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Reformation, religious and political upheaval in western Europe in the 16th century. Primarily an attempt to reform the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church, it led to the establishment of Protestantism. Anticlericalism spread after the movements led by John Wycliffe and the Lollards in 14th-century England and by John Hus in Bohemia in the 15th century. At the same time the papacy had lost prestige due to its 70-year exile, the Babylonian Captivity at Avignon, and the 50-year Great Schism. Renaissance thought, particularly humanism, stimulated liberal views, spread by the invention of printing. Many, like Martin Luther, criticized the low moral standards of Rome and the sale of indulgences. Luther also challenged papal authority and the accepted Roman Catholic doctrines, such as transubstantiation and celibacy, and argued strongly for justification by faith. Luther's ideas spread in Germany after the Diet of Worms (1521) and after the Peasants' War, when Luther won the support of many German princes and of Denmark and Sweden. The protest made by the Lutheran princes at the Diet of Speyer (1529) provided the term Protestant. The Swiss divine Huldreich Zwingli won a large following in Switzerland and southwestern Germany. He carried out radical religious reforms in Zürich, abolishing the mass. After his death (1531), John Calvin led the Swiss reform movement and set up a reformed church in Geneva. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536) had great influence, notably in Scotland, where Calvinism was led by John Knox. In France Calvin's religious followers, the Huguenots, were involved in the complex political struggles leading to the Wars of Religion (1562–98). The Protestant movement in the Low Countries was linked with the national revolt that freed the Dutch from Roman Catholic Spain. The English Reformation was initiated by Henry VIII, who denied papal authority, dissolved and seized the wealth of the monasteries, and made the Church of England autonomous. Henry remained in doctrine a Catholic, but the influence of reformers such as Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer established Protestantism under Edward VI, when Thomas Cranmer issued a new prayer book (1549). There was a Roman Catholic reaction under Mary I, but in 1558 Elizabeth I established moderate Protestantism as the basis of the English Church. The religious position of Europe as a whole, however, was not settled for another century.

See also: Luther, Martin; Protestantism.

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