Skip to comments.A Sad Reminder of the Art Lost in the Years After the Reformation
Posted on 10/08/2013 5:24:17 PM PDT by marshmallow
A new exhibition at Tate Britain highlights the scale of destruction to artworks in the Tudor period a staggering amount of books and music were also destroyed
The slashed and broken medieval images displayed in the new Art Under Attack exhibition at the Tate are a reminder of what we lost in the hundred and fifty years after the Reformation. Even now there is denial about the scale of the erasing of our medieval past. The Tate estimates we lost 90% of our religious art. It was probably even more than that. The destruction was on a scale that far outstrips the modern efforts of Islamist extremists. And it was not only art we lost, but also books and music.
We think of Henry VIII and the destruction of the monasteries, but that was not the end of the destruction, it marked the beginning. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, hailed the reign of his son, the boy king Edward VI, as that of a new Josiah, destroyer of idols. After his coronation an orgy of iconoclasm was launched. In churches rood screens, tombs with their prayers for the dead, and stain glass windows, were smashed. The Elizabethan antiquarian John Stow complained, some of this Christian Taliban judged every image to be an idol, so that not only religious art, but even the secular thirteenth century carvings of kings in Ludgate were broken.
Books too were burned on a vast scale. Earlier this year Melvyn Bragg was on TV telling us about William Tyndale during the reign of Henry VIII, and the forces of Catholic conservatism blocking publication of his English bible with its attached Lutheran commentaries. But conservatives were not alone in wishing to suppress books that contained ideas they did not agree with. When the monasteries were suppressed.....
(Excerpt) Read more at catholicherald.co.uk ...
One man’s art is another man’s idol.
Dont forget, the Protestants of the Reformation often hated beautiful things.
No less an authority than the Protestant Ralph Adams Cram, a world renowned expert on art and architecture, once wrote:
“From the outbreak of the Protestant revolution, the old kinship between beauty and religion was deprecated and often forgotten. Not only was there, amongst the reformers and their adherents, a definite hatred of beauty and a determination to destroy it when found; there was also a conscientious elimination of everything of the sort from the formularies, services, and structures that applied to their new religion. This unprecedented break between religion and beauty had a good deal to do with that waning interest in religion itself. Protestantism, with its derivative materialistic rationalism, divested religion of its essential elements of mystery and wonder, and worship of its equally essential elements of beauty. Under this powerful combination of destructive influences, it is not to be wondered at that, of the once faithful, many have fallen away. Man is, by instinct, not only a lover of beauty, he is also by nature a ritualist, that is to say, he does, when left alone, desire form and ceremony, if significant. If this instinctive craving for ceremonial is denied to man in religion, where it preeminently belongs, he takes it on for himself in secular fields; elaborates ritual in secret societies, in the fashion of his dress, in the details of social custom. He also, in desperation, invents new religions and curious sects working up for them strange rituals . . . extravagant and vulgar devices that are now the sardonic delight of the ungodly. ... If once more beauty can be restored to the offices of religion, many who are now self-excommunicated from their Church will thankfully find their way back to the House they have abandoned. The whole Catholic Faith is shot through and through with this vital and essential quality of beauty. It is this beauty implicit in the Christian revelation and its operative system that was explicit in the material and visible Churches and their art. We must contend against the strongest imaginable combination of prejudices and superstitions. These are of two sorts. There is first, the heritage of ignorance and fear from the dark ages of the sixteenth century. I am speaking of non-Catholic Christianity. Ignorance of authentic history, instigated by protagonists of propaganda; fear of beauty, because all that we now have in Christian art was engendered and formulated by and through Catholicism; fear that the acceptance of beauty means that awful thingsurrender to superstition. It is fear that lies at the root of the matter, as it does in so many other fields of mental activity.” (Radio Replies, vol. 2: 1052)
“Dont forget, the Protestants of the Reformation often hated beautiful things.”
Reactions to sin often swing to the other extreme. Doesn’t make either right.
Speaking of which, the Israelites called, and they'd like their bronze serpent back.
If "the art" is the private property of "the one man"....the "other man" probably ought to resist the temptation to destroy it.
