Oxford Junior Year Abroad on Catholic Culture

Pope John Paul II has said on many occasions that the identity of Europe and its history is not understandable without Christianity. The nations of Europe were born in the encounter with the Gospel of Christ, thanks to the saints and evangelizers who gave expression to that Gospel in their lives. Today Europe is open to many other religions, while its native Christian tradition is often swamped by secularization and consumerism. Yet the Christian roots of nations such as Ireland and England are deep and strong. Christianity has structured every aspect of their cultures for a millennium and a half. The Pope's call for a renewal of Christian civilization implies that we must try to understand the nature and inspiration of such a civilization: the religious roots of Christian culture.

To help explore the riches of the English-speaking Catholic tradition through a study of the lives and writings of the saints and scholars of England, Stratford Caldecott and John Saward have designed a two-semester seminar program which was originally taught in Oxford, but is now offered here in outline for private study.

Stratford Caldecott
Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture




The following books would serve as helpful background reading for the whole course:

The English Way: Studies in English Sanctity from St Bede to Newman, edited by Maisie Ward (Sheed & Ward, 1933)

Catholic England: Religion and Observance Before the Reformation, trans. and annotated by R.N. Swanson (Manchester University Press, 1993);

G.K. Chesterton, A Short History of England (Faber & Faber 1917, rp Fisher Press, 1994).

See also helpful online resources at http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ32.HTM.

and at www.umilta.net/bibliogr.html (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature online).


See www.bartleby.com/cambridge/chapterindex.html for the very useful Cambridge History of English and American Literature.

For a standard Catholic perspective on Church history see the online Catholic Encyclopedia at: www.newadvent.org/cathen/07365a.htm

and on England after 1558: www.newadvent.org/cathen/05445a.htm

You can also use the Catholic Enyclopedia for introductory material.

A useful online book by Tony Hadland about the period of Catholic persecution is available at www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hadland/tvp/tvpcontents.htm (it includes maps and illustrations).

Stratford Caldecott, Tutor






(please refer to the Oxford edition if possible, but it is also available online at the "Medieval Sourcebook" web-site, at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html).

Begin with Book 5, ch. 24 (chronological summary + Bede's touching autobiography)

Book 1, ch. 1 (topography of British Isles)

Book 1, ch. 7 (martyrdom of St Alban - Christians in Roman Britain)

Book 1, chs. 21 - 33 St Augustine's mission

Book 2, chs. 9 & 13 (Edwin and Paulinus)

Book 3, ch. 25 (Synod of Whitby)

Cuthbert's Letter on the death of St Bede

Background: Henry Mayr-Harting, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (Penn State University Press, 1991);

Patrick Wormald's article in Geoffrey Rowell, The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism (Ikon, 1992);

The Jarrow Lectures, in Bede and His World (Variorum, 1994), especially Henry Mayr-Harting, "The Venerable Bede, the Rule of St Benedict, and Social Class" (1976);

Benedicta Ward, The Venerable Bede (Geoffrey Chapman, 1998);

Other works by Bede: e.g. On the Temple (Liverpool University Press, 1995); Homilies on the Gospels (Cistercian University Press, 1991)





TEXT: G.K. Chesterton's BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE (Methuen, 1911, recently republished by Ignatius Press), especially Books I, VII and VIII.

Desire for and possession of earthly power never pleased me overmuch, and I did not unduly desire this earthly rule, but that nevertheless I wished for tools and resources for the task that I was commanded to accomplish, which was that I should virtuously and worthily guide and direct the authority which was entrusted to me.

Once thought to be the founder of the city of Oxford, Alfred (b. 849, ruled 871-899) is best known today for the story of the burning of the cakes. He was one of the greatest of English kings, our local 'Charlemagne' in a way, responsible not only for the military defence against the Vikings and the establishment of the realm of Wessex, but for a minor renaissance of culture. He was himself a man of letters – a lover of poetry and the translator of St Augustine's Soliloquies and of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius into Old English.

