10 extraordinary sacred sites around Britain

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In his brand new three-part BBC documentary series - Sacred Wonders of Britain - Scottish archaeologist, historian, TV presenter and author Neil Oliver goes on a journey to reveal the sacred face of Britain, an ancient landscape of belief and ritual that still lies hidden just below the surface of our modern world.

The ancestors of modern Britons saw something special in certain parts of the land and deemed them more sacred than others. Here, Neil Oliver explains why they are so special.

The rich and varied landscape of Britain inspired our ancestors to express their beliefs.

In the flint mines of Norfolk, Stone Age miners carried their religion deep underground and at Flag Fen near Peterborough a vast ancient causeway was built across the fens with sacred objects placed among its timbers.

People are still drawn back to these places today and the belief and ritual that surround them.

So what places did our ancestors deem more sacred than others and why are they so special?

10 extraordinary sacred sites around Britain

28 December 2013
Neil Oliver

Episode 1 of Sacred Wonders of Britain, presented by Neil Oliver, will be shown on BBC Two at 20:30 BST on Monday 30 December

1. Goat's Hole Cave, Paviland, Gower Peninsula

In a sea cave near the base of a cliff on the Gower Peninsula, known locally as Yellow Top (on account of the lichen that grows on its face) a 19th Century archaeologist named William Buckland found an ancient human burial. Noticing at once that the bones were stained with red ochre and the grave also contained items of ivory "jewellery", he assumed it to be the remains of a woman. The find was known thereafter as The Red Lady of Paviland and Victorian minds assumed "she" had been a woman of easy virtue, buried far from polite society in a grave in a cave. In fact, the Red Lady was a man and recent radiocarbon dates obtained from the remains reveal he lived and died around 33,000 years ago, when the last Ice Age was beginning to exert its grip on northern Europe. He was buried close by the skull of a mammoth and modern archaeologists have imagined he may have died while hunting the beast and his companions saw fit to bury hunter and prey together. Whatever the truth of his life and death, his send-off was marked with great imagination and perhaps even love. I am always touched by evidence that, however much we are separated from our ancestors by great voids of time, in so many ways they were exactly like us. Only their circumstances were different.

2. Creswell Crags/Church Hole and Robin Hood's Cave

Near Sheffield is a truly awe-inspiring set of caves at the bases of cliffs facing each other across a wide gorge. Archaeological evidence shows they were used for shelter not just by our modern human ancestors but also by our Neanderthal cousins who occupied northern Europe and Britain before the coming of the last Ice Age more than 30,000 years ago. One of the caves, known as Church Hole, has become famous as the location for the most northerly Palaeolithic cave art found so far.

The work of hunters who penetrated the British peninsula (it was not then an island) of northern Europe as the Ice Age waxed and waned around 13,000 years ago, they are wonders to behold. Animals like bison and ibex, as well as birds like the ibis, and other abstract forms were etched into the limestone walls of the cave by an artist (or artists) living within a few miles of the nose of the glacier itself. It was a world unimaginably different from ours, and much colder and tougher, and yet some of the hunters travelling in pursuit of the reindeer herds upon which their lives depended set aside time to make works of art. In another of the caves, the one known as Robin Hood's Cave, archaeologists found a sliver of horse bone on to which had been etched an exquisite rendering of a horse's head.

The caves, and the gorge itself, clearly mattered to fully modern people - homo sapiens like us - living in that part of the world as much as 13,000 years ago. Woven into their daily lives of hunting and foraging was the need to express some connection they felt to the animals they saw around them, or that their parents and grandparents had told them about.

A horse rib bone on to which has been carved an exquisite rendering of a horse's head. Found in Robin Hood's Cave near Sheffield in 1876, it is almost 13,000 years' old, the work of an Upper Palaeolithic artist

The Ice Age

Ice ages, also called glacial ages, were times of extreme cooling of the Earth's climate

Ice sheets and other types of glacier expanded to cover large areas of land

When people talk about the Ice Age, they are often referring to the most recent glacial period, which peaked about 21,000 years ago and ended about 11,500 years ago

Source: BBC Nature

3. Goldcliff, near Newport in south Wales

On the mudflats of the Severn Estuary, at Goldcliff near Newport in south Wales, the tides are revealing footprints made by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers perhaps 8,000 years ago. Trails of prints, made by men, women and children as well as by animals and birds, were preserved by chance and for millennia beneath layers of mud, silt and peat. Now being exposed once more, thanks to more recent changes in the route of the River Severn, they are the most ephemeral traces of humanity imaginable. They are not fossils - the mud is still mud and has not been turned to stone - they are exactly as they would have looked when those long ago hunters made them.

