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By: Jessica Boyce and Emily Fletcher


The following question is based on the accompanying documents. (Some of the documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.)

This question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. Write an essay that:

•Has a relevant thesis and supports that theisis with evidence form the documents.
•Uses a majority of the documents.
•Analyzes the documents by grouping them in as many appropriate ways as possible. Does not simply summarize the documents individually.
•Takes into account both the sources of the documents and the authors' points of view.


Although the Reformation is often viewed as a religious movement, it also significantly affected the political and social spheres of Europe. Assess the validity of this statement.



Historic Background:

The new ideas of the Renaissance helped to spur the changing views of the Catholic church’s authority over Europe. Many Europeans were directly affected by the failing church order. In small, regional churches clergymen were gradually losing respect as a result of corruption and a lack of understanding of the Christian texts. Church officials had responsibility over too many offices as a result of simony, which furthered the belief of their ineptitude. In 1517, the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel enraged Martin Luther who would later greatly influence the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Martin Luther became a key figure in the Reformation through the invention of the printing press in the late 13th century. Johannes Gutenburg’s invention allowed the distribution of Reformation papers and translated Bibles throughout Europe. This not only affected the literacy of Europeans, but also exposed them to information, which allowed for the success of the Protestant Reformation.

Document 1:

We have no one on earth to thank for this mischievous rebellion, except you lords and princes, especially you blindbishops and mad priests and monks....In your government you do nothing but flay and rob your subjects in order that you may lead a life of splendor and pride, until the poor common folk can bear it no longer.

An Abomination of Peace (1525), Martin Luther criticizing German lords

Document 2:

27. It is mere human talk to preach that the soul flies out [of purgatory] immediately the money clinks in the collection-box.

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the church is in the power of God alone.

95 Theses (1517), Martin Luther

Document 3:

Depicts the use of the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenburg. Allowed the spread of Reformation literature.

Document 4:

As Christ by His birthright has obtained these two dignities, so He imparts and communicates them to every believer in Him, under that law of matrimony of which we have spoken above, by which all that is the husband's is also the wife's..

Concerning Christian Liberty (1520), Martin Luther concerning marriage

Document 5:

. . .In truth, the Jews, being foreigners, should possess nothing, and what they do possess should be ours. For they do not work, and we do not give them presents. Nonetheless, they keep our money and our goods and have become our masters in our own country and in their Dispersion. When a thief steals ten guldens, he is hanged; but when a Jew steals ten barrels of gold through his usury, he is prouder than the Lord himself! He boasts of it and strengthens his faith and his hatred of us, and thinks: ‘See how the Lord does not abandon His people in the Dispersion. We do not work, we are idle, and we pass the time pleasantly; the cursed goyim must work for us, and we have their money: thus we are their lords and they our servants!’ To this day we still do not know what devil brought them into our country; surely we did not go to seek them out in Jerusalem! No one wants them. The countryside and the roads are open to them; they may return to their country when they wish; we shall gladly give them presents to get rid of them, for they are a heavy burden on us, a scourge, a pestilence and misfortune for our country. This is proved by the fact they they have often been expelled by force: from France (which they call Tsarpath), where they had a downy nest; recently from Spain, (which they call Sepharad), their chosen roost; and even this year from Bohemia, where, in Prague, they had another cherished nest; finally, in my own lifetime, from Ratisbon [Regensburg], Madgeburg, and from many other places. . . .

On The Jews and Their Lies (1543), Martin Luther's antisemetic pamphlet

Document 6:

...they are starting a rebellion, and violently robbing and plundering monasteries and castles which are not theirs, by which they have a second time deserved death in body and soul, if only as highwaymen and murderers.... For rebellion is not simple murder, but is like a great fire, which attacks and lays waste a whole land.... Therefore, let every-one who can, smite, slay and stain, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more pod' venous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel....

First, I will not oppose a ruler who, even though he does not tolerate the Gospel, will smite and punish these peasants without offering to submit the case to judgment. For he is within his rights, since the peasants are not contending any longer for the Gospel, but have become faithless, perjured, disobedient, rebellious murderers, robbers and blasphemers, whom even heathen rulers have the right and power to punish; nay, it is their duty to punish them, for it is just for this purpose that they bear the sword, and are "the ministers of God upon him that doeth evil....'

Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants (1525), Martin Luther

Document 7:

The Ship of Fools (1490-1500), Oil painting by Hieronymus Bosch portraying widespread contempt of priests and monks that had concubines and illegitimate offspring.

Document 8:

"I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as day they have frequently erred and contradicted eachother. Unless therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture...I cannot and will not retract...Here I stand, I can do no other. So help my God, Amen."

Martin Luther's reply when summoned to appear before the Emperor at the Diet of Worms to answer for writing his 95 Theses.

Document 9:

Fifteenth Rule. We ought not, by way of custom, to speak much of predestination; but if in some way and at some times one speaks, let him so speak that the common people may not come into any error, as sometimes happens, saying; Whether I have to by saved or condemned is already determined, and no other thing can now be, through my doing well or ill; and with this, growing lazy, they become negligent in the works which led to the salvation and spiritual profit of their souls.

From the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, part of Counter Reformation

Document 10:

For this reason a prince ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality, inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

The Prince, Chapter XVIII (1505), by Nicolo Machiavelli

Document 11:

Paul testifies that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, (Eph. 2:20). If the doctrine of the apostles and prophets is the foundation of the Church, the former must have had its certainty before the latter began to exist... For if the Christian Church was founded at first on the writings of the prophets, and the preaching of the apostles, that doctrine, wheresoever it may be found, was certainly ascertained and sanctioned antecedently to the Church, since, but for this, the Church herself never could have existed. Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends.

Institutes of the Christian Religion; Book 1, Chapter 7, Section 2(1559), John Calvin

Document 12:

By the insinuation of many, if they are indeed worthy of belief, deploring it deeply, it has come to our ears that John de Wycliffe, rector of the church of Lutterworth, in the diocese of Lincoln, Professor of the Sacred Scriptures (would that he were not also Master of Errors), has fallen into such a detestable madness that he does not hesitate to dogmatize and publicly preach, or rather vomit forth from the recesses of his breast, certain propositions and conclusions which are erroneous and false. He has cast himself also into the depravity of preaching heretical dogmas which strive to subvert and weaken the state of the whole church and even secular polity, some of which doctrines, in changed terms, it is true, seem to express the perverse opinions and unlearned learning of Marsilio of Padua of cursed memory, and of John of Jandun, whose book is extant, rejected and cursed by our predecessor, Pope John XXII, of happy memory. This he has done in the kingdom of England, lately glorious in its power and in the abundance of its resources, but more glorious still in the glistening piety of its faith, and in the distinction of its sacred learning; producing also many men illustrious for their exact knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, mature in the gravity of their character, conspicuous in devotion, defenders of the Catholic Church. He has polluted certain of the faithful of Christ by sprinkling them with these doctrines, and led them away from the right paths of the aforesaid faith to the brink of perdition.

Pope Gregory XI: The Condemnation of Wycliffe (1382), Gregory XI condemning John Wycliffe for questioning the Catholic Church. Wycliffe, an English theologian and reformer, was a precursor of the Protestant Reformation.