Why was religion significant in the Tudor period?

When we think of the Tudors, we tend to think of Henry VIII, his six wives and the flamboyant outfits that the people wore. However the most significant event in the 118 years of the Tudors was the reform of the English Church. Why was this so important? And why was there such resistance to it?

You can download the worksheet on this webpage. If you cannot download the worksheet, please complete the questions in the yellow box.

Look at the image below.
1) Who might the men be in the centre of the picture?
2) Why might they be covered in straw?
3) Therefore, what do you believe is happening in this picture?

Tudors = the royal family that ruled England between 1485 – 1603.
Heretic = Somebody who does not follow the official religion of the country. It could be very dangerous to believe in a different religion during this time.
Catholic = Somebody that followed Catholicism. This was the traditional Christian religion that everybody in Europe had followed since the beginning of the Christian religion.
Protestant = Somebody that followed Protestantism. This was a new religion that was still Christian, but had many differing views to Catholicism.

TASK ONE: Who were the kings and queens of the Tudor period?

a) Look at the picture and boxes below on the timeline of the kings and queens of England. Look up their names and the dates that they ruled England from and until.

b) Do you know any interesting facts about any of these people? Bullet point anything you already know about any of these kings and queens.

What was happening to Christianity during the Tudor period?

For over a thousand years, Christianity had remained largely unchanged throughout Europe. It was the only religion that people followed, meaning that everybody believed in the same beliefs and practices. There were no arguments between people as to how this religion should work.

This form of Christianity was known as Catholicism. All Catholics looked up to the Pope who was based in Rome in Italy. He was seen as the holiest man alive: he had the closest connection to God compared to anybody else in the world. Due to this, he was more powerful than any king or queen in the Christian world. We have seen how powerful this man could be as he could successfully demand that every Christian take up arms and fight for him (as seen in the Crusades in the 1100s).

However, by the early 1500s the Pope’s power began to be challenged by a handful of important religious thinkers. In 1517, Martin Luther, a priest from Germany, wrote a paper containing 95 reasons why the Catholic Church needed to change. He argued that the Catholic Church was greedy as it allowed people to pay money to the Church to clear their sins. His ideas were the basis of a new strand of religion known as Protestantism.

The Clergy is the greatest hindrance to faith”.

A quote by Martin Luther. Here he is explaining that the bishops and religious people that work for the Catholic Church should not be trusted.

Catholicism and Protestantism – they’re both Christian, so aren’t they the same thing?

Both strands of Christianity do have a number of things in common, and it might seem as though there isn’t much difference between them. But the differences meant a great deal to the Tudors. What were they?

TASK TWO: What were the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism?

Now that you have read the information above, look at the table below. For each box, decide if the belief is a Catholic belief, a Protestant belief or if both religions hold the belief. The first one has been done for you.

The Bible should be in your own language.
Answer: Protestantism
There should be plain, simple clothes for priests.
Priests should wear highly-decorated vestments (clothes for priests).
The ruler of the country should be the Head of the Church.
Bread and wine are only symbols of Christ’s body and blood.
The Pope should be the head of the Church.
Ordinary people do not need priests, bishops or cardinals to find God.
Bread and wine can be miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ at a service called Mass.
Monks, bishops, cardinals and the Pope are God’s special representatives on Earth.
Churches should be simply decorated and should not distract from God.
Churches should be decorated with gold plates, crucifixes and powerful images to display the greatness of God.


Christianity had not changed for over a thousand years until the introduction of Protestantism in the early 1500s, splitting people into two different religions across Europe.

What consequences do you think this may have had? Do you think people would have gotten on despite following a different religion? Use the starter image and the key words from this lesson to help you with your answer.

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