The Tudor Society

Expert Talk: Gareth Russell – The Importance of Christianity

This month, historian Gareth Russell gives us a wonderful insight into the role of Importance of Christianity in the Medieval and Early Modern Period. As always, Gareth is charming and insightful with his examination of this important subject.

There are 6 comments Go To Comment

  1. D

    Delighted by Gareth’s talk. What he shared so needs saying. The centrality of Christianity in the Tudor century should not be airbrushed out of any account of those turbulent years. Any novelist or dramatist who doesn’t understand the central tenets of the faith shouldn’t be writing about a religious age. The reason is sometimes advanced that we have to soft-pedal the religious aspects because we are writing for a secular audience who won’t understand the nuances of Catholic-Protestant conflict. Hogwash! The challenge for us is not to rewrite history to make it more accessible, but to do our research thoroughly so that, whether or not we have a religious commitment, we can get alongside the 16 th. C, people who did. In that way we stand some chance of bringing the period to life. That, I believe, is what intelligent readers – like members of the Tudor Society – expect of us. As Gareth says, we owe it to our ancestors to represent them as accurately as we can. We also owe it to our readers/viewers not to patronise them with stories of modern heroes and heroines strutting about in period costume. And, I’ll go a step further: we owe it to that subject we all love, value and believe to be important – History.

    1. C

      To say I agree completely is putting it mildly!

  2. B

    Outstanding analysis!!!

  3. G

    Thank you so very much Derek, Clare and Beth – I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It’s a topic I feel so strongly about, which I think makes the study of History more enjoyable, more challenging and more honest.

  4. J

    Thanks so much Gareth. Interesting talk. I have always felt that ,Anne Boleyn saw herself that way. Can you imagine how very betrayed she felt by God in His not giving her a living son ? I also don’t think people always understand ” separation of church and state “. Your religion and your politics were, a lot of time the same thing. Enjoyed it xoxo

  5. R

    I have only found this wonderful talk because I was reading the article on Martin Luther 500 and this is very true in relation to how he was shown. We cannot understand Luther or anyone from the fifteenth century or sixteenth century without understanding the daily piety of ordinary late Medieval Catholic traditional teachings. It is unrealistic to show Luther or Anne Boleyn or anyone else as a radical Protestant for example because they were not. Luther was stunned and appalled at the extreme destructive power his protest and writing gave to the more violent elements of society who took up the call to arms in order to demand change and freedom in Germany. He may have himself have written with vile and abuse, but he was not a man of violence. Yet he couldn’t stop others from using his words in this way. Nor had he intended a breach with the church, this was a response to his excommunication.

    We have to understand in any writing about the past how religious devotion governed every aspect of life. Just read a will or two and the devotion of the dying human being is clear. I think some authors are actually afraid that they will offend somebody by even admitting Christianity had a positive and real influence across Europe and other parts of the world. We have to be authentic. We have to show people in a respectful way. I completely agree, you need to understand what religious life was like and the meaning of every system of belief and how varied it was. No one school of thought or act of devotion existed in some areas, but many different expressions of faith. An example can be found in the area around Mansfield where Luther’s family came from where several charismatic groups popped up in the late fifteenth century, all within the accepted form of the Catholic Faith and all without any problems. When we talk about reforming the church and the small groups of reformers in England, we have to remember that they represented many different ideas and were not Protestant. Many orthodox Catholic thinkers were interested in reform, without leaping out of the Catholic Church. However, the majority of people didn’t want to be ‘reformed’ but to hold onto their long held beloved customs and acts of charity and devotion. They wanted pilgrimage, they wanted the Mass and the Rosary and couldn’t care less what language the Bible was in. They wanted what was comfortable and familiar. If we don’t get that or present this in our writing, then perhaps we should indeed leave the writing to others. The same can be said with the less beautiful aspects of faith at this time, the ruthless methods the Government authorities, on all sides put down what they called heresy or in the case of Catholic martyrs, sedition and treason. The ruthless attitudes may not rest easy with our idea of Christianity, but in many ways it was a normal way of thinking and it is not up to us as modern historians to rationalize it, condemn it or exaggerate it. It should simply be placed within an authentic, well researched historical reality. It is almost impossible to get into the mindset of the past, but it can be done if we read their own words and allow the people of the past to speak with their own voice.

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Expert Talk: Gareth Russell – The Importance of Christianity