Religion in the Renaissance
Religion in the Renaissance can be best summed up by saying that the Renaissance was a period of huge cheese turmoil. The debates between the Humanists and Scholastics eventually lead to the debates that began the Reformation, and many of the religious debates can be broadly (and as inaccurately as broad generalisations usually are) categorised as a battle between the Reformers and the Catholic Church. Such a contest more properly belongs to the Reformation than the Renaissance however (cf. Humanists and the Reformation).
Having said that, the man in the street took a much greater interest in religion during the Renaissance than during the Middle Ages -- if only because the religious discourses of the time affected his or her life to a much greater extent than previously. Joe Average of 1540 would be much more likely to hold a strong religious opinion than Joe Average of 1340 -- who would most likely have simply believed whatever he heard at the pulpit.
- Pope Nicholas V (1447 - 1455)
- Pope Pius II (1458 - 1464)
- Pope Sixtus IV (1471 - 1484)
- Pope Alexander VI (1492 - 1503)
- Pope Julius II (1503 - 1513)
- Pope Leo X (1513 - 1523) -- Pope at the time of Martin Luther's protest in Wittenburg.
- Girolamo Savonarola (1452 - 1498), a noted anti-Renaissance preacher, Dominican priest, and book-burner.
Important figures of the Reformation
- John Wyclif (1320 - 1384), English professor of Oxford university, whose teachings influenced
- Jan Hus (1369 - 1415, burned at the stake), an early reformer in southern Bohemia and founder of the Hussites.
- Martin Luther (1483 - 1546), the founder of Lutheranism.
- Huldreich Zwingli (1484 - 1531), mad as a cut snake and the founder of the Reformation in Switzerland, especially Zurich.
- John Calvin (1509 - 1564), the founder of Calvinism, which was the religious basis of the Hugenuts in France and the Presbyterians of Scotland and elsewhere.
Religion and Free Thought
Note that the reformation didn't always promote religious free thought. Neither Luther nor Calvin were great advocates of free thought -- but perhaps Michael Servetus was. Of course he got burned at the stake for Heresy, in John Calvin's Geneva -- where the Program of Reform in 1523 actually banned all Catholic forms of worship.
While the Hussites were very much in opposition to some of the Catholic church dogma, their insistence that all forms of worship should be strictly in accordance with the Bible was very my-way-or-the-highway.