Or has the Catholic Church forfeited the right to own its own property?
Reactions to sin? Oh please. The Reformation in England was neither popular nor necessary. It was imposed upon a good people.
“Reactions to sin often swing to the other extreme. Doesnt make either right.”
There was no sin in producing beautiful religious art that raised people’s spirits. Catholics were right to produce the art. Protestants were wrong to destroy it.
My gut reaction is...Oh well.
The lost knowledge of history and the past from the destruction of books is the more worse crime by far, but I have to say that at the end of the day I'm not losing much sleep over that either.
I never was much of an art lover.
Tell them to talk to the Orthodox: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.monomakhos.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/serpent-1.png&imgrefurl=http://www.monomakhos.com/crozier-and-cadduceus-serpentine-imagery-in-christian-iconography/&h=436&w=328&sz=159&tbnid=jqC0wcIJm7Ri3M:&tbnh=114&tbnw=86&zoom=1&usg=__PMrwTPNrYZ1lnEtHV3UUuTG15zk=&docid=Q_5z-t2sBhPquM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=S6ZUUpm_JemN3AXcuoDABw&ved=0CD0Q9QEwBA
Cromwell learned his trade well, later employing it for Henry VIII in the general dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1540, destroying in five short years what a thousand years had built. As Henrys chief minister he embarked upon the destruction of an estimated 1,300 abbeys, priories, nunneries, and hospitals, some 2,374 free chapels and chantries, and presided over the acquisition and despoliation of their lands, and of their people.
Live by the Established Church, die by the Established Church.
The art was created and collected when the Catholic Church was the Established Church of England, Wales, Scotland.
Then the politics changed. The government, of which the Church was part, took a different tack, and had something different they wanted from the the branch of the government that was the church, and their assets were scrapped or liquidated.
I think those Florencians want their stuff back too.
“My gut reaction is...Oh well.”
So, if someone takes all your nice stuff - all the stuff that took some art to produce - but leaves your books behind you’re okay with that?
Well, the Anglicans have turned Canterbury Cathedral (and all others) into a museum. You have to pay to go in. We’d appreciate it if they would give it back (and all the others, too).
If the bulding was paid for with donations from the people, or with tax money, then perhaps the Catholic Church should submit a bid and try to buy it back.
“Then the politics changed. The government, of which the Church was part...”
That’s a complete falsehood. That is proved to be a falsehood by the Act of Supremacy in 1534. If the Church was part of the state then no such Act would have been necessary. Learn some history before you post about it.
I just can't get too worked up about it, any more than I can get worked up about Julius Caesar double-crossing Crassus and Pompey.
“Dont forget, the Protestants of the Reformation often hated beautiful things.
Reactions to sin often swing to the other extreme. Doesnt make either right.”
Sorry but you need to be more specific. Beauty is not sinful. If you want to say that reformers were reacting to abuses of authority and etc. in the church, and in their blind rage they became extreme and also attacked beautiful art that was designed to help people meditate on the glory of God, I get it. But even so it sure calls into question the motives behind their initial reaction.
Wouldn’t that be Florentines and not “Florencians”.
Catholics used to burn people st the stake for “heresy”. There’s a beam in your eye that needs attending to.
Sad. There’s an English seminary in Spain that does reparations for this. the Spanish bishops set up seminaries for the Irish and the English during the repression of Catholics in those countries.
The English and Protestant French attacked villages on the coasts of Spain and would attack, plunder and destroy the church - sometimes locking the priest and people inside before setting fire to it - and the sail away.
The Protestants often hacked off the faces and arms of the statues, and this monastery in Valladolid does reparation for them, praying for the souls of the Protestants who committed these acts.
lol, right. Better than Florentite I guess... I shoulda remembered the spinach !
“No, but this is quite in the past. It was not right to destroy privately owned art, but many terrible things have happened down through history.”
So...we shouldn’t discuss them or have opinions about them?
“I just can’t get too worked up about it, any more than I can get worked up about Julius Caesar double-crossing Crassus and Pompey.”
