A History of Christianity (2009–…): Season 1, Episode 4 - Reformation: The Individual Before God - full transcript

The Amish community of Pennsylvania

are quiet and peaceable folk.

And yet five centuries ago
their ancestors were seen

as some of the most dangerous
people in Europe.

They were radicals. Protestants.

One of dozens of groups
in the 16th century

that tore apart the Catholic Church.

In the fourth part
of this History of Christianity,

I'll point out the trigger
for religious revolution.

I'll try to make sense
of the terrible wars and suffering

it ignited in Europe.

And show why it also brought
great joy and liberation.

I want to see how the old Western Church
fought back, renewing Catholicism.

Of all the mad churches
I've seen in Mexico,

- this is definitely the maddest.
- Well, I think it's paradise.

MacCULLOCH: Above all,
I want to understand how a faith

based on obedience
to the authority of the clergy

gave birth to one where the individual
is accountable to God alone.

Ripped By mstoll

In 1500, the only Christianity
most Western Europeans knew

was the Church
which called itself Catholic,

the Church of the Pope in Rome.

Its priests were an elite with
power to link ordinary people to God.

They showed miraculous ability
in the Mass

to turn bread and wine into the actual
body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Yet millions of Europeans were
on the verge of rejecting

this Catholic Church
for a very different Christianity.

Only one thing could force
such dramatic change.

That was the power of an idea.

An idea about something
which concerns us all


The Bible's New Testament offers
a stark picture.

When we die, we go to Heaven or Hell.

But for us complex mortals,
neither very good, nor very bad,

the Western Church said there might be
a midway stage called Purgatory.

You wait there
to be made ready for Heaven.

Now, Purgatory is like Hell
in that it's not a nice place to be,

but there is a time limit on it.

And so you can do things
to shorten the time.

You can give a coin to a beggar
and he will pray for your soul.

People would even leave money
in their wills

to pay the villages taxes
so that villagers would pray for them.

It's a wonderfully "you scratch my back
I'll scratch your back" system.

By the 16th century, all through Europe

the Church was selling certificates,
called indulgences,

to show how much time
in Purgatory you had avoided.

The cash paid
for new churches and hospitals.

When the Pope wanted
to finish the rebuilding

of St Peter's Basilica in Rome,
he launched an indulgence campaign.

Some might think this a worthy cause.

But it raised big questions
in the mind of a German monk

whose views on the afterlife
would change the Western Church.

His name was Martin Luther.

Luther lived most of his life
in the small town of Wittenberg

in eastern Germany.

Each year on the 31 st of October,
they celebrate Reformation Day.

It was on this date in 1517

that Luther announced
a university debate on indulgences,

which would discuss no fewer
than 95 propositions or theses.

And it's said that he announced
the debate by nailing a notice

to the door of this church here.

And this, in legend, has become
the start of the Reformation.

So what was so revolutionary
about Luther's ideas?

Ironically, his inspiration and
so the whole Protestant Reformation,

came from the most important
theologian of Catholic Christianity,

the fourth century African bishop
Augustine of Hippo.

Augustine said the Bible revealed
an all-powerful God

who alone decides our fate after death.

Luther, like Augustine before him,
read the Apostle Paul as saying

that we are saved from Hell, justified,
not by any good deeds of our own

but by faith in God.

Now, if that is so
then the Church has no claim

to change or even influence
the fate of a single human being.

Selling indulgences
was wicked and useless.

Luther was reminding people
that the key to salvation

didn't lie in the hands of the church
but in the word of God.

And that could be found in the Bible.

The trouble was that
many ordinary people

couldn't read or write.

How could they hear
the message in a book?

But Luther found effective ways
round the problem.

Up until his time, most church music
had been sung in Latin,

by clergy and choirs.

Luther wrote superb German hymns
for everyone to sing.

They helped convey the Bible's message.

I asked this church's director of music
why they were so successful.

We've heard this great tune,
A Mighty Fortress, Eine Feste Burg,

which does stick in the head somehow,
doesn't it?

Yes, the tune is by Luther
and it brings in elements

of the popular music of the time,
the folk songs,

a little bit of a dance, like.

But big congregations
couldn't do that, surely,

they're not that sophisticated.

