Tudor Religion

1 January 2017

The two major religions in Tudor England were the Catholic and Protestant religions. In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” on the church door at Wittenberg against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences. The convictions and beliefs in the Catholic and Protestant religions were so strong that they led to the executions of many adherents to both of these Tudor religions. Tudor religions changed constantly during the Tudor Dynasty and was dictated by the views of the reigning monarch.

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Before the early 1500’s the people of England all practised the Roman Catholic religion. The practises of the Catholic religion were questioned during the Reformation and the beliefs of men such as the German Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) who protested at some of the actions of the Catholic church and prompted a new religion called Protestantism. In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” on the church door at Wittenberg against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences.

The term ‘Protestant’ was adopted when supporters of Martin Luther formally protested against efforts to limit the spread of Luther’s new religious ideas. Traditional forms of religious observance focusing upon the parish church were still in the ascendant among the majority of townspeople in the early 16th century. Bequests were made for the maintenance of chapels, guilds, chantries, altars, statues and for requiem masses and prayers for the dead. In 1506, for example, alderman John Bardfield endowed an obit for himself, his parents, his two wives and all Christians for 100 years. (fn. 5) Three perpetual chantries were established in the late 15th century and another as late as 1523; major work was carried out on several parish churches and the town granted land to the Crutched friars in 1516 to endow a mass ‘for the further prosperity of the town’. Before the early 1500’s the people of England all practised the Roman Catholic religion. The practises of the Catholic religion were questioned during the Reformation and the beliefs of men such as the German Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) who protested at some of the actions of the Catholic church and prompted a new religion called Protestantism.

In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” on the church door at Wittenberg against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences. The term ‘Protestant’ was adopted when supporters of Martin Luther formally protested against efforts to limit the spread of Luther’s new religious ideas. Catholics believed that Church Services and the Bible should be in Latin whereas Protestants believed that Church Services and the Bible should be in the language of the people so that everyone could understand them.

Tudor Catholics firmly believed that Priests were the link between God and the people and that the Pope was ordained by God. Catholic Priests were viewed as special and expected to devote their lives to God and remain unmarried and wear elaborate robes. Tudor Protestants believed that people could find God without a priest or a Pope and that Ministers were ordinary people who should lead normal lives and wear ordinary clothes. Tudor Catholics believed that Priests and the Pope were able to forgive sins – at a price.

Gifts, or indulgences, were given to the Catholic church to absolve people of their sins whereas Protestants believed that only God could forgive sins. Catholics believed that Churches should be designed to celebrate God and elaborately decorated and adorned their churches with statues and shrines. Tudor Protestants believed that Churches should be plain allowing the people to concentrate on the sermons Mary I, Queen of England, unpleasantly remembered as “the Bloody Mary” on account of the religious persecutions which prevailed during her reign, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

After being crowned queen of England , Mary immediately went to work bringing the Roman Catholic faith back to England. She initially did this by rescinding the religious proclamations of Edward VI, and replacing them with old English laws enforcing heresy against the Church. In carrying out the last action, Mary earned her nickname, “Bloody Mary,” because during her reign, she had more than 300 persons burned at the stake for heresy. Among them was the Archbishop of Canterbury,  Thomas Cranmer.

Chiefly because of her support of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, she was never really able to gain the support of nobles and most of her countrymen. Upon Elizabeth’s accession, she was keen to create a Protestant Church again and set about doing so in 1559. Parliament was subsequently summoned to meet to consider the Reformation Bill and create a new Church. This Bill ordered that ministers should not wear Catholic vestments, it allowed ministers to marry, banned images from churches and confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Head of the Church of England.

The 1559 Church Settlement established the Church of England in terms of its organisation and religious belief. It was a distinct version of moderate Protestantism which was disliked by both Cathlics and more extreme Protestants, known as Puritans. However, Elizabeth managed to overcome this resistance and her reign saw the permanent establishment of the Church of England without any fundamental change after 1559. The final religious settlement recognised royal supremacy within the church.

The Act of Supremacy made Elizabeth Supreme Governor of the Church and church officials were required to take an oath of obedience to Elizabeth. Neither zealous Catholics or Protestants were willing to accept a woman as Head of the Church – hence Elizabeth’s compromise of taking the title ‘Supreme Governor’ as opposed to ‘Head’. The heresy laws passed in the reign of Mary were repealed and the celebration of Communion in both kinds was confirmed. Catholic bishops in the Lords were hostile to this but were eventually outnumbered in voting terms and the Act of Supremacy was confirmed.

The arrest and imprisonment in the Tower of two catholic bishops during the Easter Recess of 1559 may have also ‘persuaded’ some Catholics in the Lords that it was in their best interests to support the new Queen. The Act of Uniformity (1559) just about passed the Lords. It was Elizabeth’s attempt to ensure as many believers as was possible could find salvation. The 1552 Prayer Book was to be used in services while the wording of the 1549 Prayer Book was to be incorporated into the Communion service, so that a generous interpretation as to what was meant by the ‘real presence’ could be incorporated into services.

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