What Was the Reformation AP World History?

The Reformation was a historic period that marked a significant change in the religious and social landscape of Europe. It began in the 16th century and continued for several decades, affecting various aspects of life in different parts of the continent.

What Was the Reformation?

The Reformation was a movement that challenged the authority and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It started with Martin Luther, a German monk, who posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. This act is considered as the beginning of the Reformation.

Luther’s ideas spread quickly throughout Europe through his writings and speeches. He believed that salvation could be achieved through faith alone and not by good works or indulgences sold by the Church. Luther also translated the Bible into German so that people could read it themselves and understand its teachings.

The Impact of the Reformation

The Reformation had far-reaching effects on European society. It led to the establishment of new Protestant denominations such as Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism. These churches rejected many traditional Catholic practices such as confession to priests, celibacy for clergy, and veneration of saints.

The Reformation also led to political changes as rulers used religion as a means to consolidate power. In England, King Henry VIII broke away from Rome and established himself as head of the Church of England. In Germany, princes chose between Catholicism or Protestantism based on their political interests.

The Counter-Reformation

The Roman Catholic Church responded to these challenges with its own reforms known as the Counter-Reformation. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) clarified Catholic doctrine and reformed corrupt practices within the church.

The Counter-Reformation also saw an increase in religious orders such as Jesuits who were tasked with spreading Catholicism throughout Europe and beyond. The Inquisition was also revived to root out heretics and maintain orthodoxy.

The Legacy of the Reformation

The Reformation had a profound impact on European culture and society. It paved the way for religious freedom and tolerance. It also challenged traditional authority structures, paving the way for modern democracy.

The Reformation also led to new forms of literature, art, and music. Protestant hymns became popular, and artists like Rembrandt depicted biblical scenes in their paintings.


In conclusion, the Reformation was a transformative period in European history that challenged traditional authority structures and led to significant changes in religious practices. The movement spawned new denominations and paved the way for religious freedom, tolerance, and democracy. Its impact is still felt today in various aspects of modern society.