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18 September 2014
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The Reformation: The People's View

By Carol Davidson Cragoe
Image of bishops leading marchers ont he Pilgrimage of Grace
Bishops lead Catholic faithful on Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536 ©

The Reformation changed almost everything about community life - from the decor of parish churches, to care for the sick, the old and the poor.

Parochial revolution

The reaction of ordinary people to the Reformation is perhaps one of the most difficult to gauge. Despite the popular protest in 1536, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, there was a general acceptance of the Dissolution. Indeed, the way in which society embraced Protestant doctrine suggests that there was a majority who thought the Church was ripe for change.

'New parish churches built after the Civil War embraced some of the radical ideas that had found expression in the Commonwealth ...'

The way in which reform was expressed can be seen today, in churches stripped of ornamentation, imagery, colour and decoration. The absence of these items reflects the impact of liturgical practice on the way people worshipped, and how the architectural barriers were brought down.

Once the Catholic mystery of the sacrament had been removed, the way interior space was used inside churches altered forever. New parish churches built after the Civil War embraced some of the radical ideas that had found expression in the Commonwealth, whilst a growing number of 'secular' religions abandoned churches altogether in favour of meeting houses.

However, the Reformation had another far-reaching consequence, which was to shift the burden of pastoral care from monastic institutions onto the parishes. The seeds for the secular takeover of the ‘journey of life’ were sown in this period, when care for the poor, sick and needy were embraced by the parish, and records noting births, marriages and deaths were kept locally.

Published: 2005-02-07



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