How Much Do You Know About the Reformation?

John Miller

The Reformation greatly affected which aspect of world society?

The Reformation was a profound shift in religious thinking, first in Europe and then around the world. In the end, it changed many aspects of society and culture.

Before the Reformation, which religion was the primary force in Europe?

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church dominated much of European society. But not everyone was happy with the Church’s teachings, or the behavior of the men in charge.

Which famous man is credited with starting the Reformation?

Martin Luther was a theologian and monk who came to despise some aspects of the Catholic Church. He began writing his rebuttals to the Church in 1517.

In the Catholic Church of the time, what was the difference between mortal and venal sins?

The Church said that mortal sins — the worst kind — condemned you to eternity in Hell. Venal sins resulted in a time of cleansing punishment in purgatory.

What was the purpose of "indulgences?"

“Indulgences" were fees that people paid to the church in hopes of reducing the amount of time they’d have to spend in purgatory for their venal sins after they died. More than a few priests began abusing the concept as a way of fleecing their followers.

What was the job of "professional pardoners"?

Professional pardoners were the men sent out to collect indulgences. Many times, if people refused to pay, the pardoners would threaten them with eternal damnation.

True or false, did pardoners sell indulgences for loved ones who had already died?

Were you worried that poppa or mama might be stuck in purgatory for their naughtiness on Earth? No worries, the scam artists, er, professional pardoners would sell you indulgences for them, too. As a matter of fact, today is a 2-for-1 special!

How did Martin Luther feel about the concept of indulgences?

Luther felt that believing in Jesus and the remission of sins should be enough and that indulgences were at odds with Christian teachings. He wasn't afraid to air his ideas in public.

Luther wrote academic-style papers contesting the idea of indulgences. What were those papers called?

In 1517, Luther composed his Ninety-five Theses, which presented his opposition to indulgences. In an era when religious rebels were often executed, it was a courageous (and dangerous) move on his part.

Once he finished writing his Ninety-five Theses, what did Luther do with the papers?

As the legend goes, Luther went to his local church in Germany and nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the front door. It was an act that greatly angered Catholic leaders.

What did Luther hope to accomplish with his Ninety-five Theses?

Luther didn’t have any grand ideas for his Theses. He simply wanted to start a discussion regarding the Church’s teachings. What happened next was much more than he anticipated.

What happened to the Theses after Luther posted them to the church door?

Luther’s Theses snagged the imaginations of locals, who copied the text and spread it. In just two months, his Theses were all over Europe. Can of worms = open.

How did people manage to spread Luther’s Theses across the continent so quickly?

In 1517, the Gutenberg printing press was a new means of creating and spreading information. Using these printing presses, Luther’s followers quickly spread his Theses throughout the land.

In his Theses, Luther gently implied that perhaps the Catholic Church was struggling with what issue?

Luther, in his Theses, wondered why the pope felt it necessary to construct glamorous buildings with the money from indulgences. He was essentially accusing the Church of corruption.

Luther’s Theses essentially started a new movement called ______.

Luther could never have imagined the stir his Theses would cause. His teachings created an entire movement, which became known as Lutheranism.

How did Pope Leo X respond to Luther’s Theses?

The pope was none too happy about Luther and his wayward writings. He demanded that Luther take it all back ... or else.

Luther refused to renounce his Theses. Then what happened?

In 1520, after Luther refused to renounce his writings, the pope had him excommunicated. And the Emperor declared him an outlaw.

What important act did Luther perform with the Bible?

Luther contributed to his cause by translating the Bible from Latin to German. The result? Normal Germans could suddenly read the Bible for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Why wasn’t Luther arrested and executed, like so many opponents of the Church?

Not everyone loved the pope and the Church. One man, Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, pretended to kidnap Luther, but really he just wanted to keep him safe from his pursuers.

What was the general term used to describe reformers who created movements outside of the Catholic Church?

The word "Protestant" eventually became used to describe people who built their own movements in opposition to the Catholic Church. But Protestant was also a political term for those who "protested" the governmental ban on Luther.

Not all of Luther’s teachings were widely accepted. Which ethnic group did Luther antagonize during his life?

Luther wasn’t always a shining example of Christianity. He had a serious problem with Jews, and even said their places of worship should be destroyed and their property confiscated.

How was the printing press industry affected by Luther and his ideas?

The more Luther’s ideas took hold, the more presses spread across Europe. Luther’s ideas contributed greatly to the fast spread of printing presses.

Thanks to printing presses, Luther essentially became a ______.

Printing presses rapidly spread Luther’s ideas throughout Europe, and soon he was essentially a rebellious celebrity ... one that the Church couldn’t quietly do away with.

True or false, is there only one type of Protestantism?

Luther opened the floodgates of Reformation, and Protestantism took on all sorts of new forms in various places. Each denomination of Protestantism had its own approach to Christianity.

One famous Protestant was named John Calvin. Where was he from?

Protestanism was manifested in various forms. John Calvin took Luther’s ideas and tweaked them, giving rise to Calvinism in Switzerland.

Why did Henry VIII, the ruler of England, join the fray of the Reformation?

Henry VIII famous wanted an annulment from one of his six wives, but the Catholic Church refused. He retaliated by forming the Church of England and drastically reducing the Catholic Church’s power.

What was one big difference between Protestant and Catholic priests?

Unlike Catholic priests, Protestant priests weren’t bound to celibacy. They were free to marry as they wished.

About how long did the Reformation last?

The Reformation lasted from 1517 until roughly 1555, a period of nearly 40 years. By then, religion in Europe had dramatically changed.

The Peace of Augsburg was signed in 1555. What did this accomplish?

By 1555, the violent reactions to the Reformation had mostly ceased. The 1555 Peace of Augsburg allowed for the existence of both Lutheranism and Catholisicm in Germany.

The most vital aspect of Protestantism is what?

The Reformation, and Protestantism, were focused on one thing — that faith, and only faith, could lead a soul to salvation. Indulgences and the like had no part in Christianity.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Rick Steves' Europe

About This Quiz

Whether you’re a devout Catholic or an outright atheist, there’s no denying the power of religion around the world. That fact was never more evident than during the Reformation of the early 1500s, when politics, religion — and propaganda — all collided during a time of high drama and political intrigue. Do you think you can quell the uprising of our Reformation quiz? Or will you crack under the pressure of Protestantism?

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church wielded so much power in Europe that the pope and his priests could do just about anything they wanted … and so they did. Corruption began rotting the Church from the inside out, and it was all done under the pretense of saving the souls of their followers. Do you understand the issues that caused such widespread corruption?

A guy named Martin Luther decided to challenge the Church, and he managed to strike a chord not only with Church leaders, but with ordinary Europeans, too. Soon, his ideas were everywhere. Do you know how Luther’s ideas spread?

The Reformation started wars, toppled rulers and refocused parts of Christianity. You don’t need any Hail Marys to start this quiz, just say your prayers and see if you really know the Reformation!

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!