The initial movement in Germany diversified, and other reformers arose independently of Luther. The groundwork of the Reformation was developed by three major reformers: Luther in Wittenberg, Zwingli in Zürich and Calvin in Geneva. Depending on country, the Reformation had varying causes and different backgrounds, and also unfolded differently, than in Germany. The spread of Gutenberg'sprinting press provided the means for the rapid dissemination of religious materials in the vernacular. Lutheran churches were founded in Germany, the Baltics and Scandinavia, and Reformed ones in Switzerland, Hungary, France, the Netherlands and Scotland. The movement influenced the Church of England after 1547, under Edward VI and Elizabeth I, although the English Reformation had begun under Henry VIII in 1534.
Reformation movements throughout continental Europe known as the Radical Reformation gave rise to various Anabaptist movements. Radical Reformers, besides forming communities outside state sanction, often employed more extreme doctrinal change, such as the rejection of the tenets of the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon. Anabaptism suffered a major blow early in the German Peasants' War and was persecuted for centuries after that. The Reformation in Transylvania led to the emergence of Unitarianism; it is historically considered an "exceptional event in church history".
The oldest Protestant churches, such as the Unitas Fratrum and Moravian Church, date their origins to Jan Hus (John Huss) in the early 15th century. As it was led by a Bohemian noble majority, and recognised, for a time, by the Basel Compacts, the Hussite Reformation was Europe's first "Magisterial Reformation" because the ruling magistrates supported it, unlike the "Radical Reformation", which the state did not support.
The later Protestant Churches generally date their doctrinal separation from the Catholic Church to the 16th century. The Reformation began as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church, by priests who opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastic malpractice. They especially objected to the teaching and the sale of indulgences, and the abuses thereof, and to simony, the selling and buying of clerical offices. The reformers saw these practices as evidence of the systemic corruption of the Church's hierarchy, which included the pope.
The Catholic Church officially concluded this debate at the Council of Constance (1414–1417) by condemning Hus, who was executed by burning despite a promise of safe-conduct. Wycliffe was posthumously condemned as a heretic and his corpse exhumed and burned in 1428. The Council of Constance confirmed and strengthened the traditional medieval conception of church and empire. The council did not address the national tensions or the theological tensions stirred up during the previous century and could not prevent schism and the Hussite Wars in Bohemia.[better source needed]
The Reformation is usually dated to 31 October 1517 in Wittenberg, Saxony, when Luther sent his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz. The theses debated and criticised the Church and the papacy, but concentrated upon the selling of indulgences and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgment, and the authority of the pope. He would later in the period 1517–1521 write works on the Catholic devotion to Virgin Mary, the intercession of and devotion to the saints, the sacraments, mandatory clerical celibacy, monasticism, further on the authority of the pope, the ecclesiastical law, censure and excommunication, the role of secular rulers in religious matters, the relationship between Christianity and the law, and good works.
Reformers made heavy use of inexpensive pamphlets as well as vernacular Bibles using the relatively new printing press, so there was swift movement of both ideas and documents.
Parallel to events in Germany, a movement began in Switzerland under the leadership of Huldrych Zwingli. These two movements quickly agreed on most issues, but some unresolved differences kept them separate. Some followers of Zwingli believed that the Reformation was too conservative, and moved independently toward more radical positions, some of which survive among modern day Anabaptists. Other Protestant movements grew up along lines of mysticism or humanism, sometimes breaking from Rome or from the Protestants, or forming outside of the churches.
After this first stage of the Reformation, following the excommunication of Luther and condemnation of the Reformation by the Pope, the work and writings of John Calvin were influential in establishing a loose consensus among various groups in Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, Germany and elsewhere.
In parts of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, a majority sympathized with the Radical Reformation despite intense persecution. Although the surviving proportion of the European population that rebelled against Catholic, Lutheran and Zwinglian churches was small, Radical Reformers wrote profusely and the literature on the Radical Reformation is disproportionately large, partly as a result of the proliferation of the Radical Reformation teachings in the United States.
The Reformation was a triumph of literacy and the new printing press.[a]Luther's translation of the Bible into German was a decisive moment in the spread of literacy, and stimulated as well the printing and distribution of religious books and pamphlets. From 1517 onward, religious pamphlets flooded Germany and much of Europe.[b]
By 1530, over 10,000 publications are known, with a total of ten million copies. The Reformation was thus a media revolution. Luther strengthened his attacks on Rome by depicting a "good" against "bad" church. From there, it became clear that print could be used for propaganda in the Reformation for particular agendas. Reform writers used pre-Reformation styles, clichés and stereotypes and changed items as needed for their own purposes. Especially effective were writings in German, including Luther's translation of the Bible, his Smaller Catechism for parents teaching their children, and his Larger Catechism, for pastors.
Using the German vernacular they expressed the Apostles' Creed in simpler, more personal, Trinitarian language. Illustrations in the German Bible and in many tracts popularised Luther's ideas. Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), the great painter patronised by the electors of Wittenberg, was a close friend of Luther, and he illustrated Luther's theology for a popular audience. He dramatised Luther's views on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, while remaining mindful of Luther's careful distinctions about proper and improper uses of visual imagery.
Causes of the Reformation
The following supply-side factors have been identified as causes of the Reformation:
The presence of a printing press in a city by 1500 made Protestant adoption by 1600 far more likely.
Protestant literature was produced at greater levels in cities where media markets were more competitive, making these cities more likely to adopt Protestantism.
Ottoman incursions decreased conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, helping the Reformation take root.
Greater political autonomy increased the likelihood that Protestantism would be adopted.
Where Protestant reformers enjoyed princely patronage, they were much more likely to succeed.
Proximity to neighbors who adopted Protestantism increased the likelihood of adopting Protestantism.
Cities that had higher numbers of students enrolled in heterodox universities and lower numbers enrolled in orthodox universities were more likely to adopt Protestantism.
The following demand-side factors have been identified as causes of the Reformation:
Cities with strong cults of saints were less likely to adopt Protestantism.
Cities where primogeniture was practiced were less likely to adopt Protestantism.
Regions that were poor but had great economic potential and bad political institutions were more likely to adopt Protestantism.
The presence of bishoprics made the adoption of Protestantism less likely.
The presence of monasteries made the adoption of Protestantism less likely.