The German Provinces During the Reformation
While the Order in the Latinate countries was making a belated effort at betterment, in more northerly Europe it was not accorded this grace. The wave of Protestantism rolled over the provinces of Saxony, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Denmark. Lower and Upper Germany sustained severe losses. The eastern portions of the latter also suffered from the incursions of the Turks. Poland, too, at this time was diminished.The image of religious life had already been considerably tarnished in the skirmishes of the humanists, led by Erasmus, with the scholastics. Luther also found many sympathizers among the humanists in his attacks on Rome. His “Opinion on Monastic Orders” (1521), the logical consequence of his doctrine on good works and justification, theologically eliminated the justification for the religious state in Christian life. Many religious, already weak in their vocation, needed no further incentive to propel them out the monastery door. Few candidates were to be found to take their places. Municipal magistrates took over the depopulated or deserted premises. Lessening of alms from the diminishing Catholic population threatened the continued existence of the surviving houses, unable to meet their financial obligations.