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Introduction From Religious Space in Reformation England

Introduction From Religious Space in Reformation England

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Introduction From Religious Space in Reformation England, from the series Religious Cultures in the Early Modern World, published by Pickering & Chatto
Introduction From Religious Space in Reformation England, from the series Religious Cultures in the Early Modern World, published by Pickering & Chatto

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INTRODUCTION

Writing c. 1671, archaeologist and antiquarian John Aubrey sketched the north door of the parish church of Kington St Michael, Wiltshire, ‘of which fashion is also the south dore of the Chapelle of Priory St Marie in this parish, a Nunnery founded by Mawde yeEmpresse’ (see Figure I.1 on p. 2).1 Though Aubrey’s study of the two churches and his comparison of each to Salisbury, Iffley and elsewhere in south-western England was characteristic of his deep interest in establishing a typological sequence of medieval English architecture, his was not merely an intellectual pursuit. The small priory estate of St Mary’s, Kington, where Cecelia Bodenham had served as prioress before her promotion to Wilton in advance of the dissolution of the monasteries, had been granted to Robert Long of Draycoat by Henry VIII in 1537. By 1556, the house and lands had been sold to John Taylor and, by 1570, the property had become the residence of Isaac Taylor, father of Eleanor, great-grandmother of John Aubrey.2 Though the former priory had been sold in 1628 when Aubrey was just two years old, he clearly retained an interest in the site, the memories of the ‘ceremonies of the Priory, &c.’, nurtured by his grandfather.3 Aubrey described much of St Mary’s as still standing, with the exception of the chancel and its chapel of St James: ‘In the Chapell, which was very fayre, is neither glasse, chancell nor monument remaining’.4 Aubrey’s methodology was clearly exceptional for the late seventeenth century; his ‘Chronologia Architectonia’ was the first taxonomic study of the development of English Romanesque and Gothic architecture.5 His interest in the pre-Reformation material past, however, was not unique but was rather an elite manifestation of broader patterns of cultural adaptation to changes in religious material culture in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. The dissolution of the monasteries, the suppression of the chantries and the reframing of parish church space established under Tudor and early Stuart monarchs fostered adaptive responses among English laity and clergy. This study contends that such cultural adaptation to the sequence of alterations of religious space was informed by reciprocal relationships of spatial identity, resistance and the formation of memory. This interplay of factors inhibited full acclimatization to alterations of religious space and preserved connections to the material

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Figure I.1: John Aubrey, Kington St Michael’s, Wilts, ‘Chronologia Architectonia’, BODL MS. Top. Gen. c.25, f. 155r. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library, the University of Oxford.

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culture of the pre-Reformation past over the longue durée. What Margaret Aston termed a ‘sense of the past’ drew, in part, from the absence and presence of these material surroundings.6 At a local level, parishioners, churchwardens and clergy who negotiated Crown reforms as familiar religious spaces were suppressed and refashioned. At an elite level, early modern historians and antiquarians such as Aubrey preserved and historicized this pre-Reformation past, situating it within a ‘sequence of history’.7 This book considers such affinity for the past within particular communities, examining how changes in religious space were received, negotiated and remembered over time. By focusing on resistant activity and the formation of memory as key elements in the development of a consciousness of the past, this book concentrates on points of tension among those who remained engaged with pre-Reformation material culture, most often, though not always, those who were troubled by alterations to religious space. It therefore focuses during the sixteenth century on religious conservatives and moderates rather than on reformed Protestants. By the seventeenth century, as Jacobean – and particularly Arminian – alterations attempted to restore elements of earlier pre-suppression material culture and practices to English churches, Puritans were among those who resisted most strongly. In its examination of resistant activity, this study provides a counterpoint to models of adaptation based upon acquiescence and collaboration argued in the influential works of Robert Whiting and Ethan Shagan respectively.8 Building on the work of Kenneth Fincham and Nicholas Tyacke and the more recent contribution of Alexandra Walsham, which have argued effectively for prolonged periods of adaptation to ‘erratic’ reformations of material culture, this study offers a new perspective on the nature and processes of such cultural adaptation at the local level.9 As a comparative local study of patterns of adaptation to the dissolutions, reforms and reversals of religious space over the course of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, this book follows a roughly chronological sequence. Chapter 1 examines adaptive responses to the Henrician dissolution of the monasteries and the suppression of shrines, which took place between 1535 and 1540. In its analysis of the patterns of cultural adaptation that ensued, this chapter lays the foundation for discussion of the patterns of responses of English men and women during later periods. Consideration is given not only to resistance and related local conflict but also to the recycling and refashioning of the monastic past, processes that fostered and shaped the formation of local memory. Attention turns in chapter 2 to responses to the profound changes to altars and interior spaces of parish churches enacted under Edward VI. The material consequences of the rejection of the doctrine of purgatory on chantries and other intercessory institutions affected not only the practices of the clergy but also the lay participation of churchwardens, guild members, parishioners and town lead-

