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How have religious faith and experience motivated people in the past, and how do they continue to influence people today?
Our work emphasizes the variety and diversity of religious expressions, including the Protestant and Catholic divisions in post-Reformation Christianity, the relationship between religion, the state and politics, new religious movements and the philosophical basis for faith and religion.
The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History holds major archives and art collections, produces a journal, Wesley and Methodist Studies, and hosts regular conferences.
Our academic staff have published very widely on topics such as sacred space, witchcraft in the early modern period, religion and the state in the eighteenth century, Methodism in the eighteenth century, theological responses to Nazism, religion and psychoanalysis, the material and visual cultures of religion, blasphemy, and secularism.
Current research projects include the eighteenth century church and sex, the religious culture of Europe in the seventeenth century, and Freud and feminism.
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School of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483590
Headington Campus, Tonge Block, T522
Andrew Spicer is Professor of Early Modern European History. He is currently a Literary Director of the Royal Historical Society and President of the Sixteenth Century Society & Conference.
This module considers the implications of the Reformation on the arts and in particular the material culture of worship. What effect did an emphasis on preaching have on the appearance and furnishings of places of worship? How did Protestant attitudes to religious imagery vary and what were the consequences of these different theological standpoints? Why was music permitted in some churches and not others? The result of questions like these is to get a better understanding of how the material culture of worship was (or was not) shaped by the theological ideas of the Reformation.
Material Culture of the Reformation
What was the impact of the Reformation on the material culture and fabric of early modern religion? Reflecting on the architecture and appearance of places of worship, this research has considered how far places of worship and their furnishings were shaped by the liturgical and theological considerations or by external factors. While the focus has been primarily on churches, this research has also ranged more broadly in this field. In recent years papers have also been given on subjects as diverse as 17th century French funerary monuments, late medieval and post Reformation Scottish funeral palls or mortcloths, Reformed Church communion silver in the Dutch Republic, and Huguenot religious art.
Sanctity and the Sacred
This research considers how attitudes towards the sanctity and holiness of places of worship and other sacred sites changed in the wake of the Reformation. Besides sacred space in general it examines rituals of consecration and the emergence of new Protestant rites.
The dislocation and migration caused by the religious conflicts in Europe after the Reformation and the processes of integration and assimilation. This focuses on the communities that were established in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and how these migrants interacted with their host communities.
Another aspect of this research has been to consider how these communities were regarded during the 19th century by historians and the general public.
This volume brings together the work of a wide range of scholars to explore the long and complex history of the relationships between churches and education. Christianity has always been involved in education, from the very earliest teaching of those about to be baptised, to present-day churches' involvement in schools and higher education. Christianity has a core theological concern for teaching, discipleship and formation, but the dissemination of Christian ideas and positions has not necessarily been an explicitly didactic process. Educational projects have served not only to support but also to question and even reconfigure particular versions of the Christian message, and the recipients of education have also both received and subverted the teaching offered. Under the editorship of Morwenna Ludlow, this volume explores the ways in which churches have sought to educate, catechise and instruct the clergy and laity, adults and children, men and women, boys and girls.
'The Church and Empire', the theme of Studies in Church History, 54, reflects the reality that from its beginnings, the Christian Church has had close, often symbiotic, relationships with empires and imperial power. Initially the Church engaged with the Roman Empire, subsequently in Europe with the Carolingian, Anglo-Norman, Genoese, Venetian and Holy Roman Empires, and later - through the Church's global expansion with European empires in the Americas, Africa and Asia - the Spanish, Dutch, French and British empires, and the imperial structures it encountered there. Bringing together the work of twenty-four historians, this volume explores the relations of churches and empires, and Christian conceptions of empire, in the ancient, medieval, early modern and modern periods, as well as the role of empire in the global expansion of Christianity.
The fifty-second volume of Studies in Church History explores the myriad ways in which doubt has tested Christianity and the life of individual Christians. Men and women have always had doubts about ideas, or individual doctrines, if not faith itself; they have also doubted how truth can be authenticated. The means and the implications of expressing either kind of doubt are shaped by historical circumstance. Led by scholars including Kirstie Blair, Janet Nelson, Charles Stang and Rowan Williams, the essays explore doubt from the Early Church to the contemporary world. They investigate a range of questions, from the familiar 'doubting Thomas', and the more surprising 'doubting John', through the pressing concerns of the Middle Ages, the emphasis on rationalism of the Enlightenment, to the competing ideological and confessional perspectives of the modern world. This fascinating collection offers an introduction to the complex relationship between doubt, faith and the Christian Churches.