Please look up some historical background on King Alfred before reading the poem: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Asser's account are available online (from The Medieval Sourcebook), and a good summary can be found in The Catholic Encyclopedia (www.newadvent.org). See also www.mirror.org/ken.roberts/king.alfred.html.






TEXT: Part 2 of T.S. Eliot's play MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL

The assassination of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 29 December 1170 by soldiers answerable to King Henry II gave England its most popular shrine (cf. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales), and led to the King being scourged at the martyr's tomb as part of his public penance for the deed. This was a defining moment in the relationship of Church and State in England in the pre-Reformation period, and in the formation of England's Catholic identity.

The best known of Eliot's five plays, Murder in the Cathedral has two main scenes, one set about a month before the murder, Becket having returned from exile in France, and the second the scene of the murder itself, in which the four assassins also plead their case to the audience. Becket's Christmas Day sermon of that year forms a poignant interlude between them.

Background reading:

A compilation of key TEXTS on the life and death of St Thomas Becket can be found at www.loyno.edu/~letchie/becket/texts.htm

An overview of his life may be found in The Catholic Enclycopedia (www.newadvent.org),

or (along with information on Henry II) at www.ibiscom.com/becket.htm

Christopher Dawson, Medieval Essays (1953, reprinted by Catholic University of America Press, 2002), especially Ch. 5 on 'Church and State in the Middle Ages'.






TEXT: Walter Daniel, LIFE OF AELRED OF RIEVAULX (Cistercian Publications) chs. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9-13, 29, 32-33, 40-60.

Known especially for his writings on friendship, and known as the 'Bernard of the North' (after St Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of the Cistercians a century before), St Aelred represents the best elements of the Cistercian Benedictine life, which had such a huge impact on English civilization. He was a mystic, an intellectual and a gifted administrator. He was Abbot of Rievaulx, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, from 1147, and died in 1167.

Supplementary reading: Aelred, The Mirror of Charity (Mowbray, 1962), pp. 132-42.

The Rule of Saint Benedict (there are many editions available).

Chapters on St Aelred in David Hugh Farmer (ed.), Benedict's Disciples (Fowler Wright, 1980)

and in James Broderick, A Procession of Saints (Burns Oates, 1949).

Also recommended, if you can find them:

David Knowles, The Monastic Order in England (Cambridge University Press, 1963); Richard North, Fools for God (Collins, 1987); John Saward, Perfect Fools (OUP, 1980), chapter on the Cistercians; Peter Levi, The Frontiers of Paradise: A Study of Monks and Monasticism (Collins, 1987); Jean Leclercq OSB, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture (SPCK, 1978); Thomas Merton, The Last of the Fathers: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (HBJ, 1954)






TEXT: Eamon Duffy, THE STRIPPING OF THE ALTARS (Yale, 1992), Ch. 1 ('Seasons and Signs'), also the section called 'Devotions to the Virgin' on pp. 256-265.

The importance of Duffy's book is that it succeeded in convincing most historians that the English Reformation was not, by and large, supported at the grass roots of society, but was largely imposed on the English people for political reasons, and vigorously resisted by them wherever possible. The rich texture of popular devotion, which shaped and conditioned English society at every level through liturgy, guild and pilgrimage, is vividly portrayed in the book. Duffy also showed that many of the monasteries were probably not as corrupt as Henry's assessors and subsequent Protestant historians had tended to claim.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was at the heart of Medieval devotion, as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. Representing the tender and maternal qualities of the Church, the mystical life of intimacy with the Divine, the summit of worldly grace and beauty, she was loved by peasant and king alike. From the reign of Richard II (1377), England was known as 'Mary's Dowry', but the title was probably an ancient one, and sums up the special connection that many of the English felt towards the most blessed of all redeemed creatures.

