The Reformation Era of Church History (1417 to 1648 AD)

The Reformation era of church history ran from 1417 to 1648 AD. After the Pre-Reformation, there were three simultaneous movements: Reformation; Counter-Reformation; and Private Reforms.



1417-1517 AD


Prior to the pre-Reformation, there were two people whose death paved the way for the Reformation to happen:

John Wycliff (1331-1384)

A professor at Oxford University. He believed in predestination for salvation.

After his death, the Council of Constance declared him a heretic, banned his writings, burned his works, exhumed his body, defrocked him, and burned him at the stake.


The Lord’s Supper

De civili dominio

De potentate papae: opposes the position that the Church consists only of the clergy

Jan Hus (1369-1415)

Often referred to in English as John Hus or John Huss.

A professor at the Charles University in Prague. He tried to reform the Church by delineating the moral failings of clergy, bishops, and even the papacy from his pulpit.

At the Council of Constance, he was imprisoned in a dungeon. Later, at the cathedral parish, he was condemned and burned at the stake.


De Ecclesia (1413 AD)


And now, here are key figures and events of the pre-Reformation:

Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438)

It required a general church council to be held every ten years. Its authority was to be superior to a pope. Such a notion was called the Conciliar Movement.

Council of Basel (1438-1445)

(Ecumenical) Council. Held in Ferrara and in Florence. It declared the authority of the Pope to be superior to that of a General Council. This killed off the Conciliar Movement.

Nicholas of Cusa (1401 to 1464 AD)

Noted for his deeply mystical writings about the possibility of knowing God with the divine human mind — not possible through mere human means — via “learned ignorance.”


On Learned Ig­no­rance

De pace fidei

Thomas à Kempis (died 1471 AD)


The Imitation of Christ

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (1478-on)

It was established in 1478 to enforce Catholic orthodoxy.

Estimates of the number of persons assaulted by the Inquisition range up to 150,000, with 2,000 to 5,000 people executed.

Fifth Council of the Lateran (1512-1514)

(Ecumenical) Council. Held in Rome. Declared that the teachings of the Council of Pisa were invalid since it did not have the Pope’s approval. Expressed concern for abuses in the Church, and pointed out the need for reform.


1517-1648 AD


Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)

Together with Luther and Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli is one of the three key figures of the Reformation. He lived in Switzerland.

His  legacy lives on in the Reformed churches of today.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

He expressed doubts over the legitimacy of indulgences and the plenitudo potestatis of the pope.

The Reformation was born of Luther’s dual declaration – first, the discovering of Jesus and salvation by faith alone; and second, identifying the papacy as the Antichrist.

On October 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Luther nailed The Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church. The theses debated and criticized the Church and the papacy, but concentrated upon the selling of indulgences and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgment, and the authority of the pope.


The Ninety-Five Theses

On the Bondage of the Will

Smalcald Articles

On the Freedom of a Christian

The Diet of Worms (1521)

Tried Martin Luther for heresy.

Pope Leo X

Excommunicated Martin Luther on January 3, 1521


Decet Romanum Pontificem

Philip Melanchthon (died 1560 AD)

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Together with Luther and Zwingli, John Calvin is one of the three key figures of the Reformation.

He was a principal figure in the development of Calvinism, which is most famous for its doctrines on predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation and damnation.

John Knox (1514-1572)

A Scottish clergyman and writer who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland.

Thirty Years’ War (1618 to 1648)

The Roman Catholic House of Habsburg and its allies fought against the Protestant princes of Germany, killing between 25 and 40% of its population.

The Peace of Westphalia (1648)

It ended the Thirty Years’ War.

René Descartes (1596 to 1650)

French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. His best known philosophical statement is “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am).

Dubbed the father of modern western philosophy. Much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings.


Discourse on the Method (1637). This is one of the most influential works in the history of modern philosophy. it is very important to the development of the natural sciences.


1545 to 1648 AD

“The Empire Strikes Back”


Johann Eck (1486 to 1543)

Eck paved the way for the Counter-Reformation.

A German scholastic theologian. He defended the doctrines of the Mass, Purgatory, and auricular confession. He condemned Luther, Zwingli and others. Later in life, he became a papal emissary and Inquisitor.


404 Theses

Council of Trent (1545-1563)

(Ecumenical) Council. Held in Italy. It clarified Catholic teaching, refuted the Protestant Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli), and set Catholic reform in motion.

It was more about theology and church practices. It was less about church politics than the two councils that came before it.

Rules on Prohibited Books

Index of Prohibited Books

Missale Romanum (1570)

The Galileo Trial (1616)

It symbolizes the Inquisition. It had a profound effect upon the progress of science for the next 200 years. It drove science out of Italy and north to the Netherlands.

Its effects continue to this day, where a sharp divide still exists between religion and science; between faith and reason.


1545 to 1648 AD


Ignatius of Loyola (1491 to 1556)


Spiritual Exercises

Francis Xavier (1506 to 1552)


John of Ávila (died 1569)

Doctor of the Catholic Church

Spanish priest, preacher, scholastic author, religious mystic

Teresa of Jesus (1515 to 1582)

Doctor of the Catholic Church

Also known as Teresa of Ávila


The Interior Castle

The Life of Teresa of Ávila

Way of Perfection

Meditations on the Canticle

The Foundations

Visitation of the Discalced Nuns

Charles Borromeo (1538 to 1584)


Pastoral Letters

John of the Cross (1542 to 1591)

Doctor of the Catholic Church


The Ascent of Mt. Carmel

The Dark Night

The Spiritual Canticle

The Living Flame of Love

Peter Canisius (1521 to 1597)

Doctor of the Catholic Church

Lawrence of Brindisi (died 1619 AD)

Doctor of the Catholic Church

Robert Bellarmine (1542 to 1621)

Doctor of the Catholic Church



The Art of Dying Well

Francis de Sales (1567 to 1622)

Doctor of the Catholic Church


In­tro­duction to the Devout Life

The Love of God

Paul Miki and Companions (died 1597)


Vincent de Paul (1581 to 1660)



The Patristic Era of Church History (33 to 590 AD)

The Medieval Era of Church History (590 to 1417 AD)

The Reformation Era of Church History (1417 to 1648 AD)

The Modern Era of Church History (1648 to 1962 AD)

The Postmodern Era of Church History (1962 AD to present)

The Ecumenical Councils

The Doctors of the Catholic Church

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

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