Is it a coincidence that the church reformist centers are virtually all outside the original Roman Empire border, the Roman Limes?

It seems reasonable these areas - at least from the beginning in their adherence to the Roman Church were more weakly bound to the center of power than other areas such as France and Spain.

Still, there was a time period of perhaps 900 years - between the years 600 to 1500, that makes this difficult to believe.

  • 3
    Welcome to History:Stack Exchange. Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions.
    – MCW
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:30
  • 6
    I've offered a revision because I didn't understand what it was you wanted to know - what was the actual question. If my revision is wrong, please update, but please consider revising the title to ask a clear question.
    – MCW
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:32
  • 9
    What are the church reformist centers to which you refer?
    – MCW
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:48
  • 2
    Please state what questions remained after reading WP:Reformation. Also, your core assumption does not hold. France had significant reformation movements. As for Spain, the Spanish Inquisition was a thing, as was the Roman Inquisition, both of which came down heavily on anyone challenging the Catholic Church's interpretation of everything...
    – DevSolar
    Jul 15, 2020 at 14:44
  • 3
    Could you state your question more clearly? Which church reformists? Which Roman empire (there were several things called "Roman empire" at various times). The word "original" only confuses. If "original" means the times of August, it was not Christian. If Constantine, then Britain was in it at that time.
    – Alex
    Jul 15, 2020 at 19:19

3 Answers 3


Is it a coincidence that the church reformist centers are virtually all outside the original Roman Empire border, the Roman Limes ?

No. It is not. It is by no means some sort of mere coincidence that Roman Christianity persisted within the confines of Romance civilizations, whereas Protestant Christianity blossomed primarily in Germanic areas. A closer look at persisting schisms will quickly reveal cultural and religious boundaries to overlap quite often; thus, we have Nestorianism in the Middle East, Monophysitism in North Africa, Eastern Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe and Roman Catholicism in Western Europe. Most Germanic tribes first converted to Arianism, before eventually embracing Imperial Orthodoxy. Oftentimes, in his (polemical) writings, Martin Luther conceives of the Roman Church and its Sovereign Pontiff as a foreign power and alien despot, tyrannically oppressing the Germans, either linguistically (by holding services only in Latin, and recognizing Jerome's Vulgate as its sole official Bible), or financially (by church taxes and the sell of indulgences, all so that an imposing religious palace might build in their own country).

  • 4
    Given that I do not really understand the Q: the way you seem to interpret it I'd note that Protestant centres like Augsburg, Geneva were Germanic and romanised. While in contrast Ireland was neither, an early stronghold of Christianity, then a very prickly thorn in the side of Catholic orthodoxy, then again firmly aligned 'entity', until someone came 'planting' and we see a Northern exception… So I guess the Q is about some 'pattern' to be observed, or not. If the Q doesn't clarify, please do so in A what your notion of 'reformist' should mean. Also: I guess 3 paragraph breaks missing? Jul 16, 2020 at 12:36
  • @LаngLаngС: I believe our user has noticed that, within Western Europe, the Catholic-Protestant divide more or less follows along Romance-Germanic ethnic lines, just like the previous Great Schism followed approximately along Slavic borders; thus the North-West is roughly Protestant, the South-West is mainly Catholic, and the East is mostly Orthodox.
    – Lucian
    Jul 16, 2020 at 13:03
  • @LаngLаngС: Certainly much of Switzerland was part of the Roman Empire. (I've lived there, and the place is full of Roman ruins.) Likewise a lot of Austria and parts of western Germany. Though Geneva and the western part of Switzerland is French speaking.
    – jamesqf
    Jul 16, 2020 at 17:10
  • I am not sure I have the absolute answer but I enjoy this exchange of opinions, Thank you all. Jul 17, 2020 at 18:35

Consider the Church of England as a counterexample, or for that matter Calvin in Geneva. If you look for a simplistic explanation, look not at Roman borders but at the political weakness of the Holy Roman Empire and cuius regio, eius religio.

There were various reform (or schismatic) movements, like the Cathars or the Lollards which are little known because they got crushed. For that matter, the Hussites got severely suppressed as well.

Luther came in a time and place where he could find patrons. Read about survivor bias to understand why many other reformists are almost forgotten.

  • 4
    also Waldensians (lyon and italy) and Bogomils (bulgaria and macedon). Not even counting Eastern controversies. Besides, Saints Catherine of Siena, Ignatius, Borromeu, even Dominic and Francis, and various others southern europeans, had a clear view of reforming sins inside the church.
    – Luiz
    Jul 15, 2020 at 18:02
  • The Huguenots in France is another sample of a reformist movement well within the original Roman Empire. Nov 3, 2020 at 9:40

the church reformist centers are virtually all outside the original Roman Empire

That is not really true.

The oldest reformist or heretic movements appeared within former Roman territories, like the Bogumils - in the Balkans - and the Cathars - related or not to the previous, in south of France, which later, during the religious wars of the 16th century, was a protestant stronghold .

Those were movements that affected large populations and territories, but many innovative and less orthodox lines of thought had less to do with populations and territories than with theological, philosophical and scientific studies and controversies, related to large urban and intellectual centers in France and especially Italy.

Joachim of Fiore, Abelard, Francis of Assisi are among the most renowned of the many such controversial/reformist thinkers. Many others anticipated future reforms and should be considered, from Amaury de Chartres, Gerard Segarelli and Fra Dolcino to Savonarola and Giordano Bruno.

The success of anti-Catholic reform in Germany and England can be more easily explained by reasons related to geography (as a periphery of Catholic world in relation to the center of Rome and Italy) and especially to stages of political and economic development and innovation in the context of changing relations between king and Pope, between religious and non-religious life and powers, increasing local autonomy, economic, technological and institutional mutations etc.

Luther and Calvin were Christian intellectuals (theologians, philosophers) and should be considered within that framework, instead of a rudimentary and simplistic scheme about the borders of the Roman Empire.

Of course, there is an intellectual polemical tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, of encouraging precisely this opposition between a Protestant anti-Roman and Germanic "north" and the Catholic, Latin, "south", one that was transformed in recent times by the latest ideological oppositions involving fascism, Nazism, capitalism and communism. Some Catholic thinkers have connected Protestantism and Nazism with a supposedly reduced presence of "real" Christianity in German lands. Others have connected/related Protestantism with democracy against Fascism and Catholicism. Some have connected (equated) Protestantism with capitalism (some as a bad thing, some as a good one; not to mention the infamous Judaism <--> Capitalism). Others have related Communism and even Stalinism to Eastern Christian Orthodoxy. (By the way, the Tsarist autocracy is descending straight from the Byzantine tradition, that is from the Roman imperial one.) But it seems obvious to me that all such connections are very dubious, hazardous, and essentially ideological and polemic.

(It has always struck me the Anglo-Saxon "popular" trend, for example on Discovery Channel-style TV history shows, of presenting Catholic countries, especially Spain and Italy as bulwarks of Inquisition-style oppression and backwardness in contrast to the open-minded liberty-prone England. — In such shows everybody expects the Spanish Inquisition, and it never fails to appear — hence the Monty Python joke I guess.)

  • Would it be presumptuous of me to assume that you arrived here by (fact)checking my statement about Luther's anti-Catholic writings ? :-)
    – Lucian
    Nov 2, 2020 at 15:41
  • @Lucian -I think from our exchanges I clicked your name then one of your posts. Which brought me here.
    – cipricus
    Nov 2, 2020 at 15:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.