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The Reformation

When the German reformer Martin Luther publicly criticised abuses in the Catholic Church in 1517, he set in motion a complex train of events that led to the breaking away of certain European states from the Roman Catholic Church and the formation of a number of Protestant Churches. Known as the Reformation this movement had far-reaching effects.

At the Diet of Worms in 1521 Luther was condemned by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but he received support from a number of German princes, including Frederick the Wise of Saxony, the patron of Cranach and Durer.

The humanist scholar Erasmus opposed the Reformation, but his criticism of the corruption within the Catholic Church caused him to be attacked by both sides.

In 1534, following the Pope's refusal to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII became the Supreme Head of a new national Church of England. Holbein's famous portrait of the King dates from around this period.