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Age Of Doubt In Europe In The 16th Century

992 words - 4 pages

In the 16th Century, Europeans had their faith shattered and were forced to realize that there was doubt in what they believed in. From the countless wars being fought in the name of religion, to the once great and wealthy countries that needed to reaffirm their place in the world, ‘all that they had once taken for granted was suddenly cast into doubt’ (446). Europeans were desperately searching for new foundations to put their faith in ‘in the face of intellectual, religious, and political challenges’ (446). This period is an example of the expression “Age of Doubt, Age of Uncertainty”.

The wars going on throughout Europe through this era were claiming territories through conquest, marriage alliances, or inheritance agreements on the basis of religious uniformity (429). In the 1540’s Germany’s Charles V set into motion attacks against the German princes who were proponents for Lutheran worship. This failed due to the financial taxing of the war Germany had going on with France as well as the fear that the oppression of the Lutheran prices would be similarly done to the Catholic princes in time. In 1955 the Peace of Augsburg was instituted, stated that where Lutherans ruled, Lutherism would be the religion, and the same for Catholic regions. This treaty, while successful in Germany, would set the standard of division of religion throughout Europe (430–431).

In the 1560’s, France’s Catholics were being challenged by the Calvinists of Geneva for over a decade. After the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre King Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes that mandated Catholicism as the kingdom’s religion, but also offered Huguenots the ability to hold public offices, be able to worship at certain times and places, and enter hospitals and universities (431). Charles V’s son, Phillip II, wanted to use his newly inherited position to economically benefit his pursuit of Spanish conquests of the New World by executing thousands of Protestants under Phillips’ “Council of Blood”. With the help of alliances “William the Silent” made with France, Germany, and England, the Netherlands was divided up with Calvinism practiced in the north and Catholicism in the Spanish controlled South (432–433). Between 1618 and 1648, Cardinal Richelieu led the Thirty Years’ War against the Huguenots, with France against Austrian and Spain and with Germany getting the brunt of the casualties (434–437). An example of the viciousness of the attacks were described by author Hans Jakob Christoph von Grimmelshausen in his fictional memoir Siplicissimus (the Simpleton), where he illustrated how ‘each had his own device to torture the peasants, and each peasant had several tortures’ (435). This ended with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which left France in a powerful position in Europe, Germany and Austria losing not only in casualties but in the power structure of Europe, and Europe as a ‘checkerboard of Protestant and Catholic principalities’ (437).

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