The year 1500 belonged to the period found in between the postclassical period commonly called the Middle Ages and the modern era.The term Middle Ages was coined by the Renaissance Florentine poet Francesco Petrarch to describe what he considered a period of cultural stagnation between two eras of cultural brillianceThis period was characterized by the decline of the medieval patterns of culture and its end was chacterized by the restructuring of its most prominent figure: the Catholic Church. Around the start of the 16th century, the weakening of the Church was in conjunction with the strengthening force of socio-economic, philosophical and scientific liberation. The period witnessed important religious, political, social, and philosophical changes in Europe.The medieval age was characterized by the strong power of the Catholic Church that was more often greater than that of the ruling king. Thus, even the political and social aspects of the medieval life were dependent on the Church. However, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century which was initiated by the arguments of Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism, weakened the Church. Kings and Princes worked together to challenge the power of the Church leaders, primarily the Pope.The cultural consensus of Europe based on universal participation in the Body of Christ was broken. Along with the Reformation came challenges to secular society. The nature and organization of power and government came under reevaluation as well. The huge impact of the Church in the medieval times2 caused the religious change to go hand-in-hand with changes in politics and society.
Along with the decentralization of power from the Church and its supported rulers (kings and queens) came the rise of an expanding social class. The middle class, also known as the class of the bourgeosie, was growing and generally becoming more powerful. Merchants and learned artisans characterized this class, as opposed to the royal bloods and Church appointees who dominated the medieval age.
The period was also home to the Commercial Revolution which was a time of European economic expansion, colonialism, and mercantilism which lasted from approximately 1520 until 1650. Voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries allowed European powers to build vast networks of international trade. This then resulted to the generation of a great deal of wealth for them. This growing global economy was based on silver, which allowed an easier way of purchase of goods than the barter of the medieval times. The mechanisms of commerce, systems of international finance, ocean-going trading fleets, an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, were all building a recognizably capitalist, money-based economy.
Scientific innovation was also tolerated in the 16th century. Technological innovations like gunpowder were changing the nature of warfare and the military caste nature of society. The printing press created a media revolution3. It brought ideas, and partisan rhetoric to the common people. Most of all, it brought the Bible, in its original tongues and in the vernacular, to the masses.
A spirit of inquiry, a desire to return to first principles, was blowing through the Church, and was reverberated in all the domains of society that the Church had affected.
2. Contrast Luther's theology with that of the Catholic Church that he attacked and with that of the Calvinists who succeeded the Lutherans as the cutting edge of the Reformation.
The Catholic Church of Martin Luther's time practiced the community of faith which reserved a special role for the clergy. Learned Roman Catholics saw their Church as following the authority that Christ had given to the Bishop of Rome, the Church as built upon the tomb of Peter, and as such they believed there could be only one Christian