They did have a hard time
and the pastors complained,

"We keep trying to sing these hymns
but the people aren't,

"they're not singing loud enough"
or "they're not working with it".

But what they did is they tried
to get the school kids to learn them.

They were even sent
into the congregation

to sit amongst the people.
And they're supposed to sing loudly

in worship and hopefully the others
will come along with them.


MacCULLOCH: Luther had no thoughts
of quitting the Church.

All he was doing was giving God
back the power which was God's.

Then he found the Church quit him.

The Pope felt Luther threatened
the God-given authority of the Church.

So a solemn papal pronouncement
condemned him.

Luther replied by burning it

Over the next decade,
this open defiance of ancient authority

was christened "Protestantism".

But in proclaiming his view of salvation

Luther risked death at the stake.

He was defying not only the Pope
but Europe's most powerful monarch,

the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

There's a pious legend
that has Luther saying to the Emperor,

"Here I stand, I can do no other".

Well, if he didn't say that
he ought to have done,

because it captures the essence
of his defiance.

And it's a cry which I find the most
compelling thing about Protestantism.

We stand alone with our consciences,
we can do no other.

Luther's message appeals
to modern individualism.

A refusal blindly to accept authority.

But it took huge bravery
to defy Pope and Emperor.

And the odd thing is
that Luther also talked a lot

about obedience to the powers
that God had placed in the world.

That meant a lot to him.

So, was Luther's message about revolt

or about creating a settled,
obedient society?

Well, Luther never really
answered that one.

And that unanswered question remains
a central problem for Protestantism.

And worse was to come.

Luther found that other reformers
refused to follow his own line.

"Here he stood,
they were going to do something else."

While Luther was a university lecturer,

another great reformer, Ulrych Zwingli,
was a busy parish priest.

He played out his own reformation

in one of Europe's
greatest city-states, Z?rich.

Zwingli always claimed
that independently of Luther,

he discovered
the central Protestant idea

that only God's gift of faith
can save us from Hell

I find that hard to believe.

It would certainly be one of the biggest
historical coincidences of all time.

And it must be said that
Luther and Zwingli did not get on.

We'll see why.

In 1522, Zwingli was invited
to a dinner party,

where the guests ate a sausage.

That night the sausage became the
rallying-cry for a Swiss reformation.

It was Lent, when the Church
told people to show penitence

for their sins by giving things up,
especially tasty sausages.

The inappropriate sausage eating
caused quite a stir in Z?rich.

Zwingli didn't actually
eat the sausage himself,

but he argued that there was
nothing morally wrong with the sausage.

He pointed out that the Bible
has no commandment

about keeping Lent.

And he warned Z?rich that the church
was sidelining God's real laws

by making such a fuss
about things like that.

Zwingli was saying that the Bible and
not the Pope carried God's authority.

So far, so much like Luther.

But Zwingli's Reformation
went much further.

Now, here there's no getting away
from technical jargon

to make things clear.

All Protestants at the time
were reformers

but it was only this
non-Lutheran version of Protestantism

that came to be known as Reformed,
with a capital "R".

So what was happening here in Z?rich

was the creation
of a whole new sort of Protestantism.

The Z?rich authorities felt that
they had a sacred trust

from God to govern.

Zwingli told them that
this was what God wanted.

That nerved the City Council
to take the whole church of Z?rich

out of the hands
of the local Catholic bishop.

And Zwingli was more than ready
to tell them how to run it

Zwingli and his colleagues re-read
the Ten Commandments.

The Commandments forbid graven images,

so they tore down
the images of the saints.

They even banned music
for half a century and more

because beauty distracts
from worshipping God.

And since the Bible
nowhere tells clergy to be celibate,

the Z?rich clergy broke
with half a millennium

of Western Christian tradition
and got married.

But Zwingli had
one more controversial proposal

that became a distinguishing
characteristic of Reformed Protestants.

At Z?rich's wealthy collegiate church,
the Great Minster or Grossm?nster,

Zwingli's view on the Mass,
or Eucharist,

transformed the heart
of Christian worship.

At the Last Supper,
before Christ was crucified,

he broke bread, took wine,
calling them his body and blood.

