Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe and their consequences in 16th to middle of 17th century
Thinking about Reformation its worth to remember about the epoch of Renaissance. The Renaissance cannot be easily defined. It always discussed to note a period when prospered the study of classics, the art was flourishing and new inventions were introduced. However the world of Renaissance and Reformation was also the world of astrology, folk cures, omens and ghosts. Magic in that time continued to interact with religion and science. The Renaissance also was called the epoch of “rebirth” because it was encouraged by the studying of classical texts and helped to understand the world in a different way.
Therefore the Renaissance and Reformation can be tied together by the reason that the epoch of “rebirth” brought a flow of new ideas and with the invention of printing press, helped to spread these ideas. Among the ideas raised a belief in individualism which convinced the human ability to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. So called “l’uomo universale” or complete man has appeared. The influence of the Catholic Church was enormous and it proclaimed that salvation for the people would be found only within the church. And the openness to new ideas allowed to Marin Luther to introduce a challenge to the church with the bible passage that just by the faith, the soul can be saved.
The important bound between the secular Renaissance and the religious Reformation was provided by the rise of biblical scholarship that was based on the study of original Hebrew and Greek texts. The concept of humanism in the epoch of Renaissance shifted the theocratic world view to the man-centered view. In religious thought, it was a necessary precondition for Protestant emphasis on the individual conscience.
But unlike humanism, the Reformation intruded to the deepest devotional traditions of the Middle Ages and affected not only scholars but the masses. The Renaissance and Reformation grew in a very different directions and the similar split developed within the movement for Church reform. This church revival was divided into two movements, known as the Catholic Reformation and the Protestant Reformation.
The Catholic Church was on the edge of collapse-as a result of corruption and it couldn’t any longer provide for spiritual needs of the people. Arbitrariness of churchmen, their luxurious life, drinking parties created a church consisted of “unholy men in holy orders”. Other cause of the Reformation was the long-term economic hardship in some parts of Europe such as in German and its depressed condition of peasants was blamed on Church greed.
The price inflation during that time also served as an economic cause. Mainly the middle class protested against the church because it was dominated by the upper classes and was administrated for their benefits. Middle class had to bear all brunt of taxation while nobles were free from taxation.
Another reason for Reformation was the rise of nation-states and the establishing of absolute rule of monarchy. The existence of church was a serious check on the authority of monarchs and the church was outside the authority of the King, so the property of the church was excluded from taxation to royal family. The establishing of new Protestant churches meant for monarchs that the churches would be depended upon them and accepts the political authority.
The immediate cause of the Reformation was Martin’s Luther’s reaction to the sale of indulgences. It led the start to the Reformation and introduction of 95 theses published in 1517. Luther received some support from German prince who was interested in seeking tax relief from Rome. Luther proclaimed that God was able to endow human with his grace in answer to his sincere faith, therefore, the Church in the form in which it was presented by Catholics, is unnecessary link in this chain.
The role of the priest was not to mediate between God and man, but to show man the way, following which he will be able to achieve the divine grace. With this purpose Luther suggested to eliminate sharp borders existing between clergy and laity. The process of worship significantly simplified, and the Church was deprived of numerous attributes of icons, elaborate rituals and rites.
The head of the Church became a secular ruler of a single country or a city. This provision of the Lutheran creed was especially advantageous to numerous German princes, because it deprived them from the dependence of the Church and the Pope and made them the rightful rulers of their own land. The result of the efforts of Luther and Calvin was the emergence of a new stream of Christianity-Protestantism, which was not adopted by the Catholic Church.
The effect of Protestantism was seen in every sphere of European life. The major impact on education in the Protestant countries made the necessity of Bible-reading. In economic sphere it made a contribution to the rise of capitalism. In politics it proved the contention between states and rival groupings within states. 
The Counter-Reformation was born to oppose the Protestant Reformation. It was the period of Catholic revival which began with the Council of Trent in 1545 and ended with the Thirty Years’ War in 1648.  The first act of confrontation to Protestantism was the formation of the Jesuit order. Ignatius Loyola and his supporters formed a society which is intended to contribute to the restoration of the Catholic Church and the power of the Pope.
The principal obligation, which assumed the Jesuits, was to blindly obey everything that is told by current and future Pope. One of the important tasks of the order was political activity: intrigue at the courts of kings and princes, espionage, performing a delicate diplomatic assignment to eliminate unwanted politicians. The reaction against Luther and his followers was met by the Council of Trent under the guidance of Pope Paul III, Julius III and Pious IV. It confirmed that Church alone could interpret the Scriptures and that the true religion was derived from Catholic tradition. 
The impact of the Counter-Reformation was felt across the Europe. Counter-reformation has found an ally in the absolutist power in Spain and Portugal, the principality of southern Germany and in Italy. Philip II, building on the strengths of his vast powers and international unions, led the attack on Protestantism throughout the Europe. He sought to destroy the most powerful citadel of Protestantism – the British monarchy.
And also the situation in German lands, they became the center of confrontation between the two religious-political coalitions. The policy of the papacy aggravated not only the internal political situation in European countries, but was complicating the international relations. Not accidentally, at the conclusion of the peace of Westphalia of 1648, which ended the Thirty Year’s war, the Pope was not given any role, despite the protests of the Holy See. And the papal throne ceased to be the main center of European politics.
Nevertheless, the consequences of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in the intellectual sphere firstly were generally unfavorable, but ultimately proved to be beneficial. The Thirty Years ‘ war has convinced everyone that neither Protestant nor Catholics fully it is impossible to overcome and therefore appeared the possibility to discard the medieval hope for the establishment of the unity of the faith, and this increased the freedom of people to think for themselves even about the most fundamental issues.
 Davies, Norman. Europe: A. History – Oxford, New York, 1996.- P. 471
 Ibid p. 479
 What are the causes of Reformation in Europe? Preserve Articles. http://www.preservearticles.com/2011090713147/what-are-the-causes-of-reformation-in-europe.html
 Davies, Norman. Europe: A. History – Oxford, New York, 1996.- P. 494
 Davies, Norman. Europe: A. History – Oxford, New York, 1996.- P. 496
 Davies, Norman. Europe: A. History – Oxford, New York, 1996.- P. 496-497
 Treaty of Westphalia. Leibnitiana. University of Houston. http://www.gwleibniz.com/britannica_pages/westphalia_treaty/westphalia_treaty.html