Posted October 31, 2019
Back in the Middle Ages, and even the beginning of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church was really, really powerful throughout most of Europe. It was the only major institution in the region, after the Roman Empire fell, and the Church was a major landowner and also overlapped quite a bit with nobles who ruled politically. It was an important part of daily life - not just a special place for once-a-week services or the occasional wedding or funeral, but the keeper of time, the source of accumulated knowledge, the hierarchy that structured social life and to some extent the educational, lawmaking, and judicial systems rolled into one.
|Some Catholic churches have displays|
of Papal crowns or other golden-and-
bejeweled religious items.
Like all powerful institutions, the Church attracted power-hungry people as well as devout and humbled believers. And like all human institutions, the Church had flaws. In the early 1500s, there was lots of evidence of corruption. Some priests lived lives of enormous wealth - clearly they were guilty of greed and skimming monies that were meant for the Church. Religious posts were often sold to the highest bidder, and perhaps worst of all, the Church sold forgiveness from sin for money!!
Martin Luther was one monk who felt he had to call out the corruption. He wrote a long list of problems with the Church and, on this date in 1517, he nailed it to the door of the local church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Most scholars count this as the beginning of the reformation - a time when Christian believers, clergy, and theologians split from the Catholic Church and formed their own version of Christianity.
These new churches are called Protestant because they were formed by those who "protested" the status quo of the Catholic Church.
Even though Germany is considered the birthplace of Protestantism, many Swiss people were early adopters, and Switzerland gained quite a bit of its national identity during the formation of Protestant churches. Much of the French speaking portion of Switzerland pulled away from Catholic France and was bound tighter to the German speaking portion of Switzerland because of religion, and even the German speaking regions pulled away from Germany because the Swiss leader of Protestantism, Huldrych Zwingli of Ulrich, disagreed with the German leader Luther on many points of theology.
Nowadays Switzerland is a big mix of religions, with some (but not many) Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and other non-Christian practitioners, about 5% Muslims, almost 40% Catholics, and around 25% Swiss Reformed Church. Interestingly enough, the non-religious and unaffiliated Swiss are about as numerous as the Swiss Reformed members - and historians have shown that Protestantism in Switzerland has been halved as the number of non-religious citizens has increased!
Switzerland is famous for its Alps, its banking system, its chocolate, the classic book / movies Heidi, and the tennis legend Roger Federer.
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