Catholic Counter-Reformation: Crash Course European History #9 (1)
Hi I'm John Green and this is Crash Course European History.
So, last week we took a break from religion to show that amidst warfare and bitter controversy
over doctrine, people were inventing and innovating and enslaving.
Europeans were eating new foods, hanging out more in cities, and making advances in commerce
and legal protections for some people.
While also inventing systems of oppression to enslave others.
Years ago, historians firmly believed that the Protestant religion promoted capitalism—that
is, all the business and commerce that were springing up at the time were caused by the
Some historians still find that Martin Luther's other worldly interests expanded to this-worldly
activities, like reading, in ways that boosted prosperity, but the rise of capitalism was
complex, and also it happened in non-Protestant communities.
So today, let's shift perspectives back to how the Catholics were handling all this.
Were they ready to simply surrender their influence in European society?
Did the Church just turn its back on this momentous challenge of Protestantism and continue
down its much criticized path?
Leaders and the faithful created a sturdy, even strident Catholic-Reformation, or Counter-Reformation,
that also provided a little grease to the wheels of commerce.
And today we're gonna look at the Catholic Reformation and how it influenced not just
Europe but the world.
The task of reform fell to Pope Paul III, who like many Renaissance popes lived in the
lap of luxury and engaged in corrupt practices such as appointing two of his grandsons cardinals
in their early teens.
He only hired the best people.
Also, why does this pope have grandsons?
That reminds me of the great last words of the Irish poet, Brendan Behan.
A nun was giving him an injection, and he turned to her and said, “bless you sister.
May all your sons be bishops.”
Then he died.
But Pope Paul III knew, partly because of external pressure, that the Catholic Church
needed to shape up.
Several attempts at undertaking reforms in formal meetings were blocked by powerful individuals
who liked the status quo.
Powerful individuals and the status quo: The greatest love story of this or any time.
But the church was tired of seeing its overall power decrease, and so in 1545, the Council
of Trent, composed of high church officials, assembled to stop the Protestant momentum.
And this council continued until 1563, a series of meetings that lasted so long that by the
time it was over, both Pope Paul III and his successor Julius III had died.
I've definitely had meetings that felt like they were 18 years long.
I'm not sure if they were, though.
So, among the adherents to Protestantism were some of the most powerful princes and members
of the nobility in Europe.
And some Catholic leaders wanted those powerful Protestants on their side.
But eventually the council eventually decided not to compromise.
Instead, the pronouncements of the Council of Trent were stark and emphatic.
Already in 1542 while waiting for a council actually to get organized, the papacy had
expanded the work of the Inquisition, which had been established in the 13th century to
stamp out heresies in southern France and Italy.
But now the Inquisition targeted Protestants and searched for heresy also among conquered
people in the New World.
The Council also affirmed principles of transubstantiation—that is, the belief that the blood and wine of
the communion sacrament become the actual body and blood of Jesus.
It upheld the centrality of the seven sacraments, and the selling of indulgences stuck around
Clergy were to remain celibate and chaste--unlike most Protestant clerics.
And all Catholics were to live by faith /and/ practice good works as their path to salvation—not
by faith alone like the Protestants.
The church also began establishing seminaries where priests could become more informed in
And reformers felt this training was sorely needed for priests because they were being
confronted by complicated Protestant challenges to Catholic doctrine.
And the Church began the Papal Index, a list of books that Catholics were forbidden to
read; In addition the Church reached deeper into society when it began to further regulate
With the creation of a list of forbidden books and the declaration of power over marriage,
the Counter-Reformation took Catholicism from a point of weakness and actually expanded
At least over those who believed.
Even before these events, what would become a major bulwark of Catholicism and its Counter-Reformation
was taking shape.
Because in the 1520s, after being shot as a soldier in one of Spain's wars, a Spanish
nobleman took up the challenge to fortify Catholicism.
Just as Luther wrestled with his faith, Ignatius of Loyola suffered spiritual agonies and emerged
a charismatic leader--but unlike Luther, Ignatius and his followers remained loyal to the Catholic
In 1540, the Pope declared Ignatius's followers a religious order called the Society of Jesus
Many pre-existing Catholic religious orders were rededicating themselves to protect and
nourish their faith.
But Loyola's approach was especially effective given the challenges from Protestantism in
the 1520s and thereafter.
First, because he organized and ran his group like an army around a hierarchy of command;
joining required several years of training and a strict code of discipline.
And all of this was timely given the Church's reputation for corruption, lax morals, and
in many cases, priestly incompetence, including ignorance of Latin.
That wasn't a problem with the Jesuits.
Second, the Jesuits founded schools where humanistic education thrived alongside religious
These became a mechanism for combining the latest in intellectual practice with the revitalization
and reaffirmation of Catholic theology, and it was important because one of the attractions
of Protestantism was its emphasis on broader literacy so that everyone could directly connect
The Jesuits argued that Catholics could also spread education--which is why incidentally
there are so many Loyola Universities around the world.