Supplementary reading: John D. Miller, Beads and Prayers: The Rosary in History and Devotion (Continuum, 2002);T.E. Bridgett, Our Lady's Dowry (Burns & Oates, 1875) or

Hilda Graef, Mary, A History of Doctrine and Devotion (Westminster, Maryland,1965);

H.M. Gillett, Shrines of Our Lady in England and Wales (Walker, 1957); D.J. Hall, English Medieval Pilgrimage (RKP, 1965);

And see http://www.udayton.edu/mary/ for a variety of online resources.

J.T. Fowler (ed.), The Rites of Durham 1593 (Surtees Society, 1902)

Please 'visit' St Mary's Church, Iffley: www.iffley.co.uk






TEXT: Any two chapters of Howard Pyle, THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (rp. Dover, 1968);

Or Alfred Noyes, ROBIN HOOD: A PLAY IN FIVE ACTS (Blackwood, 1926)

Background reading:

Christopher Tyerman, England and the Crusades, 1095-1588 (Chicago & London, 1988);

Maurice Keen, Chivalry (Yale, 1984);

Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World: Europe 1100-1350 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1961), chapters 6 and 7.

These readings will give us an opportunity to discuss some aspects of English culture and its relation to France and Europe at the time of the Crusades. Richard I, the brother of bad King John, who was born in Oxford and who usually returns from the Crusades in disguise at the end of the stories, was one of the greatest symbols of medieval chivalry. The Son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, he belongs to the period of the troubadours, when the stories of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table were circulating around Europe.

Thanks to the presence of the legendary figure of Friar Tuck, we also have an excuse to mention the influence of the Franciscans and Dominicans on English Catholic culture – an important theme that deserves more attention, especially in Oxford where both Orders arrived soon after their founding at the beginning of the thirteenth century.





TEXT: Edmund Colledge OSA and James Walsh SJ (eds), A BOOK OF SHOWINGS TO THE ANCHORESS JULIAN OF NORWICH (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1978). Long Version, chs. 1-10, 24-25, 32, 39, 41-43

There are many versions of this classic work of English spirituality, but the one given here is the critical edition. You may wish to consult others, including the modern English rendering by the same editors in Julian of Norwich: Showings (Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist, 1978).

Lady Julian of Norwich (1342-1416?) is one of the most popular of the fourteenth-century English mystics. She lived most of her life in solitude, where in 1373 she received sixteen 'showings' or personal revelations of God's love. She wrote these in a Short Text, and later expanded these after praying and reflecting on them for several years into the Long Text.

Though often neglected in the histories of any nation, because they seldom have a direct influence on political and economic events, the mystics are a vital influence upon, and expression of, cultural development in every age.


Supplementary reading:

David Knowles, The English Mystical Tradition (Burns & Oates, 1961);

C. Pepler, The English Religious Heritage (Herder, 1958);

Anon., The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works (Penguin, 1961), trans. C. Wolters;

Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love (Penguin, 1972), and cf. www.bartleby.com/212/0201.html

For more online resources, see the Medieval Sourcebook or www.umilta.net/bibliogr.html





It has been said of Chaucer: "Except ye become as little children’ is the hardest saying ever given to the intellectual world. These are great geniuses, Geoffrey Chaucer not least among them, to whom it was not given in vain."

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London between 1340 and 1345; he died there, 25 October 1400. Well connected in the aristocracy, he was captured in a battle with France and ransomed by the King. Thereafter, he was employed on diplomatic missions. In 1372 he was sent to Italy, where he met the poet Petrarch: this was the turning point in his literary life. Having been a soldier and a diplomat, he was financially unsuccessful back in London, and was only rescued from disaster by occasional royal patronage. He was, however, one of the greatest poets of the time, and The Canterbury Tales (which is incomplete) provides us with one of the most engaging and detailed portraits of the life, social conditions and characters of the time. He was a representative along with Petrarch of the early Renaissance, which was Christian-humanist in tone.


