Protestant Reformation

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The Protestant Reformation was a movement in Europe that began with Martin Luther's activities in 1517 and ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The Protestant Reformation is also referred to as the Protestant Revolution, Protestant Revolt, and, in Germany, the Lutheran Reformation.

The movement began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church as many western Christians were troubled by false doctrines and malpractices within the Church, particularly involving the teaching and sales of indulgences. Another major contention was the practice of buying and selling church positions (simony) and the tremendous corruption found at the time within the Church's hierarchy. This corruption was systemic at the time, even reaching the position of the Pope.

On 31 October 1517, in Saxony (in what is now Germany), Martin Luther a Roman Catholic monk, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses On the Power of Indulgences to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, which served as a pin board for university-related announcements. These were points for debate that criticized the Church and the Pope.

The most controversial points centered on the practice of selling indulgences and the Church's policy on purgatory. Luther's spiritual predecessors were men such as the Englishman John Wycliffe, and John Hus. Other reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, soon followed Luther's lead.

Other Church beliefs and practices under attack by Protestant reformers included particular judgment, absolute devotion to Mary, the intercession of the saints, most of the sacraments, and the authority of the Pope.

The most important Protestant groups to emerge directly from the reformation were the Lutherans, the Reformed/Calvinists/Presbyterians, the Anabaptists, and the Anglicans. Subsequent Protestant denominations generally trace their roots back to the initial Reformation traditions. It also accelerated the Catholic or Counter Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church.