The Catholic Reformation Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Counter-Reformation helped the Catholic Church survive the Reformation. With this lesson plan, your students will examine this history and will see how the Church used art as part of its program to stay in power.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation
  • Explain why and how the Catholic Church responded to the Reformation
  • Identify Counter-Reformation themes in art


60-90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.


  • Copies of the lesson quiz
  • An image of the Altar of the Kings in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City
  • Packets of Counter-Reformation and Baroque artwork


  • Start class by showing students a picture of the Altar of the Kings in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City. Ask students to describe it. Ask them to discuss why the Catholic Church would want to create an altar like this. What does it communicate?
  • Begin video lesson The Counter-Reformation: How the Catholic Church Revived. Pause the video at 2:11 and discuss this information.
    • Who was Martin Luther? What problems did he have with the Catholic Church?
    • Why do you think so many people followed Martin Luther? How do you think the Catholic Church felt about this? What part of Martin Luther's message do you think the Catholic Church saw as representing the greatest threat to their power?
  • Resume and complete the video. Discuss this information.
    • How did the Catholic Church try to maintain power and authority? Why did they feel the need to fight the Reformation? What part of Martin Luther's complaints did they agree with?
    • If you were in a leadership position in the Catholic Church during this time, how might you try and maintain the power and authority of Catholicism? What tools did the Catholic Church have at its disposal? How might art play into this?
  • You may test student understanding with the lesson quiz.

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