But why would you since you’re not a Roman? If you’re a Catholic or a Protestant, and actually care about your faith, you would probably have an opinion “worked up about it”. If you’re a Catholic or Protestant and it matters nothing to you, then why bother being either Catholic or Protestant if good or evil don’t matter?
“Catholics used to burn people st the stake for heresy. Theres a beam in your eye that needs attending to.”
No, there isn’t. Protestants executed people for heresy or witchcraft or petty crimes - because that was the practice of the times. There’s no beam in my eye at all.
. . . the spiritual tenure of the ecclesiastical benefice was a contractual obligation carrying the weight of inviolability, land held in benefit permanently from the king and enjoying his protection with associated reciprocal obligation. The English monarchs of the 15th century had maintained that obligation, founding new monastic institutions and encouraging reform within old ones. Such care and patronage was readily apparent in the separate reigns of Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, and even in that of Henry VII.
It is actually pretty accurate.
Henry took over the Church, and as head of both church and state, did what he wanted with church property.
The Act of Supremacy didn’t give him power as head of the church, it rather recognized that he was already head of the church.
The conflating of church and state before 1584 is shown by Henry’s application for dispensations.
Your problem is, that Henry’s established church and state with state at the top. You perhaps preferred established church and state with church at the top.
As an American, I prefer no established church, but the past is a different country. They do things differently there.
“Then the politics changed. The government, of which the Church was part...
Thats a complete falsehood. That is proved to be a falsehood by the Act of Supremacy in 1534. If the Church was part of the state then no such Act would have been necessary. Learn some history before you post about it.”
>> You are absolutely right in your response. The Church was not a part of the government in England, cf. Thomas a Becket and the Constitutions of Clarendon. Indeed some argue that the healthy tension between Church and royal authority in England directly led to the Magna Carta and the idea that individuals have rights in law against the sovereign.
Why buy back what is properly yours to begin with? They will wait until the thieves become contrite, confess their sins, and return the property.
Catholics and others were burned at the stake in Calvin’s Geneva too. And the Protestants put to death far, far more witches than did Catholics.
Of course there were alternative churches.
For example the Jews were emphatically not part of the established church. Their synagogues were built by them, and their property was not dependent on land held in benefit permanently from the king and enjoying his protection.
Perhaps Henry didn’t think that the Established Church had kept their reciprocal obligation. He wanted a son, and the Spanish Catholic princess to whom he was married was unable to give him one. In return for his benefits, he perhaps expected a certain flexibility, and when he didn’t get it, he felt his need to keep the reciprocal obligations somewhat lessened.
Protestants burned confused old women they called witches. The Dutch freebooters strapped Jesuits to the sides of their ships as living fenders. German Lutheran troops looted the Vatican and staged orgies in Rome’s basilicas.
There’s no monopoly on atrocity.
‘....antiquarian John Stow complained, some of this Christian Taliban’
Please this type of hyperbole and over dramatic explication tends to make the author’s point less valuable. The author acts as if the roman church never destroyed any art work at all ever. To suggest that only the ‘evil’ protestants destroyed artwork is nonsense and defies history.
If you actually want to make a point try to find something less hysterically presented
The property of the Church did not belong to Henry. The land and buildings belonged to the Church and, simultaneously . to her people. Henry was just a pig.
Edward VI was out for a ride in the countryside when he saw a completely destroyed building. He asked about how it had come to such a condition. He was told that it was once a great monastery and was destroyed during the reign of his father. Edward answered sadly that it was a shame that such a beautiful building should have had such a terrible end.
You left out the plight of the Church and it’s priests in the hands of Robespierre. :-<
“There was no sin in producing beautiful religious art that raised peoples spirits. Catholics were right to produce the art. Protestants were wrong to destroy it.”
In a church that had so many problems, including idolatry, the reaction in the Reformation swung too far to the other side. This was an example.
I don’t support either side. If you do, fine. Makes for a more interesting discussion.
The cathedral was built by the people for their own use. When the RC church wasn’t holding services, another provider was found.
There is a wondeful old church building in Cashel Ireland. It was sold to a restauranteur in 1968. Chez Hans gets great reviews. I have eaten there several times and it is very good indeed.
