Essay Example on the Reformation: Continental and English Reforms (1517-1648)

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1236 Words
Date:  2023-02-27

Reformation could be described as events that happened in the 16th century within western Christianity, which resulted in religious and political challenges to the Roman Catholic Church and the Papal authority (Betteridge, 2016). The Reformation took place during the year 1517-1648. There are two significant reformations that happened during this time, which are called as continental and English reformations.

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The continental Reformation was the primary European movement that happened in the 16th century and aimed at changing and reforming the values of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation resulted at the beginning of the modern era by ending the unity imposed by medieval Christianity (Mason, 2018). Similarly, the English Reformation was those events that happened in the 16th century in which the Church of England separated from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. The English reformations were, to some extent, part of the protestant reformations, and both of eh reformations resulted in the decline of Feudalism and the rise of nationalism (Hayward, 2017). There were some other benefits of the reforms, too, like the movement of the Bible and the increase in knowledge among the scholars of that time. This essay will be based on the comparison of the Continental and English Reformation in which details will be mentioned about the reforms.

Continental vs. the English ReformationThe English Reformation was led by King Henry VIII. The Reformation started when King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon. Upon requesting a divorce from the Catholic Church, the request of the divorce was denied upon which the King ordered the Archbishop of Canterbury (Overell, 2016). The King was able to persuade the archbishop to grant him the divorce as a result of which England separated from the Catholic Church. As a result of the situation, a new church was formed, which was named the Church of England. King announced that he was the head of the new Church and made some reforms in the belief system of Christianity (Milner, 2016). Upon separation from the Catholic Church and declaring himself the leader of the New Church of England, King Henry VIII became more powerful than ever and started preaching and following his own version of the religion.

The continental Reformation was led by Martin Luther, who was a German Augustinian monk. The movement started in 1517, and the reason behind the start of this Reformation was that Martin Luther wanted to reform the Church because he did not agree with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church (Becker, Pfaff, & Rubin, 2016). To show his disregard towards the Catholic Church, Martin Luther proposed his famous 95 theses, which consisted of all the philosophical wrongs that he found about the Catholic Church, and it also included an offer to debate (Kumin, 2016). As a result of the issue, Martin Luther faced harsh criticism and was condemned by the Catholic Church. The entire situation resulted in developing increased chances of being exo-communicated by the Church, and Martin Luther had to go into hiding.

The difference between the two reformations is that King Henry VIII separated from the Church due to personal reasons (Cantoni, Dittmar, & Yuchtman, 2018). On the contrary, Martin Luther wanted to reform the Church because of his disagreements from the Church. The major part which took part in the reform was the establishment of the Catholic Church of England, which was led by King Henry himself CITATION Par17 \l 1033 (Parish, 2017). On the other hand, the thing that started the continental reform was the 95 theses, which Martin Luther presented, showing his disagreement with some of the major philosophies of the Catholic Church.

The English reform resulted in an increase in local preaching and an increase in the interpretation of the bible (Swatos Jr & Kaelber, 2016). On the other hand, the continental reforms resulted in protests against the orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church. Both of the reforms took place with the help of the printing press. In the case of the English reform, the ideology of the new Catholic Church of England was made popular with the help of education and increased the literacy of the time (Higman, 2017). On the contrary, the continental reform was able to influence people by the distribution of leaflets and brochures, which were printed by the printing press.

Regarding the English reform, King Henry made himself the leader of the new Church of England. On the other hand, there was no such attempt done by Martin Luther. King Henry VIII became more potent after the reform, and there were little or no attempts to counter the reforms. On the other hand, Martin Luther faced some serious counter-reformation, which was eventually lead by King Henry VIII. As a result, King Henry was even given the title of the "Defender of the faith" by the pope.

Both were condemned by the Catholic Church, but Martin Luther faced more criticism because of his lower social status as compared to King Henry VIII. Luther was different from the other reformers because he did not assault the Church's ideologies altogether. He instead confronted their doctrine, which was something new at the time CITATION Wal16 \l 1033 (Walsham, 2016). Luther preferred to debate rather than attacking the system and making his own, but King Henry VIII got separated from the Catholic Church because he wanted some personal changes in the religion.


There were reforms done throughout the 16th century, and that is why it is often regarded as the century of reforms. Upon researching both of the reforms, it is concluded that King Henry VIII started the reform because of personal benefits, whereas Martin Luther introduced the reform because of his disagreements towards the old orthodox ideologies. The reforms resulted in both of them being condemned by the Catholic Church. King Henry VIII was able to increase his power by becoming the leader of the Church of England, whereas Martin Luther gathered more and more enemies with time because of his lower social status. Another similarity that was shown in both of the cases was the role of the printing press in the spreading of the ideologies of both the reforms. This showed the power of the printing press at those times and explained the importance of producing contemporary literature to spread new ideology.


Becker, S. O., Pfaff, S., & Rubin, J. (2016). Causes and consequences of the Protestant Reformation. Explorations in Economic History, 1-25.

Betteridge, T. (2016). Tudor Histories of the English Reformations, 1530-83. Routledge.

Cantoni, D., Dittmar, J., & Yuchtman, N. (2018). Religious competition and reallocation: The political economy of secularization in the protestant reformation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2037-2096.

Hayward, M. (2017). Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Routledge.

Higman, F. M. (2017). Ideas for Export: Translations in the Early Reformation. In Renaissance Culture in Context (pp. 100-113). Routledge.

Kumin, B. A. (2016). The shaping of a community: The rise and reformation of the English Parish c. 1400-1560. Routledge.

Mason, R. A. (2018). John Knox and the British Reformations. Routledge.

Milner, M. (2016). The senses and the English Reformation. Routledge.

Overell, M. A. (2016). Italian Reform and English Reformations, c. 1535-c. 1585. Routledge.

Parish, H. L. (2017). Clerical marriage and the English Reformation: precedent policy and practice. Routledge.

Swatos Jr, W. H., & Kaelber, L. (2016). The Protestant Ethic Turns 100: Essays on the Centenary of the Weber Thesis. Routledge.

Walsham, A. (2016). Domesticating the Reformation: Material Culture, Memory, and Confessional Identity in Early Modern England. Renaissance Quarterly, 566-616.

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