The old Church taught that in the Mass

God had given the priest the power
to transform bread and wine

into Christ's body and blood.

He actually brought God
physically to the people.

That gave priests astonishing power.

For centuries,
they were the main gateway to God.

And the High Altar,
at which they presided at Mass,

was the most sacred place in church.

This Grossm?nster had been
built for Catholic worship

centuries before the Reformation,
and so the whole thing is intended

to look behind me,
right up to that east end.

There, you'd have the High Altar

where the Mass was celebrated
day in, day out.

But you see, it's gone.

And instead,
everything's been pulled forwards

to where I'm standing.

This extraordinary piece
of Reformation furniture.

Well, it's a font for baptism,

but it actually doubles
as a Communion table on the top.

And they're in the middle of the people

thanks to Zwingli
and the Z?rich Reformation.

Zwingli argued that the bread and wine

are not miraculously transformed
in the Mass.

He justified this revolutionary thought
by his reading of the Gospels.

The Bible tells us that
Christ ascended into heaven

and will not return until the last day.

He's sitting at the right hand
of the Father,

not here on a table in Z?rich.

Zwingli said that breaking bread,
drinking wine, are symbols.

The believer remembers that
Christ died on the Cross.

Luther's comeback to that?
Zwingli's wicked and crazy.

Today, the presiding minister
of the Grossm?nster is Kathi La Roche.

In the true spirit of the Reformation,

she has her own ideas
about the bread and wine.

So you're the successor of Zwingli
in this church,

but I just get the sense
that you might not feel

quite the same
about the Eucharist as them.

No, I'm a little bit more close
to Luther.

- Aha.
- Yeah.

Luther. The great enemy of Zwingli,
you're closer to Luther.

Zwingli was a very rationalistic man.

He thought with the head.
Head's everything.

Yeah. And I think

Luther was more close to the people,

and I can feel when I give
the bread to somebody

and I say, "This is the body of Christ",
or "This is the bread of life",

something happens between this person
and me and receiving.

And I think this is a moment
where people can feel,

"Yes, he is here with me."

I see. So you're saying that Zwingli
has this great idea of community,

but there is something
which he might be missing here,

that there's an event between God
and an individual.

I think so.

And that's the insight that
Luther had which Zwingli

- seems to have missed perhaps.
- Yeah.

No wonder they hated each other so much!

Both reformers championed
individual conscience over obedience

to priestly authority.

It's just, Zwingli favoured cool,
logical thinking

above Luther's insights into
the more passionate depths of faith.

But the split showed up
the big problem for the Reformation,

one that is still
a hallmark of Protestantism.

A tendency to sectarianism.

If you let anyone read the Bible,

then any idea can suddenly seem
the most important.

This can be a weakness.

It can also be a strength,
a trigger for expansion.

To Zwingli's dismay,
some of those he'd inspired

now pointed out that the Bible
made no mention of baptism for infants.

So they began baptising adults afresh,

earning themselves the nickname
Anabaptists, or re-baptizers.

Now they were not so much defying
the Pope but the city-state of Z?rich.

In fact, they argued that nowhere
did the New Testament

link church and state.

In January 1525,
a group of radical enthusiasts

baptized themselves in public.

They followed it up by breaking bread
and drinking wine,

and all without
a single clergyman involved.

It was an open challenge.
It was too much.

The City Council condemned
four of them to death

in a way suited to their crime
against the waters of baptism.

They drowned them,
here in the River Limat

But the Anabaptists
were not about to give up.

In the hills above Z?rich
is the secret meeting place

used by those who fled the persecution.

I climbed up there with Peter Dettwiler
who's a minister in the Reformed church.

You have to imagine people coming
up here with their children,

families being persecuted

to gather here for services,

and I think it was
a very special place for them.

MacCULLOCH: The Swiss Anabaptists were
soon just one among many groups

claiming to be the only
authentic Christianity.

They all survive to this day.

Unitarians, Mennonites,

Amish, Quakers.

Thirty years after Luther's revolution
it was not yet obvious

that Protestantism
would spread across Europe,

never mind the rest of the world.

It was at this moment
that a young French exile

brought new dynamism
to the Reformation, John Calvin.

Calvin never wanted to leave France.
Catholic persecution forced him out.

