Religious Wars in Europe

1032 words | 4 page(s)

Religion’s effect on European history cannot be denied. Religion, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, remained the dominant force in its history for centuries. However, the Protestant Reformation challenged the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Because of religion, Europe engaged in a series of religious wars throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. . A number of social and cultural issues escalated these wars. Furthermore, there were, of course, political issues associated with the wars as well. Religion also influenced daily life. The religious wars also deeply influence the roles of women in Western Europe. In the 17th Century, the Reformation continued with additional wars. This was essentially a war between the Protestants and the Catholics. Many of these issues can clearly be traced to the strong influence of religion in daily life and politics.

Religious wars in Europe lasted centuries. However, the religious wars of Europe refer to a series of wars that occurred in the 16th and 17th Centuries. These wars resulted from the Protestant Reformation, a significant challenge to the power of the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation began in the early 16th Century when Martin Luther began to question the authority of the pope, as well as the abuses of the church. He was not the only one to challenge the pope’s authority. There were significant political powers who were questioning the pope’s right to rule Europe. Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian political philosopher also believed that the pope’s authority was not greater than the king of a country. He also discussed the abuses of power by the popes, specifically Alexander VI. Alexander VI or Rodrigo Borgia was known for his corruption and his many affairs, despite his religious vows. King Henry VIII of England would also challenge the pope’s authority over his ability to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Kreis, 2009).

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"Religious Wars in Europe".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

There were, however, more than debates between the popes of Rome and the kings of Europe. The road to the religious wars was also because of social issues in the marketplace. The Roman Catholic Church also exercised complete power over all economic and commercial transactions. As a result, merchants, artisans and bankers began to resent the Church’s power. The business began to want to control their own economic destinies. They recognized that they would have greater control over their own business affairs if the Church exercised less control. Therefore, these groups also wanted the limit the authority of the Roman Catholic Church (Kreis, 2009).

This class of people were not the only ones who began to resent the authority of the Church. Throughout England, France and Germany, the peasants who worked the land also began to revolt against the Church. This was particularly true in Germany where a Peasant’s Revolt War occurred in 1525-26. It was a complicated situation that did not only involve the Church. It was also directed against the nobility. However, the clergy were not liked by the peasants. The clergy had engaged in significant abuses of the peasant, similar to the nobility. With the invention of the printing press, the clergy’s influence waned. They were no longer necessary to product books. The peasants began to rebel against the abuses of the Church as a result (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.).

The religious conflicts also influenced the roles of women in Western Europe. In some of the protestant churches, women were allowed to act as preachers. This, of course, would never be allowed in the Roman Catholic Church. However, the expansion of women’s roles had its backlash. This was particularly true in highly religious areas of Europe. One of these areas was the Rhineland. In this part of Europe, the clash between the Catholics and the Protestants was significant. The increased power and prominence of women resulted in some questioning how women gained this power. One tragic outcome of these wars was the witch hunts of Europe. In these witch hunts, women were often accused of witchcraft. These witch hunts often began with one woman being accused of witchcraft. The allegations would then spread to multiple women in the community. As a result, many women were put to death. During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, between forty thousand and sixty thousand individuals were put to death under the charge of witchcraft. The legal system had undergone complex changes which allowed these trials and deaths to occur. Of those put to death, approximately eighty-five percent were women. Eventually, the witch hunts began to receive questioning. This essentially ended this tragic part of European history (Cengage Learning, n.d.).

As the Reformation continued into the 17th Century, Europe experienced a “General Crisis” with regards to its social structure. This was particularly relevant with concern to its economic stability. This resulted from the transitioning from a feudal state to a capitalistic system. During this period, there were food shortages. These were related to a significant period of bad climates and poor harvests from farmers. The European economy reached a significant level of instability as a result of these events and changes. The economy in Holland saw what is believed to be the first economic bubble with “Tulip Mania.” Overall, the economic issues created significant disruptions in Europe’s social structure (Stott, 2011).

Overall, this period in history saw significant changes. These changes occurred in the religious influence of the Roman Catholic Church, the structure of the nobility, the roles of women and also the economic stability of Europe. It is important to recognize that there these changes occurred over a period of approximately two centuries. However, from a historical point of view, this was a significant social change in a short period of time.

  • Cengage Learning. (n.d.). Reformations and religious wars: 1500-1650. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from: http://college.cengage.com/history/west/mckay/western_society/9e/chapters/chapter14.html
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Peasant’s war. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/448217/Peasants-War
  • Kreis, S. (2009, August 4). Lecture 6: Europe in the age of religious wars, 1560-1715. The History Guide. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from: http://www.historyguide.org/earlymod/lecture6c.html
  • Stott, A. (2011, October 17). The crisis of the 17th Century. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from: http://early-moderneurope.blogspot.com/2009/10/crisis-of-seventeenth-century.html

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now