By the 1500s, a number of religious thinkers in Europe had come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church was corrupt and in need of reform. One such religious thinker was a Germanic priest named Martin Luther. In the early 1500s, Luther began to challenge the Church’s established ideas on salvation. In 1517, Luther presented his Ninety-Five Theses, which called for dramatic reforms in the Church. This set in motion what came to be known as the Protestant Reformation, which soon divided Christian Europe. In response, the Catholic Church set in motion its own reform program, known as the Counter-Reformation.
In 1545, the leaders of the Catholic Church gathered in the Northern Italian city of Trent. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a plan for combatting the rise of Protestantism and to ensure the survival of the Roman Catholic Church. The meeting was known as the Council of Trent, and it took the council 20 years to develop an agreed upon plan to tackle Protestantism in Europe. Out of the council emerged a number of decrees. These decrees covered almost every aspect of Church authority. It was during this time that Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish knight turned priest, formed the Jesuits, a religious order that looked to use education to help reform the Church from the inside out.