Religious pluralism challenged the concept of a unified Europe.
Late medieval reform movements in the Church (including lay piety, mysticism, and Christian humanism) created a momentum that propelled a new generation of 16th-century reformers, such as Erasmus and Martin Luther. After 1517, when Luther posted his 95 Theses attacking ecclesiastical abuses and the doctrines that spawned them, Christianity fragmented, even though religious uniformity remained the ideal. Some states, such as Spain and Portugal, which had recently expelled Muslims and Jews, held fast to this ideal. Others — notably the Netherlands and lands under Ottoman control, which accepted Jewish refugees — did not. In central Europe, the Peace of Augsburg (1555) permitted each state of the Holy Roman Empire to be either Catholic or Lutheran at the option of the prince. By the late 16th century, northern European countries were generally Protestant and Mediterranean countries generally Catholic. To re-establish order after a period of religious warfare, France introduced limited toleration of the minority Calvinists within a Catholic kingdom (Edict of Nantes, 1598; revoked in 1685). Jews remained a marginalized minority wherever they lived.
Differing conceptions of salvation and the individual’s relationship to the church were at the heart of the conflicts among Luther, subsequent Protestant reformers such as Calvin and the Anabaptists, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church affirmed its traditional theology at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), ruling out any reconciliation with the Protestants and inspiring the resurgence of Catholicism in the 17th century. Religious conflicts inevitably merged with and exacerbated long-standing political tensions between the monarchies and nobility across Europe, dramatically escalating these conflicts as they spread from the Holy Roman Empire to France, the Netherlands, and England. Economic issues such as the power to tax and control ecclesiastical resources further heightened these clashes. All three motivations — religious, political, and economic — contributed to the brutal and destructive Thirty Years’ War, which was ended by the Peace of Westphalia (1648). The treaty established a new balance of power with a weakened Holy Roman Empire. The Peace of Westphalia also added Calvinism to Catholicism and Lutheranism as an accepted religion in the Holy Roman Empire, ensuring the permanence of European religious pluralism. However, pluralism did not mean religious freedom; the prince or ruler still controlled the religion of the state, and few were tolerant of dissenters.
1.3.1: The Protestant and Catholic Reformations fundamentally changed theology, religious institutions, and culture.
1.3.1.A: Christian humanism, embodied in the writings of Erasmus, employed Renaissance learning in the service of religious reform.
1.3.1.B: Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as religious radicals such as the Anabaptists, criticized Catholic abuses and established new interpretations of Christian doctrine and practice.
1.3.1.C: The Catholic Reformation, exemplified by the Jesuit Order and the Council of Trent, revived the church but cemented the division within Christianity.
1.3.2: Religious reform both increased state control of religious institutions and provided justifications for challenging state authority.
1.3.2.A: Monarchs and princes, such as the English rulers Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, initiated religious reform from the top down (magisterial) in an effort to exercise greater control over religious life and morality.
1.3.2.B: Some Protestants, including Calvin and the Anabaptists, refused to recognize the subordination of the church to the state.
1.3.2.C: Religious conflicts became a basis for challenging the monarchs’ control of religious institutions.
1.3.3: Conflicts among religious groups overlapped with political and economic competition within and among states.
1.3.3.A: Issues of religious reform exacerbated conflicts between the monarchy and the nobility, as in the French Wars of Religion.
1.3.3.B: The efforts of Habsburg rulers failed to restore Catholic unity across Europe.
1.3.3.C: States exploited religious conflicts to promote political and economic interests.
1.3.3.D: A few states, such as France with the Edict of Nantes, allowed religious pluralism in order to maintain domestic peace.