History: Why so many “Reformers/Rebels” Germanic?


Only that in the case of Ireland, the dominant mobility would have been protestant for the most part, but the population at large didn’t follow their lead.


Initially at the time of King Henry, the Irish nobility wasn’t particularly Protestant. In the 1600s, when the Protestants began to seize more control in Ireland, they often removed the Irish from the land and put Scottish, Welsh or English there, so the Irish kept the Catholic religion as a form of resistance because they associated being Protestant with oppressive landlords and persecution.


Well, if you look at it from the political perspective, the Eastern strains of Christianity retained the Caesaro-Papism of the Christian Period of the Roman Empire. In other words, in the Orthodox tradition, the notion of the Church being subservient to the Emperor was retained, and indeed, the Byzantine Emperors were viewed very specifically as spiritual as well as temporal ruler. This was in keeping with Constantine’s views on the Emperor’s role in the Church.

In the West, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Western Church evolved in a decidedly different direction, particular in the late Middle Ages, where the Papacy essentially asserted supremacy over the Christian princes. Crises like the Investiture Controversy, which were, as I said above, fundamentally a struggle between the German Holy Roman Emperors and the Papacy, created a considerable amount of ill will towards the Church. In England, we saw similar battles, such as the humiliation of Henry II and the almost immediate canonization of Thomas Becket (despite the fact that no one actually believed Henry meant to give an order to kill the Arch-Bishop, and even Becket’s allies thought him an extremist).

Thus we begin to see a strain between the Papacy and the German princes that never quite healed. Couple that with the other real and imagined abuses of the Papacy, you can see why the German princes leaped at Martin Luther’s Theses. Creating national churches that forswore any allegiance to Rome, and in many cases, even to Catholic doctrine and custom, ended what they viewed as undue Papal meddling. Even Henry VIII of England, while still theologically Catholic, certainly saw the value in the opportunity of a break with Rome.


Yep. And Henry had a centuries old historical trail of the conflict between Rome and the Throne, to consider.


You have to understand that the Protestant movement was a reaction to things going on in the Church for several hundred years. The reformation didn’t start or end in Germany. We see reformers earlier on such as Wycliffe (England), Tyndale (England), Savonarola (Spain), Hus (Czechoslovakia), and we see the reformation gain a broader sweep later Zwingli (Switzerland), Calvin (France/Switzerland), and the Anglican split (England). Generally, the reformation held against counter-reformation efforts where you had princes or governments that were sympathetic to the reformers’ cause.


Cuius regio, eius religio.

In Italy, conflicts between political factions were long sanding. The presence of the Pope was unifying because there was a chance the papacy would be given to an ally. Guelph and Ghibbeline both took the papacy. Breaking with the Church was not an option.

In Germanic countries there were alternatives. King was head of the Church. Holy Roman Emperor. Swiss cantons. Each provided a different, more local power as opposed to universal power of papacy, which mirrored the theologies developed.

Sigrid Undeet, the brilliant Norwegian Catholic author, said most Norwegians became Lutheran without really noticing it. Changes were accepted as normal, not a cataclysmic rending of the Church. That observation underlines that the changes were at a higher level, the political leaders and church leaders rather than the people.


I take it as a linguistic thing. The Catholic Church emphasized Latin, and the Romance countries could tend to understand Latin. So communication between bishops as well as the liturgy was fairly well understood by everyone.

Sure, the Church leaders in Protestant countries knew Latin and they didn’t make it a primary theological argument, but I think that language differences made things harder in keeping unity in the church. It’s a bit like the Tower of Babel phenomenon, I guess. So language was an underlying major factor. The Protestants switched their liturgy and Bibles to the home languages and things were easier for them. It doesn’t make them “right”, I just see this as an unstated factor- the communication barrier.

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