to what extent was tradition in english christianity restored in the 19th century

To what extent was tradition in English Christianity restored in the 19th century? IntroductionWhat is considered tradition and what is considered dissent Changes during the reformation
Churches and Christianity after reformation
Anglicans / Methodists/ Roman Catholics

Main body – Dissent from tradition
Industrial revolution – Population migrate to cities
Lack of churches in cities
Modern skylines – chimneys not spires
Community centre move away from churches
More secular communities
Tradition reinstatement
Catholic emancipation act 1829 – Erosion of divine right of kings
Catholicism restored
Oxford movementReinstatement of Catholic Tradition
Branches of same church
Churches too plain
1850 Pope Pius (Which one)Restored bishops
Second spring sermon
Church buildings act 1818
Return to Gothic architecturePugin
Comparison of traditional and modern
Reinstatement of grandeur

Conclusion – Renewal of traditions from before Reformation
Parliament acts
New Church buildings

To what extent was tradition in English Christianity restored in the 19th Century? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________

This essay will look at ways in which Christianity restored the pre -reformation traditions ( the mainly Catholic traditions of worship), and the ways in which this affected the development of Christianity during the 19th Century in England. During the British reformation of the 16th century the Christian Church underwent tremendous changes and upheavals as King Henry VIII detached from the Catholic Church and created the Protestant Church of England. He moved England away from the traditional Catholic practices and made radical changes, the most important of which was allowing the Bible to be printed and preached in English. This meant that the common man was not longer dependent upon the priests to interpret the word of God for him and so removed priest’s absolute authority within the communities. The richly adorned Churches were stripped of their wealth as a belief that faith rather than idolatry would earn the individual the grace of God. The Paying of Indulgences for prayers to be said for the dead to enable their release from purgatory, the partaking in rituals to be closer to God and the Catholic paraphernalia and showmanship were all done away with, leading to a much plainer simpler church where the focus was on the preacher and the word of Christ.

After Henry’s death the Church in England swayed between a return to Catholic tradition and dissent away from it, Queen Elizabeth the 1st finally brought about stability, in 1558, with the passing of acts re-instating her as the head of the Church of England and defining a middle ground for the Anglicans, between the Puritan and Catholic traditions. There were many conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants of England during the subsequent years as new Royals, of differing religious convictions, came to power, but it wasn’t until the Industrial revolution of the 1800’s that the dominance of Religion in everyday life started to become eroded. The industrial revolution led to mass migrations from countryside to new expanding towns and cities where labourers could earn more money. However whereas the church was the centre of the community in villages and affected every aspect of daily life, a lack of churches in the cities led to the population dissenting away from the Church of England as there were fewer places of worship. Communities became more secular and less governed by the Church of England allowing other Christian denominations, such as the Methodists and the Roman Catholics, to increase their numbers of
worshipers. In 1829 the Catholic Emancipation act allowed Catholics the same rights as Protestants. It removed the restrictions that had been in place since the Reformation and allowed Catholics to sit in Parliament, own property and inherit land. England before 1828 was a nation in which the vast majority of the people believed in the Divine Right of Kings, and in the authority, rights and privileges of the Anglican Church. This system remained virtually intact until it suddenly collapsed in 1828, because Catholic emancipation undermined Anglican supremacy (J.C.D. Clark 1985)

