You are here: Home / Research / Research Units / Research Unit of History of Church and Theology / The Council of Trent: Reform and Controversy in Europe and Beyond (1545-1700)

The Council of Trent: Reform and Controversy in Europe and Beyond (1545-1700)

Voor Nederlands, klik hier.
Waere Afbeeldinghe der sittinge der Vaderen des vermaerden Consiliums in de stadt Trenten
(Ingekleurde gravure, 17de eeuw, © OeStA/HHStA Hs W 231/9)

International Conference

On the 4th of December 2013, it will be 450 years since the Council of Trent (1545-1563) was solemnly brought to a close. This Council had an enormous impact on developments in religion and politics, not only in Europe but also beyond. An international conference, to be held in Leuven on the occasion of this anniversary, from the 4th to the 6th of December 2013, will first shed light on the Tridentine theology and perspective on pastoral care, as the consequence of both the internal struggle to bring about reform within the Catholic Church and the controversy with Protestant Reformation. Along the same lines, attention will be paid to initiatives subsequently taken by Rome in order to interpret and implement the Council, while at the same time giving shape to the Catholic identity, in confrontation with the Protestant confessions. Further, the conference focuses on three key questions: What kind of changes in the local religious life may be considered as the outcome of the Council? To what degree has the Council contributed, on a European level, to political polarization and confessionalisation? And finally, how were the Tridentine reforms implemented on a more global level, through mission and evangelization? In each of the abovementioned questions, special attention is given to the contribution of the religious orders, in addition to the interplay between the Catholic and the Protestant Reformation. It is the explicit aim of the conference to bring together junior and senior researchers from different disciplines and confessional backgrounds.
Conference venue
  • The conference will run from Wednesday 4 December 11 a.m. until Friday 6 December around 7 p.m.
  • All conference venues with additional photos are indicated on this map (Please use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to consult the map).
    • (A) KU Leuven University Hall, Naamsestraat 22, 3000 Leuven.
    • (B) KU Leuven Faculty of Arts - Erasmushuis, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, 3000 Leuven.
    • (C) KU Leuven Maurits Sabbe Library, Charles Deberiotstraat 26, 3000 Leuven.
    • (D) Saint John the Baptist Church (Great Beguinage), Schapenstraat, 3000 Leuven.
    • (E) The Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, Janseniusstraat 1, 3000 Leuven.
    • (F) M Museum Leuven, Vanderkelenstraat 28, 3000 Leuven.
  • For an overview of the conference venues and some extra information, click here (to be completed).
Keynote speakers

Robert Bireley (Loyola University Chicago)

The Religious Movements of the Sixteenth Century as Competing Responses to a Changing World




Emidio Campi (Universität Zürich)

The Council of Trent and the Magisterial Reformers





Simon Ditchfield (University of York, UK)

De-centering Trent: How ‘Tridentine’ Was the Making of the First World Religion?



Pierre-Antoine Fabre (EHESS, Paris)

Le miracle des sources : Lainez lecteur des discours sur l'image entre Paris et Trente (1562-1563)





Ignasi Fernández Terricabras (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona)

The Catholic Reformation and Absolutism: Implementation of the Decrees of the Council of Trent in the Absolute Monarchies



Nicole Lemaitre (CRHM, Université Paris I. Panthéon-Sorbonne)

L’idéal pastoral de réforme et le concile de Trente





John O'Malley (Georgetown University, Washington)

What Happened and Did Not Happen at Trent





Günther Wassilowsky (Katholisch Theologische Privatuniversität Linz)

Das Konzil von Trient und die katholische Konfessionskultur





Keynote lecture in collaboration with Lectio

John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame)

Authorship, Authorization, and Authority: The Cases of Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen


This lecture will take place in the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, Janseniusstraat 1, 3000 Leuven (location D on the map).





