The Counter Reformation
The Reformation began under the reign of Pope Leo X. Leo was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent (of the Medici family). He was an ambitious man (more of a prince than a holy man). His sale of indulgences, a guarantee of salvation, was the spark which ignited the Reformation.

Martin Luther led the challenge to the Pope's authority to sell indulgences. The advent of the printing press gave Luther's unprecedented influence. Luther's challenge caught Leo X off-guard; moreover, the Church was alarmed by how confidently the princes of Germany supported the call for reform. Many of these princes ultimately declared themselves as independent of the Catholic Church. The defiance of these princes ensured Luther and his reform-movement would survive. This prompted the eventual birth of the Catholic Church's Counter-Reformation.

The Council of Trent

In 1545, the leaders of the Catholic Church met during the Council of Trent. This was an emergency meeting to discuss how the Church could again become the One True Church and end the Protestant challenge.

trentAfter 20-years of debate, the Council of Trent established the basis for a Catholic counter-attack. The Church issued a series of decrees covering every aspect of Church authority; however, one of the most important developments was the establishing of the Jesuits and the Spanish Inquisition. The Jesuits were tasked with the role of reconverting the Protestants. The Spanish Inquisition was created to deal with those who refused to convert back to Catholicism (or to punish Catholics who held so-called heretical views).

The “Index of Forbidden Books” was published, naming and shaming 583 heretical texts, including most translations of the Bible and the works of Erasmus, Calvin and Luther. New churches were also built with new features so as to encourage disillusioned Catholics to return to the so-called One True Church.

A new agency of obedience was created. Taking its cue from a successful Spanish model, the Council of Trent formally established the Roman Inquisition, to examine and try all evidence of heresy or dissent. No Catholic country was exempt. All crimes in the eyes of the Church would be handed to a local Inquisitor, equipped with all necessary means of persuasion. Guilt was always assumed, interrogation relentless, and torture deployed to squeeze the truth out of a witness.

As Giordano Bruno, Galileo, and even Cosimo I found out, once you were called before the Roman Inquisition, the only thing you could do was pray.