Locality and Region Seminar - Tuesday 19 November

19 November, 2013 - 17:15
University of London, Senate House G34
Plan of Westbourne Church, West Sussex

Reclothing the churches:  sensory religious re-investment in the early modern English parish church.  

Speaker: Dr Jude Jones (University of Southampton)

The Reformation in England has been traditionally characterised as a period during which the sensory and sensual elements of the Catholic church were stripped away in favour of the Protestant promotion of a more cerebral liturgical concentration on text and the Biblical Word. However in the recent past art historians such as Nigel Llewellyn and Tara Hamling have been investigating the processes by which early modern Protestants were enabled to include and institute religious imagery both in the parish church and at home in ways which were acceptable to the Anglican establishment.

My recent archaeological research into the spatial and sensory qualities of the post-Reformation parish church suggests that although opportunities for sensory experience in general were reduced they were by no means excised and that those objects or performances which were developed were in themselves innately sensory. Since the architecture of medieval churches was not fit for purpose under a Protestant regime the spatial and material changes its liturgy evoked required new emotional and bodily encounters and produced new sensory religious understandings. Moreover as early English Protestantism fluctuated between radical Presbyterianism and Arminian ceremonialism these sensory understandings were forced to adapt from generation to generation.  This paper offers an analysis of how these new materialities were introduced, how they shared common elements with the early modern theatre and how they operated over time to retune the sensory perceptions of parishioners who were ostensibly being guided towards less embodied modes of religious experience.