To What Extent Did the Events of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation Create Distinctive Protestant and Catholic Urban Religious Cultures

To What Extent Did The Events of The Reformation And Counter-Reformation Create Distinctive Protestant And Catholic Urban Religious Cultures

It would be easy to suggest that the Reformation was a uniform movement, and that sixteenth century Europe was wholly swept up in a revolutionary fervour. However this was not the case. Yes, there were geographical hot-points whereby the Reformation first took a firm hold; however there were vast regional[1] and chronological variations to the progress of Protestantism which spread in its own diverse forms and also many disparities in the Catholic revival. It is also important to highlight that many aspects of pre-Reformation urban religious culture continued into both Catholic and Protestant life following the reorganization of ecclesiastical institutions. Often this was due to the influence of politics and clerical conventionalists such as the monarchy, but more often than not, it was due to the deep-rooted dogmatism and superstition of the public. It should also been noted that although some cultural traditions remained, however stubbornly in the revivified religious atmosphere, some changes did effect urban religious culture. All of these considerations are important in assessing the extent to which urban religious culture was altered by the events of the Reformation and Counter Reformation.

Firstly, it is important to assess the spread of the Reformation. The seeds of the revolution can be found in The Great Western Schism of 1371 between the Popes of Rome and Avignon[2] which caused massive debate about the sanctity of religious values. Combined with the manipulation of the economy by the secular and clerical rulers following the catastrophic effects of the Black Death on Europe, it was the culmination of many factors that led Martin Luther to pin his 95 Theses to the Door of Wittenberg University in 1517. The scholar Desiderius Erasmus was aware of, and wrote considerably about the corruption and abuse within the clergy. His ideas, ripe in the era of Humanism magnified the problems within the church. Scholars were by then considering the abstract alongside the worldly, and this included the issues concerning the church. Soon Erasmus??™ ideas had reached Luther, whom on the production of his Theses dissented from the Catholic Church; his dissenting ideas included the corruption of the clergy, disillusionment with the papacy ??“ he was embracing something that had been driven underground in the years subsequent to the Schism, and the sale of indulgences ??“ a particularly prevalent part of urban religious culture in the sixteenth century. Luther pioneered the cause for a renovated church system, receiving immediate attention and reaction from the German population. Essentially, Luther established Wittenberg and Saxony as the heartland of the Protestant Reformation, and just as he had adopted Erasmus??™ teachings, Saxony, including the German Princes, the Elector of Saxony and most importantly, the public, welcomed the Reformation with open arms. Obviously it would be wrong to suggest that Germany without exception accepted a new religious direction, however taking into account that the corruption and abuses of the German clergy was no worse than anywhere else in Europe, it appears that
???the church, as a Roman legal institution for the administration of means of grace and for the execution of magical, sacred acts could no longer satisfy the religious needs of the German Soul??™[3].
Contrarily, however, in some European states, the Reformation was fought by staunch Catholics, especially Spain. Nowhere, especially the Iberian Peninsula was impervious to the dissemination of Protestant propaganda, as the printing press became more established on the continent, pamphlets containing both pro and anti-Protestant literature reached the towns via ships[4], however this was in contradiction with the views and beliefs of the Catholic monarchs, therefore we can see from this that if ideas were allowed to spread without challenge, then this is when we see a continuation of the mostly the same traditions and aspects of culture, however when emerging religion or existing religion is driven underground, this is when we see separate urban religious cultures emerging. Ultimately this shows that the reformation did have a moderate effect on urban religious culture in the sixteenth century.

