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RELIGION & RELIGIOUS CHANGE IN ENGLAND, C.1470-1558. THE LAITY AND THE PRE- REFORMATION PARISH.

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Presentation on theme: "RELIGION & RELIGIOUS CHANGE IN ENGLAND, C.1470-1558. THE LAITY AND THE PRE- REFORMATION PARISH."— Presentation transcript:

1 RELIGION & RELIGIOUS CHANGE IN ENGLAND, C THE LAITY AND THE PRE- REFORMATION PARISH

2 RELIGION: WHY BOTHER? ‘Listen, my son, to the instructions of your mother. Today I go the path of the prophets, apostles and martyrs; I drink the cup that all of them drank before me; I go the path of Jesus Christ who had to drink this cup as well. I urge you, my son, submit to the yoke of Christ; endure it willingly, for it is a great honour and joy. Do not follow the majority of people; but when you hear about a poor, simple, repudiated handful of men and women cast out of the world, join them. Do not be ashamed to confess your faith. Do not fear the majority of people. It is better to let go of your life than to deviate from the truth’.

3 BIG THEMES International nature of English Reformation English exceptionalism Political events Theology Exile and immigrants Printing trade What made this ‘English’ at all? Politics and religion Role of the State in policing belief No liberty of conscience Changing role of the monarch – ‘Supreme Head’ ‘Top down’ or ‘bottom up’? Result of the whims of monarchs, or the needs of the people?

4 HISTORIOGRAPHY Whig history Inevitable – Catholicism ‘un-English’. Parliament and Protestantism - Reformation defined both Henry VIII’s reign as the dawn of a new era, the beginning of ‘modern’ rumblings both in shape of England’s legislature/state, and in its moves towards Protestantism. Something understood to be complete by 1559, Elizabethan Acts of Succession and Uniformity. Mary’s reign an aberration, a blot on an otherwise inevitable march towards Protestantism. Long Reformation Even by 1603, ‘nation of Protestants, but not yet a Protestant Nation’. Resist, old order survive Mary’s reign might have actually succeeded in turning things Catholic if she’d lived. Henry certainly many things, ‘Protestant’ might not be one of them. Reformation which was contested, confused and contradictory, and certainly involved the populace at large.

5 THIS TERM Until revisionists of 1970s and 1980s, used to see late medieval Church as a morally bankrupt and decrepit wreck which Protestant doctrine simple blew over. Not so simple: advocates of the ‘long Reformation’ thesis see that Church as vibrant, loved by the populace, and engaging them. As we begin to unlock what happening in that Church, we need to ask why did the Reformation happen? If it was just a political move, why did the population accept it? This term we will look at how the medieval Church functioned, what it did and who did it. Only then Reformation makes sense as a moment of rupture? Were these people in need of spiritual liberation? What do we mean by ‘Church’ and what was the individual’s role in it – often very different from what we expect.

6 RELIGION: VERB VS NOUN Modern conception distinct from medieval Religio Late seventeenth century becomes a definitive article: Catholicism, Protestantism Something which people did Practised – rituals, activities, liturgy Sermon Collective rather than individual

7 SACRED & PROFANE Porous boundary between heaven/earth Spaces in the landscape qualitatively different The Church Shrines Non-official quasi-religious spaces Ritual can breach the boundary The Mass Protestantism and the ‘Disenchantment of The World’? (Max Weber). ‘Rational’ Cerebral? Individual?

8 WHY BE A CATHOLIC? Not a lifestyle choice Born Catholic Die Catholic Catholic = Universal Part of the Body of Christ Spiritual marriage Not mean rigid or inflexible Revisionist historiography – flexible & fecund

9 THE CHURCH IN LATE MEDIEVAL SOCIETY Society of Orders, not classes Role rather than socio-economic standing Hierarchy God Monarch (anointed by God) 3 Orders Nobility Clergy Everybody else Nobility defined by blood Honour, not wealth Right to bear arms & to violence Not earned, but conferred Clergy defined by consecration Fundamentally different Mediators of God’s grace Set apart – dress, celibacy 1 of the 3 fundamental ‘types’ of person. 30,000 in England c.1500 (2 million population.

