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The Age of Reform, 1250-1550

The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe

Copyright Date: 1980
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 458
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  • Book Info
    The Age of Reform, 1250-1550
    Book Description:

    The seeds of the swift and sweeping religious movement that turned great numbers of Europeans into Protestants in the early 1500s had been sown far back in the late Middle Ages. In this book, Steven Ozment traces the growth and dispersal of dissenting ideologies through three centuries to their explosive burgeoning in the 1500s. He elucidates with great clarity the complex philosophical and theological issues that inspired antagonistic schools, traditions, and movements from Aquinas to Calvin.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18668-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    S. O.
  5. CHAPTER 1 The Interpretation of Medieval Intellectual History
    (pp. 1-21)

    Many scholars feel that the intellectual history of the Middle Ages reflects the peaks and valleys of its political and social history. There is nothing particularly artificial about this view; rises and declines in thought and cultureareoften directly connected with larger historical fortunes. The close relationship between prosperity, patronage, education, and the arts, for example, is a well-known feature of the Renaissance. But sometimes the relationship between the intellectual history of a period and its larger political and social history is more subtle, and reading the former in light of the latter can be misleading.

    The relationship seems...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Scholastic Traditions
    (pp. 22-72)

    The Middle Ages were an age of faith, perhaps more erratically and with greater aberration than we previously believed, but an age of faith nonetheless. They were also an age of clergy and theologians. Clergy influenced the affairs of both kings and common folk, and theology reigned supreme—if not always uncontested—as queen of the sciences. The church was a major landowner, and church courts administered both laws and taxes. Church-sponsored sacramental and pilgrimage piety provided the major forms of popular entertainment and also became a very big business. Religious figures and issues had the social impact that political...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Spiritual Traditions
    (pp. 73-134)

    By the end of the fourteenth century, when scholasticism had run its course as a creative movement and its excesses and limitations had become all too evident, critics returned to patristic and monastic ideals in an effort to revive traditional religious life both within and beyond the universities. Two of the most effective late medieval spiritual reformers were trained scholastics themselves: Jean Gerson and Nicholas of Clémanges. In bringing together traditional spiritual complaints against the schoolmen, they set forth independently many of the substantive criticisms and reforms of the humanists. So effective were these native critics of scholasticism that modern...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Ecclesiopolitical Traditions
    (pp. 135-181)

    Any effort to interpret medieval political and ecclesiopolitical thought must come to grips at the outset with the work of Walter Ullmann, professor of medieval ecclesiastical history at the University of Cambridge. Ullmann is to the political traditions of the Middle Ages what Etienne Gilson is to the scholastic—the author of a synthesis both authoritative and highly controversial. It is Ullmann’s view that diametrically opposed concepts of government and law competed in the Middle Ages and that their conflict gave the political history of the period its dynamic. One he describes as an “ascending” view of power, according to...

  9. CHAPTER 5 On the Eve of the Reformation
    (pp. 182-222)

    By the second half of the fifteenth century, European rulers had begun to solve two major problems, and the resolution of each proved important to the success of the Protestant Reformation. First, they gained military supremacy over internal rivals and learned to govern their realms through agents whose outlook and loyalty were “national” or “territorial” rather than merely local or regional. In France, England, Spain, the city-states of Italy, and the larger German principalities, lands were politically unified and administratively organized to a degree unknown during the Middle Ages. Second, rulers secured their realms from foreign aggression and influence, especially...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Mental World of Martin Luther
    (pp. 223-244)

    The religious demands placed on Luther the monk were not unlike those known by earnest laity; both shared a common experience of unresolved religious oppression. Many laity derived no more consolation from the sacrament of confession than Luther from monastic exercises. This shared religious experience formed the basic bond between Luther and the multitude who became Protestant. When Luther articulated his complaints against the medieval church and religion in the famous Reformation pamphlets of 1520, ordinary people knew immediately what he was talking about, because his complaints were also theirs. The “Grievances of the Holy Roman Empire and Especially the...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Society and Politics in the German Reformation
    (pp. 245-289)

    On April 17, 1521, Martin Luther, a condemned heretic under the pope’s ban, stood before Charles of Hapsburg, king of Spain and newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, at the imperial Diet of Worms. Luther was at this time thirty-eight. In the emperor’s presence he refused to recant his alleged errors and made a famous declaration:

    Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, I am bound by the Scriptures...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Humanism and the Reformation
    (pp. 290-317)

    The years 1524–25 saw the Reformation lose many of its early supporters, not only among the peasantry but within the ranks of humanists as well. In these years Luther and Erasmus, after almost a decade of cautious sparring, publicly clashed over the issue of man’s freedom of will in salvation. Their debate, seemingly narrow and obscure, actually involved the most fundamental discussion of human nature and destiny. Erasmus, the prince of the humanists, believed that people were essentially neutral moral agents, filled as much with a potential for good as for evil, disposed as much to serve their neighbors as...