The sixteenth century can be said to be one that was a somewhat sobering experience[5]. The endurance of some aspects of urban religious culture was testament to the loyalty and dogmatism or God-fearing nature of people in the middle of the century. In the face of reform, there were bound to be many responses; indifference, evangelism, reluctance and conformity[6]. The reactions were inevitable, those who were reluctant to welcome Protestantism were not just disinclined to suddenly accept a conflicting religion, but also hesitant to no longer participate in the customs and traditions that had defined their spiritual and civic lives. The historian Diarmaid MacCulloch points out that ???the English response to the Reformation was fragmented by region??™[7], something that is supported by Barbara Coulton and A G Dickens who highlights that early popular support came from the south west of England, but resistance could be seen in other areas of the kingdom[8]. It is these areas which are the most important to primary assessment of how the reformation created distinct protestant and catholic urban religious cultures. David Harris Sacks uses the example of Bristol, which Barbara Coulton describes as having strong Protestant connections[9], to highlight how one town??™s traditions are altered throughout the period of the Reformation. The condemnation of ???plays, interludes, ???jugglings and false sleyghts??? and other pasttimes??™[10] by John Northbrooke stands out as an early and fundamental rejection of cultural tradition[11]. Sacks contrasts Northbrooke??™s condemnation of the town??™s moral undoing against an earlier account from Robert Ricart, who chronicles the same events and activities in order to preserve the welfare of ???this worshipfull towne???[12] which shows that the effects of the events of the Reformation had reached Bristol, and would continue to impact massively on regional culture. However, Sacks does emphasize the fact that some cultural traditions such as the celebration of some Saints days had disappeared by 1577 when Northbrooke was writing his Spiritus est Vicarius Christi in terra, and in fact although some Saints were celebrated, and guildsmen observed their trades, often this was due to nostalgia rather than religion; they had become folk tradition rather than ecclesiastical remembrance.
The so-called carnival licence[13] of habitual celebration is what the Protestants were condemning. The celebrations played a massive part in the civic calendar, and the ???dicers, mummers, ydellers, dronkerds, swearers, rogues and dauncers??™ were often found to be council members and towns leaders themselves, not about to prevent such festivities from occurring. Burke suggests that ???cultural reformers derived their views primarily by refashioning materials already present in medieval Catholicism, rather that by formulating new ideas and attitudes in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation??™[14] and therefore is obligated to define culture into two separate parts, official ??“ aspects codified by the new religious force, and unofficial ??“ the portions of tradition continued without blessing. The ???strange death of civic ceremony??™[15] in reformation England can be attributed to or seen by Marxist or Durkheimian historians as superstructual or functionalism; the mere need for ???a ???systematic attempt by some of the educated??? to impose their values on ???the subordinate classes?????™[16], and this is supported by Sacks again as he emphasises that broad social and cultural change during the Reformation should be downplayed, in place of ultimately minor alterations to civic life. Community displays such as that of processions served a dual purpose until the reformation; firstly to celebrate the martyr the festival was dedicated to, and secondly to assert the authority of municipal authority[17]. During the Reformation, life in Europe became more sober, with ???the burning of holy images??™[18] censorship of plays by holy men ???schooled in the knowledge of Christ??™s Kingdom??™[19] denouncement fully of the ???negligence, lordliness, tyranny, covetousness, and pluralities??™ of bishops[20], the end of revelry in most forms, for example Tomkys??™ disapproval of ???Lords, or ladies, or any disguised persons, as morice dancers, maskers??¦any piping, dancing , drumming, playing in the church or churchyard or any other place within the parish on the Sabbath days or holy days??™[21], and of course denunciation of those who did not attend church and those guilty of sexual sin[22]. This is not to say that the likes of Tomkys for example were successful in their whitewashing of Catholic and traditional practices in Shrewsbury, or that men with similar aims to his were triumphant in eliminating the remaining traces of Catholicism, in fact Tomkys??™ attempt to prevent the construction of a maypole, something Phillip Stubbes, a contemporary of Tomkys, called ???this stinking idol??™[23], nor could he prevent the burning of a bonfire, referred to by Stubbes as ???the Devils dance??™[24] because there was such support for both. Often, the defence of people cooperating in forbidden activities was similar to that of Richard Fearnes, a burgess found guilty of bringing in a tree used to erect a maypole, he prayed that ???all lawfull customes of our company may be saved??™[25]. However, in fact, folkish tradition such as maypole and Morris dancing was slowly disappearing, despite the attempt of Queen Mary I to revivify similar practices. It is possible to see however, that Protestantism was established despite the threads of traditional Catholic commemoration still holding on, though it wasn??™t established in the romantic ???bottom-up??? or tyrannical ???top-down???, but more like how Barbara Coulton sees it, in that ???a minority of urban and country elite??™ worked to establish it in a town.[26] This shows that there were significant cultural changes during the Reformation; however as far as being distinctly protestant or Catholic, I do not believe that there were enough significant developments to suggest the emergence of two separatist urban religious cultures.