Conference program
  • Program (Final version of December 2, 2013).
Registration (is now closed!)
Travel information and hotel accomodation
Organizing committee
  • Wim François (KU Leuven) & Violet Soen (KU Leuven)
  • Jean-Pierre Delville (Université Catholique de Louvain), Günter Frank (Europäische Melanchthon-Akademie Bretten), Alberto Melloni (Fondazione per le scienze religiose Giovanni XXIII), Silvia Mostaccio (Université Catholique de Louvain), Herman Selderhuis (RefoRC).
Conference secretariate
  • The conference secretariate can be reached at
  • The team of doctoral students: Els Agten (webmaster), Bram De Ridder (concert), Antonio Gerace (conference folder), Matthew W. Knotts (conference booklet), Alexander Soetaert (logistic support), Bart van Egmond (exhibition) and Sophie Verreyken (logistic support).
Steering committee
  • Robert Bireley (Loyala University Chicago), Pierre-Antoine Fabre (EHESS, Paris), Ignasi Fernández Terricabras (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona), Nicole Lemaitre (Paris I, Sorbonne), Guido Marnef (Universiteit Antwerpen), John O'Malley (Georgetown University), Adriano Prosperi (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), Alain Tallon (Paris-Sorbonne), Marc Venard (Paris X, Nanterre).

Concert Encantar

  • The vocal ensemble Encantar opened the 450th anniversary year of the Council of Trent with a concert of polyphonic and Gregorian music. This concert took place on Thursday, March 7, at 8 p.m. at the Saint John the Baptist Church (Great Beguinage), Leuven. You find some pictures here. The ensemble brought this unique concert again for the conference participants on Thursday December 5 at 8.30 p.m. in the Saint John the Baptist Church (Great Beguinage), Leuven.

Exhibition Leuven, the Low Countries and the Council of Trent

  • On the 4th of December 2013, the exhibition Leuven, the Low Countries and the Council of Trent was opened. Exactly 450 years ago to that day, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) was solemnly brought to a close. The course and the meaning of the Council were exhibited through images and texts from various contemporary publications found in the Leuven heritage collections. Especially the role that certain theologians from Leuven and the Low Countries have played was emphasized. ​

Exhibition Coxcie  


  • Conference participants received a guided tour through the exhibition on Michel Coxcie in Museum M, the art history museum of the city of Leuven on Friday December 6. Coxcie was active during the Catholic Reformation, the sixteenth-century reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church, which has also been described as the Counter-Reformation, since it aimed at defining the Catholic identity in contrast to Protestantism.
  • More information on or in the information folder (English, French, German and Dutch).


Michiel Coxcie (1499 - 1592) was one of the most influential painters in the sixteenth-century Netherlands. He was dubbed the “Flemish Raphael”, which just goes to show how highly rated he was by his contemporaries. During his lifetime he was compared to the greatest renaissance artist Raphael and some even saw him as his equal. Coxcie was trained in the studio of Bernard van Orley in Brussels in the 1520s. During a seven-year stay in Italy, Coxcie rose to prominence as an artist, painting (among other things) the frescoes for the old St Peter’s Church in Rome. On returning home, Coxcie introduced a style of painting based purely on that of the Italian High Renaissance, thereby bringing about an artistic revolution in the Netherlands. He was one of Charles V’s favourite painters and quickly rose to become court painter to Philip II. In that capacity, he had the honour of working with Titan on frescoes for the Imperial Palace in Binche. As well as producing paintings for the Spanish court, he also designed many tapestries and stained-glass windows. Few Flemish painters gained such respect and had so much influence on their contemporaries as Michiel Coxcie. Artists went on reworking his inventions until well into the seventeenth century. Even Rubens drew inspiration from them.

© Jan Gossaert & Michiel Coxcie, wing (detail) Altaar van Sint-Lucas, Johannes de Evangelist © National Gallery Praag 2013.



M – Museum Leuven pays tribute to Coxcie with the very first monographic exhibition devoted to this previously little-known but brilliant artist. Coxcie’s impressive body of work comprising numerous paintings, monumental stained-glass windows, famous series of graphics and tapestries testifies to his extraordinarily wide-ranging talent. The monographic exhibi­tion entitled Michiel Coxcie. The Flemish Raphael covers the various aspects of the master’s life and work, from his youth and time in Italy to his greatest realizations in the Low Countries. As well as important paintings like the Hosden Triptych and the Morillon Triptych from its own museum collection, M will be showing numerous loans from great art-historical museums elsewhere in Europe. Portions of his famous copy of Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, commissioned by the King of Spain, will be brought together from several foreign collections. With Michiel Coxcie. The Flemish Raphael, for the very first time M – Museum Leuven is presenting an important cross-section of the master’s varied output. 


  • Some articles have appeared in the local press, but mainly in Dutch. You can read them here.


With the support of