A vast amount of scholarship has sought to tackle the question of what it was that made the Protestant Reformation so successful so fast. Undoubtedly, the new church (we cannot talk about a new religion here) rapidly gained popularity in a considerably large part of Europe, having found communities receptive to the various Reformation currents. These communities later built up and maintained their own institutional structure for centuries to come. Why did the Reformation find fertile ground first along the Elbe River and in regions north, north-east of the Elbe in northern and middle Europe? In answering this question, one must analyse the changes in book history and communication history that took place prior to the Protestant Reformations. Piety movements, humanistic critical thinking, the importance of rhetoric based on antiquity, and the appearance of the printed books should be interpreted as a single organic process (made up of interconnected elements). The present study aims to answer the question of the extent to which a monk becomes a humanist, or a humanist is imbued with deep personal religious feelings of piety.
In places where bishops with a humanist education facilitated changes by modifying the order of the Mass or modified Canon Law on such issues as the presence of the bishop and the service of priests, Protestant congregations did not take root or rarely did so, while in areas where church officials did not introduce reforms, Protestant congregations did arise. The same occurred when monastic communities interested in humanism edited and published early works of devotional literature, or published and actively distributed books for the wider public in vernacular on the practice of piety. In places like these, Protestantism did not seem such a radical novelty. For this, what was needed were committed secular intellectuals interested in humanism, artists of the new art forms, and printers who bore in mind also their pecuniary interests and other material benefits.