Supplementary reading:

G.K. Chesterton, Chaucer (Faber & Faber, 1932);

D.J. Hall, English Medieval Pilgrimage (RKP, 1965)

Online: www.bartleby.com/212/index.html#7

We will view a video from the National Gallery, London: The Wilton Diptych






TEXT: Langland, VISIONS FROM PIERS PLOWMAN, trans. Nevill Coghill (Phoenix, 1949)

The poet William Langland (1333-1399?) was a contemporary of Chaucer's, but completely different in style and tone. To quote The English Way: 'Chaucer represents all that England had learned from its three centuries of incorporation in Continental culture [since the Norman Conquest of 1066]. He is a courtier and a scholar who looks at the English scene with the humorous detachment of a man of the great world. He clothed the courtly tradition in an English dress and gave the common Englishman a right of entry into the cultivated society which had hitherto been the monopoly of clerks and knights.' Langland's, by contrast, 'is a voice from another world – the submerged world of the common English – a voice that is by turns harsh and pitiful and comic' – but always authentic. Whereas Chaucer looked to sunny Italy, Langland's poetry is darker and more Nordic. He shows us the world of the Black Death and the great wars with France, and the poor people of the Peasants’ Revolt. His is a prophetic voice, denouncing the corruption of Church and State at the end of the Middle Ages, and calling for a return to sacred order.

Background reading:

Christopher Dawson, Medieval Essays (Sheed & Ward, 1953, rp Catholic University of America Press, 2002), Ch. 12, 'The Vision of Piers Plowman'; Ch. 2 of Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars ('How the Plowman Learned his Paternoster').






TEXT: Thomas More, DIALOGUE OF COMFORT AGAINST TRIBULATION (Sheed & Ward, 1951) - Introduction to whole book, then Book 1, chs. 1-5 and Book 3, chs. 24-27.

'Thomas More rose from humble origins to achieve the highest political and judicial office of England, second only to that of the king. He was recognized throughout early sixteenth-century Europe as one of the great lawyers, Christian humanists, and classical scholars of his day'. Once in the King's service, More commanded Henry VIII's friendship and trust, finally becoming Chancellor in 1529, at the age of fifty-one.'

'He resigned on May 16, 1532, the day after Henry VIII and Cromwell manipulated the Parliament to take away the traditional freedom of the Church, a freedom that had been written into English law since the Magna Carta. At issue was the survival of the Church as well as the nature of law and the scope of the state's legitimate authority. More was executed on July 6, 1535, and canonized on May 19, 1935.'

(The above is taken from www.d-holliday.com/tmore/bio.htm.)

In 1504 John Fisher was made Chancellor of Cambridge and Bishop of Rochester. In 1527 he became chaplain to the new king, Henry VIII, and confessor to the queen, Catherine of Aragon. He stood high in the favour of Henry, who proclaimed that no other realm had any bishop as learned and devout. Arrested for the same reason as More, John Fisher was beheaded at East Smithfield on the morning of 22nd June 1535. His head was stuck on a spike on London Bridge where it stayed for two weeks before being thrown into the river and replaced by that of Thomas More. His body was buried in the churchyard of Allhallows, Barking, but was later moved to be buried alongside that of Thomas More in St Peter ad Vincula by the Tower of London.

Supplementary reading:

Louis L. Martz, Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man (Yale, 1990);

Alvaro De Silva, The Last Letters of Thomas More (Eedmans, 2000), esp. Introduction;

Brendan Bradshaw and Eamon Duffy (eds), Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher (CUP, 1989);

Richard Rex, The Theology of John Fisher (CUP, 1991)

Online: www.apostles.com/johnfisher.html

Background: J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Blackwell, 1984);

William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation, abridged by Hugh Arnold (Fisher Press, 1994).





England's Christian identity – an identity now very much in question – is bound up with that of Europe as a whole, but has distinctive traits of its own. Subject to successive waves of invasion, conversion and reconversion, England's ethnic identity is very diverse, and its relationship to the mainland (as an island kingdom frequently at war) ambiguous at best. Its Catholic roots, and the allegiance of its people to the Holy See of Rome, go deep, and through the court of Charlemagne its Catholic culture influenced the rest of Christendom at a crucial moment in the history of the Continent. But the traumas of the English Reformation were also profound, and their effects far-reaching.

