RELIGION, WARS OF (1562-1609). The Wars of Religion opened with the massacre of sixty Huguenots at Vassy in 1562, and ended with the declaration of the twelve years' truce between Spain and Prince Maurice of the Netherlands in 1609. They included eight civil wars in France, the revolt of the Netherlands, and a number of less important rebellions. Though outwardly religious in character, inwardly they were influenced by economic and financial causes, constituting as they did a revolt against the fiscal policy of the mediaeval papacy.
In England, John Wycliffe began to preach reform about 1366. Eleven years later the papacy moved back from Avignon to Rome, and the whole question of papal control was thrown into the melting pot. Then arose the question of whether a general council of Christendom was not superior to the papacy. This question gave rise to the Council of Constance in 1414, which, in condemned Hus, a Bohemian reformer influenced by Wycliffe, to be burnt. This in turn brought about the Hussite wars (1419 1436)—the forerunner of the wars of religion.
By the opening of the i6th century discontent against the Church was general, especially so in Germany, and all that was wanting were leaders. These, as is always the case during revolu
tionary periods, soon came to the fore. The most prominent were Erasmus, a Dutchman (1469-1536); Luther, a German (1483 1546) ; Zwingli, a Swiss (1484-1531), and Calvin, a Frenchman (1509-1564). Erasmus was an evolutionary, he believed in a slow and steady change; Luther was the reverse, he wanted immediate change, and his doctrine of "justification by faith" sent a thrill of horror through the Catholic Church. He was a democrat and an economist as well as a religious reformer. He attacked "indul gences," and said: "Since the pope is rich as Croesus, why does he not build St. Peter's with his own money, instead of taking that of the poor man?" In 152o he was excommunicated, and this same year at Wittenberg he threw the Papal bull into the flames. He was of opinion that the power of the papacy rested on money, and if money were withheld in two years the papacy would vanish.
The greatest part of Europe was now thrown into a spiritual and economic turmoil. On one side stood religious freedom con fronted by papal infallibility, on the other fiscal control faced by papal anathema. Nations, cities, villages and families were divided. A general Council of the Church was held at Trent in 1545, but the Protestants refused to attend. The "Society of Jesus," founded by Loyola in 1538, gained strength, its scientific system of propaganda rousing the fury of the Reformed Church.