Exploration or Reformation: Which Was the More Important Consequence of the Printing Press?
In the 1400s to 1500s, the printing press was the most innovative piece of technology to spread information; the 2000s equivalent would be the internet—both technological advancements were and still are the top way to spread information and text easily and rapidly. Between reformation and exploration, which was the more prominent effect of the printing press? Reformation, between that and exploration, is more important effect of the printing press because it exposed the church, lessened the Pope’s power, and allowed for the spread of new religions.
The printing press’ effects on exposing the church is evident within Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and it’s excerpts, specifically 20, 27, and 32. Martin Luther was the Catholic priest who wrote the 95 Theses in an attempt to expose the corrupt church. Catholic priests would receive riches and indulgences in trade for their sins to be absolved, or pardoned. Martin states in the Theses 32, “32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.” Thus according to Luther, those who pay their way into Heaven and the priests that accept the offerings will be forever in Hell for their lowly attempts. The 95 Theses was widely spread, making up about one-third of all books at the time— according to How One Man Remade the World with Words by John Wiley ann Sons—resulting in about 300,000 copies of 95 Theses being printed in all. The 300,000 copies allowed for an easy way to expose the church; like Martin Luther had intended when first drafting.
The Pope’s lessened power is showcased through maps of the printing press’s locations in comparison of 1471 and in 1500. The Pope’s power was lessened by the printing press for a few main reasons. Firstly, the increasingly less burdensome task and faster use of printing press allowed for more books, articles, and other texts to be mass produced. With Christianity being the leading religion, it only made sense for the Bible to be produced in mass quantities, nonetheless first. The Bible being produced in mass production lessened the Church’s and indirectly the Pope’s overall power because then, Catholics were not in dire need of the church to continue their “Catholic journey”. The second main reason as to why the Pope’s power decreased was the 95 Theses. In correspondence to the latter paragraph on the printing press’ effects on exposing the church, the 95 Theses decreased the credibility of the Catholic church.
New religions beginning and spreading is explained through a map of religions in 1560. On a map revolving around the Religions of Europe within 1560, there is a clear spread of non-Catholic religions. Only one century earlier, Europe had been purely (or very close to), 100% Catholic—now, in 1560, mixed Catholic and Protestant rules. While Christianity was still big, it was intertwined with Protestantism making Catholic and Protestant the two main, largest branches of Christianity. The countries that showed the largest turnover or conversion rate were England, Norway, Sweden, and many small German states. The correlation between the conversion rate and printing press can be found in the previous two paragraphs. In addition to the reasons listed, in the map of where the printing press’ are located is also where the highest conversion rate took place.
The Protestant/Catholic Reformation was evidently the more important consequence of the printing press. This reformation allowed for the Catholic church to be exposed, lose its power, and allowed new religions to begin and flourish in the 1500s. The largest indirect impact of the printing press was the effects of the 95 Theses overall, however.