Even during the two centuries following the Protestant Reformation, English Catholics, despite their small numbers and the persecution inflicted on them by the state, made disproportionately important contributions to the culture of their native land. Then, in the nineteenth century, the 'Second Spring' of Roman Catholic emancipation and the restoration of the hierarchy brought a great flowering both in apostolic endeavour and in the arts.

The following Seminars cover three main areas: the Recusant (or 'penal') period following the Reformation, the period of Catholic Emancipation in the Victorian era, and the twentieth-century fruits of that Emancipation.






Puritanism Unleashed – The Prayer Book – Persecution and Compromise

*Eamon Duffy, THE STRIPPING OF THE ALTARS (Yale, 1992), chapters 13 and 17;

*Hilaire Belloc, "How the Reformation Happened" (photocopied essay from Tutor);

William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation, abridged edn (Sevenoaks: Fisher Press, 1994), pp. 84-170; David Knowles, Bare Ruined Choirs (Cambridge University Press, 1976).

Professor Duffy's book succeeded in convincing most historians that the English Reformation was not, by and large, supported at the grass roots of society, but was largely imposed on the English people for political reasons, and vigorously resisted by them where possible. The rich texture of popular devotion, which shaped and conditioned English society at every level through liturgy, guild and pilgrimage, is vividly portrayed in the book. So is the wave of iconoclastic fury which the Reformation unleashed in England after the break with Rome. (It might be interesting to compare the Iconoclast movement of the eighth and ninth centuries, mainly in the East, with that of the sixteenth in the West.) Belloc is less respected as an historian, but is always readable and provocative.

William Cobbett, a Protestant author best known for his book, Rural Rides, was the most prolific journalist of his age. No other person in Britain had greater influence on public opinion. 8,000 people attended the funeral of 'the poor man's friend' in 1835.






*Read about the life of St Edmund Campion, for example in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

*Campion's Brag is available online at: www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/CAMBRAG.htm

*The life of William Byrd is described online at: www.hoasm.org/IVM/WilliamByrd.html

Byrd's works are listed here: www.stainer.co.uk/byrd.html – please try to listen to some music

For Shakespeare, please do some research via the following web-sites:

www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/shakespeare/ (also a good introduction to the period)



and see a good student essay from Calvin College on the religion of Shakespeare here:


There is a helpful summary article by John Saward in the November 1999 issue of The Chesterton Review, called "The Catholic Shakespeare", and a brief review essay by Peter Milward SJ that is worth reading online at www.hull.ac.uk/renforum/v5no2/milward.htm

On Southwell, see:




'The Burning babe' is his most famous poem.

Evelyn Waugh's life of the Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion is currently available in an edition called Two Lives: Edmund Campion – Ronald Knox (London: Continuum, 2001). If you can get to this in a Library, please make sure to read Campion's Ten Reasons. The whole book is a modern classic of Catholic biography.

On Mary Ward (1585-1645), see:



On Crashaw (1612-1649) see:


The 'Elizabethan Settlement' refers to two Parliamentary Acts of 1559. The Act of Uniformity made church attendance at the new Anglican services compulsory and required all churches to use the Book of Common Prayer. (The alternative was a substantial fine or excommunication and loss of civil rights.) As a sop to Catholics, the wording of the communion service was left vague, interior furnishings (such as screens) were ordered to be left intact, and some vestments were retained. The Act of Supremacy made the queen 'Supreme Governor' of the Church of England. (Elizabeth's father and brother had been 'Head' of the Church, and the new title helped ease contemporary dismay about the idea of a woman in this position.) An Oath of Supremacy was demanded of holders of public or church office, students and teachers. The first offence could mean loss of moveable goods, a second in life imprisonment and loss of all real estate. A third offence was regarded as high treason and could carry the death penalty. Anyone assisting at Catholic Mass was liable to six months imprisonment for the first offence, a year for the second, and life for the third.

