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The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 Paperback – May 10, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 700 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300108281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300108286
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From reviews of the first edition:“A magnificent scholarly achievement [and] a compelling read.”—Patricia Morrison, Financial Times


“Deeply imaginative, movingly written, and splendidly illustrated. . . . Duffy’s analysis . . . carries conviction.”—Maurice Keen, New York Review of Books


“This book will afford enjoyment and enlightenment to layman and specialist alike.”—Peter Heath, Times Literary Supplement


“It has had huge influence in departments of literature and religious studies, as well as those of history. At the same time, it has reached a broad general public interested in the Roman Catholic inheritance in Britain. Its successes came not only from Duffy’s scholarship and style, but also from Yale’s nurturing, marketing and production values, and from the responses in such places as the TLS.”—Jonathan Bate, Times Literary Supplement
(Jonathan Bate TLS 2014-01-10)

About the Author

Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and President of Magdalene College. He is the author of Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes and The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, both available in paperback from Yale University Press.

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Customer Reviews

This book was recommended to me by a mature Christian.
Valorie R. Martin
Most of all it presents the beauty and power of traditional Roman Catholicism.
ctaibi@pipeline.com
Duffy has uncovered much new material and the book is splendidly documented.
Charles R. Forker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

102 of 103 people found the following review helpful By R. Post on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Stripping of the Altars", Eamon Duffy's erudite, meticulous yet flowing analysis of what he refers to as "traditional religion" in England in the years from 1400 to 1580 is a masterpiece of scholarship and also of presentation. Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge University, he states in his preface to the second edition (the book was originally published in 1992) that his intentions were academic and that he was himself surprised to find that it developed an audience among the general public. He should not have been so shocked. Leavened with anecdotes, storytelling, humor and engaging descriptions of the thoughts, customs and nature of life in those times, his work, while painstaking -- painfully so at times -- reads comfortably and absorbingly throughout most of its highly approachable 593 pages (plus bibliography and index).

Duffy's thesis is that, contrary to what has been taught and generally believed about the Protestant Reformation in England, satisfaction with the Roman Catholic "traditional" religion, its fêtes, rituals and observances was almost universal at the time of the Reformation and that the Reformation, itself, was imposed upon the people by royal and civil authority, not popular will. Early on and fairly enough, Duffy describes his irish Catholic background, yet while that outlook must be constantly borne in mind while reading his book, the fact is that he makes a convincing case.

He does so systematically, painting the nature of English existence at the time, largely rural, generally peaceful in the wake of the Hundred Year's War, isolated, provincial and soaked in pervasive religiosity.
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119 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Jones on June 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Stripping of the Altars is excellent in every way. Duffy has examined up parish records, scoured primary sources, and provided a superlative overall view of pre-Reformation English Catholicism.
The Lollards, minor pre-Lutheran dissenters whose influence, beliefs, and practices have been listed as evidence of tumult in the English church, are also succinctly covered. Duffy casts doubt on their reputation, which has sometimes been blown out of proportion by Protestant scholars.
Catholic life was flourishing in the era, as parish records attest. A major social center of the time, attendance was high and community guilds furnished the physical building, assisting funerals and providing some paid employment to the poor. The belief in Purgatory was hardly questioned, and practices of remembering the dead in prayer continued in many areas until the 1700s--despite sustained Protestant attack on the doctrine. Though Duffy does not bring in this particular work, Catholic purgatorial beliefs are featured in Shakespeare's Hamlet, written a generation after the official break with Rome.
Detailed, too, are the many devotional works of the period, which with the advent of the printing press had become inexpensive enough even for the lower middle class. He also counters some assertions that English Catholics were half-pagan, tracing many alleged "magical amulets" and incantations to their source: Christian liturgical practice and prayer. Most sorrowful are his photographs and catalogues of vandalized statuary and churches, whose desecration was strongly supported by Cramner, his iconoclastic lackeys--and very few others.
Whatever the Protestant movement was elsewhere, in England, at least, it was largely imposed from the top.
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107 of 114 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on November 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Eamon Duffy is hell-bent to demonstrate the meaning and legitimacy of traditional English piety, and succeeds by and large with smart scholarship, winningly original ideas, and fret-free, up-tempo prose. The book wears well a mediaevalist scholar's sympathetic penchant for the full color world of his subject; you have no trouble entering Duffy's exotic world. He knocks down the calumny of 'superstition' by REVEALING it with teaching. The Henrician religious revolution is exactingly covered, but forget your mild English sentiments here; the author means to prove his point and does relentlessly. England's masses did NOT rise up and demand what the King unfortunately demanded! Some of the local evidence unearthed by Duffy is among the most compelling in providing armament for his argument that Roman piety remained the daily staple of the common Englishman even as revolution was imposed by royal will. The last section --The Attack on Traditional Religion-- (including a final segment on Elizabeth I) is the best in the book- arguments are focused in, & the prose is clean and responsive. The book is a huge achievment, even at 650+ pages! A fetching bibliography provides extensive evidence of the openness of Duffy's scholarship, and is fascinating marginalia in its own right. Photo of the vandalised bas relief of the mass Sacrifice on the cover is completely moving. No faint-hearted history allowed.
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89 of 99 people found the following review helpful By ctaibi@pipeline.com on June 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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