brazil,”















[58] a theory that ultimate reality lies in a realm transcending phenomena (2) : a theory that the essential nature of reality lies in consciousness or reason .”

[60] For images, see


[62] Michael A. Mullett, Martin Luther. Psychology Press, 2004, p. 38.






[68] “Anabaptist,”

[69] ‘The twelve Articles drafted by the Swabian peasants, March 1525, is the best known manifesto of the Peasants' War of 1524-1526. Relying on the Gospel, the peasants demanded free election of the clergy, abolition of serfdom, permission to hunt and fish, free use of the forests, and reduction of their burdens. The document went through twenty-five printings within a few weeks.”



[72] Biological science shows that it is the male who determines the sex/gender of the child. The dissolution of his marriage had to be on the grounds that it was invalid in the first place and, thus, didn’t exist. In this case Henry had been given special dispensation by the Pope to marry his brother’s widow, something Christianity believed was wrong. His father wanted the marriage; the Pope wanted Henry VII’s support. The word divorce is used to mean dissolution.


[74] Anne Boleyn lost her head in 1536 because of adultery but she had given birth to Elizabeth I. She was a good mistress and lover but too feisty to be a submissive wife. Henry considered going back to Catherine.



[78] The belief that since an almighty God, by definition, can have no limits and is, therefore, timeless, everything which humans see as past, present, and future are simultaneous to God.




[84] John Munro, “American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, 1501-1650,

[85] “Spain, 1492-1598,”


[87] “Huguenots,”





[92] Jeff Howell, “Sir Francis s Drake:"El Draque" The Dragon,” Historical Text Archive, October, 2002.; “


[95] Chris Atkinson, “The Thirty Years War,” See the map at


By Kenyon Gambier