Catholic England

Faith, religion and observance before the Reformation
Swanson, R. N.
Date published: 
September 2013

The Reformation transformed English religion. For many, the spirituality of the preceding period remains largely unknown, or overburdened with Protestant mythology of decadence. These sources seek to explore the nature of religious belief and practice in pre-Reformation England, using original source material to make the debates accessible. This consideration of the sources begins with an analytical chapter discussing the varieties of spirituality in later medieval England and the ways in which they received expression, through participation in church services, actions like pilgrimages, charitable foundations, devotional readings and instruction. Opposition to prevailing spirituality, expressed through 'Lollardy', is also considered. The sources demonstrate with immediacy and potency these diverse expressions of faith and observance. Many of the documents are translated for the first time from unpublished manuscript material. This study demonstrates the vitality of the pre-Reformation religious practices, but also addresses the key methodological questions which arise from the sources about the nature of the material; its reliability as historical evidence, and the validity of external actions as testimony to intellectual and emotional experience.