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European Reformation

England's break with Rome was possible only because England had a history of reform movements, a cluster of humanist scholars, and regular communication with Lutherans on the European continent.

Another reason, of course, is that King Henry VIII wanted a male heir, and was bored with his Queen, Catherine of Aragon. Henry passed the necessary Acts of Parliament to break with Rome, but he wasn't particularly interested in any radical changes in beliefs. As the supreme head of the Church of England, King Henry VIII took the drastic step of dissolving all the monasteries, probably because of their close ties with the Church of Rome.

Thomas CranmerKing Henry chose Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of the Church of England. Cranmer encouraged the use of the English Bible in the churches, and shaped the English prose style of The Book of Common Prayer.

He was later burned at the stake by Mary Tudor, the eldest child of King Henry VIII, the only surviving child of his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, after she ascended to the throne as Queen of England. She is sometimes known as Bloody Mary.

It was under Queen Elizabeth I that Anglicanism was finally established, the Queen herself defining a middle way, rejecting the more extreme Protestantism practiced by the Presbyterians.

The Scots

John Knox was responsible for bringing Calvinism to Scotland. Still independent, Scotland had been prepared for reform by the Lollards, by humanists, and by a strong nationalist sentiment.

John KnoxReturning from exile in Geneva, Knox joined the Scot's cause against Catholicism, and against the French headed by Mary, Queen of Scots. The Scottish Parliament established Protestantism in 1560, and a Confession of Faith and Book of Discipline followed, based on uncompromising Calvinism.


Following the death of Martin Luther in 1546, Calvinism spread rapidly into Scandinavia. With the support and encouragement of King Christian II, and the efforts of Paul Eliae, a Lutheran humanist in Copenhagen, Denmark was prepared to accept the Lutheran doctrine. King Frederick I finished the task by creating an official Lutheran reformation in Denmark.

In Sweden, Gustavus Vasa led the way, assisted by theologians Lars and Olavus Petri from Wittenberg. A Swedish New Testament was published, and Iceland and Norway soon followed. King Michael Agricola adopted Lutheranism, and brought the Lutheran doctrine to Finland.

The Rest of Europe

The Lutheran doctrine also moved east. Poland was divided, as the Unitarian ideas of Sozzina were also very popular. With its Germanic influence, Hungary favored Lutheranism. Czechoslovakia had its own Hussite reform movement, with some influence from Lutheran ideas.

Calvinist or Reformed Protestantism was strong throughout Europe. From Geneva and Strasbourg, it spread throughout Germany and to parts of Poland. Despite heavy persecution, Calvinism moved into France. For some, it was a message of hope and salvation; for others, it was a change in religion used by nationalists seeking to win their independence. John Calvin's model in Geneva was not a helpful one, particularly in countries already embroiled in a dangerous mix of national or religious dissent. In France, the problem was solved only with the ejection of the Protestant Huguenots, a significant portion of the French middle class.

























Overview of Bible Study