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The Stripping of the Altars

The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580, Second Edition

EAMON DUFFY
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 700
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vm716
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  • Book Info
    The Stripping of the Altars
    Book Description:

    This prize-winning account of the pre-Reformation church recreates lay people's experience of religion in fifteenth-century England. Eamon Duffy shows that late medieval Catholicism was neither decadent nor decayed, but was a strong and vigorous tradition, and that the Reformation represented a violent rupture from a popular and theologically respectable religious system. For this edition, Duffy has written a new Preface reflecting on recent developments in our understanding of the period.From reviews of the first edition:"A magnificent scholarly achievement [and] a compelling read."-Patricia Morrison,Financial Times"Deeply imaginative, movingly written, and splendidly illustrated. . . . Duffy's analysis . . . carries conviction."-Maurice Keen,New York Review of Books"This book will afford enjoyment and enlightenment to layman and specialist alike."-Peter Heath,Times Literary Supplement"[An] astonishing and magnificent piece of work."-Edward T. Oakes,Commonweal

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19776-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
    E.D.
  4. PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
    (pp. xiii-xxxviii)
    E.D.
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book attempts two tasks usually carried out separately, and by at least two different sets of practitioners. In the first part I have sought to explore the character and range of late medieval English Catholicism, indicating something of the richness and complexity of the religious system by which men and women structured their experience of the world, and their hopes and aspirations within and beyond it. In the second part I have tried to tell the story of the dismantling and destruction of that symbolic world, from Henry VIII’s break with the Papacy in the early 1530s to the...

  6. PART I: THE STRUCTURES OF TRADITIONAL RELIGION

    • A: LITURGY, LEARNING AND THE LAITY

      • CHAPTER 1 SEASONS AND SIGNS: THE LITURGICAL YEAR
        (pp. 11-52)

        Any study of late medieval religion must begin with the liturgy, for within that great seasonal cycle of fast and festival, of ritual observance and symbolic gesture, lay Christians found the paradigms and the stories which shaped their perception of the world and their place in it. Within the liturgy birth, copulation, and death, journeying and homecoming, guilt and forgiveness, the blessing of homely things and the call to pass beyond them were all located, tested, and sanctioned. In the liturgy and in the sacramental celebrations which were its central moments, medieval people found the key to the meaning and...

      • CHAPTER 2 HOW THE PLOWMAN LEARNED HIS PATERNOSTER
        (pp. 53-88)

        Round the fourteenth-century font in the parish church of Bradley, Lincolnshire, is carved an English inscription, which runs

        Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Criede,

        Leren the childe yt is nede.

        That injunction was directed to the godparents and was a formal part of the rite of baptism in late medieval England. Just before the blessing of the font at baptisms the priest was required to admonish the godparents to see that the child’s parents kept it from fire. water, and other perils, and themselves to “Ierne or se yt be lerned the Pater noster, Aue Maria and Credo after the law...

    • B: ENCOUNTERING THE HOLY

      • CHAPTER 3 THE MASS
        (pp. 91-130)

        The liturgy lay at the heart of medieval religion, and the Mass lay at the heart of the liturgy. In the Mass the redemption of the world, wrought on Good Friday once and for all, was renewed and made fruitful for all who believed. Christ himself, immolated on the altar of the cross, became present on the altar of the parish church, body, soul, and divinity, and his blood flowed once again, to nourish and renew Church and world. As kneeling congregations raised their eyes to see the Host held high above the priest’s head at the sacring, they were...

      • CHAPTER 4 CORPORATE CHRISTIANS
        (pp. 131-154)

        The religion of the English late Middle Ages has recently been characterized as increasingly “an occupation for the individual as well as, if not more than, the preoccupation of the community”. In this perspective, changes in the layout of church buildings, like the introduction of pewing, are taken to indicate the growth of “introspection and non–participation” in church services.¹ A vision of the replacement of corporate by private devotion, of the laity kneeling separately at Mass, conning their primers or meditational guides, or with their eyes closed in private supplication, lies behind this picture of the breakdown of that...

