How did the Catholic Church respond to the challenges of Luther, Calvin, and the Protestant movement?

The Catholic Church responded to the challenges of Luther, Calvin, and the Protestant movement initially in a somewhat mild way, allowing Luther to argue his position. When Luther refused to retract his position, his theses were deemed heretical, he was excommunicated, and, after the Diet of Worms, support of Luther was prohibited. The Church was forced to show tolerance to Lutheranism after the Peasants War.

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One of the long-term responses of the Catholic Church to the Reformation was the construction of many beautiful new churches, built in an ornate, lavish style called baroque. The sale of indulgences, which had provoked Luther's initial attack on the Church, raised substantial sums for the rebuilding of St. Peter's basilica in Rome. Luther thought this a monstrous extravagance, yet the Catholic Church's response was to double down on its lavish spending on great works of art and architecture designed to redound to the glory of God, and by extension, the Church.

At a time when most Europeans were still illiterate, lavish church designs had an important role to play in teaching the faithful the Word of God. Scenes from the Bible would be depicted in opulent stained-glass windows, and dramatic statues of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints would tower over the faithful, overawing them with an intoxicating combination of aesthetic beauty and spiritual force.

As many Protestants, most...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 19, 2019