10 THE CHURCH AS AN INSTITUTION 1500 years of evolution from the Early Church of martyrs Hierarchical, pan-European institution centre in Rome (nominally) Papacy Spiritual descendants of St. Peter the ‘rock’ of the Church (Protestants dispute this) ‘Key holders’ of the Church Avignon A check on moral authority? Diocese Unit by which the Church divided Europe Presided over by a Bishop Parish Basic administrative unit of the Church Centre of most people’s lives. Resident Priest, duty-bound to care for the souls of its inhabitants As a shepherd tends to a flock Tithe 1/10 of all earnings to the Church 1/3 Priest, 1/3 rites, ceremonies, Church building 1/3 for the poor – basic provider of charity

11 CHURCH IN ENGLAND (1500) 17 Diocese 4 in Wales, 13 in Scotland, 32 in Ireland 9000 parishes Regional variation Cities Upland areas Form of Christianity shaped by the environment into which injected. Impropriation Institution – typically Cathedral or monastery – controlled the appointment of the priest in the parish. A portion of the tithe siphoned off to that institution, who then paid priest to serve. Priest called ‘vicar’ –running the parish vicariously on behalf of the institution to which attached. 40% of parishes in England. Indicative of the power of monasteries Landholding, tenancy agreements, farming land Dissolution – social, economic, religious, consequences A source of tension? If so, not one which the Reformation manages to eradicate.

12 UNIVERSAL NOT UNIFORM Not a ‘top down’ franchise Not rigid or pre-packaged Not something which happened to the peoples of Europe. A Church of the people Paid for, worshipped in, and contributed to. Socio-cultural expectations and practices of the regions in which the Church was situated therefore impacted upon the way in which Christianity looked and felt in that given area. Points of contrast: purgatory Northern Europe: vs Southern Europe England, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark – most concerned with devotional prayer as a means through Purgatory, rather than the South. Why? Injected into a culture of mutual gift-giving which marked these regions out. Surge of Masses for the dead from 1450 in Germany not replicated in Italy or Spain. Points of contrast: penitence Northern Europe: emphasis laid on the laity to be penitent in day to day activity, on need to true contrition daily and before confession. Southern Europe: emphasize necessity of the Priest as the dispenser of absolution and grace.

13 THE EXPERIENCE OF CHURCH Marked the key moments of life Rites of passage determined by 7 sacraments Baptism Confirmation Confession The Mass Marriage Extreme Unction (Last Rites) Orders (clergy only) Church fabric often lost to us Post-Reformation C19th ‘improvements’ Place of colour in a world of few images Demarcated sacred space Rood screen Religion as a verb not a noun Activities Not listen to a sermon in orderly pews Move around church practicing faith Pray on beads Devotion to the image of a saint Light candles Witness Mass Social function Secular celebration in the Church yards Festivities Church ales Often a source of conflict.

14 DOOM

15 ROOD SCREEN

16 BELIEF: OFFICIAL VS UNOFFICAL Variety of points of access to the sacred Landscape littered with spaces qualitatively different from ‘normal’ space Problem for historians: Official vs unofficial Elite vs popular Numinous world Divine active in this world Plague Omens Papal Ass Church not have the monopoly on belief/ access to other-worldly sources of power. Cunning folk Witches magic

17 PAPAL ASS

18 THOMAS HEYWOOD, THE WISE-WOMEN OF HOGSDON (1638) “You have heard of Mother Nottingham, who for her time was prettily well skilled in casting of waters, and after her, Mother Bomby; and then there is one Hatfield in Pepper Alley, he doth pretty well for a thing that’s lost. There’s another in Coleharbour that’s skilled in the planets. Mother Sturton in Golden Lane is for fore-speaking; Mother Phillips, of the Bankside, for the weakness of the back; and then there’s a very reverend matron on Clerkenwell Green good at many things”.

19 BELIEF: OFFICIAL VS UNOFFICIAL Cunning folk Healing Discovering lost property Removing curses Love charms and aphrodisiacs Divination & fore-tune telling Easy to slip from accusations of white magic into black magic – witches. Believed to be active in all communities, feared. Sickening cows, children or spouses often blamed on. Superstition? Understand social context Paradigm of numinous world Elite belief Renaissance : Belief in natural magic (concerned to exploit occult properites of the elemental world) Celestial magic (of the stars) Ceremonial magic (an appeal to spirits) Precarious world Weather, disease, harvest Control, explain misfortune Human response. Social context crucial witchcraft. Saints part of the same paradigm: Similar properties to ‘unofficial’ beliefs Relics, Holy Wells Specialities Protect the community – venerate the image. Elite/popular? Sceptics, those who dislike the ‘material’ aspects of religion. But whole system rarely questioned. Rites of the Church built upon many of the same assumptions Problem of assuming that cultural stratification follows social stratification

20 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS Key points to take away today : 1) religion was something which people do, practices within the liturgy of the Church broadly based on the notion that the boundary between the sacred and the profane was porous and passable. 2) a world in which landscape potted with routes to the supernatural 3) yes a pan-European Church, but one in which considerable variety and in which a common set of rites and symbols were continually reinvented. Not static. How do we access beliefs? Can historians use the insights of other disciplines? Is there a discrepancy between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ religion?


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