This collection of essays, edited by Graeme Murdock, Penny Roberts, and Andrew Spicer, developed from a one-day conference 'Religion and Violence in Early Modern France: The Work of Natalie Zemon Davis' which was held in June 2008 at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon. Five of the papers published here were initially delivered on that occasion, but the conference also sought to learn from the differing perspectives of violence outside sixteenth-century France. This concern is also reflected in this collection, which seeks to offer new insights and approaches to the relationship and significance of religion and violence as well as paying tribute to the immense contribution made in this field by the writings of Natalie Zemon Davis.
Until recently the impact of the Lutheran Reformation has been largely regarded in political and socio-economic terms, yet for most people it was not the abstract theological debates that had the greatest impact upon their lives, but what they saw in their parish churches every Sunday. This collection of essays provides a coherent and interdisciplinary investigation of the impact that the Lutheran Reformation had on the appearance, architecture and arrangement of early modern churches. Drawing upon recent research being undertaken by leading art historians and historians on Lutheran places of worship, the volume emphasises often surprising levels of continuity, reflecting the survival of Catholic fixtures, fittings and altarpieces, and exploring how these could be remodelled in order to conform with the tenets of Lutheran belief. The volume not only addresses Lutheran art but also the way in which the architecture of their churches reflected the importance of preaching and the administration of the sacraments. Furthermore the collection is committed to extending these discussions beyond a purely German context, and to look at churches not only within the Holy Roman Empire, but also in Scandinavia, the Baltic States as well as towns dominated by Saxon communities in areas such as in Hungary and Transylvania. By focusing on ecclesiastical 'material culture' the collection helps to place the art and architecture of Lutheran places of worship into the historical, political and theological context of early modern Europe.
Alastair Duke has long been recognized as one of the leading scholars of the early modern Netherlands, known internationally for his important work on the impact of religious change on political events which was the focus of his Reformation and Revolt in the Low Countries (1990). Bringing together an updated selection of his previously published essays - together with one entirely new chapter and two that appear in English here for the first time - this volume explores the emergence of new political and religious identities in the early modern Netherlands. Firstly it analyses the emergence of a common identity amongst the amorphous collection of states in north-western Europe that were united first under the rule of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy and later the Habsburg princes, and traces the fortunes of this notion during the political and religious conflicts that divided the Low Countries during the second half of the sixteenth century. A second group of essays considers the emergence of dissidence and opposition to the regime, and explores how this was expressed and disseminated through popular culture. Finally, the volume shows how in the age of confessionalisation and civil war, challenging issues of identity presented themselves to both dissenting groups and individuals. Taken together these essays demonstrate how these dissident identities shaped and contributed to the development of the Netherlands during the early modern period.
Was there such a thing as 'public opinion' before the age of newspapers and party politics? The essays in this collection show that in the Low Countries, at least, there certainly was. In this highly urbanised society, with high literacy rates and good connections, news and public debate could spread fast in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, enabling the growth of powerful opposition movements against the Crown, the creation of the Dutch Republic, and of the distinctive Netherlandish culture of the Golden Age.
The medieval landscape was marked by many sacred sites - churches and chapels, pilgrimage sites, holy wells - places where the spiritual and temporal worlds coincided. Although Max Weber argued that the Reformation brought about the 'disenchantment of the world', this 2005 volume explores the many dimensions of sacred space during and after the religious upheavals of the early modern period. The essays examine the subject through a variety of contexts across Europe from Scotland to Moldavia, but also across the religious divisions between the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Calvinist Churches. Based on research, these essays provide insights into the definition and understanding of sanctity in the post-Reformation era and make an important contribution to the study of sacred space.
Holy sites, both public - churches, monasteries, shrines - and more private - domestic chapels, oratories - populated the landscape of medieval and early modern Europe, providing contemporaries with access to the divine. These sacred spaces thus defined religious experience, and were fundamental to both the geography and social history of Europe over the course of 1,000 years. But how were these sacred spaces, both public and private, defined? How were they created, used, recognised and transformed? And to what extent did these definitions change over the course of time, and in particular as a result of the changes wrought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Taking a strongly interdisciplinary approach, this volume tackles these questions from the point of view of archaeology, architectural and art history, liturgy, and history to consider the fundamental interaction between the sacred and the profane. Exploring the establishment of sacred space within both the public and domestic spheres, as well as the role of the secular within the sacred sphere, each chapter provides fascinating insights into how these concepts helped shape, and were shaped by, wider society. By highlighting these issues on a European basis from the medieval period through the age of the reformations, these essays demonstrate the significance of continuity as much as change in definitions of sacred space, and thus identify long term trends which have hitherto been absent in more limited studies. As such this volume provides essential reading for anyone with an interest in the ecclesiastical development of western Europe from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
The Huguenots formed a privileged minority within early modern France. During the second half of the sixteenth century, they fought for freedom of worship in the French 'wars of religion' which culminated in the Edict of Nantes in 1598. The community was protected by the terms of the Edict for eighty-seven years until Louis XIV revoked it in 1685. The Huguenots therefore constitute a minority group tolerated by one of the strongest nations in early modern Europe, a country more often associated with the absolute power of the crown - in particular that of Louis XIV. This collection of essays explores the character and identity of the Huguenot movement by examining their culture and institutions, their patterns of belief and worship and their interaction with French state and society. The volume draws upon research by leading historians and specialists from across Europe and North America.