Catholic priests were hunted down and took refuge where possible with Catholic 'recusant' households, where they were often concealed within walls and under floors. The persecution, despite periods of relative leniency, was to continue until Catholic Emancipation in the nineteenth century. Meanwhile, over the years that followed the Settlement, the Church of England came to include a wide range of styles of worship, from the Puritan to the Anglo-Catholic.

Interest in Shakespeare's alleged Catholicism has revived in recent years. It is pretty clear that our 'national bard' was at the very least a Catholic sympathizer, but this is interesting partly because of the evidence it gives of the religious complexity of Elizabeth's reign (something we have already noted with regard to Byrd).

Relations between Protestants and Catholics in England were hardly settled by the English Reformation. Elizabeth was the last of the Tudors. In 1603 James I (VI of Scotland), son of Mary Queen of Scots, inherited the throne. The autocratic and somewhat dissolute Stuarts may have temporarily united the kingdoms of England and Scotland, but they singularly failed to unite the English people in one religion, despite James' attempts to steer England between "Rome" and "Geneva" (the King James Bible was his main achievement).

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 fuelled suspicion of Roman Catholics. Charles I, who acceded to the throne in 1625, was married to a Roman Catholic (Henrietta Maria, after whom Maryland is named), and his Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, promoted the 'High Church' doctrine that the C of E was a 'branch' of the Catholic Church. Religious tensions, added to the political tension surrounding Charles's stormy relationship with Parliament, led to a series of Civil Wars in 1642-1651. Laud was executed in 1645, Charles in 1649 by Parliamentary forces led by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell. For nearly a decade the English monarchy was replaced by a Commonwealth or 'Protectorate'. But Cromwell proved to be as autocratic and unpopular a ruler as Charles, and after his death in 1658 the Stuarts were restored with Charles II, now King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland (the latter brutally conquered by Cromwell).

One result of Cromwell's behaviour was the lasting unpopularity in England of Puritanism – the Calvinist-inspired extremists who sought a more radical reform of Christian life and society. Under the Protectorate, even more radical groups emerged: Levellers, Diggers, Shakers and Quakers, many of which later sought refuge in America from religious persecution here. John Bunyan (d. 1688) was a Puritan who joined the Baptists and was imprisoned for non-conformity under Charles II. It was in prison that he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress.

After Cromwell's death the Puritans accepted the Restoration and an Episcopal structure for the Church; thus the 'middle way' of Anglicanism was now much more firmly established. As Charles II leaned towards Catholicism and his son James II (1685) espoused and attempted to restore it by force, conflict between Crown and Parliament flared up again, and in 1688 the Dutch William of Orange (married to the English princess Mary) was invited by Parliament to assume the throne as William III. This 'Glorious Revolution' spelled the end of the Stuart doctrine of the 'divine right of kings', and established a limited or constitutional monarchy. James II fled to France, thus initiating the long series of wars between France and England which did not end until well into the nineteenth century. With the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) in 1746 at Culloden and his subsequent conversion to Protestantism, the last hopes of a Catholic restoration seemed to be gone.




The Victorian Revival of Catholicism


On Bishop Challoner (1691-1781), see:


For his contribution to the translation of the Bible into English, see;


*Newman, 'The Second Spring':


See also resources at:


Recommended books:

Dawson, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement (London: Sheed & Ward, 1945, rp. Saint Austin Press).

Peter B. Nockles, The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High-Churchmanship 1760-1857 (CUP, 1994).

Kenneth Hylson-Smith, High Churchmanship in the Church of England: From the Late Sixteenth century to the Late Twentieth

Century (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993).

John Shelton Reed, Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1996).

Owen Chadwick, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement: Tractarian Essays (Cambridge University Press, 1990).

Background In the second half of the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution kicks in (earlier in England than in any other part of Europe), and new social patterns start to emerge. It is the growth of industry in England, coupled with poverty and famine in Ireland, that leads so many Irish labourers to settle in England during the century that followed, creating a vast Catholic underclass which would provide the foundations for Catholic emancipation under Queen Victoria.

