Medieval Europe operated on the basis of "Universalism" - the idea that the everyone should work together under the protection of the Roman Catholic Church. This church was led religiously by the Pope, and politically by the Holy Roman Emperor (the "Doctrine of the Two Swords").

The Reformation shattered this delicate unity by creating a brand new religious movement - Protestantism.

1505 - Martin Luther, a German educated at Erfurt decides to become a Friar.

1507 - Martin Luther was ordained as a priest and, two years later at the age of twenty six, he was transferred to the Wittenberg monastery in Saxony.

1510 - Luther was sent to Rome on monastery business. He was shocked by the behaviour of many of the clergy he met during his visit, most of whom were not keeping to their vows.

1512 - Luther graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy from Wittenberg and was appointed Professor of Biblical Theology at the university. He also preached at the parish church.

1517 - Luther posted the "Ninety Five Theses" onto the door of the Wittenberg church. At the heart of these, was the belief that Christian salvation through personal piety requires a sense of contrition for sins and trust in God's mercy. "Good works" alone did not earn salvation. Luther attacked the sale of indulgences by the church in Rome.

1522 - Huldrych Zwingli, a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland, attacked the custom of fasting during Lent.

1529 - Lutheran Princes "Protest" about their treatment by Charles V, thus creating the term "Protestant"

Zwingli, Luther and other reformers met at the Marburg Colloquy and although they agreed on many points of doctrine, they could not reach an accord on the doctrine of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Luther held to the traditional Roman Catholic view that the consecrated elements truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ thru Transubstantiation. Zwingli believed in a "spiritual" real presence of Christ.

1534 - John Calvin, a secretary to the bishop of Noyon in France, was arrested along with many other Protestants and put into prison for a while.

1536 - Calvin finishes writing the "Institutes of the Christian Religion".

1538 - Calvin and Guillaume Farel imposed a religious state on the city of Geneva. It was the Presbyterian experiment which paved the way for the Reformed Protestant Church. Calvin's Presbyterian model was copied by many, including John Knox in Scotland and the Puritans in England.

1540 - John Knox, a Catholic priest, but follower of John Calvin, converted to the Protestant faith when a fellow-reformer was burnt at the stake by order of the Cardinal. Knox was among those who seized the Cardinal's home, St. Andrew's Castle in Edinburgh.

1560 - Scotland's parliament adopted a confession of faith drawn up by Knox and established the Church of Scotland on a Presbyterian basis. Knox and others drove Mary Stuart, a Roman Catholic, out of Scotland.

BIographies at the Open Door Web Site.
Timeline at the Wolverhampton Grammar School history and politics website.
Reformation at

last updated 19 Mar 2003