The pre-Reformation Church in England


Why was the Catholic Church so important to the lives of the ordinary people?

-This was the sole Christian Religion in all of western Europe and all were expected to attend church.

-Salvation could only be found through the following teachings of the Church (also known as the seven sacraments); 






-Extreme Unction

-the Eucharist (of these this was the most important)

Mass was said every Sunday and Holy Days. It was said in Latin and at the heart lay the Eucharist. People believed that by witnessing Transubstantiation, they were witnessing Christ's sacrifice. It was also believed that when the Priest held the bread above his head they were witnessing Christ's return to Earth. The congregation was separated from the Priest and they couldn't hear nor understand his words in Latin; however, this in no way devalued the experience of the common man. 


-People also believed that to die in a state of sin was to risk eternal damnation in the next world.

-The length of time spent in Purgatory depended on the number and nature od the sin commited so Catholics performed Penance on Earth,

The Community

-Church was a focal point of the community. The religiuous calender dictated people's lives. Religious plays were performed in English to instruct and to entertain.


-Saints were adopted by communities and individual to protect against misfortune, death and destruction.

-Saints had their specific power so statues were venerated and candles lit before them.

-Cult of Saints led to an upsurge of quantity and quality in religious art. Many advanced on pilgrimages in the hope it would quicken their advance to heaven.


-This came from the lay people showing their devotion to the Catholic Church. Bequests through wills leaving money to parishe were often made.

-'something approaching 50% of parish churhces were substantially remodelled, as citizens poured their new wealth into their religious lives. '

-The picture constructed here would be that of a population with a deep and unquestionning commintment to their faith.

What were the causes of disatisfaction with the Catholic Church?

Uneducated Priests

-Some parishes were led by uneducated priests who were unable to perform the traditional service.

Clerical Abuses

-Humanist reformers such as Thomas More and John Colet drew attention to common clerical abuses such as

  • simony-to purchase a clerical office from a leading cleric or prince.
  • pluralism-to hold more than one clerical office at once
  • non-residence-bishops who did not reside in their diocese but still collected tax
  • nepotism-donating  clerical post to a member of one's own family
  • sexual misconduct-ignorign vows of celibacy

Monks and Nuns

-Known as the regular clergy

-They devoted their lives to God through paryer and contemplation. (In 1509, there was roughly 800 houses in England)

-They were important to the local community as they cared for the elderly and provided education.

-Some had become wealthy through land rents and were living lives of country gentry.

Benefit of the Clergy

-This allowed for members of the clergy who has


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