the counter-reformation -- 2/8/22

Today's selection -- from Our First Revolution by Michael Barone. The Protestant Reformation, first ignited by Martin Luther in 1517, was followed by a vigorous and violent reaction, the Counter-Reformation:

"The Catholic Church responded to this Reformation with a Counter-Reformation. The Council of Trent, concluded in 1563, reaf­firmed traditional Catholic doctrine and ordered internal reforms of the Church. Counter-Reformation Catholicism was characterized by a rigorous faith, elaborate ceremony with incense and inspiring music, beautifully decorated baroque churches to inspire awe and to make the Mass an emotionally moving experience. The baroque churches still found today from Rome to France and Germany, Bohemia and Poland, Spain and the Spanish and Portuguese colonies of Latin America are concrete evidence of the confidence and verve of the Counter-Reformation Catholic Church.

Allegory of the Peace of Westphalia, by Jacob Jordaens.

"In different countries Catholics went on the offensive. In France, leading Protestant Huguenots were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572; after the Huguenot Henri IV became king in 1589, he faced civil war and converted to Catholicism, concluding, 'Paris is worth a Mass.' In what is now Germany, the Catholic Haps­burg Holy Roman Emperors went on the offensive in the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), and Protestantism was extirpated in what are now the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and large parts of Germany. The treaties of Westphalia ended this conflict in 1648, recognizing the independence of states, including those within the Holy Roman Empire, and the right of their rulers to determine their religion. The United Provinces of the Netherlands, which had been fighting their Catholic Spanish overloards since 1568, were recognized as an independent protestant nation, outside the empire. But the overall result of these religious wars was that by the late seventeenth century about two-thirds of the people of Christian Europe lived in Catholic domains and 'between 1590 and 1690 the geographical reach of Protestantism shrank from one-half to one-fifth of the land area of the continent.' 'Every observer of the contemporary scene knew that effectively the principle of cuius regio eius religio operated,' writes the historian K. H. D. Haley. 'No Catholic king ruled over a Protestant people.'

"England and the United Provinces, the two states intimately in­volved in the First Revolution, were thus small Protestant outliers on the northwest fringes of a mostly Catholic continent. They were also  exceptions to the trend in Europe toward stability imposed by abso­lutist governments. 'In 1590,' writes Reformation historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, 'around half of the European land-mass was under the control of Protestant governments and/or Protestant cul­ture: in 1690 the figure was only around a fifth.' Christian Europe, that is Europe excluding the Ottoman Empire, which came up to the gates of Vienna in 1683, had about 100 million people at the time of the Glorious Revolution. England had about 5 million, its sister king­doms Scotland and Ireland about 1 and 2 million respectively. Britain's North American colonies had about 250,000. London was the one huge city in the British Isles, with 375,000 people around 1650 and 490,000 around 1700, about 10 percent of England's population. The next largest town, Norwich, had only 30,000, and there were about 60 towns with populations between 2,500 and 11,000. The United Provinces of the Netherlands had 2 million people. In contrast, France was a demographic monster, with 20 million people, and there were about 18 million in the many states that now make up Germany. Spain, sapped by constant warfare and colonial overextension, had about 7.5 million and the Spanish Netherlands, approximately today's Belgium, another 1.5 million; Spain's Latin American colonies had ap­proximately 10 million, while the English North American colonies had only 280,000."




Michael Barone


Our First Revolution


Crown Publishing Group



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