During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was "the most powerful institution to be found anywhere in Europe." (Crompton 9) Prior to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church affected almost every aspect of daily life and was once the highest power in all of Europe. The Catholic Church was able to collect money from local rulers and peasants to fund its projects, interfere with politics, and had a large influence over society. However, as a result of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church lost power in areas where Protestantism was most dominant. The once all-powerful Catholic Church not only lost power within religion but was also deprived of its abundant wealth, control over European politics, and its influence over society was reduced. .
The Protestant Reformation, led by German monk Martin Luther, was a movement in sixteenth century Europe to reform the Catholic Church (which hereafter will be referred to as the Church) by expunging corruption and restricting its power. Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli strived for change in the Church because it was too focused on worldly possessions and became too commercialized. The Reformation was started by Martin Luther, who opposed the Church's sale of indulgences by writing the Ninety-Five Theses. The movement spread across Europe and supporters of it faced violent persecution in areas such as France and the Italian Kingdoms, which were strictly Catholic. The Reformation was most prominent in England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and The German States, and these regions remain mostly Protestant today. .
The wealth of the Catholic Church diminished drastically as a result of the Protestant Reformation. Before the Protestant Reformation, the Church had become exceptionally wealthy through acquiring money from rulers and the masses by selling indulgences. Indulgences were documents issued by the pope which granted remission of penalties of the sins of buyers and substituted for penance.