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ers. It was among such lay members that low-level resistance such as concealment against governmental predations and alterations was to develop, contributing to the persistence of local memory. This chapter returns to the issue of postsuppression re-use, during this period characterized less by a recycling such as that seen following monastic dissolutions than by a ‘grafting’ or overlaying of a sometimes thin veneer of Protestant identities, practices and spaces over the past.10 Chapter 3 considers the growing confessional divide underlying the wide variation in responses to first Catholic restoration of images and altars under Mary I, then restoration of Protestant parish church interiors under Elizabeth I. It pays particular attention to local responses to increasingly severe Elizabethan laws aimed at imposing conformity to the Anglican service beginning during the 1580s, as English Catholics adopted covert forms of resistance, subverting the Crown’s authority and preserving some degree of pre-Reformation or Catholic practice and symbolism. Chapter 4 analyses the effects of early- to mid-seventeenth century national political and religious tensions; in the years leading up to the Civil Wars, conditions provoked significant departures from the patterns of cultural adaptation typical of the preceding century. The final chapter examines the role of memory of pre-Reformation material culture in the development of a historicized ‘sense of the past’.11 Historical and antiquarian inquiry accelerated amid the disruption of war and Interregnum. Apparent not only in the Baconian-inspired empiricism of John Aubrey’s ‘Monumenta Britannica’ and ‘Chronologia Architectonia’ but also in the work of William Dugdale, Randle Holme and others, new forms of antiquarian inquiry reflected an emergent sense of regional and English national identities rooted in the pre-suppression past. The western counties of Wiltshire and Cheshire, selected in order to establish geographical and cultural range, provide the backdrop for this study of local patterns of adaptation. Because of its reliance on governmental as well as ecclesiastical actions and sources, however, this book takes some liberties with geographical boundaries, utilizing diocesan, as well as county borders. The Diocese of Salisbury (Sarum), of which Wiltshire is a part, is located not far to the west of London. Prior to 1542, the diocese encompassed the counties of Wiltshire, Berkshire and Dorset; after that date Dorset came under the control of the newly established see of Bristol.12 The Diocese of Chester, situated in the northwest of England, had only recently been created under Henry VIII in 1541. The diocese was comprised of the counties of Cheshire and Lancashire, several parishes of Flintshire to the west and the southern regions of Westmorland and Cumberland and east to the Yorkshire Dales.13 The administrative centre of the diocese, located in the newly dissolved abbey of St Werburgh’s (Chester Cathedral) was located far to the south of the less accessible parishes of Lancashire, a number of which retained largely conservative religious leanings.14 The relative geography of each diocese, while not the sole factor in religious and cultural

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differences, nevertheless played some part in the degree of compliance or, conversely, opposition to religious changes throughout the period.15 In what follows, I will examine patterns of cultural adaptation across an extended Reformation period through which run interconnected themes of spatial identity, resistance and memory. It will be helpful to review how other scholars have presented the theoretical and historiographical components relied upon in my own analysis. An interplay of spatial identity (developed through recurring encounters such as ritual), resistance (manifested most often in low-levels of resistant activity) and the formation of memory fostered the development of a consciousness of the pre-Reformation material past. Individual or group relationships to material culture that develop through recurring encounters such as ritual – here considered a spatial identity – offer a means of envisioning an enduring relationship to religious space, even in the absence of that space. Parishioners or guild members, who once offered lights before altars prior to their suppression first under Henry VIII, then under Edward VI and Elizabeth I, retained a spatial identity in relationship to these former altars, if only through memory. This micro-level application of the concept shares much with the ‘social space’ and ‘social practice’ of the medieval parish church outlined by C. Pamela Graves and with the ‘sense of place’ offered through ritual within and surrounding the early modern parish church discussed by Steve Hindle.16 Spatial identity and one’s relationship to space are learned through repeated encounters. Pierre Bourdieu describes the ‘dialectical relationship between body and space’ seen as a ‘structural apprenticeship’.17 Space acts as a book through which children ‘learn [that] their vision of the world is read with the body’.18 Similarly, Christopher Tilley suggests that experience conditions human understanding of how to go on in familiar places.19 In turn, place and movement within it are linked to personal biographies; place and space, too, acquire their own history through human actions and events creating ‘sedimented layers of meaning’.20 In the context of Tudor and Stuart reformations, the tendencies of an individual to retain relationships or memory of relationships to space inhibited full compliance to Crown alterations, fostering sometimes gradual or even resistant, adaptation. This study concurs with recent discussions of resistance that argue for acknowledgment of the agency of those under domination.21 In the view of Bill Frazer, the definition of resistance should be broadened to include not only the ‘overt, performative resistance’ of violence or rebellion but also more subtle forms that take into account resistant strategies adopted by the disempowered.22 Low-level and even unconscious forms of resistance appear in efforts to retain one’s daily practices.23 Frazer associates these expressions of resistance with ‘proximate spatial relations – the sharing of lived experiences’, involving the ‘creation or maintenance of localized collective identities’.24 Expanding on Michel de Certeau’s concept of ‘tactics of resistance’, Frazer notes the potential