And he could have taken the same ride in any direction and come upon the same sad view anywhere in England . . . although some of the buildings were razed to the ground completely and left no trace of their former beauty.
“Sorry but you need to be more specific. Beauty is not sinful. “
As I specified just upthread, the reaction was not against beauty or art. It was a reaction to the Roman church that had spawned all kinds of abuses. When the church refused to even discuss its abuses, the reformation movement was spawned. It too had abuses that swung in the opposite extreme.
I support neither the original idolatry and failures of the first, nor the overreach of the reactionary movement which were failures.
The people had a government. The government, with the people represented through its Parliament asserted its rights. The foreign church didn’t like it.
Nothing worse than a person who uses religion to push their non-religious ideas.
“Reactions to sin? Oh please. The Reformation in England was neither popular nor necessary. It was imposed upon a good people.”
Thanks for sharing your opinion. Obviously, I disagree with it, as do hundreds of millions of others.
“goodbye Mr. Chips”
they buried them next to the people that the protestants exeecuted in this country during the nSalem witch trials....
Don’t forget the Vikings! They would loot the churchs and Irish monastaries too.
And the Crusaders! The Catholic Crusaders looted Contantinopole in the 4th Crusade, and had previously pirated through the Red Sea.
“It is actually pretty accurate.”
No, it is false and the history of England before Henry VIII is replete with proof of that. Martyrdom of Thomas Becket ring a bell?
“Henry took over the Church,....”
An admission of which completely disproves your earlier claim. First you said: “The government, of which the Church was part...” and now you say that wasn’t so. Which is it?
“The Act of Supremacy didnt give him power as head of the church, it rather recognized that he was already head of the church.”
No. It gave him powers he never had using a legal fiction - that the king was somehow always the boss of the Church even though there was no way anyone actually believed that. Even Henry never believed it and never proposed it until he realized he could defy the pope and seize control of the Church which no English monarch had legally controlled or spiritually controlled before. If everyone believed it no penalty and no oath would have been needed.
“The conflating of church and state before 1584 is shown by Henrys application for dispensations.”
No. First, you mean 1534 and not 1584. If you can’t even get the year right you might want to reconsider engaging in any debate about a topic which might be completely foreign to you. Also, if by “Henrys application for dispensations” you mean his securing of a dispensation to marry Catherine, that had nothing to do with “conflating of church and state” in itself. If we had lived at the same time and had the same situation, we too could have done the same thing.
“Your problem is, that Henrys established church and state with state at the top. You perhaps preferred established church and state with church at the top.”
What I would have preferred is what existed before Henry which is neither one of the things you just mentioned.
“As an American, I prefer no established church, but the past is a different country. They do things differently there.”
Do? Did. What you prefer is immaterial. What was and is true is all that matters.
“Your problem is, that Henrys established church and state with state at the top. You perhaps preferred established church and state with church at the top.
As an American, I prefer no established church, but the past is a different country. They do things differently there.”
Pure, unadulterated fantasy.
The Catholic Church in England, preceded the monarchy and will be around when the monarchy (and its established church) disappears, which by the looks of things, could be any day now.
FYI, in the 300 years preceding the Reformation there were many attempts by the state to influence the jurisdiction of the Church and several anti-papal laws , such as the Statutes of Provisors and Praemunire were passed indicating clearly that the Catholic Church was not the established church, although the monarchy wished to subject its ecclesiastical functions to temporal powers.
The English bishops refused to consent to the acts and had their opposition tabled in Parliament.
The history of state antagonism to Catholicism in Britain doesn't begin with Henry VIII although he is the best known and most virulent example. It existed before the Reformation.......a strange situation for an "established" church.
Shame on Moses
“In a church that had so many problems, including idolatry, the reaction in the Reformation swung too far to the other side. This was an example.”
No. There was no idolatry and such a practice has always been abhorrent to the Church and absolutely forbidden.
“I dont support either side. If you do, fine. Makes for a more interesting discussion.”
Not supporting either side doesn’t mean you have to get the facts wrong. Your “facts” are wrong.