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The Stripping of the Altars

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  975 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Kindle Edition, 666 pages
Published May 28th 2005 by Yale University Press (first published 1992)
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E.M. Anderson Based on a comparison of the pagination according the table of And considering my theological history professor didn't even know there …moreBased on a comparison of the pagination according the table of And considering my theological history professor didn't even know there was a second edition until I found out about it and looked into as I wrote a paper on the first edition, I'm guessing any potential changes are too insignificant for the second edition to have made waves. It's literally just so Duffy could write a 30-page preface explaining why he doesn't have to make changes despite critiques of the first edition.(less)
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Oct 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This revisionist behemoth can be divided into two parts. The first and longer section outlines the characteristics of late medieval Catholicism, its defining ideas and practices. He examines this topic from the perspectives of both laity and clergy, using a variety of sources including, unusually, the material conditions of the churches themselves. If you don't know what a rood screen is and couldn't care less, this part may be slow going for you, but it is necessary to establish the foundations ...more
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Hugely, hugely detailed book that does a very nice job of critiquing what had been the prevailing viewpoint of the English Reformation: that medieval Catholicism had petered out, with disinterested clerics and semi-pagan peasants only revitalized by the influence of Protestant reform. It's an inaccurate way of looking at things (or at best oversimplified), and Duffy does a really nice job lining up piece after piece of evidence that suggests that medieval Catholicism wasn't worn out or despised ...more
Tom Elrod
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval, history
What an exhausting book. That's not a criticism, simply how I felt once getting through it. Duffy's central argument is reminiscent of Simpson, but whereas Simpson used rhetorical showmanship to support his points, Duffy drowns you in information. This is really good information, of course. It reads like an anthropological study of medieval english religion, really convincing you of the vitality and fascinating complexity of traditional religious belief. It'll be a great resource to return to.

Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c. 1400-1580. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

In The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy lays down a formidable challenge to long-held notions of the Protestant Reformation in England. He upsets a conventional narrative, as old as the Reformation itself, which portrays the pre-Reformation church in England as spiritually lethargic or worse, and that the Protestant movement met a deep need in the English people whi
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative. Intense reading. Lots of details. Skimmed portions that had no relevance to my research but overall it was insightful in shedding light into middle ages Catholicism. The chapter on Mary I was particularly illuminating -- and went some little way in restoring her reputation.
Ioseph Bonifacius (Ioannes)
A book every person interested in the history of mankind should read, I heard many saying that it is a book that is very moving especially for a Catholic.
Gustav Klimt
Dec 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great and important book, but it would be nice if Mr. Duffy were quicker to own or acknowledge his biases. While it's certainly important to have a book that challenges the Whiggish orthodoxy (reformation=good, catholics=bad) of other Reformation histories, much of what Duffy and his predecessor Haigh havep produced has been helpfully problematized in recetn work by Peter Lake and others. ...more
David Kenvyn
It is a long time since the first publication of “The Stripping of the Altars” and in that time it has become a classic account of the spirituality and religious practices of 15th century England.
On re-reading it, there is a nagging doubt in my mind. There is only passing reference to the political background in which this spirituality developed. In the period from 1399 to 1509, there were eight kings of England. Three of them were deposed and murdered (Richard II, Henry VI and Edward V). Two d
David Bruyn
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: church-history
Toooooo much information. But the thesis is undeniably proven: medieval English Christianity was healthy, robust, and affected every nook and cranny of life.
Patricia Finney
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First he rebuilds for us the way the English Medieval churches worked, packed tight with altars, figures of saints, rich reliquaries (caskets) for alleged saints' bones and teeth, elaborate roodscreens to hide the high altar, paintings and jewelled and embroidered banners. Churches must have looked like the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts!

Each of the astonishing number of sacred things had its use and meaning, its symbolism and its story, now mostly forgotten. Many of them were "apotropaic" - a
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fides-et-ratio
Incredible history of the Faith "on the ground" as if were, in medieval England. Dense at times; there's so much going on! ...more
Roger Burk
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reader is buried under every possible piece of evidence that medieval Catholicism was vibrant and beloved among the rural English through the 1530s, and they were puzzled and dismayed when the enforcers from London showed up and told them that their beloved images, relics, masses, and ceremonies must all go. The evidence comes from wills, charters, popular books, commonplace books, and so forth. It is all not quite totally convincing. Certainly the English Reformation came from an urban inte ...more
Vegetable Person
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
George McCombe
While the United Kingdom is these days Protestant in name only, centuries of ingrained anti-Catholicism continues to leave a profound mark in many aspects of its culture, not least the mainstream perception of England’s separation from Rome at the Reformation. While there has always been a dissenting minority who challenged the established view, the myth of a glorious Reformation freeing shackled Englishmen from the yoke of Roman tyranny and superstition has survived for a very long time without ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars is a monumental work of revisionist history, which challenges the orthodox Whig interpretation of the English Reformation. The Whig interpretation of the Protestant Reformation in England sees the coming of the Reformation as a another progressive step in history, one that brought the English church --stagnant and mired in archaic Catholic superstition-- into a fulfilling, modern, and progressive protestant era. True to the Whig interpretation, this view ...more
Justin Evans
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
Duffy expresses surprise that this became a best-seller, and no shit: this is some detailed, historiographically-conscious, "I'm going to assume you know all the main events" stuff. It's also gloriously interesting, and surprisingly readable. ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although scholarship at the time had focused on Catholicism as a weakening religion within England, merely requiring a catalyst, Duffy argues that it was an important and powerful part of daily life before the Reformation. This argument rejects the notion that the English Reformation was inevitable, instead seeing it as a movement imposed from above by the English crown.

