Reformation 500

Join us on a journey of discovery and learn more about the variety of Christian traditions that emerged from the bold ideas of the sixteenth-century Reformers.

Twelve congregations from Roman Catholic to Quakers, from Lutherans to Baptists invite the wider public to step through their doors.

Have a look at the full programme below and keep an eye on this page and on our events page for more.

What Is The Reformation?

The Reformation was a social, political, cultural, but first and foremost religious movement that started 500 years ago in Germany and shook Europe to its very foundation. It is to date one of the most radical and dramatic processes of change Europe has ever seen.

In 1517, a young German Augustinian monk called Martin Luther was dissatisfied with some of the doctrines and malpractices of his Church, the Roman Catholic Church. He sent ninety-five theses to the Archbishop of Mainz, criticising the Church and its methods. According to the legend, he also nailed these 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in the German city of Wittenberg. One major point of Luther’s criticism was the Church’s practice to sell “letters of indulgence”. These documents, signed by the pope, were believed to reduce the amount of punishment undergone by sinners, and by purchasing such a letter for themselves or a dead relative, people thought that they would spend less time in purgatory. In fact, much of the money obtained by the selling of these indulgences was spent on the aggrandizement of the clerical hierarchy, most exemplarily on the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Luther’s ideas soon spread all over Europe and other reformers like Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, and later John Calvin in Geneva and John Knox in Scotland followed in his footsteps, pushing the reform of the Church even further. Despite their numerous differences, the reformers had one mutual goal: that Christian faith should be based on the Bible only, and that the Bible should be the only authority for the faithful. No pope or priest could ever stand between the believer and God. Art and pomp in churches was considered distracting, and the cult and adoration of the saints were considered idolatrous and abolished. The people should be allowed to understand what was being said in church: the Bible was thus translated into the vernacular languages and the Mass in Latin was replaced by services spoken in the languages understood by the congregations. The reformers were convinced that everybody should be allowed to think critically about the methods of the Church, and that they were restoring the pure Christianity of the apostles: back to the roots, back to the Word – a very thorough spring clean for European society.

The reformers soon were in trouble with Rome and the Reformation eventually split the Western Church. Those who converted to the new beliefs were excommunicated and remain so up to date. Damage was also done within the Reformation itself. Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther soon found themselves holding opposing interpretations of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (also known as  Holy Communion or Eucharist), while radical reformers, such as the Swiss Anabaptists, clashed fiercely with both the more moderate reformers and the state authorities when they espoused the practice of adult baptism. Church art and cultural heritage were destroyed, and many lives were lost in the following long and painful time of persecutions and wars between those who remained Roman Catholic and those who converted to the new beliefs. Although the wounds are slowly healing, the relationships between our Churches are still sometimes under strain and it is more important than ever to know who our Christian neighbours are and to find out what we have in common and what separates us.

We invite to join us on this journey of discovery and to find out more about the Reformation and the influence it has had on today’s religious landscape.

To mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation, there are various activities taking place throughout the UK and Europe.

Here are a few links that we hope you will find helpful:

Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches:

United Reformed Church in the UK:

German Embassy in London:



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