The Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation

The Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation provide a wealth of lesson and activity opportunities.

By Daniella Garran

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protestant reformation and counter reformation

Although there are many individuals and ideas which could be argued to have been of seminal importance to the Protestant Reformation, historians generally agree that Martin Luther and his posting of the 95 Theses was the start. Underscoring the importance of “salvation through faith alone,” Luther called attention to the Catholic churches’ corrupt activities, especially through the sale of indulgences. Soon thereafter, Huldreich Zwingli of Switzerland called attention to the notion of the Eucharist, John Calvin tries to make Geneva into a theocracy, the Huguenots organize in France and England begins its own reform.

Students should create a timeline of the events leading up to and following the Protestant Reformation. This can be completed either individually or as a class. The timeline should include at the very least  Wycliffe’s heresies, the Hussites, Martin Luther, the Diet of Worms, the Anabaptists, reform in Switzerland, the teachings of John Calvin, the reformation in England and Scotland, and the conflict in modern Ireland. It is also important to note the Catholic Church’s response to the Reformation as it occurred chronologically.

You may also choose to stage an International Summit on Religion. Assign students a different role to play (e.g.: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Mary Queen of Scots, Philip of Hesse, etc.) and encourage them to dress in costume and bring props. Have students prepare a statement to address the group. Give students the opportunity to respond to one another in character as they discuss the fate of the Church.

The Protestant and Counter Reformation Lessons:

Leaders of the Protestant Reformation

Students become acquainted with the leaders of the Protestant Reformation by dividing into groups and researching the individuals. Students present their findings, focusing specifically on the individual’s contributions to the movement.

The Impact of the Printing Press

This lesson offers a unique perspective on the Reformation by examining the role of the printing press. Students debate whether the invention of the printing press helped or harmed Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century and how it impacted Protestant reformers and their cause.

The Protestant Reformation

Students explore the impact of the Protestant Reformation in several different countries including England, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Hungary. They examine who led the dissent, why they were unhappy and how the movement ultimately affected the nation and its history.