Thursday, November 17, 2011

Question from Mary R - Feasts and Saints' Days after the Reformation

My question is about medieval feast days and Saint's days (there seem to have been rather a lot of them:) Which were still observed after the Reformation?


Foose said...

The authority I would instinctively turn to on this question is Eamon Duffy, a historian who consistently presents a picture of post-Reformation England where most people clung to the Catholic past and maintained their religious traditions despite pressure from the authorities. All of my books are packed up in boxes right now, so I can't quote you directly from his works, but his very influential Voices of Morebath and Stripping of the Altars are available in Preview format on Google books.

For a less scholarly but still accurate take on post-Reformation practices, see Jeffrey Forgent's Daily Life in Elizabethan England, also on Google Books. When the book comes up, type in "holy days" in the sidebar search function; the first result that comes up, if you scroll down, will take you through a month-to-month calendar showing what parochial Elizabethans typically celebrated as holdovers from the old regime, depending on how much pressure their locality was under from radicalized Protestants. It does seem that quite a lot of saints' days and holy days were still observed, although names were changed and overtly Catholic ritual was considerably toned down. I would guess (although I'm not sure) that these days took on a more secularized aspect, feastings and mayings, etc., although that seemed to infuriate the precisians just as much.

I read just the other day in Judith Richards' Elizabeth I that the queen participated in the Maundy Thursday ceremony (washing the feet of the poor and distributing money), which I thought would be the first to go. So it's rather surprising how much of the Catholic-royal ritual regime held on. It may be that although Elizabeth was a Protestant, she was instinctively a conservative, and regarded these rituals as reinforcing her right to queenship.

Mary R said...

Thanks, Foose! This topic interested me and I didn't know where to look for information.