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Luther, Lutheranism and the German
Reformation 1517 55
Topic 1 The causes of the Reformation in Germany
The state of the Catholic Church in 1517
In 1500, Popes were powerful Italian noblemen. The Popes were not necessarily goodly with
mistresses and orgies. They were more concerned with winning battles and gaining land than they
were with religion. The Catholic Church followed 7 sacraments that marked stages of human life.
1. Baptism cleansing original sin
2. Confirmation responsibility for own sins
3. Marriage to prevent your children being born of sin
4. Last rites last chance to confess sins before death
5. Ordination official entry to the church
6. Penance a means of paying for sins
7. Holy communion commemorating the last supper
Criticisms of the Catholic Church
People in the church were widely believed to be abusing their position.
Simony sale of church posts
Pluralism Holding more than one post
Absenteeism Being absent from a post
Nepotism giving posts to family/friends
Viewed that the papacy was growing corrupt in attempt to maintain its position. The personal
integrity of the Pope was important for the church as he needed to inspire confidence in his people.
The church needed to maintain it's political position due to the growing habsburg-valois conflicts.
These conflicts dragged the Papacy into disrepute as the Merdici and Borgia families adopted their
own pope's to further their interests..
Alexander VI (1492 1503)
He invited prostitutes to parties at the Vatican. Created a kingdom of Papal States for his
son, and married off his daughter for political gain.
Julius II (1503 13)
Known as the `warrior pope', there were also suggestions to his relationships with other
Leo X (1513 21)
Gained money from sale of indulgences which he used to improve St Peter's church, Rome,
works of art and military campaigns in the Italian wars.
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The abuses committed by the church and the heavy taxation by the papacy on German states lead to
hostility towards the Papacy. This was a long term cause of the reformation as Popes going back
several generations had experienced hostility.
On a more local scale there were often anti-clerical feelings. People paid tithes in return for a priest,
and so therefore expected their priest to be up to standard. Often these local priests were not
which angered people.…read more