Here are a couple of other items of interest from James R. Payton Jr.’s book Getting the Reformation Wrong.
The Reformation was well received in cities.
The underlying importance to this was the role of cities during this time period. Cities had been around since the late eleventh century but they presented a problem to the medieval feudal system. Payton explains:
“The problem was that cities did not fit anywhere in the threefold structure of medieval feudal system. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, as civilization slowly reemerged under the leadership of the church during the seventh to tenth centuries, Western European society had developed into three social classes: those who worked (the peasants), those who fought (the rulers and the knights) and those who prayed (the priests and the religious). This was simply the way society had been for as long as anyone knew. . . Further, these three divisions seemed to cover the possibilities for legitimate Christian work: some tilled the ground, others defended those workers and yet others led in religious practice. . . clergy and hierarchs in these centuries frequently denounced cities as dens of iniquity . . . cities defiled the standards of the church.” “Virtually everyone suffered under the question of whether an urban lifestyle could be acceptable to God . . .” (102-3)
“The basic Reformation message addressed the main concerns of urban citizens in the early sixteenth century. It dealt with the fundamental anxieties of anyone seeking peace with God, but especially those caught in the hitherto religiously suspect realm of city living. With these answers coming from the ultimate source of religious authority, the Scriptures, the issue was rather clearly settled.”
“The Reformers’ teaching thus recognized the sacredness of supposedly secular, middle-class life and the legitimacy of living in a city. The Reformation’s perspectives thus undercut the sanctioned threefold structure of society by acknowledging other ways to live appropriately before God. It did not matter whether one fit into the three-tiered structure of feudal society, for God had already accepted the middle class and urban life itself in Christ.” (104)
Spain proved to be least receptive to Protestant teaching.
A prominent figure in the Roman reformation was Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros. Jiménez saw one of the problems was the poor education that was received by the clergy. In response he founded the University of Alcalá for the training of priests. The University had a strong basis in scholastic theology. He “made sure all priests understood and pledged to live by the demand for celibacy.” (177) He also “rigorously cracked down on the hierarchy’s abuse of finances.” Payton observes:
“With the reform Cardinal Jiménez enacted in the church in Spain, he directly met and answered all the chief concerns expressed in the long-heard call for reform of the church from head to toe. In this fashion he breathed new life and vigor into Christian practice in Spain. Moreover, he so well addressed the problems people had long had with the church that when the Protestant Reformation eventually spread to the Iberian Peninsula, it found little welcome. Catholic Reform there had answered the concerns, and the further emphases of the Protestant movement had little appeal. Thus Spain proved to be the Western European country least receptive to Protestant teaching.” (177)