It can be claimed that the Reformation was an urban event[27] due to towns being the centres of culture, communication and education amongst other things. This made them the focal points of the Protestant revolution. Traditionally the towns and cities were home to the most influential people, such as politicians, monarchs and council leaders, Bob Scribner talks about towns as being ???concentrated socio-political spaces??™ that ???provided an ideal unit in which an institutional reform of religion could be implemented??™[28]. Humanism gave a sense of freedom of thought which encapsulated the movement of the Reformation. Education and religion went hand-in-hand and became something that would separate Protestant and catholic urban cultures; if the leading clergy were educated properly, then the laity would have no qualms about the aforementioned abuses of the church.
Protestantism also purified a system of belief that had been unsatisfactory for many centuries, it made religion more accessible by teaching sermons in the vernacular language, see for example Tyndale??™s bible, and allowed more participation from the laity, something that had been criticized before the reformation took hold. The universal Priesthood of believers was testament to the willingness and inclusiveness of the new church, which shows the creation of distinct Protestant culture. For example, the Protestant movement reduced the seven sacraments to just the two thought to have been ordained by Christ, these being baptism and the Eucharist. The Eucharist was a point of contention between the two Christian churches as the reformists differed in opinion about the spiritual meaning of the Last Supper, in particular whether the body and blood of Christ was spiritually present or literally present at the Eucharist. When the other five sacraments were removed from everyday life, Godliness became something attainable for once. The reformation also downgraded the Catholic idea of ???good works??™, something that indicated that entrance to heaven was gotten by achieving points; instead, Luther proclaimed that justice by faith alone would mean salvation. These changes alone may have led to changes and differences to Protestant and Catholic urban culture, however, Calvinism added an element of consideration, in the idea of Predestination or Double Predestination; put simply, that God would ordain whatsoever that comes to pass[29], for instance the unconditionally elect would achieve salvation, and the reprobate would spend eternity in damnation. This essentially removed the idea of free-will to Calvinists; by being graceful they would know that they were to be saved, however they would know if they were to be damned by not showing grace. God being an ethereal force which was omnipresent dictated cultural life before the reformation, but the superstition of Catholic liturgy ??“ so condemned by the reformists was a heavy weight lifted from the minds of loyal Christians.
Without the cooperation of the towns and cities influential, Protestantism in any form would not have been allowed to get a stranglehold on urban culture as it did. The imperial cities in Germany, first to consume Protestant ideas could not have done so without the willingness of the German princes, who saw opportunity, and as Scribner sees it, ???there was disproportionate support among the rich??™[30] for the Reform. However it needed to be legitimised, often a superficial vote for a decision already made, entered into out of ignorance, indifference or fear[31] . Often it was the case that Protestantism in whichever form, be it Lutheranism, Calvinism, or Zwingliism, was spread because the interpretation of the ideas suited those it was directed at, for instance the German Peasants Revolt; Wilhelm Zimmerman in response to the idea that the Peasants had misunderstood Luther??™s ideal of Christian liberty, said that they had understood him well, but differently[32]. As Protestantism became more accessible, it also became more open to interpretation, which is why so many branches offshoot from it, and this is not necessarily as was planned, or to the benefit of either culture or religion.
Michele Suriano, Ambassador to France in 1562 highlighted that convention ??“ most importantly religion should be protected as ???it wrecks law and order and good government, because it gives rise to changes in customs and living habits, and causes scorn for laws and the authority of judges, and finally even of kings.??™[33] Unless the monarchy supported the Reformation, they could reasonably easily quash the spread of it. In the case of Spain, the staunchly Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella were defenders of the Catholic faith and intended to implement reform within the Catholic Church such as improving the spiritual condition of the clerical and lay subjects, reform the standards of monastic orders and secure control over clerical appointments. Although few reforms actually happened because of deep rooted tradition, the practice of keeping Catholic vigour alive continued into the reign of Philip II who believed implementing education policies, reorganisation of the internal church structure, and centralisation of administration and uniformity of practices across Spain. Increasingly, religion was becoming a political weapon, used in Wars and power struggles such as in the French Wars of Religion of 1562[34] and the new Protestant work ethic meant a boom to the European economy; people were working more diligently as a sign of their salvation which shows that there was a distinct Protestant religious culture emerging by the end of the sixteenth century.
Overall, this shows that a strong Protestant Urban Religious culture materialized from the new ethics, morals and changes to the beliefs during the Reformation. The Catholic Reformation essentially used the reformation as a guide to purify the Catholic church from within, but Europe was left with some cities and towns divided by their cultural differences, and some united against other towns in their respective urban culture. This does show however that there was a positive inclination towards separatist religious cultures.