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for everyday practices such as contesting, subverting, circumventing and ignoring domination in order to push back against instruments of power.25 James C. Scott similarly argues that forced compliance produces covert reaction against that compliance, through concealment, dissimulation, subtle circumvention of the ‘official transcript’ and the creation of private spaces for dissent and resistance.26 As noted by Michael J. Braddick and John Walter, such models offer a means of accounting for apparent ‘behavioral conformity’.27 Sometimes framed as ‘resistant accommodation’ or ‘resistant adaptation’, such tactics may reflect a partial or contingent accommodation designed to avoid detection and prevent overt confrontation.28 Resistant adaptation, used here to identify reinterpretation, re-use and recycling of surpressed, symbolic material culture, offers a means of avoiding full compliance. For Jane Webster, retention of elements of the past, often blended with the new, may foster a ‘countercultural visual message’.29 Reassessments of the re-use of highly symbolic material culture by Sarah Tarlow, Matthew Johnson and David Stocker and Paul Everson attest to the enduring potency of these physical remains and the memory of the visual past.30 A reciprocal relationship of memory and space would have been familiar to the early modern English laity and clergy studied here. The action and repetition of the liturgy in space, associated by C. Pamela Graves with architectural mnemonics, and features of the landscape, seen by David Rollins as elements in a memory palace, suggest patterns of memory marked by inner and outer topographies.31 For Alexandra Walsham and Nicola Whyte, landscapes were ‘infused with mnemonic devises’, with space the prime element in the ‘task of remembering’.32 Early modern authors studied this association. Jacobus Publicius’ handbook on rhetoric, The Art of Memory, built a system of architectural mnemonics; his work, copied by Thomas Salwell of Durham Priory c. 1500, was the first work on memory in print and remained influential throughout the sixteenth century.33 Peter of Ravenna’s Phoenix, Sive Artificiosa Memoria, translated by Robert Copland and published in London c. 1545, used the spaces of an empty church or monastery as memory loci.34 In the wake of growing Protestant aversion to religious imagery in England, a new tradition appearing in the work of John Willis and Robert Fludd, relocated the architectural setting of artificial memory to the theatre.35 Modern theoretical approaches relied upon in the present study have analysed the relationship of memory and space as it evolved from an individual practice to a group process, an evolution potentially complicated by tension, domination and resistance. Drawing on the work of Maurice Halbwachs and Aby Warburg, Jan Assmann stressed the role of culture in a relationship in which memory is individually composed, but socially mediated.36 For Assmann, cultural expression in the form of images, buildings and landscapes maintains a potent connection to the group throughout an evolution of stages of memory.37 The forcible imposition of dramatically altered material surroundings, however, complicates this evolution. Halbwachs stresses that memories held by a group