However slight they are, each print is nonetheless the proof of a life. While not perhaps "sacred" in the way that a burial chamber might seem, or a stone circle or a church, the sight and feel of those footprints affected me deeply. The fact I could place my own hand into the still-soft print left in silt by a Mesolithic hunter - his partner or his child - made me feel like I was eaves-dropping on a moment in time.

4. Ness of Brodgar, Orkney

Two of the most famous Neolithic stone circles in Britain, Orkney's Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, are within easy walking distance of each other. Along with the great burial mound of Maes Howe they sit within a natural amphitheatre, a flattened bowl of low-lying land surrounded by hills. The walk between the two circles is across a narrow finger of land between two lochs - Harray and Stenness - and the isthmus itself is dominated by a whaleback shaped ridge that rises several metres above the water level.

Until very recently the ridge was assumed to be natural, a product of geology. But survey and excavation have revealed the whaleback shape is the result of layer upon layer of ancient building work. For centuries during the Neolithic period, around 5,000 years ago, the community expended huge amounts of effort and imagination creating what archaeologists are calling a temple complex. Two huge walls were built across the isthmus, cutting off a huge area of land. Between the walls - several football pitches worth of ground - the people built all manner of stone structures. Most appear like houses to the untrained eye but in fact it seems unlikely they were lived in. Rather they were the setting for rituals and practices associated with some or other ancient religion.

For generation after generation the community built, used and then demolished the structures and over time the layers built up to create the ridge. The religious use of the site seems to have culminated in the demolition of all the separate buildings and then the construction of one, solitary and huge temple. Its walls were several metres thick and supported a roof of great stone slabs. It must have been stunning. Sometime relatively soon after its completion, that building too was demolished and the whole site abandoned forever.

Neolithic era in Britain

The change from a hunter-gatherer to a farming way of life defines the start of the Neolithic or New Stone Age

Neolithic farmers brought the ancestors of cattle, sheep and goats with them from the continent

This period witnessed the appearance of the first large communal tombs, known as long barrows, or mounds, and the earliest ceremonial monuments, known as "causewayed" enclosures

Source: BBC History

5. Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire

The great stone circle of Avebury, perhaps the most impressive monument of its kind anywhere in the world (16 times bigger than nearby Stonehenge), is a place to strike wonder into every heart and mind. Built during the third millennium BC it is technically a henge monument - a circular area of ground contained by a bank and ditch - containing three stone circles. The great ditch that encircles the whole is itself more than 10m deep and the towering outer bank created from the digging of the ditch would have concealed all activity within from prying eyes. The sheer effort involved in creating the monument - digging the ditch by hand, moving and raising the giant sarsen stones that form the circles - all but beggars belief. That many generations of a community worked so hard for so long to make a reality of their vision makes us shake our heads as we wonder what belief or thought motivated such labour. Even the sober and scientific archaeologists who study the site today will usually admit to being dumbstruck with admiration about such a work of creativity and imagination.

6. West Kennet long barrow, Wiltshire

One of the most famous early Neolithic tombs, West Kennet long barrow is a giant of its kind. The mound that encloses the internal, stone-built passage and chambers is well over 100m long and dominates the ridge of high ground upon which it sits.

The passage within is tall enough to let a person stand upright, while the chambers offer more of a crouched space. No more than 40 or so individuals, or the skeletal remains of those individuals, were placed inside the chambers. At some point in ancient times a decision was taken to close the tomb, to put it out of use. This was achieved by hauling into position and then erecting a facade of huge sarsen "blocking stones" that ceremonially barred entrance to the interior. Archaeologists believe tombs like West Kennet were built by the early farmers as part of a means of laying claim to the land.

By being able to point to the tomb and say "my father's bones are in there and those of my father's father and my father's father's father", the community could feel entitled to defend their territory.