The essence of the Protestant Reformation was to rejuvenate Christianity, and this was achieved by altering practices such as sermons, learning in the vernacular, reducing the sacraments to the essential, downgrading good works, establishing sola fide ??“ the belief in salvation by faith alone and having a more focused view of Christianity without the song, dance and colour of Catholicism. To Protestant reformers, Catholicism had become more about the church and clergy than it had about the faith, something that the reformers changed. It was not without protest, however. The zeal of the Catholic conservatives was something that was never fully overcome, and this was due to the likes of the Spanish monarchs, Queen Mary I of England, and the laity, doctrinaire in their faith. The Protestants took the magic and superstition from Catholicism, and formulated a multi-denominational Protestant Christianity. The fact that so many cities accepted new doctrine indicated that the Catholic Church was not fulfilling the requirements of its congregations or its potential to improve its own condition, something eventually resolved in the Counter or Catholic Reformation. Although many aspects of Catholic urban religious culture remained within civic life, this was most likely due to folk tradition with a facade of religious celebration than actual spiritual commemoration. New culture came in the form of a contemporary attitude towards religion and civility; therefore it is evident that to a moderate extent, Europe witnessed the surfacing of dual urban Christian culture with the same spirit at the core.

Word Count: 2, 813 words
Bibliography
Articles

Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in a Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal 27, 1996

Davis, N, Z., The Sacred and the Body Social In Sixteenth Century Lyon, Past and Present 90, 1981

Konnert, M., Urban Values Versus Religious Passion: Chalons-sur-Marne During the Wars of Religion, Sixteenth Century Journal 20, 1989

Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture, Reorienting the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982

Sacks, D. H., The Demise of The Martrys: the Feasts of St Clement and St Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, in Social History 11, Cambridge, 1986

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[1] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in a Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journa,l Volume 27, Volume 2, p. 307
[2] Trexler, R.C., Rome on the Eve of The Great Schism, Speculum, Volume 42, No. 3, July 1967, p. 489-509 as found on JSTOR
[3] Ritter, G., Why The Reformation Occurred in Germany, Church History, Volume 27, No. 2, June 1958, p. 104
[4] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in The Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 308
[5] Davis, N Z., The Sacred and Body Social In Sixteenth Century Lyon, Past and Present, Volume 90, 1981
[6] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in The Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 320
[7] MacCulloch, D. as found in Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury In the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 308
[8] A G Dickens, The English Reformation, 2nd Ed., London: Batsford, 1989, as referenced in Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in The Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 308
[9] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in The Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 308
[10] Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 142
[11] Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986 p. 142
[12] Ricart, R., The Maire of Bristow is Kalendar, ed. Lucy Toulmin Smith, Camden Soc., New Ser., v, 1872, 69 as found in Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 142
[13] Burke, P., as found in Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 143
[14] Burke, P., as found in Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 143
[15] Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 146
[16] Burke, P., as found in Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 143
[17] Sacks, DH., The Demise of the Martyrs: The Feasts of St. Clement and St. Katherine in Bristol, 1400-1600, Social History, Volume II, No. 2, May 1986, p. 150
[18] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 310
[19] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 315
[20] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 318
[21] Tomkys, J., as found in Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 326
[22] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 326
[23] Stubbes, P., Anatomy of Abuses, 1583, as found in Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journa 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 327
[24] Stubbes, P., Anatomy of Abuses, 1583, as found in Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journa 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 327
[25] Fearnes, R., as found in Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journa27, No. 2, 1996, p. 328
[26] Coulton, B., The Establishment of Protestantism in A Provincial Town: A Study of Shrewsbury in the Sixteenth Century, Sixteenth Century Journal 27, No. 2, 1996, p. 335
[27] Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture: Reorientating the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982, p. 5
[28] Dickens, The German Nation and Martin Luther, Ch. 5-9, p. 182, as found in Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture: Reorientating the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982, p. 5
[29] See the Westminster Confession of Faith III
[30] Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture: Reorientating the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982, p. 7
[31] Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture: Reorientating the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982, p. 7
[32] Zimmermann, W., Allgemeine Geschichte des Grossen Bauernkreiges, Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1842, as found in Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture: Reorientating the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982, p. 10
[33] Suriano, M. as cited in Davis, JC (ed.) Pursuit of Power, Venetian Ambassadors??™ reports on Spain, Turkey and France in the Age of Philip II 1560-1600, New York, 1970, p. 208 as found in Scribner, B., Religion, Society and Culture: Reorientating the Reformation, History Workshop Journal 14, 1982, p. 11
[34] Konnert, M., Urban Values versus Religious Passion: Chalons-sur-Marne During the Wars of Religion, Sixteenth Century Journal 20, No. 3, 1989 p. 397-401

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