The Counter-Reformation, also known as the Catholic Reformation or Catholic Renaissance, in Christian history, was based on a time when the efforts of the Catholic Church were directed during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries both against the Protestant Reformation and for internal renewal. The Counter-Reformation took place during approximately the same period as the Protestant Reformation, actually beginning shortly before Martin Luther's act of nailing the ninety-five theses to the door of the church in 1517.

  • When: From 1545 to 1648
  • Outstanding figures: Leon X, Paul III, July III, Paul IV, Pius IV, Pius V, Gregory XIII, Sextus V, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Teresa of Avila

What was the Counter-Reformation?

It was a movement that was born in the second half of the 16th century in response by Catholic Church to Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, which had been born during the early years of the 16th century.

About the Counter-Reformation

The Counter-Reformation was the response developed by Catholic Church to minimize the impact of Protestantism. It was a movement that helped to produce an ecclesiastical restructuring by introducing a series of changes in the liturgy. It was a movement that consisted in giving a new image to the church by reducing the influence of Protestant doctrines.

The Catholic Church had seen its credibility weakened by Martin Luther’s Reformation, and for this reason decided to implement its Counter-Reformation. This new movement began in 1545 with the Ecumenical Council of Trent and lasted until the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648; any act developed to counter Protestantism since then falls into the category of anti-Protestantism.


The main characteristic of the Catholic Counter-Reformation or reform was that it covered everything concerning the political and religious sphere that existed at that time. It was in charge of eliminating the sale of indulgences, the main reason why the governors of the time had given their support to Martin Luther. He also sought to reform the Catholic Church, to unite Christians, and to evangelize the territories of America.

It renewed and set new guidelines to eliminate and stop the corruption of the clergy with simple parameters and guidelines such as the defense of papal authority, the exclusive capacity of the church, the interpretation of sacred texts, and salvation by faith and works of charity.

The Counter-Reformation was charged with dividing the Catholic faith into two parts, one involving the idea of Paul IV who told us that God had a relationship with people through punishments and that for that reason we had to fear him, and the other basing religious experience on piety.


The background was based on the demands for the creation of a Church reform, in the face of the scandal of the Great Western Schism and against religious abuses. New religious orders such as the Theatines, Capuchins, Ursulines and Jesuits were promoted and created. The outstanding action of Paul III in convening the Council of Trent in 1545 was an important antecedent in dealing with doctrinal and disciplinary questions caused by Protestants.


By the Protestant Reformation, the Western world that had been Catholic was divided between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians who did not follow Rome’s guidelines. Catholicism had lost ground and was no longer the official religion in many parts of Europe and there was an attempt to prevent the same thing from happening in the New World. For this reason there was a need for reforms in the Catholic Church in order to restructure and stop the Protestant advance.

In the Church there was the Ecumenical Council which was a meeting of the high representatives of the Clergy, to deal with matters of great religious importance. One of these meetings took place in Trent in 1545 and was convened by Pope Paul III, in view of the attacks of Protestantism.

When was it?

The Counter-Reformation took place during a period of rebirth in the Catholic religion that began during the Ecumenical Council of Trent in 1545; the pontificate of Pope Pius IV in 1560 until the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648.


The main representatives of the Counter-Reformation were:

Causes of the Counter-Reformation

We could say that the main cause was the series of reforms contained within the Council of Trent which had been implemented by the Catholic Church against the spread of Protestantism and which arose from constant complaints against officials who had a high rank within the Church.

Aims and Objectives

With the Counter-Reformation they mainly sought to renew the inner part of Catholic Church, to maintain the power of the Catholic clergy, and to fight against the ideas that had been given by Martin Luther and John Calvin.

It sought to condemn the ideas of the Reformation and to refute the heretical theses of Protestantism in Germany that were gradually spreading throughout Europe. It tried to reaffirm the principles of Catholicism and defend the authority of the church in the interpretation of scripture.


Among the main consequences that occurred with the Counter-Reformation we can mention the following:

Importance of Counter-Reformation

It was of great importance for the Catholic Church as it implemented a Catholic revitalization from the period of Pope Pius IV until 1560, when the Thirty Years’ War ended. The following points were reaffirmed:

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Counter-Reformation. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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