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The Beginning of the Reformation in Humanism


The Catholic Church had grown to be the leader in the Christian religion during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The power it possessed was like nothing that had been seen in history. Yet, its time in the garden of unquestionable power was to end as a new thought arose. Humanism was a tidal wave that hit Europe. Mainly thought to be in the arts and politics, humanism affected the Christian church in a dramatic way. Martin Luther was greatly influenced by the humanistic movement which helped guide him to speak up, and eventually ignite, the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther was not born fully possessing spiritual knowledge that would rock the Catholic Church. He was not born with anything that made him stand out and be acknowledged as someone who would change the entire Western world. Yet, this man who entered the world at the end of 1483 would change the religious, political, and social planes of the world. He would be described as “the future hero of the faith, the teacher, and the warrior.”

Surprisingly, this future church leader was not groomed to be a priest or a minister. It was in “accordance with the wish of his father and the advice of his relations” that Luther trained to become a lawyer. All religious convictions and turning points were occurring in him from a personal standpoint. Religion did not become his focus until 1505 after receiving his masters when he was faced with an apparent flash of lighting. This bolt of light caused him to plead to St. Anne to save him as he is hiding from this. In return, he would become a monk. After his fears eased, he did not see his rash promise as just words. A promise is a promise. He turned away from “his former life and companions” as well as ignored his father’s desires and embraced the church.

Luther had now embarked on a journey that is deeply felt today throughout the world, as Christianity has grown. He was to take religion seriously and to leave no spiritual rock unturned. His birth and his surrender to the religious life came at the same time as the humanistic movement was beginning to spread throughout Europe. The first step toward the Protestant Reformation was a lightning bolt. The second was the influence of humanism.



Buckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Ontario: Batoche Books, 2001.

Busak, Robert P. “Martin Luther: Renaissance Humanist?” podcast audio, http://robertbusek.podomatic.com/entry/2011-02-12T17_11_00-08_00 .

D’Amico, John F. Renaissance humanism in papal Rome: humanists and churchmen on the eve of the Reformation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
Gersh, Stephen and Bert Roest, ed. Medieval and Renaissance Humanism: Rhetoric, Representation and Reform. Boston: Bill Academic, 2003.

Hale, J.R. Renaissance Europe 1480-1520. Malden: Blackwell, 2000.

Kostlin, Julius. Life of Martin Luther. New York: Amazon Digital Services, Kindle Edition, 2009.
Luther, Martin. “95 Theses.” Project Wittenburg. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/ wittenberg/luther/web/ninetyfive.html (accessed February 20, 2011).

Mazzocco, Angelo, ed. Interpretations of Renaissance Humanism. Brill: The Netherlands, 2006.

Middle Ages Religion.” http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/middle-ages-religion.htm (accessed February 20, 2011).

“The Protestant Reformation.” http://www.historyguide.org/earlymod/lecture3c.html (accessed January 19, 2011).
Vandiver, Elizabeth, Ralph Keen, Thomas D. Frazel, ed. Luther’s Lives: Two Contemporary Accounts of Martin Luther. New York: Manchester, 2002.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Graf. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rebecca Graf. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Rebecca Graf for details.

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