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The Reformation, sometimes called the Protestant Reformation, was a sixteenth-century movement to reform the doctrines (established beliefs) and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The starting point of the Reformation is often given as 1517, when German monk and professor of theology (study of religion) Martin Luther (1483–1546) nailed his Ninety-Five Theses (arguments or assertions) to the door of Castle Church at Wittenberg in Germany. These theses attacked the corruption of church leaders and the doctrines of transubstantiation (the teaching that the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the celebration of Christ's last supper, is actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ), clerical celibacy (priests refraining from sexual relations), and the pope's supremacy. Although calls for church reform had been voiced in the past, it took Luther and his theses to ignite the movement. As a result of the Reformation, religious life in Europe was totally transformed by the creation of new Christian denominations (religious groups) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These new groups became known as the Protestant churches since they protested against and completely broke away from the Catholic Church.

Further Information: Bainton, Roland Herbert. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1990; Flowers, Sarah. The Reformation. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1995; Martin Luther and the Reformation. [Online] Available http://mars.acnet.wnec.edu/~grempel/courses/wc2/lectures/luther.html, October 20, 2000; The Oxford Encyclopedia of World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998; The Protestant Reformation: Major Documents. St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia Publishing House, 1997; The Reformation. San Diego, Calif.: Lucent Books, 1995; Stepanek, Sally. Martin Luther. New York: Chelsea House, 1986; The Reformation Guide. [Online] Available http://www.educ.msu.edu/homepages/laurence/reformation/index.htm, October 20, 2000.