The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola : Reform in the Church, 1495-1540

The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola : Reform in the Church, 1495-1540

The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola : Reform in the Church, 1495-1540

The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola : Reform in the Church, 1495-1540


This work contains fifteen key documents illustrative of reform in the Church in the period from 1495 to 1540, an age of great religious ferment and upheaval, which is marked historically by the crisis known as the Protestant Reformation. The documents collected in this work focus on the simultaneous struggle for renewal and reform within the Catholic Church. There was much amiss within the Church at the close of the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformation threw into high relief the urgent need for religious reform. Involving basic questions of doctrine, practice, and authority, this severe trial put in jeopardy the very life of the existing Catholic Church. The balanced selection of notable and representative source materials tells their story in a lively and dramatic way. This important work on a little-known aspect of a turbulent era is a valuable contribution to Reformation studies.


I am happy that Fordham University Press is republishing this volume which Harper & Row originally brought out in 1969. Its value lies primarily in the fifteen documents relating to Catholic reform that it makes available, and for that reason, I feel sure, it continues to be useful. I have not revised or updated the headnotes or bibiographical references in the original edition, and I ask pardon on that score. These, however, present substantial information that remains basic and, I trust, they will still be helpful. My recent Catholic Reform from Cardinal Ximenes to the Council of Trent which Fordham published in 1990 to some extent updates the subject, though that slim volume is quite a different book. It may be said nevertheless to supplement or complement this earlier and present volume. I had originally intended to carry the story of the Catholic Reformation through the era of the Council of Trent in a second volume of documents comparable to this one, but, alas, distractions arose, and I failed to do so.

Let me note that I recognize there are differences of attitude and approach with regard to “Catholic reform” in the sixteenth century. I put the term in quotes because the notion itself is sometimes questioned and from different points of view. I believe, however, that the term expresses a valid conceptualization, though I do not mean to use it in a narrow or excessively specific sense. I know the picture of Catholicism in the sixteenth century is complex and has different phases and various aspects, and I acknowledge that my own treatment covers only a part of the broader story. It is a part, however, that has often been ignored or dismissed and has sometimes been denied. It fully deserves, I believe, an historian’s attention.

In my earlier preface I thank a number of people who helped me with the volume. The years have passed. Some have moved on to other posts and responsibilities, some remain colleagues and friends, and some have died. I have them all in mind, and I again express my gratitude for their generous assistance.

June 22, 1992                                                            JOHN C. OLIN

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