The Oxford Movement, founded in 1833, sought to reinstate more Catholic traditions to the Anglican church. They viewed Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as three branches of one Catholic church, as opposed to separate institutions. The Oxford Movement wanted traditional aspects of liturgy and worship, according to traditions from medieval practices reinstated, establishing a middle ground for the Anglican Church between the Catholic traditional ostentatious practices and the Puritans stripped practices. In fact this was a return to pre reformation tradition founded on a belief that churches had become too plain, with the removal of icons and decorations, during the reformation. An early member and influencer of the Oxford movement was John Henry Newman. Although he became disillusioned with the cause and believing that the home of the true Church was in Rome and not in Canterbury converted to Catholicism in 1845 eventually becoming a Cardinal.(Ellison. R H.1996). In 1850 Pope Pius IX restored the structure of Territorial Bishops in England and Wales, putting an end to the Missionary Bishops that had been leading the Catholic churches since the Reformation. This created animosity between the Catholics and Protestants with the Protestants believing that the Catholic Bishops were now in direct competition with the Anglican ones and the Queen’s supremacy as the head of the Church of England. But the number of Catholics swelled (fuelled in part by the immigration of Catholic Irish immigrants in to England as a result of the Great Famine) and when John Henry Newman he gave his “Second Spring” sermon in 1858, just after the re establishment of the Catholic hierarchy, there can be no doubt that he was praising a resurgence in the Catholic culture. The Church Building Act of 1818 sought to redress the balance in the cities of the lack of churches available for the growing
population. Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), a Catholic architect, felt that the sudden building program instigated by the Church Buildings Act reduced the building of churches to a trade, lacking imagination and ambition which reflected the way in which the Church was viewed in the newly emerging industrialised, materialistic, society. He published his book ‘Contrasts’ in 1836, where he argued that true (traditional) architecture was Roman Catholic. He wrote : ‘men must learn that the period hitherto called dark and ignorant far excelled our age in wisdom, that art ceased when it is said to have been revived, that superstition was piety and bigotry faith.’ (Pugin, Contrasts p 16-17) He compared post reformation buildings and towns with their pre reformation counterparts. The cities, having moved away from the tradition of the Church being the centre of the community and towards the dominance of commerce, had lost their skylines. The church spires reaching up to God had been replaced with the chimneys of factories. The work houses and asylums which had been built to look after the poor or insane, dispensed harsh regimes, whereas before the Reformation they would have been cared for by the Catholic Church with religious compassion. Pugin believed that this dissent away from tradition and a hierarchical system had eroded the values of individuals and societies, which he sought to restored with a return to traditional gothic architecture. This he believed would re introduce the hierarchies within the Church, firstly by refocusing the attention away from the preacher and the congregation towards the altar and secondly by returning to more lavish interiors to magnify the greatness of God. He wanted to reinstate Rood Screens and Lofts that had been removed during the reformation. They had divided the public from the priests and choir, and were often highly decorated with religious images and showed the crucifixion of Christ. They had been removed to discourage idolatry but Pugin was able to break with protestant tradition to re introduce art to churches, making them, once again, places to be where man could overwhelmed by the immensity and mystery of God. In Conclusion the 19th Century was a time of great change for the Church. It saw communities dissenting away from the Church being the centre of the community as commercial values took over. It then saw a return to post Reformation traditions as the Catholic church, once more, became more prevalent. New Acts in parliament allowed other religious groups than the Church of England to practice freely and be
integrated fully into society. Pugin spearheaded the movement for a return to Gothic architecture as it being the true traditional architecture of England. Word Count 1244

The Victorian web (1996)” John Henry Newman: A Brief Biography”, Ellison R.H 1996 available from (accessed 16/01/13) J. C. D. Clark, English Society 1688–1832: Ideology, Social Structure and Political Practice during the Ancient Regime (Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp 90, 409 Pugin A.W.N (2003(1841)) “Contrasts: or, a parallel between the Nobel Edifices of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries and Similar Buildings of the Present Day: Shrewing the Present Decay of Taste” (2nd Edition; 1st edition 1836)(intro T. Brittain-Catlin) Reading, Spire Books. Wolffe J(2008) “Tradition and Dissent in English Christianity” in Price. C. (ed)”Tradition and Dissent” (AA100 BOOK 2), Milton Keynes, The Open University, p 71-106 Richardson . C. McKellar. E & Woods. K.(2008) “Pugin and the revival of Gothic Tradition” in Price. C. (ed)”Tradition and Dissent” (AA100 BOOK 2), Milton Keynes, The Open University, p 107-148


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