The European Reformation

The Reformation is the name given to the split between Catholics and those who followed the ideas of Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.


Martin Luther

Luther was a German monk who publicly criticised the Church. He was particularly opposed to the granting of indulgences by Catholic priests.

Luther’s ideas gained wide support. His followers became known as Lutherans. As Lutherans protested against the actions of the Catholic Church, they became known as Protestants.

He would not recant (take back) his beliefs and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the Pope. He translated the Bible into common language in order to make it more accessible to ordinary people.

Lutheran ideas spread through northern Europe in the first half of the 16th century. Lutheranism questioned the legitimacy of the Pope to convey the word of God. Lutherans believed the true word of God could only be obtained from the Bible.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther


John Calvin

Calvin was a French pastor and theologian who helped develop the Reformed Church in Geneva.

Calvin’s missionary work helped to spread the Reformation to areas of France and the Netherlands.

Like Luther, Calvin refused to accept that anyone could absolve sin other than God. This meant he believed Catholic practices of freeing people from sin were wrong.

John Calvin
French theologian and religious reformer John Calvin