Henry III, the Catholic king of France, was deeply disturbed by the Calvinist reformers in Geneva. “It would have been a good thing,” he wrote, “if the city of Geneva were long ago reduced to ashes, because of the evil doctrine which has been sown from that city throughout Christendom.”
This portrait of King Henry VIII of England was painted by the famous court artist, Hans Holbein. Henry broke with the Catholic Church over differences concerning his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
Henry was not alone in his anger. Across Europe, Catholic monarchs and the Catholic Church fought back against the Protestant challenge. They also took steps to reform the Church and to restore its spiritual leadership in the Christian world.
As the Reformation continued, hundreds of new Protestant sects, or religious groups, sprang up. Some sects developed their own versions of the teachings of Luther or Calvin, or followed the teachings of another Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. Others developed ideas that were increasingly radical.
A number of groups, for example, rejected the practice of infant baptism. Infants, they argued, are too young to understand what it means to accept the Christian faith. Only adults, they felt, should receive the sacrament of baptism. Because of this belief, they became known as Anabaptists.
Most Anabaptists, however, were peaceful. In an age of religious intolerance, they called for religious toleration. They also put forward the idea of the separation of church and state. Despite harsh persecution for their threat to the traditional order, these groups influenced Protestant thinking in many countries. Today, the Baptists, Mennonites, and Amish all trace their religious ancestry to the Anabaptists.