And that brings us to our final point: In addition to reforming Catholicism in Europe,
the Jesuits undertook globalizing the faith as a regular part of their mission.
Through them, Catholicism truly did become a world religion, reaching India, and Japan,
and Africa, and the New World.
And this Jesuit activism in establishing global relationships would eventually transform Europe
in ways that have only recently gained the attention of historians.
Let's go to the Thought Bubble.
The Jesuits interacted worldwide with an eye on both short and long-term results--they
wanted to convert souls, but they also wanted through schools to shape the way that young
people learned, and thus their perspective.
It's important to remember that no education is morally neutral--what you learn about shapes
the way you look at the world.
And as they traveled, the Jesuits were in constant touch with one another comparing
best practices, and they also adapted different strategies to different parts of the world
as their order spread across the globe.
They studied local languages before approaching people and in many cases took elements from
local beliefs and tried to persuade those they wished to convert that Catholic beliefs
were basically identical to local ones.
And it was effective.
In China, there were 38,000 converts to Catholicism by 1633.
By 1650, there were over a hundred thousand.
Once the Jesuits established these global contacts, they produced reports, first in
Latin but then translated into local European languages, and their work created a Eurocentric
globalization that went way beyond religion.
For example, they became an early version of industrial spies when it came to producing
porcelain, reporting back from China to Europe about the processes that went in to making
Spreading Catholicism was their mission, but the Jesuits were among those advancing commercial
and agricultural development as well.
Thanks, Thought Bubble.
Many Catholics really took the Church's reforms to heart, intensifying their devotions,
sometimes in ways that also helped further the religion's influence around the world.
Among the most renowned was the Spanish mystic and nun Saint Teresa of Avila, who had a very
long birth name that I will not attempt to pronounce.
I mean, mispronouncing things is my thing, but there's no reason to go down that road.
At twenty, she escaped the confines of her home where she was recuperating from one of
her many, and lifelong, bouts of illness to join the Carmelite order of nuns.
But once there, she balked at the superficiality and high society life of constant visits and
She began to live out the reformed Church's rededication to faith and good works, being
extremely strict in her practice.
She was a proponent of self-flagellation ceremonies--self-flagellation being the act of hitting one's self with
a whip in imitation of Christ's suffering at the cross.
And she became an inspiration particularly after church leaders had her write down her
spiritual experiences in several books that have now become Counter-Reformation classics,
such as Way of Perfection and The Book of Foundations.
At the same time, she went about founding new “discalceate” (shoeless or barefoot)
Carmelite religious orders, restoring austerity and strictness to religious life.
The Council of Trent had also issued a statement about art, advising that it needed to connect
with ordinary people, including the poor.
The aim was not to produce subtle or erudite symbolism but to strike emotions, inducing
awe and evoking the power and majesty of the divine.
[[TV St Peters Square]] Gian Lorenzo Bernini produced such effects,
for example in the piazza in front of St. Peter's Basilica.
It features massed columns, which produce a dramatic setting for papal ritual.
Protestants had smashed ornate statuary of saints and the holy family and instead created
simple, unadorned places of worship.
But Catholics embraced majestic religious interiors, enhancing religious figures through
the use of light and shade in paintings of Jesus, angels, saints, and the royalty surrounding
the divine-- All of which were part of a new style called
Did the world just open?
Is there a tiny little baby Jesus dressed up fancy back there?
Indeed, it is the Infant of Prague, or at least a three dollar recreation of it...
So you can see here, this baby Jesus is in a very fancy dress, and I...listen...if I
were a tiny baby Jesus, I would wear this fancy dress, but if you've read the gospels,
you'll know that like, this is not how tiny baby Jesus dressed.
It is, however, super baroque, emphasizing the majesty of the divine.
And religious statuary like this also expressed the intensity of the Counter-Reformation and
its leading figures.
Bernini's statue of St. Teresa of Avila, for instance, would seem to contradict the
asceticism of rejecting ones shoes.
Yet it expressed the ecstatic relationship with the divine and an overflow of feeling
Likewise, baroque music expressed complexity through the use of counterpoint and emotional
and thunderous chords that filled parishioners—both illiterate and learned--with religious awe.
One artist who took up the baroque style, some would say with a vengeance, was Artemisia
Trained by her father, Orazio, Gentileschi was raped by a man who'd been hired to give
her additional instruction.
She herself was tortured with thumbscrews by the court in order to ensure that she was
telling the truth when her father brought suit against the rapist.
One of the few ways to get revenge...painting.
The frightening “Judith Slaying Holofernes” for instance shows the biblical heroine and
her maid getting revenge on the general Holofernes who threatened her people's survival.
From the dramatic imagery to the high contrast of dark and light, this painting is exemplary
of counter-reformation art--it evokes the senses and an emotional connection to God's
word, and it ain't subtle.
So, between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, people obsessively confronted some of the
major issues of human existence, right?
Faith, the divine, and the human conduct that should accompany religious belief, and we're