Aspects of Duffy's book is unconvincing (mainly because of his obvious bias), but ultimately it is largely convincing - at leas
J. Alfred
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really massive work of historical scholarship. Duffy examines seemingly every extant document from the late-medieval/ early modern period to provide a charitable, textured look at "Traditional Religion" (that is, Roman Catholicism) in England before and in the generation or so after Henry's split. This will make you more knowledgeable about the world, and indeed about human nature. It will also give you a bunch of historical trivia, and as a physical object can be used to, among other ...more
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This mammoth of a book is often labeled as a “revisionist” history, which is a meaningless shorthand unless one knows the subject under revision. That subject is the notion that, on the eve of the English Reformation, Catholicism was a spent force, a hodgepodge of superstition and clerical corruption. In this view, Reformation could not come fast enough to this world of incomprehensible prayers in a language unknown to the vast majority of the people; of idolatrous worship and veneration of imag ...more
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A vibrant, passionate account of pre-Reformation Catholicism. A wonderful tour de force of 'revisionist' counter-Whig Reformation history, although I know Duffy opposes the term! Duffy movingly captures the splendour of traditionalist religion before the 1530s break wit Rome, and conveys the cataclysmic impact of the fundamental religious changes in the following decades, affecting the treasured traditions and rituals of an entire nation.

The introduction lays bare Duffy's aims, including his bol
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will admit that I had to heavily skim this one to get through it in a timely manner, but I feel that Duffy puts his argument out enough times in prominent places that I have understood much of what the book is trying to say.

Duffy's book is a elegiac piece of historical writing that attempts to recapture the spirit and historical fact of "traditional religion" in England. The traditional religion here is to me a bit misleading, as it asserts a primacy of Christian religion in the isles, even a
Michael Bully
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly a classic work in looking at the The Reformation in England. The author tries to build a case to show that the late medieval Church was popular, woven into the fabric of people's lives and its devotions showed regard for the weak and the poor. The Church was engaging well with the rise of printing, new religious literature appearing. The Reformation is presented as an ongoing process starting with Henry VIII, but becoming more strident under the reign of Edward IV , then triumphing und ...more
Richard Morrison
Eamon Duffy's definitive history of the state of Catholic worship in England in Tudor times has cultivated a large following since the first edition was published in 1992. Originally intended to refute the widespread belief that traditional religion was spiritually exhausted and unpopular with the ordinary people in England at the time of the Henrician Reformation, the only reason that its thesis is arguably less compelling today is that it has tilted the entire landscape of historical scholarsh ...more
Cecilie Larsen
To start off, you're expected to be able to read Middle English and possibly a few latin words. There's a lot of old English quotes used to make certain point and if you can't read them you lose out.

You really have to have some (somewhat thorough) knowledge of general Christians rituals and terms to understand what is going on most of the time. I though I did, but apparently not, and as so I was lost through most of the lengthy descriptions of rituals and traditions. Were this a book about medie
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
The English Reformation is surely a pivotal moment in world history, but it is a challenging one to understand and appreciate. Source material is dense, historians have chewed over the period for centuries, and it is easy to simplify enormous transformations to epitaphs of "Bloody Mary" and Henry VIII and his wives. Thankfully, Duffy is an articulate and exhaustive historian, and his book is the same, providing a solid inspection of the religious practices and cultural transformations (or lack t ...more
A quote on the back cover of my copy says this is "one of those books that comes along once in a generation" and, unusually, this isn't particularly hyperbolic.

This work IS magisterial, and fascinating, and eminently readable even to those with no official scholarly background, and just personal interest in the subject. Duffy has a real gift with words and with painting such vivid pictures of past religious experiences and expressions. I admit that I have always been led to believe that pre-Ref
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buy
The English speaking world is unconsciously biased toward a Protestant reading of history due to the Anglican schism's success in supplanting Catholicism in England. However, this thorough study shows the vibrancy of English Catholicism prior to Henry VIII's hunt for an heir. This translated into difficulty, reversals and moderation of reforms over the reigns of Henry, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. The insights into state coercion and financial implications in determining the religious makeup of E ...more
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
Duffy combines jaw-dropping scholarship with a very readable style, This book challenged much of what I thought I knew about the English Reformation and the popular Catholicism it displaced.
Joseph Sverker
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, changes much of my view on pre-reformation England.
Duffy uses original documents to explore what it meant to ordinary Englishmen and Englishwomen when Henry VII's Reformation swept away the Church they loved.
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Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and former President of Magdalene College.

He describes himself as a "cradle Catholic" and specializes in 15th to 17th century religious history of Britain. His work has done much to overturn the popular image of late-medieval Catholicism in England as moribund, and instead presents it as a vibrant cultural forc

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