The Counter Reformation Of Catholicism Religion Essay

In order for the Catholic Church to remain strong during the time of the Protestant Reformation, many changes were needed. These changes were needed in practice, theology, and support. The Council of Trent took care of the Theology and practice; however there was a development of artwork to influence people back to the Catholic Church. Without the Counter Reformation, the Catholic Church may not be the dominant Christian religion in the world today.

During the Reformation, the Catholic Church saw the amount of parishioners within the Church dwindling. They felt the need to reform within themselves through theological clarification and through remarkable artwork. The Catholic Church was making changes in order to bring people back into the Church. The clarifications in the Theology of the Church were made at the Council of Trent. The Church hired artists to paint and depict historical happenings in the Church history.

Michelangelo Merisida Caravaggio painted many pieces of artwork that are still famous to this day. He took a long time to finally find his own style that turned into the influential style that we see in many of his most famous paintings. “After five years of strenuous work he found his way to Venice, where he carefully studied the works of Giorgione, and received instruction from an unknown painter. Thence he went to Rome, and on account of his poverty engaged himself to Cesare d’Arpino, who employed him to execute the floral and ornamental parts of his pictures.” (Williamson). He then became interested in developing his own style of paintings.

The Calling of St. Matthew, painted between the years 1599-1602, is possibly the most famous of the paintings painted specifically for the Counter Reformation. This painting has immense amount of symbolism, yet it retains a sense of the true story of what actually happened in real life. Matthew is sitting at the end of the table hovering over his own money and his head hanging down, almost in shame. Jesus then calls him and says “Follow me.” Matthew then, without question or hesitation, gets up and follows. This painting showed the ordinary people an event in the past, a biblical story, which was critical to the formation of the Catholic Church.

Other paintings by Caravaggio include the Martyrdom of St. Matthew and the Conversion of St. Paul.

The Martyrdom of St. Matthew was the second most famous painting during the Counter Reformation. The story goes that Matthew was sentenced to be killed while he was standing at the Altar. The king of Ethiopia sentenced him because Matthew voiced his opposite opinion on the fact that the king lusted over his niece, who was also a nun. It is said that the painting was already laid out as in what contents needed to be included in the painting. It again allowed the public to visualize the cruelty that the corrupt hierarchy. This was hoping to bring the people back to the church showing how the Church was getting criticized for standing up for what is right and morally just.

The Conversion of St. Paul was another painting done by Caravaggio. It shows the moment that Jesus approached Paul while on one of his journeys. Paul fell off his animal and began his conversation with the Lord. The Lord started telling Paul that when he persecutes the Church it is only helping the Church spread and Christianity grow and that it is only hurting Paul by doing it. At that moment Paul made the decision to follow Jesus. He asked what he has to do to fix the past and amend what he has done throughout his life. The painting shows how this all happened and allows the people to see how powerful Jesus’ presence was.

Caravaggio was a brilliant artist that knew how to bring paintings to life in the baroque style. He used special lighting called tenebrism that accented certain parts of the painting using light and dark. This made symbolism very affective and prominent. His paintings also brought many forgotten saints back into the remembrance. “Here and there, old, half-forgotten saints suddenly became prominent for one reason or another.” (Mayor 5)

Elisabetta Sirani was a baroque artist that painted a piece of art title Virgin and Child. It serves two purposes. One, it fits the baroque style because of the emotion showed through the care that Mary is taking with her child. Also, it serves the purpose of being an influential painting for the Counter Reformation. It’s a realistic painting of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. It may not be a perfectly influential painting, but it is another reminder to the people that the Blessed Virgin Mary was and is an integral part of the Catholic Faith.

Paolo Veronese painted a depiction of the Last Supper, where Jesus had his last meal with his apostles. However, in this painting there are many more people at the dinner than just his 12 Apostles. “Veronese included dogs, a cat, midgets, Huns, and drunken revelers in the mammoth canvas. The Inquisitors pointed out that in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment there were no such ‘drunkards nor dogs nor similar buffooneries’ as Veronese had painted. He answered: ‘Mine is no art of thought; my art is joyous and praises God in light and colour.’”(Martin). Martin says here that because Jesus was a man that associated himself with all sorts of people, not only one class of people, that he should be depicted at his Last Supper with the people that he came to save, everyone. In the painting everyone will be joyous and praises the Lord because they are spending time with him.

Not only did painting of art affect people’s view of the church, but also the architectural art. Francesco Borromini combined styles of architecture into one style that he can call his own. It was influential and showed the creative nature of the church and that they are not so monotonous and one dimensional. “Almost as long-lived as this political division in art was the style established by Borromini, whose architectural sculpture is so often like Louis XVI decoration gone robust, and by Guido Reni, whose sweetness the ideal of baroque pathetic eloquence pervades commercial religious art to this day.” (Mayor 5) He also was in favor of the Church. “…he was nominated as architect of St. Peter’s, under the direction of Bernini.” (Poole)

