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This article is the written script of an episode from our podcast series: Kandelaa – Conversations.

( Bu yazı,  podcast serimiz Kandelaa – Conversations’tan alınan bir bölümün yazılı metnidir. )


It’s the autumn of the year 1512; priest Martin Luther was distributing his collection of the ninety-five thesis condemning the corruption of the Catholic Church in the University of Wittenberg. Some other rumor has it that he nailed those on the gate of the Wittenberg’s Castle Church. 

Before the presentment of the theses, in 1561, the preachment of sins by purchasing a letter of indulgence arouse Luther’s ire and disturbance against Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar. The friar was assigned as general commissioner for granting indulgence in return for money by Albrecht von Brandenburg, and Luther protested the arrangement in the thesis he organized.

Though Hans Hillerbrand, a professor at the Department of Religion at Duke University, states that Luther’s reaction was essentially not to oppose the church, but his opinions were seen as an objection to the church practices. However, an “undercurrent” for reform was perceived in his work, particularly in Thesis 86:

“Why does not the Pope build St. Peter’s Minster with his own money – since his riches are now ampler than those of Crassus, – rather than with the money of poor Christians?”

The theses got about (?) among larger groups, causing Pope Leo X. to denounce Luther for deviance and objection. Luther responded to the venture by breaking from the Catholic Church and initiating the Reform Movements. That event was, eventually, the emergence of Protestantism. 


Indeed, certain minor reform movements that were influenced by Renaissance humanism had begun in the church before Luther completed his theses. Yet Luther’s disputes led the church to prepare more of a comprehensible response against the reformists. 


Various clergymen upheld Luther in his case. John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, a subbranch of Protestantism, contravened the Catholic Church, which then resulted in him being expelled from France. Switzerland was becoming a center of Protestantism after preacher Ulrich Zwingli established a church centered in Zürich and Calvin followed the support acts for the new form of Christianity in Geneva.

Nonetheless, it should be addressed that there is a significant difference between Calvinists and Protestants. A Calvinist is a Protestant, but the doctrines differ in the way of finding the true path: Calvinists believe that God chooses whom to come to him and make the right. Namely, believers are destined by him in choosing Christ. Protestants, on the other side, support that people will freely make their own decisions and believe in him.  

Anglicanism is one of the major branches of Protestantism. James VIII., the king of England, broke from the Catholic Church in 1534 to embrace Anglicanism, but the English teachings and practices remained adhered to the church for another while. It was not until Elizabeth I., the daughter of James VIII. and Anne Boleyn, implemented the religious and political arrangements for England. Called “The Elizabethan Religious Settlement”, the period is considered the end of the English Reformation. 

Trivia: Anglicans are also called Episcopalians. 

Apart from the other branches like Adventism, Baptism, and Quaker, Anabaptism played a critical role in history even though it was relatively a small community part of Christianity. However, Anabaptism has religious philosophies that were seen as rather radical and disputable by leaders like Luther and Zwingli, who clashed with the movement and defended their suppression during Peasant’s War, which was a riot initiated by the Anabaptists. 

German princedoms disaffiliated with the Catholic Church and abolished the episcopies in their lands. That opposition of the princes was especially a considerable act against the interventions in secular affairs and the alliances that were formed between popes and kings.   


The church confronted the reformists by counteracting; castigations including the death penalty were imposed on the heads of the Reform Movements. Martin Luther was saved by Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, from the death penalty and protected in the Wartburg Castle. Emperor Charles the V. decreed Luther’s execution at the Diet of Worms when Luther held to his case against the corruption of the Catholic church and was eventually excommunicated. 

William Tyndale, the biblical scholar who translated Bible to English, was put to death. Zwingli died in the war between the Protestants and Catholics whereas Czech reformist Jan Huns was burnt at the stake. 


The conflicts between Protestants and Catholics date to the attack of Emperor Charles V. on the Lutheran territories to suppress the reformist movements. Lutherans united against the imperial powers, and Charles failed in his repression despite the victory gained at the Battle of Mühlberg. The Augsburg Settlement brought peace between the two sides, but it was already fragile during religious unrest in Europe and could only be secured for a short time. 


At the Council of Trent convened by Paul III., all the Catholic teachings from the importance of the verses to the legitimacy of confession were confirmed and issued. Additionally, the council made reforms; a commission was formed to decide which books to ban to avert Protestant propaganda.

The council convened periodically for eighteen years and induced the Catholic Church to renew inside. The Counter Reformist acts spread throughout Europe. The pope pronounced the Society of Jesus as a response to the Reform Movements. Christian art was stimulated by the emergence of Baroque art in Italy. Embellished designs with outstanding sculptures, paintings, and scenes from Bible filled the Catholic churches whereas Protestant churches remained plain and modest. Thus, the demarcation between these two sides was even more evident. 


More and deeper (?) separations kept occurring in Christianity, leading wars to last for decades and people to skirmish around religious motivations. France was divided into two major wings while countries like Spain and Italy remained Catholics. German princedoms acquired the freedom of worship within the borders of their own lands. Countries kept declaring wars upon each other in the name of religion. The settlement of the continent was assured slowly by many other political and social events taking place through the centuries.