England's Iconoclasts

Volume 1: Laws Against Images
Aston, Margaret
Date published: 
January 1988

This is a study of the enormous religious reversal that England experienced as the avoidance of idolatry became a priority of the Reformation. Opposition to church images was a feature of English life from Wyclif to Oliver Cromwell. It was an aspect of reform that affected all believers, from theologians who wrote so massively on the topic of idolatry, to parishioners who were taught to reject idols and whose churches were denuded of colour and ornament. The phenomenon of iconoclasm cannot be understood except through the developments in theology brought about by sixteenth-century reformers. Both divine and secular laws were changed, as Protestants remodelled the text of the decalogue to give new prominence to the prohibition of images, and the new scriptural priority was reflected in the enactments of church and state. Pressure for image reform was building up long before Henry VIII turned iconoclast, and by the time of the civil war, a century of action and teaching against images had profoundly affected English belief, as well as English churches. England's Iconoclasts offers new insight into the nature and effect of these changes, and is a substantial contribution to our understanding of the entire process of Reformation.


This is a study of the opposition to idolatry in religion which had developed during the hundred years preceeding the Reformation, and its effects upon both theologians and parishioners. This, the first of two volumes, is a susbstantial contribution to our understanding of the entire process of the Reformation.