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can have a ‘double focus’ through which symbolically significant material culture may be ‘superimposed’ upon reality.38 Memory of past spaces, then, can exist simultaneously with a present reality that contradicts the remembered past; it may be misremembered, a product of conditioning or circumscription by a dominant narrative.39 Under circumstances of domination and the related imposition of altered material culture, memory further carries with it the potential to act as resistance or protest. Pierre Nora’s lieux de memoire may act as ‘dominant’, places of triumph that uphold the official narrative; conversely, they may serve as ‘dominated’, spaces of refuge or sanctuaries of devotion and pilgrimage.40 As shown by Keith Thomas, ruins of the ‘unassimilated, unfunctional’ past may challenge or threaten ‘contemporary claims’.41 The present study of the relationship of space, resistance and memory across the disruptions of reformations, restorations and, by the 1640s, Civil Wars, draws loosely on such theoretical works in its discussion of an evolution of memory: personal, communicative, cultural and intellectual.42 Local memory of this past drew initially upon the personal memories of individuals who directly experienced these past rituals and practices: fifty-eight-year-old Edward Eden’s recollection in 1576 of the chantry priest who, decades before, descended from mass at the High Altar of St John’s, Devizes with a taper in his hands in prayer for the soul of Queen Maud.43 At a more complex level, communicative memories – memories transmitted either directly or through intermediaries such as in oral history – have traditionally been thought to prolong the viability of memory to three or four generations.44 John Aubrey relied upon not only his grandfather’s memories of the ‘old time, the rood loft, &c., ceremonies of the Priory, &c.’ but also those of ‘old Jacques’, who lived to the west of the old priory of St Mary’s at Kington, as he recounted ‘40 or 50 Sisters – nunnes, in a morning, spinning with their rocks [distaffs] and wheeles and bobbins’.45 Cultural memory, according to Assmann, is maintained through texts, monuments, practices and rites that commemorate the past. It has no single fixed meaning but rather is reinterpreted according to historical circumstances and political or religious ideologies.46 Monuments provide the most ubiquitous reminders of the pre-suppression past; abbey ruins and former chantry spaces still extant signified cultural memories of place.47 Similarly, textual accounts of the religious past such as parish church records preserved and reconstructed local cultural memory in ways that fostered the formation of local identities. The church register of Bishop John Bridgeman of Chester survived to form part of the cultural memory of the parish of Wigan where, in 1662, seventy-five-year-old William Browne, Bridgeman’s former servant, relied upon the bishop’s ‘diary’ for his testimony of the pre-Reformation disposition of altar and rood as they once stood in relationship to contested contemporary burial spaces within the chancel.48 Like cultural memory, intellectual memory, often the domain of historians and antiquarians such as Aubrey, carries with it the capacity to commemorate and preserve the past. The potential

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for this form of memory to analyse, reconstruct or historicize elements of the past, interpreting these within a broader historical framework, however, sets it apart. Among an increasingly interdisciplinary seventeenth-century antiquarian elite, a nexus of local, micro-level spatial identities and those formed of broader topographical and historical concerns, shaped the formation of an intellectual memory of place.49 This intellectualization, a key component in the prolonged sequence of cultural adaptation studied here, establishes a link between past and present, reinforcing or, conversely, reconciling a potentially highly contested sense of the past. Although the focus of this book rests on evolving relationships to religious space, as opposed to religious confession, the relevance of what some have termed a ‘Long Reformation’ bears consideration as I examine more than a century of responses to Crown alterations. Recent debates over the duration of the English Reformation have expanded upon Christopher Haigh’s revisionist model that identified matrices of pace and trajectory of reform.50 Proponent of an assessment that sees an unpopular Reformation imposed by the Crown in a ‘drawn-out struggle’, Haigh nevertheless concludes that, by 1580, ‘Protestants had effectively won’.51 Norman Jones similarly argues that, by 1580, the passing of generations of English men and women left pre-Reformation Catholicism, too, ‘dying of natural causes’.52 By contrast, other assessments have prolonged by as much as three centuries the period of conversion from a nation largely Catholic to one largely Protestant. Eamon Duff y, although observing that by the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods Protestantism in England was a ‘runaway success’, nevertheless suggests that evangelism and conversion remained incomplete at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660.53 Jeremy Gregory similarly stresses that the answer to the question of duration resides in one’s definition of Protestant: the process of ‘De-Catholicization’, ‘Protestantization’ and ‘Christianization’, he argues, was ongoing through the eighteenth century.54 Inquiry by such authors has increasingly moved beyond models based upon what David Gaimster and Roberta Gilchrist termed a ‘dichotomy of rejection versus adoption’ to explorations of the nuanced processes by which England became Protestant.55 Building upon such investigation, recent contributions by Tessa Watt, Alexandra Walsham, Peter Marshall and Kenneth Fincham and Nicholas Tyacke, have highlighted somewhat longer Reformation- and post-Reformation-periods of indeterminate length.56 Although the non- ‘uni-directional’ and ‘erratic’ nature of the English Reformation may render clear assessments of its duration indeterminable, it correctly refocuses our attention onto the complex processes underlying ‘the making, and the constant remaking of the Reformation’.57 The chapters that follow utilize certain aspects of all these theoretical and historiographical contributions in assessing English responses to present and absent religious spaces across the Reformation period.

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