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Introduction to the Protestant Reformation: The Counter-Reformation

Video transcript

in the previous three videos we looked briefly at what it was like to be a Christian before the Reformation before 1517 then we looked at Martin Luther we looked at his ideas and the spread of his ideas as well as the violence that resulted and for our final video we want to look at the response by the Catholic Church and so whereas we call what Luther and his followers did the Protestant Reformation the church's response is referred to as the Counter Reformation the word counter here meaning against well the church had lost a lot the church had lost lands it had lost faithful that's right it lost souls and in the last video we ended talking about violence but the violence wasn't always against people sometimes it was also against things and churches that is the architecture of the Roman Catholics which existed throughout Western Europe was an important focus of the violence of the Protestants against the Catholic Church the practice of Catholicism was incredibly visual and there was real concern among the Protestants not so much by Luther but mostly by his followers that images were being abused that they were being prayed to as if the images had power themselves instead of just a way of reaching the divine of passing through the images to the divine that's right Calvin specifically had a problem with this and believed that the images in churches were actually creating a kind of idolatry this goes back to the second commandment thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth so this notion that to create is in a sense usurping a little bit of God's responsibility that is God creates when an artist creates it is a kind of falsehood it is creating an idol so Protestants began waves of iconoclasm that is the destruction of images let's take apart that word for a moment iconoclasm it's a compound that's made of two words icon which is Greek for image and Klassen which means vie so it is literally violence against images and there were iconoclastic riots within five years or so after Luther's 95 theses this is one of the great tragedies in the history of art actually where an untold number of paintings of sculptures were destroyed and this happened especially in northern Europe in the Netherlands so in essence what the Protestants often did is they took over a Catholic Church and they stripped it of all of the sensual forms all that sculpture those tapestries and left it a kind of pristine space so we know that Luther is going against church teaching in all these different ways faith is the path to salvation not good works Scripture is the way to understand God not listening to the teachings of the church now the Catholic Church didn't take all of this lying down right we know that there were efforts to make Luther bend to their will right at the diet of worms for example this was excommunicated after that and by excommunicated we mean basically is no longer a member of the Church in 1545 the church holds something called the Council of Trent essentially a kind of meeting of all of the highest levels of the church in Europe at first the idea was really to reconcile with the Protestants Protestants were invited they didn't show up however and in the end reconciliation was clearly impossible one of the most important outcomes of the Council of Trent was that the Catholic Church reaffirmed its doctrines that is it doubled down it said the very things that Luther had taken issue with were reaffirmed so regarding the issue of whether good works have a role in salvation the church said indeed they do regarding purgatory and the efficacy of indulgences doing indulgences do anything does purgatory exist the church affirmed all of that the church affirmed transubstantiation that the changing of the bread and wine during the Eucharist to the body and blood of Christ and by doing so it affirmed the our in importance of the priesthood and of the hierarchy of the church and lastly the church affirmed that scripture alone wasn't enough that one really also needed the teachings the traditions of the church so they gave very little ground all they did was agree that in some areas there was room for reform they did try to stamp out the kind of corruption that had in part led to the Reformation but let's get back to the images for a moment because that was also important in the Council of Trent the council said this images of Christ of the Virgin Mother of God and of the other Saints are to be placed and retained especially in the churches and do honor and veneration is to be given to them so they're reaffirming immediately images belong in the church but what's important is why they say quote because the honor which has shown them is referred to the prototypes which they represent so if somebody is honoring a statue of the Virgin Mary they are actually affirming the honor to the Virgin Mary herself but the church said there was even more benefit yes let the bishops diligently teach that by means of the stories of the mysteries of our Redemption portrayed in paintings and other representations the people are instructed and confirmed in their articles of faith so art was a way of actually died actively getting the ideas of the church across to lay people many of whom were still illiterate and deepening their faith that's right also that great profit is derived from all holy images because through the saints the miracles of God and salutary examples are set before the eyes of the faithful so that they may fashion their own life and conduct in imitation of the saints and be moved to adore and love God and cultivate piety so the way in which art functions as an example that we can follow in our daily lives so the church's response is threefold one they reaffirm all the basic doctrines of the church that had been attacked by the Protestants they begin a major campaign to spread the teachings of the Catholic faith all around the world remember this is the age of discovery the new world has been discovered there's increasing trade with Asia and with Africa and so the Catholics are really evangelizing in all of these places the last in this threefold response of the church is an effort to stamp out heresy so the church establishes the Inquisition the Roman Inquisition the church also creates the index of forbidden books and it's just at this time that Ignatius Loyola founds the Jesuit Order the Jesuits are all about faithfulness they have an absolute faith in the Pope and they are the Pope's disposal the Jesuits established schools they spread the Christian faith throughout the world and they fought Protestantism there's a fabulous and very literal example of all of these ideas of the Counter Reformation in a sculpture by an artist whose name is Luke row in the mother Church of the Jesuits in Rome the title of this sculpture is religion overthrowing heresy and hatred you know first of all it's important to know that the sculpture is just to the right and below a very large altar to Saint Ignatius Loyola at the top left we see the figure of religion wielding a thunderbolt and a cross now by religion LaGrone means Roman Catholicism and religion is looking down at and about to attack two figures one is an older female figure who represents hatred and the other figure falling towards us wrestling with snakes is the allegorical figure that represents heresy he's falling over a series of books and one of those books has on its spine Luther's name so heresy here couldn't be any more explicit heresy is Luther it is Protestantism and as if that isn't making the point sharply enough on the Left we see a little angelic figure who's ripping pages out of the book by Luther's followers vaguely it's important to remember that each side saw the other as the devil Luther called the Pope the Antichrist the Pope called Luther the Antichrist it was a time of black and white there was no middle ground and these divisions literally reshaped the countries of Europe even now this countries in southern Europe are predominantly Catholic the countries in Northern Europe are predominantly Protestant and even as late as the 20th century there is violence that erupts between these factions we saw that through most of the 20th century in Ireland for example it's also interesting to think about the ways that the Protestant Reformation set the stage for the modern world this idea of not listening to a single Authority but listening to your own conscience I think this is a key feature of the modern world you