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Puritan Iconoclasm during the English Civil War

Puritan Iconoclasm during the English Civil War

Volume: 6
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Puritan Iconoclasm during the English Civil War
    Book Description:

    This work offers a detailed analysis of Puritan iconoclasm in England during the 1640s, looking at the reasons for the resurgence of image-breaking a hundred years after the break with Rome, and the extent of the phenomenon. Initially a reaction to the emphasis on ceremony and the 'beauty of holiness' under Archbishop Laud, the attack on 'innovations', such as communion rails, images and stained glass windows, developed into a major campaign driven forward by the Long Parliament as part of its religious reformation. Increasingly radical legislation targeted not just 'new popery', but pre-Reformation survivals and a wide range of objects (including some which had been acceptable to the Elizabethan and Jacobean Church). The book makes a detailed survey of parliament's legislation against images, considering the question of how and how far this legislation was enforced generally, with specific case studies looking at the impact of the iconoclastic reformation in London, in the cathedrals and at the universities. Parallel to this official movement was an unofficial one undertaken by Parliamentary soldiers, whose violent destructiveness became notorious. The significance of this spontaneous action and the importance of the anti-Catholic and anti-Episcopal feelings that it represented are also examined. Shortlisted for Historians of British Art Book Prize for 2003. Dr JULIE SPRAGGON is at the Institute for Historical Research, University of London.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-140-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Plates and Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    The Puritan iconoclasm of the 1640s was as notorious in its own time as it remains today. The destruction of church ornaments and fabric by the parliamentarian army (both spontaneous and directed from above) has been the subject of myth and exaggeration, but it was also a real and meaningful phenomenon, part of a wider official drive against images. The peculiar circumstances of the time – the collapse of Charles’s personal rule following defeat in the unpopular Bishops’ Wars with Scotland, and the outbreak of civil war between the king and his parliament – meant that a minority of godly parliamentarians were...

  7. 1 Attitudes to Images from the Reformation to the Meeting of the Long Parliament c. 1536–1640
    (pp. 1-31)

    From the beginning of the Reformation hostility towards religious imagery and an emphasis on the sin of idolatry were important features of Protestant thought. These issues remained a constant topic of discussion throughout the period considered here–from the first official critique of images in the royal injunctions of August 1536 to the meeting of the Long Parliament in November 1640. The iconoclasm of the sixteenth century, which played such a central part in the English Reformation, has been thoroughly analysed, and it is not the aim here to provide a detailed account of early iconoclasm, but rather to look...

  8. 2 The Argument for Reform: the Literature of Iconoclasm
    (pp. 32-60)

    It has been seen that part of the reaction to the increased beautification of churches and other features of the new Arminianism was a protest focused, amongst other things, upon a perceived increase in ‘idolatry’. The main targets for protesters were communion rails, but there was also a clear feeling that images–loosely defined to include pictures, hangings, ornaments and other ‘monuments of superstition’–were on the increase. The controversy about church decoration and ornamentation sparked a renewed interest in the issue of imagery and a vigorous campaign on the subject. The calling of parliament in November 1640 was seen...

  9. 3 Official Iconoclasm: the Long Parliament and the Reformation of Images
    (pp. 61-98)

    One of the main elements which distinguished the iconoclasm of the mid seventeenth century from that of the mid-sixteenth century was the heavy involvement of parliament as the driving force behind it. Whatever questions remain about the extent to which iconoclasm was actually pursued in the country at large (and these are questions which will be addressed throughout this book), there can be no doubt that parliament took the issue seriously and that a series of increasingly radical pieces of legislation was passed. The legislation can be seen as setting an official standard which may or may not have been...

  10. 4 The Enforcement of Iconoclastic Legislation in the Localities
    (pp. 99-132)

    This chapter looks at the ways in which parliamentary legislation against images was enforced-the forms and organization taken by such enforcement, both official and semi-official. The main problem, in posing the questions ‘how’ and ‘how far’ was the legislation enforced, is the scarcity of evidence. Parish records, the main source for evidence of iconoclasm, are notoriously thin on the ground for the years of the civil war, and those which do survive were often poorly kept, giving little detailed information. It has not been possible to look at all the extant churchwardens’ accounts and vestry minutes for the period, and...

  11. 5 The Response in London
    (pp. 133-176)

    Whilst the effectiveness of the parliamentary drive against images in the country at large remains difficult to ascertain exactly, it might be imagined that in the capital itself there would be evidence of both an active response to, and a more thorough enforcement of, iconoclastic legislation. It is fortunate that a large number of records have survived for the period: there are extant churchwardens’ accounts and/or vestry minutes for 80 of the 110 City parishes (including thirteen outside of the wall but within the jurisdiction of the City), plus four surviving sets of records for Westminster (from a total of...

  12. 6 The Reformation of the Cathedrals
    (pp. 177-216)

    Puritan iconoclasm found its most violent expression in attacks on cathedral churches. This is not surprising–as centre-pieces of the Laudian ideal of the beauty of holiness and as the seats of the bishops they were potent symbols of a religious regime which had alienated many, both Puritans and non-Puritans. The war on cathedrals represented a war on Laudian values and on prelacy in general, now seen by the zealous as irredeemably corrupt. In a wider sense it was also an expression of the fear and hatred of Roman Catholicism with which the Caroline church was becoming associated in the...

  13. 7 Iconoclasm at the Universities
    (pp. 217-249)

    By the time the Long Parliament met, the universities, like the cathedral churches, were closely associated in the minds of anti-Laudians with the religious policies and beliefs of the Caroline regime. They were seen as the headquarters of Arminian ideas and practices, and of the ‘new popery’ generally, and consequently their reformation was high on the parliamentary agenda–although ultimately a thorough-going purge was to be delayed by the pressure of other business and then, as far as Oxford was concerned, by the war. While a broad reformation of the universities was seen to be needed to prevent the spread...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 250-256)

    The change of fortune hoped for by many at Oxford and elsewhere was to come with the return of the monarchy in May 1660. On the whole the reformation of images and other ‘innovations’ in the churches had already become less of an issue by the 1650s. This may have been because the legislative initiatives of 1641–4, and the action taken during that period, led to a more or less satisfactory purge. If isolated discrepancies remained the legislation was still in force and could be invoked to correct such situations–as at Alcester parish church, where the case of...

  15. Appendix I. Parliamentary Legislation against Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry
    (pp. 257-261)
  16. Appendix II. Anti-Stuart Iconoclasm
    (pp. 262-263)
  17. Appendix III. William Dowsing’s Commissions
    (pp. 264-266)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-304)
  19. Index
    (pp. 305-318)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-319)