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You are here: Home Courses Middlebury-CMRS Course List RELI 0140 / HIST 0140 Catholic Reformation

RELI 0140 / HIST 0140 Catholic Reformation

This course examines Catholic efforts to reform the Church that pre-dated the Reformation and the Council of Trent, challenging the pervasive narrative of the ‘Counter Reformation’ that views these efforts as purely reactionary to Protestantism. New devotional practices, varied approaches to the visual arts and music, and new articulations of doctrine meant that this period was one of the most dynamic, yet contested in the history of the Church. Spanning from the late 1400s to the end of the sixteenth-century, you will be introduced to debates on religious reform spearheaded by individuals including Savonarola; humanists such as Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam; prominent ecclesiastics such as Gasparo Contarini; as well as the laity (women as well as men), who played a vital role in instigating reform.   

Sample Topics

  • Reforming the Church before Luther
  • Erasmus, More and Catholic Humanism
  • The Spirituali
  • Convening the Council of Trent
  • Instigating Reform in the late Sixteenth Century
  • New Religious Orders
  • A New Aesthetic? Art, Architecture and Music


Introductory Reading

  • Laven, M. (et al.), eds, The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.
  • Mullet, M.A., The Catholic Reformation. Abingdon: Routledge, 1999
  • Hsia, R. Po-chia, The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 2005
  • O'Malley, J.W., Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Luebke, D.M. (ed.), The Counter-Reformation: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999
  • C. Lindberg (ed.), The European Reformations Sourcebook. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000
Over 25 years on
I attended CMRS over 25 years ago; now I live outside Washington, DC, where I practice law before the federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Cour...
Greg Castanias, Autumn Semester 1985, Wabash College