In Europe in the 1500s, the result of the polarization of Roman Catholic rulers facing off against the minority of those who had become supporters of Protestant views was to be what we have come to call a series of “religious wars” lasting into the mid-1600s. Imperial Rome had had many civil wars, and now its successor civilization in the West would be engulfed by a massive one centred on whether the spiritual descendant of ancient Rome, the Roman Catholic (Imperial) Church should still hold sway.
Perhaps the most salient critique of the absurdity of the situation came from Erasmus of Rotterdam, the most reputable Christian humanist of the day. His The Praise of Folly (1509) was a scathing exposé of all the clichés of superficial Medieval spirituality—pilgrimages, relics, physical self-punishment (such as auto-flagellation), fasts, the corruption of so many monasteries and convents, and the flagrant wealth and exploitation of the laity by the church hierarchy. He wrote the book as a satire in order to avoid censure and condemnation as a heretic for his exposition, and he got away with it.
To retain an image of relevance among the new cultural (g)literati, the Popes of those decades adopted the trappings and aspirations of being Renaissance connoisseurs while lip-serving the role of spiritual guides. They hired the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael to embellish their monumental edifices. Some of the Renaissance Popes were so little concerned with spiritual matters that they allowed a corrupt Curia to run affairs like a Mafia while they used the huge Papal wealth to satisfy their appetites for art and less savoury things. They showed up for official functions and gave audiences to the select of the upper crust, but did little else as ‘Holy Fathers’.
When all of this is married to the growing dissatisfaction with the imperial, established Church system and the increasingly obvious distortion of holiness
into formal sacramentalism and the suppression or cooption of all attempts to return to a spirit of simplicity in seeking God, the makings of a great upheaval
were at hand.
the Renaissance of ancient humanism rooted in pagan Imperial Rome would play a significant
role in fracturing the unity and supremacy of the imperialist Roman Church. The 13th Century saintly giants, Francis
and Thomas, stood as precocious signposts to the roads that would diverge from
the main highway in the 14th and
15th Centuries and generate revolutionary events in the 16th