The Bishop of Kisamos, Agostino Steuco, had some very robust opinions on what the Catholic Church needed in order to regain the public’s favor. Although he did not have many singletary accomplishments, he influenced many happenings through his expertise in a wide field. “He was a man of varied talents, well versed in history, philosophy, and theology, and had a fair mastery of Greek and Hebrew.” (Ott) He thought a lot of emphasis was needed on the Pope to supersede the generalization of the previous Popes that were corrupt. “Steuco was convinced that religion and piety could exert a salubrious influence over social and political life. But to his mind this was possible only if the pope had sufficient temporal authority and revenues to protect religion and maintain external forms of worship in splendor and magnificence.” (Delph 42). Steuco believed that the Pope needed to have a certain amount of power in order to protect the faith and the people following the faith. The Pope needed enough power so that other people could not persecute the people and make them feel as if it was wrong and bad if the praised the Lord. He also believed that people needed something reminding them of the Lord for it to be on the forefront of their brain. “Steuco’s humanist ideas again led him to insist that people’s social and spiritual welfare was dependent upon the ubiquitous presence of holy rituals, religious symbols, and sacred devotional practices in society.” (Delph 46). People need to be surrounded by other people that believe the same things they do and have people striving for the same goal as well as holy rituals and religious symbols in society; for example Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration as Holy Rituals and public prayer and the wearing of religious medallions and emblems as religious symbols.

Not only did the art, architecture, and humanist ideas of the time affect the public’s view of Catholicism, but also The Council of Trent had much effect. The Council of Trent’s main focus was to clearly determine the doctrine of the Catholic Church in response to the contradictory beliefs of Protestants. The Church Elders had the most knowledge of the faith and Martin Luther brought issues that he had with the Church to a normal person’s intelligence level so that they will understand enough and agree with him. The Church realized this and decided that to call the Council of Trent to fix these problems and how the Church was viewed.

After deciding who was going to come to the Council to be able to help the Church regain favor with the people, the meeting sessions began. It was not until the fourth session that any talk about faith or main issues was brought up.

The Ninety Five Theses brought a lot of doubt in the Catholic Church to the public because what is said made sense to them. The Council discussed them and came to conclusions that made it so that the public could understand and follow their faith. One of the first major discussions was the discussion of Original Sin. Original Sin is the sin that we are born with because of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is the reason we have an inclination for sinning as humans. Original Sin is a very important topic to Catholicism and the Council wanted to make sure that it was clear for the public to understand.

If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,–which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, –is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema: For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. (CT Table)

At the time that the topic of Original Sin was brought up, the Immaculate Conception of The Virgin Mary. They also discussed the hierarchy and the training involved with all of the different order of religious life. The decree on the dogma about Original Sin was announced and made known to the public in the fifth session. After a few more sessions the Council moved to Bologna and then for called back to Rome. When they got to Rome, not long after, on November 10th, 1549, the Pope died, ending the first period of the Council of Trent.

During the second period of the council, many important decrees were discussed that are still an integral part of Catholic Faith today. Some of these are the Sacrament of the Eucharist, authority of the Bishops, Penance (Confession/Reconciliation), and more. However, before the council could be called together again, the Pope died. The newly elected Pope died just 22 days after being elected.


On Transubstantiation.

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation. (CT Table).

When the fourth Pope of this time took over, it began the third period of Trent. This was a struggle to gather the council again because the Protestants were fighting it and the Pope wasn’t one hundred percent motivated to get the council gathered. So the Council gathered many times, and finished after twenty five sessions and made many decrees and Dogmas and truly clarified the Catholic faith so that the public could understand it and truly believe it in order to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is a big undertaking to have a strong relationship with Jesus. It takes a lot of commitment and devotion. St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier know much about this devotion that is needed. They started a religious order that is still strong in Faith to this day. The Jesuits, also known as the Society of Jesus, were the “militia” for the Catholic Church during the Counter Reformation. They were founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, in order to, reach out to those were becoming or already far from the Catholic Church and attempt at bringing them back. He found himself deep in his Catholic faith when in the hospital while recovering from a battle wound, he had nothing to read except religious material. Then he went to the University of Paris and he immediately bonded with Francis Xavier. This is where the ministry of the Jesuits really took off.

“The Pope approved the order’s formation in 1540 and made responsible only to himself. No Bishop or Archbishop could supervise Jesuits, they answered only to the Pope. Jesuits became the church’s militia for recovering Europe from heresy” (Hines). St. Ignatius of Loyola changed the general practices of religious orders for the purpose of his order. For example, he changed the normal garb and the structure was more similar to the military than democratic government. Easily seen as a success, the Jesuits spread the Word and Works of Jesus throughout the world and influenced so many people into coming back into the Faith. “…Xavier himself is said to have converted 750,000 people in the Far East,” (Counter-Reformation a Failure?). When St. Ignatius died in 1556, after 16 years of the Jesuit order, he had recruited 1000 people into the order. The Jesuits continue as a religious order to this day working to spread the Word of Jesus Christ.

Between art, architecture, humanism, and the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church made a huge push to bring strayed Catholics back to the Church. The clarifications in Theology, the influential artwork, and the outspoken ideas of Steuco, the people of the time realized that the reasons for the protestant reformation were unneeded and the Catholic Church just needed reform within themselves instead of breaking away from the church that Jesus Christ started and passed through his Apostles.

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