A-Z: General definitions: Reformation


Term given to the movements of church reform which in the sixteenth century resulted in new Protestant churches being created as an alternative to the Catholic Church. The Reformation took different forms in different parts of Europe, sometimes being promoted by rulers, as in Germany and England, sometimes expressing itself as a popular movement. While different reformers promoted different doctrines, they were united in

  • their rejection of pilgrimage and visual images which were viewed as idolatrous and superstitious
  • their emphasis on salvation through faith rather than the sacramental systems, masses and good works
  • their desire to promote the study of the Bible and the conduct of worship in the vernacular.

The origins of these reforms can be traced to religious movements in the Middle Ages, such as the English Lollards. The criticisms of Protestantism provoked a time of reaction within the Catholic Church usually known as the Counter-Reformation and expressed in the pronouncements of the Council of Trent (1562-3).

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