Before the Reformation in 1517, the catholic church held a majority of the power in the 15th century and very early 16th century Europe. At the time, the amount of land and money you had was equivalent to the amount of power you received. The church had a lot of land during this time period as well as had multiple sources of income. Tithes were paid to the church as well as indulgences, plus gifts from other wealthy people were given to the church as well. The church also had a great amount of political pull over the people. Bishops would rule certain areas of Europe and would be appointed by the Pope- who was said to be appointed by God. Since the Bishops took orders from the Pope, this made kings seem subordinate in the eyes of the people. the Bishop and Pope also had the power to excommunicate people, which was a huge fear of people during this time period because religion was everything to them. Too much power and money lead to the corruption of this supposedly sacred establishment. Bishops began paying the Pope to appoint them so they could make money off of tithes and indulgences. The Pope also began spending a lot of money on the new St. Peter’s church and wars to maintain control of Italy and Christendom, putting the church system into a lot of debt. This is where indulgences- or paying for your sins to absolved- began to be encouraged. This angered Martin Luther immensely and pushed him to write the 95 theses, which was basically a list of complaints about the corrupt catholic church.
Martin Luther’s actions caused ideological as well as cultural changes in society. Along with Writing the 95 theses, he also started printing bibles with the Gutenberg Printing Press in Vernacular languages. This allowed more common people to read the bible and become educated. Since the people could read the bible for themselves now, they truly knew what it was saying and didn’t have to blindly listen to what Bishops and the Pope were telling them. In turn this lead to more people questioning the church and it’s practices. People began to realize the relationship they had with god was solely between God and them, and that they didn’t really need the church to be a meddling middle man. The power of the church quickly deflated as many began to follow Luther and his new religion. This caused the The Catholic Church to reform it’s policies, including discarding indulgences. Luther’s ideology quickly began to spread to France as well as England changing ideologies and culture in society all throughout Europe.