At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Catholic church, modeled upon the bureaucratic structure of the Holy Roman Empire, had become extremely powerful, but internally corrupt. From early in the twelfth century onward there are calls for reform. Between 1215 and 1545 nine church-councils are held with church reforms as their primary intent. The councils all fail to reach significant accord. The clergy is unable to live according to church doctrine, and the abuse of church ceremonies and practices continues.
In the first half of the 16th century Western Europe experienced a wide range of social, artistic, and geo-political changes as the result of a conflict within the Catholic church. This conflict is called the Protestant Reformation, and the Catholic response to it is called the Counter-Reformation. The Reformation movement begins in 1517 when a German friar named Martin Luther posts a list of grievances, called the "Ninety-Five Theses", against the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Roman church a series of powerful popes including Leo X and Paul III responded respond to the demands in various ways. Friar orders are formed to reinforce Catholic doctrine and the Church continued to be supported by the major European monarchies. Ultimately, the Reformation created a north-south split in Europe. In general the northern countries became Protestant while the south remained Catholic.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) while studying law at the University of Erfurt in Germany experienced a spiritual conversion and joined the monastic order of the Augustinians. While working as a parish priest, Luther became disgusted by the Catholic Church's practice of selling indulgences. The purchasing of an indulgence assured the buyer a remission of sins and a shorter period in purgatory. The selling of indulgences was a papal privilege that had been worked to the breaking point. Trying to overcome his disillusionment, Luther while reading St.