The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580

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9780300053425: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580

This book offers a fundamental challenge to much that has been written about the pre-Reformation church. Eamon Duffy recreates 15th-century English laypeople's experience of religion, revealing the richness and complexity of the Catholicism by which men and women structured their experience of the world and their hopes within and beyond it. He then tells the story of the destruction of that Church - the stripping of the altars - from Henry VIII's break with the papacy until the Elizabethan settlement. Bringing together theological, liturgical, literary and iconographic analysis with historical narrative, Duffy argues 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. The first part of the book reviews the main features of religious belief and practice up to 1536. Duffy examines the factors that contributed to the close lay engagement with the structures of late medieval Catholicism: the liturgy; the impact of literacy and printing on lay religious knowledge; the conventions and contents of lay prayer; the relation of orthodox religious practice and magic; the Mass and the cult of the saints; and the lay belief about death and the afterlife. In the second part of the book Duffy explores the impact of Protestant reforms on this traditional religion, providing evidence of popular discontent from medieval wills and from parish records. He documents the widespread opposition to Protestantism during the reigns of Henry and Edward, discusses Mary's success in reestablishng Catholicism and describes the public resistance to Elizabeth's dismantling of parochial Catholicism that did not wane until the late 1570s.

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About the Author:

Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and President of Magdalene College. He is the author of Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes and The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, both available in paperback from Yale University Press.

Review:

"This book will afford enjoyment and enlightenment to layman and specialist alike. Duffy sweeps the reader along through its six hundred pages by a style which eschews both jargon and pedantry, by his lively and absorbing detail, his piercing insights, patient analysis, and his vigor in debate."―Peter Heath, Times Literary Supplement


"With the publication of this book, a kind of map or illustrated atlas of late medieval English Christianity, English Reformation studies will never be the same again."―Patrick Collinson, Times Higher Education Supplement


"A magnificent scholarly achievement, a compelling read, and not a page too long to defend a thesis which will provoke passionate debate."―Patricia Morison, Financial Times


"Sensitively written and beautifully produced, this book represents a major contribution to the Reformation debate."—Norman Tanner, Times


"Unfailingly temperate, judicious, and scholarly. . . . [The book] has a fascinating story to tell."—James Bowman, Sunday Telegraph


"The first serious attempt by a historian to restore Mary's reputation in more than four hundred years."—Simon Denison, Sunday Telegraph


"[This book] at last gives the culture of the late Middle Ages in England its due, and helps us to see the period as it was and not as Protestant reformers and their intellectual descendants imagined it to be. . . . A monumental and deeply felt work."—Gabriel Josipovici, Times Literary Supplement


"This is a remarkable and significant work of historical 'revision,' which cannot be dismissed as a product of nostalgic longing for a Catholic past."—Anne Murphy SHCJ, John Pridmore, The Way


"A work of massive learning. . . . bound to provoke debate."―A.K. McHardy, History


"[A] vigorous and eloquent book, a work of daring revision and a masterpiece of the historical imagination. . . . At once meticulous and lush. . . . A wholly compelling book, this will appeal to any reader who wants to enter and understand another world."—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly


"Revisionist history at its most imaginative and exciting. . . . [An] astonishing and magnificent piece of work."―Edward T. Oakes, Commonweal


"A valuable source of information supported with excellent illustrations and bibliography."―Choice


"The importance of this book is that it affords opportunity to look broadly and comprehensively at the religious life of women and men before and after the separation from the Roman obedience and so take the measure of that life that in the continuum of English church history it can be noted and honored."―David Siegenthaler, Anglican Theological Review


"Deeply imaginative, movingly written, and splendidly illustrated."―Maurice Keen, New York Review of Books


"A landmark book in the history of the Reformation."―Ann Eljenholm Nichols, Sixteenth Century Journal


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