The personality of Martin Luther (1483-1546), so full of contrasts and extremes, from coarse humor to the highest spiritual elevation, can not be separated from his way of thinking.His purpose is not schism because he wants, before all, rehabilitation of the Bible as an essential source of revelation.
Luther, a monk and then a priest, judges the man in front of God not by his moral attitude, but by his way of accepting the divine judgement.In Protestantism there is no room for doubt and divine forgiveness is a certitude.It is marked by two biblical sacraments, baptism and the participation at The Last Supper.
In the time of euharistic celebration, Luther does not believe that transsubstantion exists though this shows the real presence of Christ. The believer, sure of divine forgiveness, has to let himself in the hands of God which will reveal his will by practicing altruism and through vocation revealing.
Luther disseminates his idea by displaying , through the gate of the castle church in Wittenberg, on 4th of September 1517, the 95 thesis. The breakup with Rome takes place in 1518, when Luther refuses to retract his thesis in front of the Diet in Augsburg.In 1520 , he publishes his schedule as three fundamental writings: "Appeal to the Christian nobility of the German nation," "Chaotic captivity of the church" and "Christian Freedom." That same year, at Wittemberg, he burns in front of the mob of students the papal bubble in which he is threatened with excommunication proclaimed in 1521.He is saved by the Duke of Saxony, Frederic the wise, and he takes refuge at his court where he translates between 1521 and 1522 the New Testament in German.
In 1555, a new Diet from Augsburg, bring religious peace in Germany, accepting the Lutherans as catholics.In each state, religious faith depended on the choice the prince made for his subjects.
Admirer of Erasmus, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) is won by the ideas of Protestantism, from which he will separate in order to create a very strict religious community in Zurich.Pushing Lutheranism at the extreme, Zwingli accuses the Church for abolition of everything that is not based on the Bible: religious paintings,the organ, religious songs.In 1529, at Marienburg,takes place an attempt of a conciliation with Luther, who has not yet succeeded, because Zwingli refused to see in the lord's supper just the symbol of Christ.
Jean Calvin (1509-1564), born in Noyon, first gets a juridic education, then he converts to Protestantism, devoted to the study of theology.Banished from the French kingdom in 1534, he takes refuge in Basel, where he publishes in 1536 "Christiane religionis instituto. In essence, the Calvinist message is base on the doctrine of predestination: in its eternity, God has given the human salvation or damnation eterna.His only escape is to adapt his human life to the demands of God, all activity must be made in service of God.
Installed permanently in Geneva in 1541, Calvin organises his church.It is conducted by very stringent rules of presbyter, which may be pastors or chosen laics.In Geneva, in 1559, a Calvinist academy is founded in the purpose of training preachers. The range of Calvinism starts in Switzerland and reaches western Germany, France (the hughenots), northern Scotland and the Netherlands
In 1526, King Henry the VIII-th(1491-1547) of England decides to repudiate his second wife, Catherine of Aragorn, first married to his big brother, Arthur. The Pope denies the marriage annulment, but Henry gains it ,in 1532, from Thomas Cranmer, the new archbishop of Canterbury. The official rupture from Rome happened on 30th of April 1534, when the Parliament enacted the Act of supremacy so that the king becomes head of the English Church.
The kingdoms clergymen are obliged to provide an oath of faith to the King and to recognize him as the head of the English Church. Those who refuse are severely punished, as Fischer, bishop of Rochester and Chancellor Thomas Morus,who were executed.Henric the VIII-th uses his new authority to suppress religious communities, all their fortunes going into the kingdom’s treasury. The English schism is a profound national manifestation. Therefore, Henry is supported by the parliament in remarrying his favourite, Anne Boleyn,the episcopal resistance beying crushed by force. Only Ireland refuses to fight Rome,remaining in the sphere of obedience of Roman Catholicism.