The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 prescribed a new parliamentary oath denying the Pope any non-spiritual jurisdiction and undertaking not to subvert the position of the Anglican Church. Catholic priests were forbidden to be Members of Parliament. Catholic bishops were not to use titles adopted since the Reformation by Anglican bishops. Catholic clergy were not to officiate except in Catholic places of worship. But there was to be no state veto on nominations for Catholic bishoprics. Catholics could now belong to corporations. Most public office was open to them, apart from that of Lord Chancellor, Keeper of the Great Seal, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland. (These restrictions still apply today, and the Royal Marriage Act continues to forbid the Royal Family to marry Catholics, a proscription that applies to no other religious denomination.)

Many other anti-Catholic laws remained, but they were ineffective and no serious attempt was made to enforce them. During the previous twenty years there had been few demonstrations against the campaign for Catholic emancipation. But at least two Anglican parishes in Oxford petitioned against the 1829 act, as did Oxford city council. In 1852 John Henry Newman preached a famous sermon called 'The Second Spring' on the occasion of the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England. Thereafter there was a slow but steady growth of Catholicism, bolstered by immigration from Ireland and by conversions from the Anglican Oxford Movement.

The Oxford (or Tractarian) Movement, led by Newman before his conversion to Catholicism, Edward Pusey and John Keble, was a spiritual revival within the Church of England, akin in its fervour and popularity, and even its concern with social work among the new industrial poor, to the Methodist movement of the previous century (which had also begun in the University of Oxford). The Tractarians sought to restore an emphasis on the sacraments and rituals of the Church, and to emancipate the Church from subservience to the State. Through their immense scholarship drew upon the resources of the Patristic period to oppose the 'national apostasy' that they saw engulfing the country.






Peter C. Erb, A Question of Sovereignty: The Politics of Manning's Conversion (Atlanta: Pitts Theology Library, 1996. A version of this can be found online at:


On Manning see also:



For basic information on Pugin and the 'Arts and Crafts Movement', see:



Cardinal Manning and Newman together had an incomparable influence on the English Catholic revival, yet for much of their lives (until deathbed reconciliation) the two eminent Victorians did not get along too well. In their different ways, they both laid the foundations of a revolution in the response of the Catholic Church to the modern world, which up to that point had seen itself as deeply committed to the defence of the ancien regime in opposition to growing agitation from the new industrial poor, and the ideologues of freedom and democracy in France, America and Britain.

Newman represents a growing appreciation of the importance of the laity in the Church, and the first stages of a Patristic revival (as against strict Neo-Thomism) that was to flourish in the middle of the twentieth century. Manning, on the other hand, a leader of the Ultramontanists who viewed Newman's lack of enthusiasm for the definition of papal infallibility with suspicion, personally took the side of the London dockers during the Great Strike of 1889, and did a great deal to focus the attention of the Church on the new social problems, influencing many of the Catholic social movements over the next century. It could be said that he played a key role in enabling the Church to find its answer to The Communist Manifesto and the various revolutionary movements that manned the barricades in 1848. For his pains, Manning was suspected of Socialism by many in the Church, and indeed his image was carried on banners by the strikers alongside that of Karl Marx. It was the appearance of Rerum Novarum by Leo XIII that finally vindicated his position as perfectly orthodox, and even prophetic.

Pugin, also a convert, founded the Arts and crafts movement of the Victorian period. An architect, he was perhaps the leading apostle of Victorian medievalism, along with William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite painters. (It is, by the way, interesting to note how many of these movements and their founders were associated with Oxford.) Perhaps in reaction to the rise of science and technology, Romantics (like William Blake, who died in 1827, and S.T. Coleridge, who died in 1834) were revelling in the glories of nature and the world of feeling, and sometimes finding in Gothic aesthetics an inspiration different and more seemingly 'spiritual' than the Classicism of the Rationalists. However, Victorian Catholic Romanticism is not a purely aesthetic movement, but closely associated with Christian socialism.

