Catholic England

Faith, religion and observance before the Reformation

Translated and Edited by R.N. Swanson

Catholic England

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9077-6
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £17.99
  • Published Date: November 2013
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Medieval history, Medieval History, History, History & Archaeology, European history: medieval period, middle ages, CE period up to c 1500, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, HISTORY / Medieval, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Sources


The Reformation transformed English religion. For many, the spirituality of the preceding period remains largely unknown, or overburdened with Protestant mythology of decadence. These sources seek to explore the nature of religious belief and practice in pre-Reformation England, using original source material to make the debates accessible.

This consideration of the sources begins with an analytical chapter discussing the varieties of spirituality in later medieval England and the ways in which they received expression, through participation in church services, actions like pilgrimages, charitable foundations, devotional readings and instruction. Opposition to prevailing spirituality, expressed through 'Lollardy', is also considered. The sources demonstrate with immediacy and potency these diverse expressions of faith and observance. Many of the documents are translated for the first time from unpublished manuscript material.

This study demonstrates the vitality of the pre-Reformation religious practices, but also addresses the key methodological questions which arise from the sources about the nature of the material; its reliability as historical evidence, and the validity of external actions as testimony to intellectual and emotional experience.


Introduction: in search of pre-Reformation English spirituality
I: The Bible
II: Disseminating the faith
III: The mass
IV: Designs for living and dying
V. Parish celebrations
VI: Private religion
VII. Saints, shrines, miracles and pilgrimage
VIII: Security for the living
IX: Security for the dead
X: Distributions at death: wills
XI: Complaint and opposition

Translator and Editor

R. N. Swanson is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Birmingham

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