It was a sheer fluke that he fled to
a city-state on the edge of Switzerland.

He never much liked the place,
but he felt that

God had sent him there,
and you can't say no to God.

Driven, single-minded,
humourless Calvin,

he was such a success
that his city became known

as the Protestant Rome. It was Geneva.

There is an arresting intensity in what
Calvin said about encountering God.

He spoke of believers
experiencing union with Christ.

He tends to be remembered as a killjoy,

and it's true that at one time
he tried to stop

the whole city of Geneva dancing.

But his real significance is that
he turned the swirling confusion

of the Protestant Reformation into
a practical and accessible guidebook,

his Institutes
of the Christian Religion.

The former head
of the Reformed Church in Geneva

is now director of the city's
Reformation Museum.

She looked me out
a special copy of Calvin's Institutes

from their collections.

- Can I pick it up?
- Of course.

It's a first edition, isn't it?

That's right. 1536.

And so, it's extraordinary,
he's a university lecturer.

- What, late 20's?
- Yes, that's right.

And he's trying to re-write Christianity
or encapsulate it

- in a little book, isn't he?
- Yes, and I think

that I like to understand this attempt
of Calvin as giving to people

new keys for understanding Christianity

to interpret the Christian doctrine,

and I like to think of reformation first

as an interpretation of the old ideas.

Well, you use the word "new" but I think
Calvin would say really old,

before medieval Catholicism,
before that corruption.

Yes, but at least we have to recognise

that he brought these new ways,

this new spreading of old ideas,

so to speak.

Isabel, it's a special delight to me
to meet you

because you were
the first woman successor of Calvin.

- That's right.
- And less than 500 years

after his birth?
Well, that's nothing, is it!

But what do you think
Calvin would have thought of that?

Of course, it was
not acceptable for Calvin

because he had the ideas of his time.
That women should keep in their place.

So, I don't think
that he would have approved,

neither did he approve of woman pastors
or of women who wanted to preach.

So how did you approach
becoming moderator?

I went to Calvin's grave

and I put down a rose

in memory of...

this life,

this so important life.

But then I turned to the grave
and then I said, "Now, it's my turn."

MacCULLOCH: Calvin's guide
spread Protestantism far beyond Geneva

thanks to a particular technology.

Printing made it possible
for anyone educated

to read Calvin's Institutes,
which they did.

His followers also used print
to create a special Geneva Bible,

carefully edited and annotated to guide
their reading and interpretation.

This is actually my own copy
of the Geneva Bible.

But this is from 1606, by which time
it's a real best seller in England.

And it's more than just a book.
It's a way of life.

It's a way of Christian life.

You open it up and you see
every chapter divided into verses

so you can remember
just a little bit and quote it.

But much more than that
it tells you how to read it.

All round the text
there's huge quantities of notes,

so you're told how to think
as a reformed Christian.

And bound up at the back
there's something else.

The 150 psalms turned

into metrical psalms, poetry.

And some of these psalms
still survive in hymnals in churches,

and the famous one is Psalm 100,
the Old Hundredth, so called.

Geneva had become the beacon
for a Protestant movement

stretching right across Europe.

Z?rich and Geneva
saw their Church as the true,

properly Reformed, Catholicism.

Roman Catholics would disagree,
of course.

Calvin's style of Protestantism
defined itself by what it was against.

Not just the Pope, but to his mind

pathetically half-Reformed Lutherans
and mad Anabaptists.

Reformed Protestantism was also
extraordinary in its ability

to leap over the frontiers
of language and culture.

Built into Geneva's old city walls
is a memorial to key figures

of the Reformation from all over Europe.

Standing among them is a Scotsman,
John Knox.

In the Genevan church Knox found
a model to take back to Scotland.

Preaching God's word
was central to worship.

And this was reflected
in the size and grandeur

of the city's new pulpits,
and copied far beyond.

The Genevan-style Church of Scotland
out-Calvined Calvin.

Scottish congregations might be moved
to shout cries of praise

or "Amen!" in the way
that we're still familiar with

in American evangelical Protestantism.

Children would be expected
to repeat at home

what the minister had said
that morning in church.