Other Catholic social movements sprang up in the wake of Rerum Novarum in the first half of the 20th century, especially the Catholic Social Guild and the Distributists.






On Chesterton you can do your research on the following web-sites:



and Second Spring (see "Chesterton Institute" and "Archive" sections)

On Ronald Knox see:

http://ic.net/~erasmus/BOOKREV.HTM#Ronald Knox



Important text:

Ian Ker, The Catholic Revival in English Literature 1845-1961: Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh (2003)

Background The end of the 19th century and of the Victorian era (Victoria died in 1901) was a time of great confidence – Brittania ruled the waves, and Britain's worldwide Empire was the largest the world had ever seen – but also of a certain decadence, associated with hypocrisy in public life and a growing interest in the occult. In the early twentieth century, the First World War was to begin the unravelling of modern certainty in the inevitable moral progress of man. Among Catholics, Rome's struggle against the Modernists (who sought to abolish the supernatural) continued at least until the 1940s, but several other important things were going on at the same time. Catholic theologians were studying Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the history of the Liturgy, with a view to a 'renewal' of Catholicism in the face of modernity that would eventually shape the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Across Europe, Rerum Novarum (1891) had encouraged the development of Christian Democratic movements that were to influence the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the establishment (after the Second World War) of a European Union. In England, social movements such as the Catholic Social Guild and the Distributists proved very popular. With the Catholic Church now strong and confident, successive waves of converts helped to fuel an intellectual and literary revival, with which the publishing house of Sheed & Ward was particularly associated. This was a golden age of Christian writing and particularly of apologetics.

On Hopkins, see: www.bartleby.com/people/HopkinsG.html

The numerous conversions from Anglicanism to the Catholic Church in the middle of the nineteenth century together with the spirit of the Oxford Movement influenced the young Hopkins in October, 1866, to be received into the Catholic Church. In the following year he entered Balliol College, Oxford, having been prepared for his classical course by Walter Pater. Very soon his religious vocation manifested itself and he left the university, going to the Birmingham Oratory, where he spent a short time with Father Newman. In 1868 he entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Though already a poet, he now burned his early verse and concentrated on his religious vocation, but the sinking in 1875 of a German ship carrying five exiled Franciscan nuns inspired him to write The Wreck of the Deutschland, and thereafter his poetry was reborn – though little appreciated until long after his death. After ordination he was sent to Liverpool where his work lay among the poor of the slums of that city. His next post was that of preacher in London, after which he was stationed at St. Aloysius' Church, Oxford. He died in Dublin in 1889.

On Francis Thompson, see the Catholic Encyclopedia online. Born in 1859, Thompson was first published by Wilfrid Meynell in 1888, a gifted Catholic poet struggling with an addiction to opium. At one time a destitute living rough on the streets of London, and later a friend of Coventry Patmore, praised by Chesterton and other literary giants, he died in 1907.

On Caryll Houselander, see www.peregrina.com/caryll/caryll.html.

Houselander (1901-54) was an artist (woodcarver), a visionary, a poet and a worker for the poor. She had great gifts of psychological insight and was a spiritual adviser to many people around the world.

On John Bradburne, see www.john-bradburne.co.uk

Born in 1921, becoming an officer in the Gurkhas, he converted to Catholicism in 1947 and ended up finding his vocation among the lepers of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), where he was killed by guerrillas in 1979 and is now widely revered as a saint. But he was also a prolific poet, writing around 9000 poems during his life.

On Tolkien, see S. Caldecott, Secret Fire: The Spiritual Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien (DLT, published in the US by Crossroad under the title The Power of the Ring.)

On Ronald Knox, first read www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/cwriters/mgsrknox.html. His book The Belief of Catholics is available online at www.ewtn.com/library/CHRIST/BELIEF.TXT.

On Chesterton, see web sites listed above, and also the books of G.K. Chesterton published by Ignatius Press, especially Orthodoxy and What's Wrong with the World. The classic biography Gilbert Keith Chesterton by Maisie Ward, with its sequel Return to Chesterton, is most enjoyable.