Protestantism is a religious movement that encompasses forms of Christian faith and practice that originated with doctrines and religious, political, and ecclesiological impulses of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was a movement against what Protestants considered to be the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. It is one of the largest divisions of Christianity; along with Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The term refers to the letter of protestation by Lutheran princes in 1529 against an edict condemning the teachings of Martin Luther as heresy.
The Protestant movement has its origins in present-day Germany and is popularly considered to have begun in 1517 when Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses as a reaction against perceived abuses in the sale of indulgences, which offered remission of sin to purchasers. Although there were unsuccessful attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church long before Martin Luther—notably these of Peter Waldo, Arnold of Brescia, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus—it was Luther who finally succeeded in sparking a wider movement.
The various Protestant denominations share a rejection of the universal authority of the Pope and generally deny the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, although they disagree among themselves about the doctrine of Christ's presence in the Eucharist. They generally emphasize the priesthood of all believers, the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide) apart from good works, and a belief in the Bible alone (rather than with Roman Catholic tradition) as the supreme authority in matters of faith and morals (sola scriptura). The Five solae summarize the reformers' basic differences in theological beliefs in opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church of the day.
In the 16th century, Lutheranism spread into numerous states of the Holy Roman Empire (primarily in northern, central and eastern areas of the Reich), Denmark–Norway, Sweden, Duchy of Prussia, Duchy of Courland and Livonia, among other entities. Reformed churches were founded primarily in several states of the Holy Roman Empire (such as the County Palatine of the Rhine), Hungary, the Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland and France by other reformers such as John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Knox. In 1534, King Henry VIII put an end to all papal jurisdiction in England as a result of Rome's failure to grant an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon; this opened the door to Reformation ideas, notably during the reign of Edward VI through theologians such as Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker. There were also reformation movements throughout continental Europe known as the Radical Reformation—a response to what was believed to be the corruption in both the Roman Catholic Church and the expanding Magisterial Protestant movement led by Luther and other reformers—that gave rise to the Anabaptist, Moravian, and other pietistic movements. In later centuries Protestants developed their own culture, which made major contributions to various fields, including education, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy and the arts.
Encompassing more than 800 million adherents, or nearly forty percent of Christians worldwide, Protestantism is present on all populated continents. The movement is divided theologically and ecclesiastically to a greater degree than Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. There is no single church, nor a central authoritative entity. Some churches have a worldwide scope and distribution of membership (such as the Anglican Communion), while other are confined to a single country, or are solitary church bodies or congregations (such as the former Prussian Union of churches). An exact number of denominations is difficult to calculate and depends on definition. Nevertheless, the majority of Protestants are members of just a handful of denominational families, i.e. Adventists, Anglicans, Baptists, Reformed, Lutherans, Methodists and Pentecostals.