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76 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I would give it six stars if the computer would let me...
This book is not only meticulously researched and exhaustive on all the minutiae of common piety in late medieval/early modern England, it is far more readable and absorbing than such a weighty tome has any right to be. Duffy recreates a lost world in a way that is sensitive and sympathetic - the characters in the brief sketches he can offer from the sources become real...
Published on 24 Feb 2006 by Newsletta Chick

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Objectivity is an illusion.
There are no objective historians nor unbiased reviewers, This respected academic is by his own admission an Irish cradle Catholic. So when he produces a huge detailed work on popular English religion from late medieval to Elizabeth it is no surprise that he has a warm appreciation of Catholic piety and very little to say about the martyrs of Bloody Mary. He presents a...
Published 1 month ago by G. J. Weeks


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76 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I would give it six stars if the computer would let me..., 24 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 (Paperback)
This book is not only meticulously researched and exhaustive on all the minutiae of common piety in late medieval/early modern England, it is far more readable and absorbing than such a weighty tome has any right to be. Duffy recreates a lost world in a way that is sensitive and sympathetic - the characters in the brief sketches he can offer from the sources become real people to us. Real quality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Objectivity is an illusion., 31 July 2014
By 
G. J. Weeks (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 (Paperback)
There are no objective historians nor unbiased reviewers, This respected academic is by his own admission an Irish cradle Catholic. So when he produces a huge detailed work on popular English religion from late medieval to Elizabeth it is no surprise that he has a warm appreciation of Catholic piety and very little to say about the martyrs of Bloody Mary. He presents a pre-reformation England as one of a vibrant Catholicism, the dominant unifying force in the land and loved by the common people. Duffy was born in 1947 so he could be as well writing about the Ireland of his youth. This English Protestant reads a very lengthy description of superstition and ignorance fostered by the unreformed church of Rome.

If the English Reformation starts with Henry breaking with the Pope and installing himself to primacy in the church, we see that the start of reformation was more due to politics than theology. What is then observed throughout the Tudor time is religious change with a top down impetus. As in all of life there was an innate conservatism, a resistance to change among the people and change came slowly. This is well documented here. One also clearly sees the politics which inhibited Cranmer under Henry who was not a Protest king, merely an anti-papal one.

One senses Duffy's sympathy with those who wanted to resist Protestant iconoclasm. His illustrations show plenty of evidence that there was no complete cleansing of the superstitions I suspect Duffy of both theological, historic and aesthetic opposition to the stripping of the altars and other iconoclasm. As an unabashed iconoclast I understand the motivation of the iconoclasts was a triumph of theology over aesthetics.

Overall a very informative work though so detailed that the reader may resort to some skimming.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A revisionist view of the coming and aftermath of the Henrician Reformation, 28 July 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
I have owned this book for several years, and while I have used it quite a few times for referencing and finding information, this is the first time I have read it from cover to cover.

It is an interesting book, in that it attempts to explain how the `ordinary' people of the time (1400-1580) `lived' their religion - what they were required to learn, to do, how they were required to show their faith. It was of course a time of great change in England, with the Henrician Reformation, Edward VI, the attempt to return to Catholicism under Mary and the somewhat less fervent religion of Elizabeth I.

What must be borne in mind when reading this is that the author is a staunch Catholic, and this is quite evident throughout the book - sadly, it means that I felt some of the writing needed to be taken with some scepticism, or a healthy dose of temperance anyway.

But this does not detract from the book being both informative and interesting, though you may find yourself feeling that the author has overstated somewhat some of his conclusions, particularly about the vibrancy and reality of Catholic faith in the fifteenth century. I felt you needed to question `conformity' versus `conviction' while reading some of this book; what really motivated many (though certainly not all) English people in their faith. And I'm not sure that Margery Kempe can really be continually referred to as any kind of `normal' English Catholic of the time. I think she would have stood out in any period of history as being somewhat outside the average believer.