As a result, the Scots
came to value a good education for all,

in a fashion which has never quite
seized their English neighbours.

Protestantism did come to England, too.

But not in a form that
John Knox would have approved.

It took on a flavour unique in Europe.

In 1534, Henry VIII made himself
head of the Church of England

after the Pope refused to annul
his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Reformed Europe in places
like Z?rich and Geneva

turned its back on formal sung services
in grand cathedral settings.

But King Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I,
controversially decided to keep both.

Responsibility for maintaining the sung
tradition here at Winchester Cathedral

is down to choirmaster Andrew Lumsden.

Andrew, the choir's performed
Teach Me O Lord by William Byrd,

which is one of my
favourite pieces of Anglican music.

But it also says a lot about
the English Reformation, doesn't it?

Yes, you have one of
the themes in the piece

is a piece of Gregorian chant

which had been around for
hundreds of years before William Byrd.

It's called Tonus Peregrinus,

and you'll find it in the top of
the chant with the full choir sections.

Up until then,
everything had been sung in Latin,

was totally unapproachable
by the people.

And one of the things was to
make it sing in the English

so that it was approachable.

But Byrd was very cleverly
just sneaking this in

to remind people of the former regime.

And that's because
he's a Roman Catholic, isn't it?

And writing for
a Protestant queen, Elizabeth.

How's she allowing this to go on?

Well, that's a very good question.

I mean, she obviously had
a great love of music of this nature,

and I think probably
just turned a blind eye.

MacCULLOCH: But not everyone in England

approved of half-measures of reform.

Puritans were austere Protestants

who hated anything
which suggested Catholicism.

Under Elizabeth's successor-but-one,
Charles I,

their anger swelled into civil war.

Puritan soldiers fighting for the
Westminster Parliament against Charles

smashed stained glass windows and any
symbol of English Catholic monarchy.

These caskets contain the bones
of Anglo-Saxon kings.

Except all the bones
are in the wrong place,

because Parliamentarian soldiers
tore open the cases

and scattered the bones around
to express their contempt for kings.

It was all part of their campaign
against ancient superstition

and their longing to bring
the New Jerusalem to England.

In the end, the Puritan commander
Oliver Cromwell defeated Charles,

even executed him
and set up a Protestant Republic.

But the Puritans' New Jerusalem
wasn't popular.

The last straw was their effort
to abolish Christmas Day

for not being in the Bible.

The Church of England was
restored, cathedrals and all

For all the later complications
of English religion,

Anglicanism became an integral part
of the national identity.

Since the Reformation, the Anglican
Communion has swung between

the poles of
Catholicism and Protestantism,

producing a subtle,
reflective form of Christianity.

It's the part of the Christian Church
which I know best,

and I must admit that I still love it,

despite all its faults.

So, now we have met
a gallery of Protestantisms.

Lutherans, Reformed,

Radicals, Anglicans.

The Reformation story is
one of splits and persecution.

That's what people find most difficult
to understand about it

How can you burn someone at the stake

for saying that
a piece of bread is not God?

Our instinct is to feel the pain
of the individual burning.

Yet this was a world
with different priorities.

They felt the pain of
the whole of society

if one individual denied God's truth.

So society needed to be healed,

even if that meant causing
hideous pain for one individual.

People cared passionately
about these matters.

And the passion was by no means
all on the side of Protestants.

Protestantism had already
won over the north,

and it had done well
in Central Europe, too.

Now, Catholics were hardly
going to stand idly by

while it gobbled up the rest of the map.

If you've heard of
a "Counter-Reformation",

you may think it was just that,

the Catholic Church's reaction
to Protestantism.

In fact, it began in response
to a much older threat

Islam's conquest of Spain
in the seventh century.

Catholic Christians hung on
in northern Spain.

For 500 years they dreamt of reconquest.

By the 13th century,
they'd fought their way back

to Andalusia in the south

and one of its greatest cities, C?rdoba.

C?rdoba was a major step
in the reconquest of Spain,

and behind me is the biggest symbol
you could have of that triumph.

C?rdoba's cathedral is a weird building.

The great choir and High Altar
are like a cuckoo in a nest.

They are stuck right into
the heart of what was once...

a mosque.

