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The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (1993)

de Eamon Duffy

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1,0201516,740 (4.41)20
"This important and provocative book offers a fundamental challenge to much that has been written about the pre-Reformation church. Eamon Duffy recreates fifteenth-century English lay people'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 powerful 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 the violent rupture of 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 that was widely understood even though it was in Latin; 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 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 new evidence of popular discontent from medieval wills and parish records. He documents the widespread opposition to Protestantism during the reigns of Henry and Edward, discusses Mary's success in reestablishing Catholicism, and describes the public resistance to Elizabeth's dismantling of parochial Catholicism that did not wane until the late 1570s. A major revision to accepted thinking about the spread of the Reformation, this book will be essential reading for students of British history and religion."--BOOK JACKET.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 15 (següent | mostra-les totes)
One of those classics of late medieval/early modern history that it's assumed anyone in the field has read, and that I've thus long felt guilty for never having done so. In my defense it is a brick of a book, crammed full of evidence for the vitality of religious life on a personal and parochial life in an England on the verge of the Reformation.

Eamon Duffy marshalls a wide array of sources—wills, journals, liturgies, and more—to I think successfully make the case that, contra many centuries of historiography that was Protestant in its sympathies, Catholicism in late medieval England was far from moribund, at least at a grass-roots level. I would also agree with him that the shift of the general population's religious convictions, identities, and preferences took place over a span of generations and was not so abrupt as had often been assumed. As for Duffy's framing of the actions of the reformers overall actions and the chronological framework he employs, your feelings about it will probably be shaped by whether your allegiances lie with Rome (as Duffy's clearly do) or against. ( )
  siriaeve | Jul 14, 2022 |
At first sight confirms all we ever thought about medieval Catholicism, but the message is that this was popular and regretted when it was lost. Details the enthusiasm for return to images and sacramentalism in many parishes and their efforts to preserve images when they were out of favour. Purgatory was a dominant fear and tremendous efforts were exerted to call upon those left behind to shorten it with prayer. The Host was worshipped and when Mary returned people in Kent were forced to kneel before it. He says that the service was widely understood, even in Latin, and there was a lot of religious material available in English. However Bibles were rapidly removed when Catholics returned and sermons were about morality not knowledge. Elizabeth's long reign ensured that all the imagery eventually was lost and did not return.
Very long book but beautifully written passages make it compelling reading.
It is an answer to the standard Protestant account of the Reformation provided by Dickens in the 80s. ( )
1 vota oataker | Mar 29, 2021 |
Duffy expresses surprise that this became a best-seller, and no shit: this is some detailed, historiographically-conscious, "I'm going to assume you know all the main events" stuff. It's also gloriously interesting, and surprisingly readable. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
This is undoubtedly an excellent resource both on the religious life of Medieval and early Modern England, and on the history of the Reformations elimination of many popular forms of devotion. However it was more information than I really need or want on the subject. If this is your era, or your subject I recommend it highly. ( )
  ritaer | Nov 12, 2019 |
Now a classic study of the changes in the life of the Church in the English Reformation.

Everyone seems to have a bias on this topic; I should declare mine: I am an Anglo-Catholic, liturgically on the conservative side and doctrinally more or less aligned with, say, Rowan Williams. As such I have no antipathy towards late mediaeval catholicism as such, and on theological grounds a good deal of criticism to make of the reformers under Edward and Elizabeth. (See, for example, the serious criticisms levelled by Dix against Cranmer and his colleagues, never really rebutted.) Note that Duffy's study is one of life "on the ground", as it were, but one's doctrinal views can influence how one reads the text.

This is carefully researched, though (as is the case with most histories of this sort) individual details may be contested, or at least challenged as not necessarily as ready for generalization as they might be, especially as actual use will have varied considerably in different areas of the country and parish by parish: the late mediaeval world, just beginning to adjust to the printing press, was not a very uniform one. Nevertheless, Duffy's arguments can, I think, be said to represent a position which are, or should be, the default, at least inasmuch as they show (1) that the devotional life of the late mediaeval world was not arid, but lively, and that the observances of the rhythms of the church year were deeply integrated into the life of the community; (2) that the doctrine expressed by the observances of the typical late mediaeval parish (or many late mediaeval parishes) was not some kind of aberration away from the broader tradition of catholic belief; (3) that the English Reformation did considerable harm to the fabric of daily life, especially after its Henrician phase, but beginning even under Henry; (4) that prior at least to the ham-fisted attempts by Mary Tudor to restore the catholic faith there was more sympathy, generally, with the old religion than with the new.

The defaced statues, smashed windows, and ruined rood-screens (however many were a product of this phase of the Reformation and however many of the later depredations of Cromwell's soldiers) are an effective metaphor for the damage to devotional life the book describes.

It lies outside Duffy's scope, but it is worth pointing out that (despite the type of evidence put forward in More and Cross's Anglicanism, drawn largely from the Caroline and Jacobean divines) the overall thrust of the Elizabethan settlement and even more of the final compromise after the Commonwealth was to exclude most of the traits which we would now identify as Catholic within the Anglican Church, downplay many others (bishops were kept but no particularly high doctrine was officially declared for their order), and exclude most of the elements of "the beauty of holiness" which even rather middle-of-the-road parishes used to take for granted as a characteristic of Anglicanism. You could find isolated exceptions, but in general it is true to say that the doctrinal and devotional revivals of the Oxford Movement and the improvement in liturgy and church design which came out of Cambridge a little later were relying on a very thin thread of continuity indeed within the Church of England. ( )
1 vota jsburbidge | Sep 22, 2016 |
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"This important and provocative book offers a fundamental challenge to much that has been written about the pre-Reformation church. Eamon Duffy recreates fifteenth-century English lay people'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 powerful 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 the violent rupture of 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 that was widely understood even though it was in Latin; 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 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 new evidence of popular discontent from medieval wills and parish records. He documents the widespread opposition to Protestantism during the reigns of Henry and Edward, discusses Mary's success in reestablishing Catholicism, and describes the public resistance to Elizabeth's dismantling of parochial Catholicism that did not wane until the late 1570s. A major revision to accepted thinking about the spread of the Reformation, this book will be essential reading for students of British history and religion."--BOOK JACKET.

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