A good and worthwhile read. Just don't accept it as the only view on this time in English religious history
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106 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revolution in thinking about the English church., 11 Jan 2000
By A Customer
During the last 30 years there has been a revolution in our thinking about the 16th century English church. This has been the result of a vast body of and also a great deal of cross-referring to other primary sources, including the church buildings themselves. One of the richest fruits of all this research is this extraordinary book, which manages to capture in less than a thousand pages the full panoply of pre-Reformation liturgy and life, and how it was effectively destroyed by the reformers. This study and others like it confront head-on the received tradition of a moribund and corrupt medieval English church 'rescued' by the Reformation. This tradition arose largely from the enthusiasm of the Oxford Movement, and the Anglican revival for which it was responsible. This harnessed popular anti-Catholic prejudice in the 19th century, to create the illusion of a modern Church of England which had evolved naturally from the church of St Augustine and the mind of the medieval liturgy, stripped of its corruption and excesses. The Reformation was presented by these people as a smooth, evolutionary process, whereby roods, wallpaintings, etc., were removed from churches in the 16th century because of 'new liturgical practices' that no longer required them. Any idea that the Reformation in England was a violent and unpopular fracture was quietly lost. The obvious destruction that had taken place in English parish churches was most often attributed to the ultra-protestant Puritans of a century later. Duffy, however, documents in some detail how the churches of England were comprehensively wrecked between 1538 and 1553, and then again after Elizabeth I's accession in 1558. He uses documentary evidence to show how this happened in specific churches, particularly in East Anglia. He visits these churches, to examine the damage that was caused. Ironically, the dull-headed attempt by Mary I to restore the Catholic church to England in the 1550s has left us with a great deal of evidence of the destruction that had occurred up to that point. Today, in many church guides this destruction is still attributed to William Dowsing and his fellow-Puritans of the 1640s. They are not men to be blamed for nothing; but Duffy unfolds in this book an amazing story, one all too rarely told, of an earlier holocaust on a massive scale. It enhances our understanding of how English parish churches have come to look the way they do. It also has tremendous consequences for our thinking about the modern Anglican church. It has to be said that there are those who are not entirely comfortable with this revisionist history. Some find it difficult because of the way it contradicts the Reformation history that English people of a certain age have grown up with. Some others will find it hard to accept that late-medieval English Catholicism was popular. For Anglo-Catholics, there is the further difficulty that Duffy (and others) is suggesting that the Church of England is not the inheritor of the medieval English church in they way they had understood. One Suffolk vicar with whom I discussed this (he will remain nameless; in any case, he is now in the Exeter diocese) said "Duffy is nothing but a bog-Irish upstart". Any book that causes a reaction like that HAS to be worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A revisionist view of the coming and aftermath of the Henrician Reformation, 5 Aug 2011
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 (Paperback)
I have owned this book for several years, and while I have used it quite a few times for referencing and finding information, this is the first time I have read it from cover to cover.

It is an interesting book, in that it attempts to explain how the `ordinary' people of the time (1400-1580) `lived' their religion - what they were required to learn, to do, how they were required to show their faith. It was of course a time of great change in England, with the Henrician Reformation, Edward VI, the attempt to return to Catholicism under Mary and the somewhat less fervent religion of Elizabeth I.

What must be borne in mind when reading this is that the author is a staunch Catholic, and this is quite evident throughout the book - sadly, it means that I felt some of the writing needed to be taken with some scepticism, or a healthy dose of temperance anyway.

But this does not detract from the book being both informative and interesting, though you may find yourself feeling that the author has overstated somewhat some of his conclusions, particularly about the vibrancy and reality of Catholic faith in the fifteenth century. I felt you needed to question `conformity' versus `conviction' while reading some of this book; what really motivated many (though certainly not all) English people in their faith. And I'm not sure that Margery Kempe can really be continually referred to as any kind of `normal' English Catholic of the time. I think she would have stood out in any period of history as being somewhat outside the average believer.

A good and worthwhile read. Just don't accept it as the only view on this time in English religious history.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial, 2 Feb 2010
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 (Paperback)
This is one of those books for which the term `magisterial' can be used with complete justification. As a study of popular religion at the time of the Reformation, it's awesome in the breadth of its coverage, enquiring into areas as diverse as the guilds, the cult of the saints, the use of primers to inculcate knowledge of Scripture, the ways in which faith was reflected in Wills, populist preaching and much else. Its conclusion - that faith was much more alive and genuine than has long been thought - is, on the compendious evidence Duffy supplies, amply justified.

