Such reforms included the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests in the spiritual life and the theological traditions of the church, the reform of religious life by returning orders to their spiritual foundations, and new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.
It also involved political activities that included the Roman Inquisition. One primary emphasis of the Counter-Reformation was a mission to reach parts of the world that had been colonized as predominantly Catholic and also try to reconvert areas such as Sweden and England that were at one time Catholic, but had been Protestantized during the Reformation.
Various Counter-Reformation theologians focused only on defending doctrinal positions such as the sacraments and pious practices that were attacked by the Protestant reformers, up to the Second Vatican Council in 1962–1965. One of the "most dramatic moments" at that council was the intervention of Belgian Bishop Emiel-Jozef de Smedt when, during the debate on the nature of the church, he called for an end to the "triumphalism, clericalism, and legalism" that had typified the church in the previous centuries.
Key events of the period include: the Council of Trent (1545–1563); the excommunication of Elizabeth I (1570) and the Battle of Lepanto (1571), both occurring during the pontificate of Pius V; the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar and the Jesuit China mission of Matteo Ricci under Gregory XIII; the French Wars of Religion; the Long Turkish War and the execution of Giordano Bruno in 1600, under Pope Clement VIII; the trial against Galileo Galilei; the final phases of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) during the pontificates of Urban VIII and Innocent X; and the formation of the last Holy League by Innocent XI during the Great Turkish War.
The 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries saw a spiritual revival in Europe, in which the question of salvation became central. This became known as the Catholic Reformation. Several theologians harkened back to the early days of Christianity and questioned their spirituality. Their debates expanded across most of the Western Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, whilst secular critics also examined religious practice, clerical behavior and the church's doctrinal positions. Several varied currents of thought were active, but the ideas of reform and renewal were led by the clergy.