This building was the greatest
mosque of Arab, Muslim, C?rdoba.

But when the Catholics
reconquered the city,

they seized this sacred Islamic site

and re-consecrated it
for Christian worship.

It shrieks Catholic triumph at you.

Catholic Spain was obsessive
about suppressing Islam.

It was equally worried about Judaism.

Its rulers, Ferdinand and Isabella,

became the first monarchs
to run an inquisition

to root out non-Catholics.

The Inquisition operated from C?rdoba's
old Moorish Palace, the Alcazar.

The Spanish Inquisition has had
a bad press over the years

for its cruelty and oppression,

but it's worth remembering that
every 16th century system of justice

was cruel and oppressive.

And in fact, overall, the Inquisition
executed a lower proportion of suspects

than most secular courts.

What the Inquisition did do

was enforce a system of
racial and cultural superiority.

It added up to a militant,
self-confident Catholicism,

emerging quite independently
of Protestant reform.

But eventually, Rome realised it
had to react to the Reformation as well

In 1545, a Council opened
at Trent in Italy

to restate Catholic truths
and to reassert papal authority.

This is another church in C?rdoba,

and it embodies the spirit
of the Council of Trent

It was built for
a brand new organisation

ready to do the Council's bidding,
the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.

This is a very grand building.

But it's also very plain.
The early Jesuits liked plainness.

And of course it's also very open,
there's no screen here.

There, of course, is a pulpit,

because Catholics can preach
as well as Protestants.

But the Catholic Church could offer
much more from its tradition.

Sitting on that High Altar
behind me is the tabernacle

in which you keep the consecrated bread,

the body of Christ
for the faithful to worship

whenever they walk into church.

But more than that, his mother, Mary.

She is always present,

a human mother who has borne God.

And she adds a femininity to worship

which Protestantism rather lacks.

And you also have the confessional,

a brand new invention
of the Counter-Reformation

so that you can unburden
yourself of sin to a priest.

So what the Counter-Reformation
offered you

was a sense of companionship,

companionship with Holy Mother Church.

This was
the Counter-Reformation's answer

to Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli,
John Calvin.

Far from being destroyed
by the Protestants,

the Catholic church did what
Christianity always does,

it adapted itself in a crisis.

It eventually emerged renewed

and poised to win new converts.

This is Grahada,
the last Muslim stronghold

to fall to the armies o f
Ferdinand and Isabella.

As Muslim power faded here,

Catholic Spain and Portugal began
building empires overseas.

The man you see above me
is Christopher Columbus

at the feet of Queen Isabella.

In 1492, in the same year
that Muslim Granada fell,

Columbus reached what we
now call the West Indies.

The Church traveled out on
the same ships as his soldiers.

Counter Reformation Catholicism

was about to become
the first worldwide religion.

The first missionaries to
the New World were Franciscan friars,

desperate to spread the word

because they believed that
the end of the world was coming.

Half a century later,
the Jesuits followed them.

In countries such as Mexico,
these envoys of militant Catholicism

met civilisations which to begin with,
were able to fight back.

But suddenly, the native peoples
began dying in thousands.

In the words of one despairing ruler,
"in heaps like bedbugs".

It wasn't the soldiers but invisible
armies of European diseases

that did most of the damage.

Traumatised local peoples were often
only too ready to turn to Catholicism.

Up there is the Church
of Our Lady of Help.

You might think it was
built on a hill, but in fact,

it's built on top of the largest
man-made pyramid in the world.

When Catholic missionaries
came to Mexico,

they deliberately put churches
on top of temples.

They placed their place of sacrifice

slap bang on top of
the old place of sacrifice.

You might say "Catholicism Rules OK".

We can learn a great deal about
the mindset of the Spanish conquerors

by taking a closer look at
one of their monuments to victory.

This is the Capilla Real de Indios,

the Chapel Royal of
the> Indians, in Cholula.

I paid it a visit with leading
Mexican historian, Clara Garcia.

I was intrigued because it took me
far away to Spain and Jerusalem.

It's like nothing
in the Christian world,

but it's like lots of
great mosques in Syria

and Egypt, and of course, one in Spain.

You've got the Grand Mosque of C?rdoba.

Now, do you think that's coincidence?

