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COLUMNS COMMEMORATING BRITISH HISTORY

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There is a certain charm about a form that has a starting-point and a closure; I think, for example, of memorial brasses in churches: first introduced in the early thirteenth century, they flourished exceedingly until the Reformation, when for various theological reasons most of them were torn up; most of the rest were done away with in the Civil War, when warlike uses, such as manufacturing bullets, were found for the alloy, leaving just a small dribble to carry on into the Victorian period. It enabled any 'boy that driveth the plough', in Tyndale's phrase provided he could read, and a good many could - to know the essentials of Christian theology, to go beyond the simple, if edifying, tales about Jesus, Our Lady and the Saints which were the staple of late medieval spirituality, and to form his own answer to the question 'What must I do to be saved?' Tyndale, of course, fell out with the Church authorities in England, fled to the Rhineland - then the centre of printing in northern Europe - where he published his biblical translations, and a good deal of polemical stuff which showed that he was becoming markedly Protestant.

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