      • CHAPTER 5 THE SAINTS
        (pp. 155-206)

        The cult of the saints, according to Emile Mâle, “sheds over all the centuries of the Middle Ages its poetic enchantment”, but “it may well be that the saints were never better loved than during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries”.¹ Certainly reminders of them were everywhere in late medieval England – engraved on drinking-cups and bowls, carved on lintels and gable-ends, their very names given to children at baptism. Their images filled the churches, gazing down in polychrome glory from altar–piece and bracket, from windows and riches. In 1488 the Norfolk country church of Stratton Strawless had lamps burning not...

    • C: PRAYERS AND SPELLS

      • CHAPTER 6 “LEWED AND LEARNED”: THE LAITY AND THE PRIMERS
        (pp. 209-232)

        The relationship between the privacies of personal religion and the corporate religious drama of the liturgy was complex, and, as we have seen, by no means a one–way traffic. To grasp the inwardness of late medieval lay piety attention to the liturgy is vital, but is not enough. Beyond and even within the liturgy, there flourished another world of devotion, sharing much ground with the official worship of the Church but distinct from it, a world vividly glimpsed in theBook of Margery Kempe. The undistorted reconstruction of this world of private prayer and devotional feeling is fraught with...

      • CHAPTER 7 THE DEVOTIONS OF THE PRIMERS
        (pp. 233-265)

        The basic shape of theHoraewas the product of the high Middle Ages: in essence they were scriptural prayer–books, drawn largely from the liturgical arrangement of the psalter. The primer, therefore, was intended to be in some sense the lay man or woman’s breviary. But the late Middle Ages saw an enormous flourishing of extra-liturgical piety which, though often originating in religious communities, quickly found favour with the laity. Hard–nosed city shopkeepers just as much as aristocratic ladies with time on their hands took an active and enthusiastic interest in things of the spirit. This spreading lay...

      • CHAPTER 8 CHARMS, PARDONS, AND PROMISES: LAY PIETY AND “SUPERSTITION” IN THE PRIMERS
        (pp. 266-298)

        To turn from the Passion devotions of the primers to the morning, evening and other prayers found there is, at first sight, to enter an entirely different world. Many are what one would expect in any practical guide to daily prayer – what to do at Mass, prayers to use at the sacring, prayers for protection in daily tasks. A substantial group of prayers focuses on the moment of death: and the preoccupation with the trials and temptation the dying can expect from the Devil, which is the main theme of theArs Moriendi, features large here. This, indeed, is almost...

    • D: NOW, AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH

      • CHAPTER 9 LAST THINGS
        (pp. 301-337)

        Everybody knows, or thinks they know, that the late Middle Ages were obsessed by death. In his classic treatment of thementalitéof late medieval Europe, Johan Huizinga claimed that “no other epoch has laid so much stress as the expiring Middle Ages on the thought of death. An everlasting call ofmemento morisounds through life.”¹ Huizinga’s account of the morbidity of the period is now widely considered to be too highly coloured, but his fundamental assertion has not been challenged, and Galpern’s recent and deservedly influential study of French popular religion argued that “Catholicism at the end of...

      • CHAPTER 10 THE PAINS OF PURGATORY
        (pp. 338-376)

        Purgatory featured only in passing in the Church’s ministrations at the deathbed, and implicitly in the practice of praying for the dead. It loomed large, however, in lay awareness, and provided the rationale underlying the immense elaboration of the late medieval cult of intercession for the dead. The whole structure of mortuary provision of Masses, alms, pilgrimage, and the adornment of churches and images, which to a greater or lesser degree characterized almost all the wills of fifteenth– and early sixteenth-century English men and women, was raised on the belief that such largesse would hasten the soul’s passage through the...

  7. PART II: THE STRIPPING OF THE ALTARS, 1530–1580

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 377-378)
    • CHAPTER 11 THE ATTACK ON TRADITIONAL RELIGION I: FROM THE BREAK WITH ROME TO THE ACT OF SIX ARTICLES
      (pp. 379-423)

      The Henrician religious revolution had been preceded by a vigorous campaign against heresy, in both its familiar Lollard and its newer Lutheran forms. Specifically, the heretics of the late 1520s were pursued for their attacks on the traditional cultus – the observation of fasts and holidays, the invocation of saints, the veneration of images and relics, pilgrimages, and the cult of intercession on behalf of the dead in Purgatory.¹ Henry long retained an aggressive dislike of the views of proponents of “the new learning” on these issues, and the renunciation of Roman obedience was not at first intended as a retreat...

