Great men have the power to make great things happen. However, these men are not classified as “great” until they have made their impact upon history. Two of these men, Martin Luther and King Henry VIII of England lived during the same time period, and had profound impacts upon the rest of the world. These individuals lived in a time of great change and helped initiate some of the greatest changes the world has ever seen. At the time, religion was still the dominating factor of the average person’s life, and the drastic changes brought about by these two men affected not only the continent of Europe, but the rest of the planet. Both men brought great changes in Europe through religion in different ways, causing varied results.
King Henry VIII was one of the first in the line of absolute monarchs to dominate various European Nations
He assumed the power of feudal lords who were rapidly diminishing from the political forefront. However, his great power allowed Henry to make dramatic decisions. One of Henry’s foremost goals was to continue his lineage by creating a male heir to the throne. However, to do so, he needed a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. This matter led to great difficulty because the Pope at the time was under the authority of Charles V, quite possibly the most powerful man in all of Europe.
This presented a problem because Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, and the Pope did not want to legitimize the divorce in fear of Charles’ disapproval (and what it entailed). Therefore, Henry took matters into his own hands; he denounced all Church authority in England, and declared himself the supreme head of the Church of England. He further decreed that all of his subjects were to follow the same faith as himself. His decisions were immediately reinforced by Parliament who passed several bills authorizing Henry’s actions. At this point, he became both the religious and political leader of England.
The actions taken by Henry enabled him to take control of all Church holdings in England, a very substantial amount. However, his actions did not merely enrich the English crown, or enable him to divorce a total of five wives. Henry’s abdication of Church rule was a direct challenge to the authority of the Pope, and showed the diminishing power it held. England at the time was not a small and meaningless country. Just several years earlier, the Pope had named Henry the defender of Christendom, and now he issued a bull excommunicating him. Church authority was being challenged beyond the realm of great rulers. Common men, led by great figures also challenged doctrines of Christendom which had survived a thousand years.
One simple monk who posted his 95 theses now bears the name of the greatest reformer known to man
Martin Luther was the father of the Reformation, and planted the seeds that let it sprout into a giant. In his 95 theses, Luther brought to light several issues of the Catholic Church which were in desperate need of reform. For instance, Luther looked very harshly upon the commonplace act of nepotism, and the selling of indulgences. Because of other events surrounding the Catholic Church during the time period, Luther’s actions were considered trivial, and not acted upon. However, people of the time, especially in Luther’s Germany, had grown weary of the injustices committed by the Church, and encouraged Luther to continue his work. Through his dedication to his cause, and the widespread support behind his ideas, Luther’s ideas led to the growth of the Protestant religion, and all of its sects.
The ultimate authority behind every action in Europe was finally being stumped and turned over on its head. The power the Catholic Church had eventually led to its downfall. Two great men had their names recorded in the annals of history because of the work they did during this time. The ultimate effects of both Henry and Martin Luther could in no way be predicted by either of them. Martin Luther had the support of the people in his quest for an honest Church, whereas Henry forced his new religious doctrine onto the English people.
Luther led a religious revolution with a group of optimistic individuals that joined of their own free will to stand up for what he believed in while Henry proceeded with his plan for his own personal reasons. Regardless of their different approaches, both men challenged the Church and won in their own way. They started great religious upheavals by introducing new religion to the region and finally starting the purification of the Catholic Church.