No, no, no, you're quite right,

it's fashioned after
the Great Mosque in C?rdoba.

It's got 49 domes and seven aisles

and it's a huge open space also.

Actually, what it reminds me of
is an Islamic building in Jerusalem.

It's the courtyard of
the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Now, let me just run this idea past you.

- This is built by Franciscans, right?
- Yes.

And the Franciscans at the time think
that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the Temple,

- Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.

So, do you think
they're trying to recreate

the new Jerusalem of the last days here?

Oh, definitely, they're trying
to recreate the New Jerusalem

- with new Christians, new Catholics...
- MacCULLOCH: New Catholics.

...at the same time that the Protestant
Reformation is going on in Europe.

Catholicism is
losing souls to the Protestants

and here they are gaining thousands...

- MacCULLOCH: Oh, I like that.
...of new souls.

So it's the perfect New Jerusalem
with the perfect Christians.

They win some, you lose some!

Yes, in a manner
of speaking, yes.

MacCULLOCH: The inside of this church
seems to mirror the mosque in C?rdoba.

The courtyard, the mosque in Jerusalem.

So, what is this building trying to say?

Maybe this. Back home in Spain,

Catholic Christians had crushed Islam.

They'd turned their mosques
into churches.

Now, here in New Spain, Mexico,

they'd crushed other false gods
and conquered their princes.

Now, what better way
to commemorate that victory

than in the same way,
build the princes a church

which looked like a mosque?
Just an idea.

But after the horrors of conquest,

the missionaries realised that
in order to win hearts and minds,

they would have to help the new converts

to find joy and celebration
in Catholicism.

It had to assimilate native cultures.

Nowhere have I seen a clearer
demonstration of how this was done

than in the nearby town
of Santa Maria Tonantzintla.

Of all the mad churches
I've seen in Mexico,

this is definitely the maddest.
Tell me about it.

Well, I think it's Paradise.

Well, okay. It's a mad Paradise.

This is what I would imagine
Heaven to be like.

- MacCULLOCH: Yeah.
- Full of people, gay,

angels everywhere, pretty, beautiful.

What happened is that when
the Franciscans came to Santa Maria,

it was a small village,
they couldn't afford to leave a friar.

So they would teach maybe
some elders, some children,

educate them in the Spanish language

and the rudiments of Christianity
and then leave,

come back a few years later
and see how Christianity was doing.

The actual villagers,
the dwellers of the area,

took Christianity and fashioned it

in their own image and likeness.

So it becomes
an indigenous religion then,

because it's taught by people
to people in the village.

Totally, and if you look
at the faces of the angels,

they're all local faces of the time.


When the missionaries went overseas,

the Catholic Church was more
than happy to mingle two cultures.

But it was a curious
sort of flexibility,

because it was flexible
only about everyday religious practice.

Now, some missionaries,
especially the Jesuits,

wanted to talk about
the Christian faith itself in new ways,

which would make sense
in other cultures.

But after much argument,
the church hierarchy rigidly insisted

that whatever Rome had said about
Christian doctrine must be right

and could never be altered.

A perfect example of
that curious flexibility

is the Basilica of Our Lady
of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The appearance of the Virgin Mary
to a native near here

was more than a miracle.

She looks like the people of Mexico,

which means that she,

and the Catholic Church,
can speak directly to them.

But doctrinally, she is still
the virgin mother of God.

It's a Tuesday
and there are 8,000 people gathered.

It's estimated that by 1550,

as many as 10 million had been baptized
as Catholics in the Americas.

It was a huge morale booster
for the popes in Rome,

still smarting from
the Protestant Reformation.

Catholics were ready to fight back.

A hundred years after Martin Luther

first pinned his rallying cry
to a church door,

northern Europe had become
solidly Protestant,

but southern Europe had fallen
behind the Catholic Church.

And there was a great
swathe of> Central Europe

where the options were still open.

It was a recipe for war.

The first battlefield was Prague,

capital of the modern day
Czech Republic.

At the start of the 17th century,

Protestantism had not only taken over
much of Northern and Western Europe,

it even reached here
to the capital of Bohemia,

a kingdom which was a vital
part of the Holy Roman Empire.

