Propaganda during the Reformation
In this woodblock from 1568, the printer at left is removing a page from the press while the one at right inks the text-blocks
Propaganda during the Reformation, helped by the spread of the printing press throughout Europe, and in particular within Germany, caused new ideas, thoughts, and doctrine to be made available to the public in ways that had never been seen before the sixteenth century. The printing press was invented in approximately 1450 and quickly spread to other major cities around Europe; by the time the Reformation was underway in 1517 there were printing centers in over 200 of the major European cities. These centers became the primary ...view middle of the document...
Printed texts and pamphlets were available to a large number of literate people, at a relatively affordable price. Furthermore, the ideas and beliefs of the reform writers, including Martin Luther, were also widely disseminated orally to large numbers of illiterate people who may not have been involved with the Reformation otherwise. The Roman Catholic propagandists also utilized this method of propaganda within the church but it was not as effective as the Protestant propagandists.
Protestant propaganda and church doctrine broke away from the traditional conventions of the Catholic Church. They called for a change in the way that the church was run and insisted that the buying and selling of indulgences and religious positions be stopped as well as the papal corruption that had been allowed to occur. In addition to this, Reformers questioned the authority of the Church and in particular the Pope. Protestants believed that the main authority of their church should be the Gospel or Scripture (expounded by private interpretation) and not the Pope, who is the earthly head of the Catholic Church.
Another dominant message that was found in Protestant propaganda was the idea that every person should be granted access to the Bible to interpret it for themselves; this was the primary reason why Luther translated and published numerous copies of the New Testament during the Reformation years. Protestants questioned the belief that the Pope had the sole authority to interpret scripture. This can be seen in Luther’s publication titled To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, which criticized the Catholic belief that the Pope was supreme and could interpret scripture however he saw fit. To combat this, Luther put forth arguments from the Bible that indicated that everyone had the ability to interpret scripture and not just the Pope.
The Reformation messages were very controversial and were frequently banned in a number of Catholic cities. Despite this attempt by the Catholic Church, to contain and repress Protestant propaganda, the Protestant propagandists found effective ways of disseminating their messages to their believers. The use of pamphlets became the primary method of spreading Protestant ideas and doctrine. Pamphlets took little time to produce and they could be printed and sold quickly making them harder to track down by the authorities and thus making them a very effective method of propaganda. The sheer number of pamphlets produced during this time period indicates that Protestant works during the Reformation were available on a consistent basis and on a large scale, making the controversial ideas accessible to the masses. This is one of the reasons that the Protestants were successful in their propaganda campaign and in the Reformation.
Roman Catholic reaction to Protestant propaganda
The dissension of the Reformers was not welcomed by Roman Catholics who called this behaviour and the works of the Protestant...