The reformation essay

Parallel to events in Germany, a movement began in the Swiss Confederation under the leadership of Huldrych Zwingli. Zwingli was a scholar and preacher who moved to Zurich – the then-leading city state – in 1518, a year after Martin Luther began the Reformation in Germany with his Ninety-five Theses . Although the two movements agreed on many issues of theology, as the recently introduced printing press spread ideas rapidly from place to place, some unresolved differences kept them separate. Long-standing resentment between the German states and the Swiss Confederation led to heated debate over how much Zwingli owed his ideas to Lutheranism. Although Zwinglianism does hold uncanny resemblance to Lutheranism (it even had its own equivalent of the Ninety-five Theses, called the 67 Conclusions), historians have been unable to prove that Zwingli had any contact with Luther's publications before 1520, and Zwingli himself maintained that he had prevented himself from reading them.

After Luther refused to recant at the Diet of Worms in 1521, ordinary people in many German towns called for "preaching the pure Gospel ." They enjoyed support from committed members of the local elites — often younger men with humanist educations. Through the 1520s, many German cities edged cautiously toward open rejection of Rome , and by 1530, a substantial majority had joined the Lutheran or Zwinglian "Reformation in the cities." It is striking how radically new converts during these years rejected practices such as the veneration of images, in which they had often participated right up to the introduction of evangelical ideas. Adopting the Reformation brought about sharp changes in daily ritual that everyone could see.

U nforgiven, long-nursed grudges; strategically deferred, murderous designs: These are the real passions that drive Mantel’s books, far more than the sexual passions of her secondary characters. Mantel’s memoir, like the novels, is thick with smoldering grievances: against teachers (“I don’t know if there is a case on record of a child of seven murdering a schoolteacher, but I think there ought to be”); adults generally (“In Hadfield, as everywhere in history of the world, violence without justification or apology was meted out by big people to small”); and above all, against the Catholic Church, which stood in judgment on her mother when Mantel was a child. Accordingly, it is Thomas More, orthodox Catholic and proclaimed saint, who is Mantel’s stand-in for every kind of established authority that she hates. Her More is a thorough hypocrite and a pious fraud, a misogynist husband and a sadistic torturer. He is her villain—physically scrofulous and morally unclean—and she is a child he once humiliated who wants to see him dead.

The reformation essay

the reformation essay


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