  13. CHAPTER 9 The Swiss Reformation
    (pp. 318-339)

    Ulrich Zwingli grew up a farm boy in the village of Wildhaus, where his father was the sixteenth-century equivalent of a county sheriff. Having received primary and secondary education in Basel and Bern, he matriculated at the University of Vienna in 1498 and there gained his first close acquaintance with medieval philosophy and theology and the new humanist studies. In 1502, at eighteen, he entered the University of Basel, where he studied thevia antiqua,reading the works of Thomas Aquinas and writing a commentary on theSentencesof Duns Scotus. On September 18, 1504 he received the bachelor’s degree...

  14. CHAPTER 10 The Sectarian Spectrum: Radical Movements within Protestantism
    (pp. 340-351)

    Not every “protestant” who was unhappy with Rome rejoiced over the alternatives provided by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. Reform movements normally have moderate and extreme wings, those who are satisfied by half a loaf and those who will settle for nothing short of the whole, and the Reformation was no exception. Original colleagues and co-workers became critics and opponents of the major reformers almost immediately and formed their own countermovements. Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt and Thomas Müntzer separated from Luther in the early 1520s; Conrad Grebel and the Swiss Brethren broke with Zwingli in Zurich in 1523; and Sebastian Castellio,...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Calvin and Calvinism
    (pp. 352-380)

    In 1523, at age fourteen, John Calvin entered the Collège de la Marche in Paris, where, in accordance with his father’s wishes, he began a course of study intended to prepare him for a career in divinity.¹ In his determination to shape the vocational lives of his children, Gerard Calvin, a respected advisor to the bishop of Noyon in Picardy, was fully a match for Luther’s father, although ultimately no more successful. He obtained for his son ecclesiastical benefices in the cathedral church of Noyon and the village church of Pont l’ Evêque, which paid for the greater part of...

  16. CHAPTER 12 Marriage and the Ministry in the Protestant Churches
    (pp. 381-396)

    The Lord God has wanted three things made right again before the Last Day,” Luther declared at table in 1532: “the ministry of the Word, government, and marriage.”¹ No institutional change brought about by the Reformation was more visible, responsive to late medieval pleas for reform, and conducive to new social attitudes than the marriage of Protestant clergy. Nor was there another point in the Protestant program where theology and practice corresponded more successfully. The reformers argued theologically and attempted to demonstrate by their own lives the superiority of a married over a celibate clergy. In doing so they extolled...

  17. CHAPTER 13 Catholic Reform and Counter Reformation
    (pp. 397-418)

    Modern historians interpret the Counter Reformation of the sixteenth century as less a reaction to the success of Protestantism than the continuation of late medieval efforts to reform the medieval church. They see both the Reformation and the Counter Reformation in close continuity with the religious history of the later Middle Ages. As the late H. O. Evennett observed: “The Reformation on its religious side and the Counter Reformation on its religious side can reasonably be regarded as two different outcomes of the [same] general aspiration toward religious regeneration which pervaded late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Europe.”¹ For this...

  18. CHAPTER 14 Protestant Resistance to Tyranny: The Career of John Knox
    (pp. 419-433)

    Despite their different conceptions of the relationship between religion and society and church and state, Protestants in the first half of the sixteenth century—Anabaptists, Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Calvinists alike—had agreed that individuals, as private persons, had no right to rise up against legitimate rulers, no matter how tyrannical or heathenish the latter might become. All saw rulers as divinely established in their offices and tyrants as a just divine judgment on the sins of their subjects. The individual had only one legitimate recourse to tyranny: passive resistance. Aware that the final consequence of such action might be exile...

  19. CHAPTER 15 The Legacy of the Reformation
    (pp. 434-438)

    The Reformation did not reform the whole church, much less European society, and well before midcentury it needed reform itself. Politicians successfully manipulated it, transforming theological counsel originally intended to advise the political conscience into justifications for independent political actions.¹ Doctrinàl quarrels divided it internally, as a new Protestant scholasticism engulfed the second half of the sixteenth century. Even before his death, Martin Luther was looked upon by many of his colleagues as a hopeless reactionary. Bloody civil wars and revolutions under Protestant and Catholic banners blighted Europe in the hundred years after the Diet of Augsburg (1555). Little wonder...

  20. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 439-440)
  21. Index
    (pp. 441-458)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 459-459)