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Customer Review

119 of 136 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
This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (Paperback)
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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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Jun 2008 04:21:40 BDT
Simon Davis says:
What an excellent review. Great logic and highly informative. I wish more reviews on Amazon were as entertaining and as informative to read. Great job!!!

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 08:47:25 GMT
Excalibur says:
It is indeed a good review. The readability of it, however, would have been improved with paragraphs.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jan 2012 04:21:06 GMT
Johnboy says:
Excalibur, you purport to be agreeing with Simon: "It is indeed a good review." But Simon says it is "an excellent review". You're right, however, about the paras. The reviewer might also consider changing the rather pat, flat, title; the smack-across-the-face line in the review is of course, ""Duffy is nothing but a bog-Irish upstart"." Why not use that!?

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Feb 2012 22:32:56 GMT
Excalibur says:
"Excalibur, you purport to be agreeing with Simon: "It is indeed a good review." But Simon says it is "an excellent review"."

You may think this makes you sound intelligent and articulate. In fact you just come across as a pompous ass.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Oct 2013 17:22:00 BDT
Onora says:
To 'A Customer' many thanks for a fantastic review very detailed indeed. Although from Ireland I was a Protestant and I certainly was led to believe that the Reformation was a smooth process.
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