The “protests” were also expressed in some artists' work. Lucas Cranach was a court painter to Frederick the Wise, one of the electors of Saxony. Cranach befriended Luther and painted portraits of him and other Protestant notables. Cranach's work promoted the Protestant cause and its leaders.

Luther's ideas won widespread support for many reasons. Many clergy saw Luther's reforms as the answer to corruption in the Roman Catholic Church.

A number of German princes, however, embraced Lutheran beliefs for more selfish reasons. Some saw Lutheranism as a way to throw off the rule of both the Church and the Holy Roman emperor. Others welcomed a chance to seize valuable Church property in their territories. Still other Germans supported Luther because of feelings of national loyalty. They were tired of German money going to support churches and clergy in Italy.

The Peasants' Revolt

Many peasants also took up Luther's call for reform. They hoped to gain his support for social and economic change as well. In 1524, a Peasants' Revolt erupted across Germany. The rebels demanded an end to serfdom and for other changes to ease their harsh lives. However, Luther strongly favored social order and respect for political authority. As the Peasants' Revolt grew more violent, Luther denounced it. With his support, nobles suppressed the rebellion with great brutality, killing as many as 100,000 people and leaving thousands more homeless.

Illustration of two scenes separated by a column placed in the center.
Image Long Description

This 1545 woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder is an example of how Reformation art expressed the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. Cranach wrote that the work was meant to show the difference between the “true religion” and the “false idolatrous teaching.”

The Peace of Augsburg

During the 1530s and 1540s, Charles V tried to force Lutheran princes back into the Catholic Church, but with little success. Finally, after a number of brief wars, Charles and the princes reached a settlement. The Peace of Augsburg, signed in 1555, allowed each prince to decide which religion—Catholic or Lutheran—would be followed in his lands. Most northern German states chose Lutheranism. The southern German states remained largely Catholic.

John Calvin Challenges the Church

In the wake of Luther's revolt against the Church, other reformers challenged Church authority. The most important was John Calvin, who lived in what is today Switzerland. Calvin had a razor-sharp mind, and his ideas had a profound effect on the direction of the Protestant Reformation.

Painting of a village by a river, where soldiers and peasants are fighting, with goods and property being destroyed.

The leaders of Germany's Peasants' Revolt of 1524 hoped for Luther's support. Instead, Luther sided with the authorities because of his belief in social order and the rule of law.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments