Reformation Events

The events leading up to the Reformation
What led to the Reformation: Read about Waldo, Hus, Wycliffe, Gutenberg and Savonarola.

The Timeline of the Reformation
The key events in church history, such as the posting of the 95 theses, the Diet of Worms, the Peace of Augsburg.

Political changes during the Reformation
The Thirty years wars, martyrdoms, the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre….let’s not forget how our freedom was won.

Pre-Reformation Events:

1211 Peter Waldo‘s followers were known as Waldensians, “Poor in Spirit” or “Poor Men of Lyons”. In 1184 Pope Lucius III excommunicated them and in 1211, more than eighty were burned as heretics in Strasbourg, beginning several centuries of persecution.
1384 The Wycliffe Bible was the first translation of the scripture into English. It was translated from Jerome’s “Vulgate”, so wasn’t totally accurate. John Wycliffe (1329-84) was determined that every believer should have access to a Bible in their own language. His followers became known as Lollards.
July 6, 1415 Jan Hus (1374-1415) was condemned at the Council of Constance and martyred for his beliefs. The bonfire used for his execution was fueled with his Wycliffe’s books. He sang praises until his final breath.
By 1455 Johann Gutenberg‘s development of moveable type enabled the teaching of the Reformers to be widely circulated. By 1455, he had printed around 180 copies of the Bible in Mainz. They cost the equivalent of a year’s wages!
February 7, 1497 At the carnival in Florence, Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola organized the “Bonfire of the Vanities”. He sent children door-to-door to gather the worldly things that were distracting people from true Christian living. The pile of books, cosmetics, dresses, masks, musical instruments, cards, dice etc rose 15 stories high!


Reformation Events:

October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses were posted on October 31st 1517 on the door of the Casle Church in Wittenberg and that heralded the start of the “Reformation”. Click here to read them.
June – July 1519 At the Disputation at Leipzig, Andreas von Carlstadt and Luther debated with John Eck. Eck forced Luther to admit that he agreed with Hus (who was considered a heretic), but this only served to strengthen Luther’s resolve.
Jan 27 – May 25, 1521 Many Imperial discussions (Diets) were held in Worms, but the most famous Diet of Worms was the one Martin Luther attended in 1521. Emperor Karl V called for the discussion to allow Cardinal Aleander (1480-1542) who was the Pope’s ambassador, to examine Luther to see if he was a heretic. They decided that he was and he was banned from the Holy Empire.
May 25, 1521 The Edict of Worms, signed by Emperor Charles V declared Martin Luther a heretic and placed him under an imperial ban. It also specified that all Luther’s books were to be burned.
January 29, 1523 Ulrich Zwingli presented his 67 Theses at the Zurich Disputation, before hundreds of educated men. These included such topics as allowing clergy to marry, the mass being a celebration not a sacrifice etc. It was successful and widespread reform spread.
1524-26 The German peasants, angered by rising prices and the feudal system, decided to revolt in June 1524. The Peasant’s Revolt began peacefully, but by 1525, the protests turned violent and more than 40 German monasteries and castles were burnt. Luther opposed the Revolt and the peasants rejected Lutheranism.
1526 William Tyndale published an English language New Testament in Worms, after a narrow escape from Johannes Dobneck (1479-1552) who had organized a raid on Tyndale’s secret printing press. The Bibles were then smuggled into England and distributed.
June 25,1530 The Augsburg Confession. In 1530, Emperor Karl V called the Parliament together in Augsburg to resolved the political, religious and social problems created by the Reformation. As Luther couldn’t attend, Philip Melanchthon represented him. The result was a document called the Augsburg Confession, which is still the Lutheran doctrinal standard.
1530 – 1531 The Schmalkaldic League was formed in the winter of 1530-31 as a defensive alliance against the empire. In a meeting set up by princes Philip of Hesse and John of Saxony, eight princes and eleven cities met and adopted the Augsburg Confession.
1536 Menno Simons, the former Priest, gathered the scattered Anabaptists into congregations. They then became known as Mennonites. This group has influenced Baptists, Amish, Hutterites and Quakers.
April, 1539 The Treaty of Frankfurt was an attempt to bring peace between the Schmalkaldic League and Emperor Charles V. Unfortunately it failed to prevent future wars between Catholics and Lutherans.
1549 “Consensus Tigurinius” – Calvinists and Zwinlians agree about communion
September 25, 1555 The Peace of Augsburg was an edict of toleration for Lutheranism. The outcome became known as ‘cuius regio, eius religio’, (not actually in the Peace) which meant that each individual Prince could choose the religion for his area. Lutheranism was formally recognized, but the other Reformation movements weren’t.
1563 The Heidelberg Catechism is one of the most important Calvinistic statements of faith.
August 24, 1572 The worst case of Protestant persecution was the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre. It began with the murder of Gaspard de Coligny, one of the Huguenot leaders. Beginning in Paris and spreading to Rouen, Lyons, Bourges, Orleans, Bordeaux and beyond, up to 10,000 Huguenots were killed. The few survivors fled to other countries, were imprisoned or enslaved.
 1618 – 48  The Thirty Years War. Germany was invaded by the imperial armies of Austria and then by the Swedish army who came to help the Protestants. Society broke down in this period and two-thirds of the population died through warfare, famine and plague.
October 24, 1648 The Peace of Westphalia. After eight years of struggle, the series of treaties known as ‘The Peace of Westphalia’ was signed in Münster, by Emporer Frederick III. This was the start of the separation of church and state. Calvinists were added to the list of tolerated religions, which brought increased stability.