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18 September 2014
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The Reformation: The People's View

By Carol Davidson Cragoe
Struggle for control

Image of screen from St John's Chapel in Leeds
The choir screen at St John's, Leeds - an example of Laudian principles ©
In the early 17th century, the position of the altar table continued to cause considerable controversy, as more extreme Protestants or Puritans wanted to move it into the nave.

This was in direct contrast to the desires of a more conservative faction, embodied by Archbishop Laud, who wanted to leave it permanently against the east wall of the chancel. Laud also wanted to surround the altar with a set of rails at which people would kneel during communion.

'A few churches built during the reign of Charles I did ... follow Laudian principles.'

The battle for supremacy of these directly opposed ideals was resolved during the Civil War, when even more radical ideas (the complete secularisation of places of worship) about church-based religion were aired.

A few churches built during the reign of Charles I did, however, follow Laudian principles. St John's, Leeds (built 1632-34), is the most impressive. It has an almost complete set of original fittings, including communion rails, two-decker pulpit and an elaborately carved screen incorporating the royal coat of arms.

The style of the building is a version of Perpendicular known as Gothic Survival. This term does not really explain the significance of the architecture. It was not an accidental hangover of Gothic styles, but a deliberate looking back to the traditional symbolism of the old order.

Published: 2005-02-07

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