Born into a wealthy Spanish family, Teresa entered a convent in her youth. The convent routine was not strict enough for her strong religious nature. So she set up her own order of nuns. They lived in isolation, eating and sleeping very little and dedicating themselves to prayer and meditation.

Impressed by her spiritual life, her superiors in the Church asked Teresa to reorganize and reform Spanish convents and monasteries. Teresa was widely honored for her work, and after her death the Church made her a saint. Her spiritual writings rank among the most important Christian texts of her time and are still widely read today.

Results of the Catholic Reformation

By 1600, the majority of Europeans remained Catholic. Tireless Catholic reformers, like Francis de Sales in France, had succeeded in bringing Protestants back into the Catholic Church. Across Catholic Europe, piety, charity, and religious art flourished, and church abuses were reduced from within.

The reforms of the Catholic Reformation did stop the Protestant tide and even returned some areas to the Catholic Church. Still, Europe remained divided into a Catholic south and a Protestant north. This division would fuel conflicts that lasted for centuries, although later, the goals were more political than religious.

Religious Persecution Continues

During this period of heightened religious passion, persecution was widespread. Both Catholics and Protestants fostered intolerance. The Inquisition executed many people accused of heresy. Catholic mobs attacked and killed Protestants. Protestants killed Catholic priests and destroyed Catholic churches. Both Catholics and Protestants persecuted radical sects like the Anabaptists.

Witch Hunts

The religious fervor of the time contributed to a wave of witch hunting. Between 1450 and 1750, tens of thousands of women and men died as victims of witch hunts. Often, those accused of being witches, or agents of the devil, were women.

Scholars have offered various reasons for this savage persecution, but most agree that it had to do with people's beliefs in magic and spirits. At the time, people saw a close link between magic and heresy. Witches, they believed, were in league with the devil and were thus anti-Christian.

A map shows the major European religions around 1600.
Image Long Description

Analyze Maps

By 1600, the spread of Protestantism had transformed Catholic Europe. What was the main religion in France? Why were most people in each region practicing that religion by 1600?


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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