There are about 1.2 billion Catholics and 800 million Protestants in the world today. While we currently co-exist peaceably in many parts of the world, the 16th century, when Protestantism first appeared, marked a time of formidable revolution, calumny, and violence. This timeline, gives a visual representation of the key turning and division points and persons in the modern history of the Catholic Church.

The first to give Protestantism a system of theology and a permanent ecclesiastical organisation was John Calvin. Protestantism became a world power and invaded Switzerland, Holland, England, Scotland, and America. It also threatened the supremacy of the Catholic religion in France. In 1529, he converted to Lutheranism. In 1535, Calvin published “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”. In 1536, he arrived in Geneva, where the seeds of his reform movement took root and where he began his political dictatorship. In 1560, the Protestant Party gained ascendency in Scotland and proclaimed Protestantism the State Religion.

King Henry VIII ascended to the Thone of England in 1509. In 1527, he fell in lust for Anne Boleyn and applied to Pope Clement VII for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This was not approved. In 1531, King Henry VIII declared himself as the “Supreme Head of the Church of England”. In 1534, Henry VIII broke completely with the Holy See. He installed Thomas Cromwell as Vicar-General and this new archbishop’s first task was to declare Henry VIII’s marriage with Catherine as invalid.

31st Oct 1517: Martin Luther nails his 95-page theses directed against indulgences and other good works and Purgatory, on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. Within 2 weeks, the theses had spread like wildfire in Germany. Within a month, these had spread across Western and Southern Europe. Those who were dissatisfied with the papacy approved Luther. By 1526, State Churches subscribing to Lutheranism had been set up in most parts of Germany. By the end of 1648, Catholicity had been practically annihilated in the German nations of the North, through the authority of Lutheran Kings and legislation. England, Scotland, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Germany are lost to Protestantism, the ascendency of Catholicism in Greater Europe only regains traction after the Council of Trent (1542-1563).


By Brian Bartholomew Tan

Source: Church History, John Laux