The Protestant Reformation was the schism within Western Christianity initiated by John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other earlyProtestants. It was sparked by the 1517 posting of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to ("protested") the doctrines, rituals, leadership, and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led to the creation of new national Protestant churches. The Reformation was precipitated by earlier events within Europe, such as the Black Death and the Western Schism, which eroded people's faith in the Catholic Church and the Papacy that governed it. This, as well as many other factors, such as the spread of Renaissance ideas, the spread of the printing press, and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, contributed to the creation of Protestantism.
The Roman Catholic Church responded with a Counter-Reformation initiated by the Council of Trent and spearheaded by the new order of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) specifically organised to counter the Protestant movement. In general, Northern Europe, with the exception of most of Ireland, turned Protestant.Southern Europe remained Roman Catholic, while Central Europe was a site of fierce conflict, escalating to full-scale war.
The first of the new churches was the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of the Brethren) dating their origins to Jan Hus in the early 15th century. The largest of the new churches were the Lutherans (mostly in Germany, the Baltics and Scandinavia) and the Reformed churches (mostly in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scotland). There were many smaller bodies such as the Free Christians, as well.
Although there had been a reformation movement significantly predating Luther, the most common dating of the Protestant Reformation begins in 1517, when Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses, and concludes in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia that ended years of European religious wars....