The second half of the book paints this popular religion onto the broader political canvas of Henry VIII's reforms, as consolidated by Edward VI and then countermanded by Mary. I thought Duffy was especially interesting on how the language of Wills, especially under Edward VI, disguised obdurate Catholicism in a kind of `civil disobedience' from beyond the grave. The fascinating section on the reforms (under Mary) of Cardinal Pole highlighted what, for me, was the book's one frustration: the failure to clearly depict how a Catholic strand of concern for social justice (as evidenced in the work of Pole) manifested itself in the life of the people. For example, how (if at all) opposition to the burning of `heretics' (either under Henry or Mary) was resisted. But this minor critique aside, a fascinating and mighty tome, surely destined to be the standard `revisionist' text on the period for a generation to come.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, wonderful, and thought provoking., 3 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This is the most enjoyable book I've read in the last five years. I learned so much about what the church was like in England before the Reformation. There was so much of this I didn't know, and finding it out was like recovering a long-lost treasure. The details are marvellous.
Reading about the changes which came about in the reigns of HenryVIIIth, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth was extremely informative. Now I understand how the reformers and the monarchs who supported them managed to change the church of England from the Catholic church it was into a very different, and very protestant organisation.
Whether you have religious inclinations or not, this book is a great read. At the very least, you'll like reading about this period in history.
If you're an Anglican, you might be particularly fascinated to read about what your church was like before the Reformation. I was, and I think we lost a lot of the richness of traditional worship when Cramner et all came along and ripped away so many beautiful traditions from the church.
I am very grateful to Eamon Duffy for writing such a detailed account, and for making it all such a great read.
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37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The English Reformation Unmasked, 9 Oct 2002
A thoroughly satisfying book. Duffy makes it quite clear why he considers it important to examine late medieval English piety in such comprehensive detail in the first part of this book. His minute and coherent analysis is well repaid by illuminating his crisp narrative analysis in the second half. I wished he had spent more time on the background and motivation to the royal visitations which followed in Edward VI's and Elizabeth I's reigns. In particualar the Commons' vote after Elizabeth's succession gets very little space for such a momentous decision. A little more on how the clergy was reorganised and replaced in Mary's reign and Pole's cardinalate would have been interesting for someone new to this subject like myself. Just occasionally there is a tendentious note. For a modern catholic there is something slightly unhealthy in the lack of communion and the pax bread communion surrogate and here one is inclined to side with the reformers and to doubt the vitality of this late medieval piety. But the argument is pushed home with compelling detail. These are parishes not just stripped of their altars but with the very warp of their communities chopped and unravelled with nothing but the hollow clang of Cranmer's solemn humility to echo in the empty spaces.
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36 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual tour de force., 30 Jun 1999
By A Customer
The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England by Eamon Duffy is an excellent study of the Protestant reformation in England by a top-notch historian. Mr. Duffy has delved deeply into the period's primary sources including hundreds of church logs, primers, manuals, wills, and diaries. An intellectual tour de force, it is accessible to the average reader.
The Stripping of the Altars is the story of traditional Catholics desperately trying to preserve their faith against tyrannical rulers who tear down their altars, change the language of their Mass, mock their devotions, destroy their statues, and decimate their liturgical year. It is a tale of courage amid great tragedy and it proves that the Faith in England was stolen, not lost. Most of all it presents the beauty and power of traditional Roman Catholicism.
The Stripping of the Altars is a wonderful examination of the faith of medieval Englishmen and it is an excellent complement to Cranmer's Godly Order by Michael Davies.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relevant to nowadays, 12 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 (Paperback)
Although this is a history book, it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the meanings and developments of Catholic doctrine. It explains how many Catholic rituals are medieval inventions, some of which started for political reasons. I think all Catholics should read this book, and discover the origins of their faith.
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