Front Page Titles (by Subject) 49.: On the German Reformation: Its Causes and Spiritual Consequences - Judgments on History and Historians
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49.: On the German Reformation: Its Causes and Spiritual Consequences - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On the German Reformation: Its Causes and Spiritual Consequences
It is a pretension of modern Catholics that a corporation which has taken to itself as much of the secular as the medieval hierarchy had done still ought not to succumb to the laws governing all secular things, but should enjoy the privilege of eternal immutability in the midst of universal change. But earthly property and power are transitory. And yet the hierarchy had grown and constantly changed. It had attained full growth in about the way that a religion of immortality under the supervision of priests had had to mature. This religion could not and would not pretend to be Biblical any longer; hence the grudge against the Bible in the vernaculars, as it is expressed, e.g., in Jiménez’ principle that the three languages in which the “I.N.R.I.” was written were sufficient. This attitude might have been affected by the memory of the Lollards who, after all, lived on here and there into the sixteenth century.
Now there were merely the alternatives: Would the church be shaken by the gradual defection of the subjectively cultured, modern, profane, personally examining people, or by a sudden great religious crisis— the latter in conjunction with the financial factor?
How long would it have taken without the indulgence industry of Leo X?
A counterquestion: What would the course have been without Luther? Undoubtedly there would soon have been changes of some sort in church property throughout all of Europe and particularly in the church state, but a large part of the dogma and the hierarchy would have remained, alongside of which the personal development of the individual could hardly have been suppressed.
The spiritual result, apart from the religious elements, was as follows. In any event, infinitely more individuals were spiritually awakened and matured than had previously been the case. And through religion’s becoming more inward, the psychic element was developed more and in much wider circles. (?) But inevitably an equal amount of native, primitive strength was lost in favor of this common possession. This is why there was a predominantly weak literature and poetry after the Reformation. Added to this was a feeling of oppression under the princes, and, above all, under the new dogma (justification through faith) which, burdensome per se and not designed for everyone, was a more oppressive burden than Catholicism had been previously, as it really was, with its thousand accommodations and its highly liberal practices whenever one wanted them.
Both churches, Catholic as well as Protestant (Protestantism reawakens Catholicism) became oppressively dogmatic and demanded that men should all become one-sided again, after many-sidedness and freedom had characterized the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Protestant countries later become places of “spiritual freedom,” not because they were Protestant, but to the extent that they no longer were zealously so.
Later compensation for what was lost is imponderable; it is impossible to judge how desirable delay may have been.
It should also be considered how the Reformation, and at the same time the Counter Reformation on the Catholic side, regulated the Renaissance and took it into their service.
In a letter to Goethe dated September 17, 1800, in which he comments on K. L. Woltmann’s History of the Reformation, Schiller calls the history of the age of the Reformation “subject matter which by its nature tends toward a petty, miserable detail and moves along at an infinitely lagging pace.” What matters is “to organize [this material] into great, fruitful masses and to abstract its spirit with a few big strokes.”