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on 30 June 1999
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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on 13 October 1997
A warning to potential readers with strong Christian convictions: this book may send you into a frenzy! Duffy's complex look into the character and nature of late medieval Christainity, and the subsequent effect of the English Reformation upon it is, to say the least, different. His style, if fairly biased, is both fluid and engaging, and his research is of the finest quality. Although one may find it quite easy to pick apart Duffy's argument, as I found myself doing, it nevertheless stands as quite an achievement. He spends an enormous amount of time and energy delving into a rather compelling arguement about the common practices and beliefs of 15th century English catholics, largely in an attempt to show that the Reformation in England was not as popular a movement as many people might believe. Truly a fascinating, well written, and vastly debatable work of history; without a doubt a "must-read" for the Reformation historian or devotee.
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on 31 August 2015
Third of way in and disappointing so far compared to the reviews.....appears to be knocking over a straw man...of course not all Church goers were red hot reforming puritans and much was lost during the iconaclast's excesses
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on 4 February 2016
The book is excellent, but I was very disappointed to find there are no picture plates in my kindle edition.
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on 11 July 2015
Very detailed indeed - and the language is that of a university don. Hard going at times, but comprehensive.
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on 30 April 2010
The whole thrust of this history is to attempt to prove that Medieval Catholicism was in fine fettle prior to the Reformation, and to imply that there was no popular support for reform. The history of the Late Medieval church in England is looked at in great depth, and for that reason it is a useful and necessary text, but it is in the conclusion that Duffy reaches that he allows his own position to dominate. Duffy is a fine historian, but not an impartial one. The authors 'The Voices of Morebath' is a good example where the desire to support his views results in a propagandising of the account he gives. The main thrust is that there was no spiritual decline within the Catholic Church before the Reformation, and that the pseudo-histories/gospels that were allowed by the religious authorities filled the need for greater lay understanding of Christ and the Gospel. The problem with this is that he down plays the significance of the illegal English translations that were circulating (they are one of the commonest medieval manuscripts to survive - a sign of their popularity) and the draconian treatment of any who questioned the power of the Catholic Church. He is willing to rest on the assumption that the change in for example the style of wills was due to coercion by the non-persecuting state of Edward VI; yet he does not even consider the spiritual coercion, propaganda and shear violence used to maintain the status quo in the fifteenth century. The question is not answered as to why a supposedly popular religious leadership felt the need to see any who possessed an English Bible as an enemy and threat to them - why would such popular establishment position need to use threats to maintain itself, and fundamentally what was there to fear in a vernacular bible that made owning one a capital crime?
The decay of arguably the powerhouse of medieval religion - the monastic life - is not really dealt with, or the lack of respect that monks and others religious began to enjoy in this period (not just by Lollards, but by 'catholic' commentators such as Chaucer and Langland)
In short the whole book is shot through with a lamentation at the destruction of the superstition and papal deference that the Reformation brought to England, and a justification for the very practices that were done away with. If you can get beyond that Roman Catholic agenda then this is, as I say, a useful account of the nature of late medieval established religion; but to swallow the conclusions as 'fact' would be,I suggest, a mistake.
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on 5 August 2015
Highly informative.
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on 13 October 2014
A brilliant book of Reformation Church History.
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on 8 April 2015
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on 11 December 2007
This work is, without a doubt, the absolute benchmark when it comes to the study of English popular religion on the eve of the Reformation. Duffy brings the lost world of late medieval / early modern English Catholicism to life in such an enthralling fashion that you're almost as sorry about the Reformation even happening as Duffy is himself.
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