By now, the vast majority
of Bohemians were Protestants

and their Catholic rulers,
the Habsburgs,

had been forced to concede them
their religious liberty.

But in 1617, everything changed.

The Catholic Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor

chose one of his own family
to be the next king of Bohemia.

Archduke Ferdinand despised Protestants.

In a pre-emptive strike,

Bohemian Protestants
seized the Royal Palace.

On the 23rd of May 1618,

they threw two of Ferdinand's
officials out of this window.

A heap of straw just below saved
their lives, but not Hapsburg pride.

The incident has been
splendidly christened

the Defenestration of Prague.

The Protestants invited
a neighbouring Calvinist ruler,

the Elector Palatine Friedrich,
to become their new king.

Friedrich lasted barely a year.

Unfortunately for Bohemia,

Archduke Ferdinand became
Holy Roman Emperor.

His revenge was swift.

In November 1620, the Bohemians,
and Protestantism,

were crushed at
the Battle of White Mountain.

Today the site is at
the end of a tram line,

which seems appropriate, really.

The only indication of
its importance in European history

is the nearby Catholic Church
of our Lady of Victory.

What we are looking at is the place

which triggered one of the most bitter,
destructive wars in European history.

And it lasted 30 years.

In his victory,
Emperor Ferdinand declared

an empire-wide ban
on Reformed Protestantism.

Lutherans and Calvinists realised
that they had to come together

to fight for the future
of Protestantism.

War overtook countries from
Sweden and Denmark in the north

to France and Spain in the south.

Even Poland and Transylvania
were sucked in.

In the fight, between a quarter
and a third of the population

of Central Europe
died before their time.

It was 1648 before
peace finally broke out.

Much of Europe was a wasteland

and much of Europe
would never be Protestant again.

Wars of religion didn't seem
such a good idea after all.

The Catholics managed to push
Protestantism back

from parts of Central and Western Europe

and confine it mainly to the north.

But the Thirty Years' War

had a much wider significance
for Christian futures.

Persecuted Protestants took flight
not just from Prague.

Some, like the Swiss Anabaptists,
quit the Old World for good.

Maybe Protestantism could
steal a march on Catholicism...

in the New World.

In 1682, an influential
English Quaker, William Penn,

secured a new colony in North America.

His goal was religious freedom,

not only for Quakers,
but for all Christians.

Religious exiles of all persuasions
flocked from across Europe.

William Penn named this land
Penn's Paradise, Pennsylvania.

If you want to spot Anabaptists,

then Lancaster County
is the place for you.

This is home to
37 distinct religious groups

collectively known as Plain People,

all descended from the radicals
of the Reformation.

They all belong to the Amish,
Mennonite or Brethren Churches.

They keep up many old ways,

especially a fine Protestant disregard
for outside authority.

Some defy the modern world
by living without things

we take for granted, cars, electricity.

I met Stephen Scott of
the Old Order River Brethren,

who reminded me of that name
all these folk have for themselves,

the Plain People.

Why have the Plain People split so much?

Well, our faith applies to not only

intangible doctrines,

but to daily living,

so, unfortunately the more
there is to disagree about.

And an important principle is

non-conformity to the world,

so where do you draw the line
between the church and the world?

You have Mennonites and Amish

who drive horse-drawn vehicles,
but in my group we have cars.

Well, this might
seem a mischievous question,

but what's wrong with the world?

And I don't just mean
the 21 st century world,

I mean the 16th century world

that the first Anabaptists
refused to conform to.

What's wrong with the world?

Well, there would be some basic issues

like the whole matter of pride.

Dressing in a way that would
draw attention to your body

is very much discouraged.

You would say, well, the Plain People
do attract a lot of attention

by the way they dress.

But it's actually little
if any different

than the principles of monastic order.

MacCULLOCH: The Plain People
are more than a curiosity.

They tell us a great deal about
what would have happened

if the small Jewish sect from Galilee
had not adapted.

Yes, it may well have survived,

just like the Plain People,
into the 21st century.

Clinging to tradition
can help in that way.

But it would never have spread

and become a world religion.

The refusal of the Plain People
to change their ways

meant it wasn't they
who would turn America

into a great powerhouse
of world Protestantism.

Ripped By mstoll