Between 1712 and 1715, the Convocation of the Church of England attempted to replace the existing informal orders used for the consecration of churches, chapels and churchyards with a single uniform rite. While these efforts have been associated with the erection of the Fifty New Churches to provide for the populous and expanding suburbs of London and Westminster, the discussions actually arose out of the political divisions between the bishops and the lower house of convocation. The efforts to establish an official order of consecration was also a response to the changed ecclesiastical climate that followed the Toleration Act of 1689, which allowed for the registration of Dissenter chapels. The Established Church found its religious hegemony threatened and the particular status of their places of worship, achieved through consecration, challenged. The Church responded to the criticism of their existing forms of consecration by reforming the liturgy as well as demonstrating the historical and legal basis for the practice. The sermons preached at the consecration or reopening of these churches provided a further opportunity for the clergy to justify the ceremony as well as to draw comparisons between these churches and Dissenting meeting-houses.
The celebration of the late medieval mass and other religious ceremonies was carefully delineated through the ecclesiastical regulations of the Catholic Church. This legalistic approach to worship was strongly criticized by both Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther before 1517. With the subsequent Reformation, Luther reacted against Catholic legalism which, he argued, ensnared the faithful and threatened Christian freedom. He was therefore particularly reluctant to specify what he considered to be the appropriate form, place and setting for his German mass. Luther utilized the concept of adiaphora to argue that such issues were matters of indifference as they were not fundamental for salvation. However, this stance was tempered by his realization that such Christian freedom actually did require direction to ensure that the Reformation message was not confused or lost.
The Orbis sensualium pictus, first published in 1658, was an important element in the pedagogical programme of the Czech Reformer, Jan Amos Komensky [Comenius]. Through the use of illustrations with an associated key, it was intended to educate young children about the names and terms of items and activities that they saw in the world around them. Although the significance of the work has long been recognised and has been studied in the wider context of Comenius’ philosophical ideas, comparatively little attention has been paid to the illustrations in this work. The intention of this article is to examine the portrayal of religious faiths in the Orbis sensualium pictus as well as to demonstrate that, in spite of Comenius’ rejection of confessional differences, they depict Christian worship and religious practice from a largely Lutheran perspective.
This article considers the institutional response to the Iconoclastic Fury and the iconoclasm of the early 1580s in the southern provinces of the Netherlands. Although the restoration of Catholicism is more often associated with the early seventeenth century, this article demonstrates that the reconstruction of churches and reestablishment of worship took place a generation earlier in the immediate aftermath of the religious violence. Furthermore this restoration was a priority for the government in the Netherlands, in particular for Margaret of Parma and her son Alexander Farnese, as they sought to regain control of the region and assert the authority of the crown. In particular, they encouraged the use of the ecclesiastical rites of consecration and reconciliation to symbolize the cleansing and purification of the religious landscape after the profane actions of the iconoclasts and adherents of the Reformed faith.
The burial ground created by William Blundell at the Harkirk on his Lancashire estate in 1611 was one of the few established after the English Reformation for the interment of Catholics. As he makes clear in his succinct account, Blundell established the graveyard due to the exceptional persecution of the time that had seen his co-religionists refused burial in the parish churchyard. The circumstances were very different from the almost contemporaneous churchyards associated with the chapels royal of Queen Henrietta Maria, which were ‘appointed to inter and bury such of her ladyship’s followers as shall chance to depart this life, according to the manner and form of the Church of Rome’.2 Although similarly enclosed to protect the sanctity of a place of burial, the Harkirk lacked official approval and the protection of the authorities. It operated for almost two decades until it was laid waste by the sheriff of Lancashire and his men in the early1630s, after Blundell had been found guilty in the court of Star Chamber of ‘suffering a buriall place in my Demaine’. Following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Harkirk came to be used again for burials, which continued into the eighteenth century, but during this later period it was almost exclusively priests who were interred there. The Harkirk provides a useful case study of how a confessional minority sought to maintain and uphold the religious propriety and practices that surrounded death and burial, in spite of the challenges posed by the Reformation and the established Church in England.