    • CHAPTER 12 THE ATTACK ON TRADITIONAL RELIGION II: TO THE DEATH OF HENRY VIII
      (pp. 424-447)

      The Act of Six Articles marked a decisive turning-point for the progress of radical Protestantism under Henry. In the summer of 1539 the most outspoken advocates of reform, like Shaxton and Latimer, who both resigned their sees rather than enforce the Act in their dioceses, were being widely denounced by the common people as “false knaves and whoresons”. But the full scale of the reversal of evangelical fortunes was not at first evident. Cromwell remained all-powerful in the Council, and in the spring of 1540 was to be created Earl of Essex. Anxious debate about the efficacy of traditional ceremonial...

    • CHAPTER 13 THE ATTACK ON TRADITIONAL RELIGION III: THE REIGN OF EDWARD VI
      (pp. 448-477)

      The death of Henry VIII in January 1546/7 freed the reforming party from the restraint of a King who, for all his cynicism and hatred of the papacy, remained attached to much of the traditional framework of Catholicism. Yet when Cranmer’s secretary, Ralph Morice, observed in 1547 that “now your grace may go forward in these matters, the opportunity of the time much better serving therunto than in king Henry’s days,” Cranmer disagreed. Religious changes in Henry’s lifetime had been widely obeyed as Henry’s personal diktat. Cranmer was worried that too rapid a progress towards Protestantism in the new reign...

    • CHAPTER 14 THE IMPACT OF REFORM: PARISHES
      (pp. 478-503)

      The dramatic religious changes between 1547 and 1553 are closely reflected in the records of diocese and parish. Any theory of the weakness of Tudor government in the regions must somehow explain the astonishing degree of conformity achieved in thousands of communities, great and small, throughout the country. From Cumberland to Kent, from Bristol to Bury St Edmunds the images came down in the wake of the royal visitation of 1547/8, the Mass was abolished and the Mass–books and breviaries surrendered in 1549 and 1550. In response to central diktat the altars were drawn down and the walls whited,...

    • CHAPTER 15 THE IMPACT OF REFORM: WILLS
      (pp. 504-523)

      In any assessment of the impact of reform on the laity of Tudor England, the evidence of wills is bound to loom large, and has in fact dominated much of the debate about the limits and expansion of Protestantism. Many historians, from W. K. Jordan to Robert Whiting, have taken the shifting patterns of mortuary provision in wills – bequests for masses, prayers, and charitable gifts to the poor – as indicators of shifting belief. But much of this writing has been dogged not only by misunderstanding and unfounded assumption, but by an insufficient attention to the external pressures which often counted...

    • CHAPTER 16 MARY
      (pp. 524-564)

      A convincing account of the religious history of Mary’s reign has yet to be written. More than any other period of Tudor history, the five years from her accession to her death have been discussed in value-laden terms which reveal the persistence of a Protestant historiography, authoritatively shaped by John Foxe, which still hinders a just assessment of the aims and the achievements of the Marian church. The phrase most commonly used to describe the religious policy of the reign, the “Marian reaction”, reveals more about the assumptions of those who use it than about the objectives of the churchmen...

    • CHAPTER 17 ELIZABETH
      (pp. 565-593)

      The accession of Anne Boleyn’s daughter in November 1558 launched the parishes of Tudor England on the third major religious transformation in a dozen years, though the extent and finality of the change was not at first evident to everyone. A proclamation of 27 December 1558 forbade contentious preaching, and for the time being “until consultation may be had by Parliament” required the continuing use of the Sarum rite, modified only by the reading of the Epistle and Gospel and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed in English, and the optional use of Cranmer’s English litany.¹ As...

  8. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 594-594)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 595-625)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 626-654)