Burial and belief

The Neolithic period witnessed the appearance of the first large communal tombs, known as long barrows

During ceremonies, rituals took place which often involved the burial of significant items, such as finely polished stone axeheads, complete pottery vessels, or human skulls

Source: BBC History

7. St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall

Until the making of Sacred Wonders, I had never heard of St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall. It is an astonishingly beautiful, even magical spot, like a fairy glen made real. The glen has been cut by water and erosion during who knows how many millennia. What greets the visitor now is a waterfall that drops around 20m into a natural bowl and then emerges through a circular hole cut by the endless stream. Moss and lichen cloak the sheer sides, along with precariously perched trees, so the whole place has a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere. Once revered by pre-Roman Celts, who venerated the spirit of the water, and later associated with the 6th Century Saint Nectan, it is still visited today by thousands of people from all over the world. The Arthur myth too has been bolted on and folk thereabouts believe the king and his knights came to the glen to be blessed, before heading out in search of the Holy Grail. Christians, Buddhists, pagans and curious visitors with no religious beliefs of any kind are drawn to the place to this day. Many leave little souvenirs of their visit - single coins wedged into tree trunks, old train tickets from the journey, photos and keepsakes of loved ones.

8. Iona, to the west of Mull, Scotland

St Columba, the man credited with converting the Scottish Gaels to Christianity, fled or was driven out of Ireland in 563 AD. He was likely a high-born son of the O'Neill clan and so able to use his status to befriend the great and the good of western Scotland.

He attended the inauguration of King Aedan mac Gabhrain in 574 and for his efforts was awarded the island of Iona. It was there that he and his followers established a Christian community, which in time became one of the brightest beacons of European Christianity.

As well as the faith, Columba and his ilk brought literacy to the tribes. The community on Iona brought stability to much of the west of Scotland and the life of the saint was made immortal by the hand of Adomnan, a later abbot of Iona who wrote, The Life of Saint Columba.

A visit to Iona nowadays is all it takes to make a person understand why the place might have appealed to those early Christians. The island is undoubtedly a place of quiet peace. Whatever the weather the landscape is beautiful and restful to eye and heart both. Religious belief is not required, Iona simply has the magic.

The wonder of Iona

Iona is the symbolic centre of Scottish Christianity

It was one of the greatest centres of learning in Dark Age Europe

St Columba established a monastery which became a centre of pilgrimage

Source: BBC History

9. Glastonbury Tor, Somerset

Archaeologists and historians are usually people with a scientific approach to their chosen subject. Facts matter and any and all claims and statements ought to be backed up with proof. That being said, who can resist the entertainment provided by a good legend? Glastonbury Tor sits at the heart of one of the best of the bunch. The Tor itself is captivating, rising abruptly from a level plain much given, in ancient times at least, to seasonal inundation by the sea. It was for this reason that adherents of the Arthur legend allowed themselves to see the Tor as Avalon, the island to which the king was carried so that he might recover from wounds suffered while fighting Mordred. Other folk myths have Joseph of Arimathea arrive at Glastonbury with his nephew Jesus Christ and the Holy Grail. His staff is supposed to have taken root as the Glastonbury thorn - that flowers at Christmas time - and the grail itself is said to be buried nearby. In 1191, monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have found the graves of Arthur and his queen Guinevere and the site became a place of pilgrimage for ever after. In short, it is all there. Sacred or not, anyone in search of pleasing legend will find plenty to be going on with at Glastonbury.

Sacred: Legend has it that the Glastonbury thorn was created from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea when he visted the area with his nephew Jesus Christ. Every Christmas, the Queen is sent a budded branch of the Glastonbury thorn

10. Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

One of the oldest Christian structures in England - and perhaps the most famous - Canterbury Cathedral is undoubtedly one of Britain's sacred wonders.

The first church there was founded by Saint Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great to convert the Anglo Saxons to Christianity towards the end of the 6th Century. It has been a focal point for Christians ever since but earned a special notoriety following the murder, in 1170, of Archbishop Thomas Becket, apparently on the orders of King Henry II. The grisly act of butchery horrified the Christian world. Soon after there were reports of miracles and Becket's grave became the foremost destination for pilgrims seeking help for whatever ailed them. For those approaching on horseback it was deemed unseemly to travel too quickly.

Rather than gallop towards the shrine, riders adopted the Canterbury Pace, or Canterbury Trot. This has been remembered as "cantering" - a suitably respectful speed.

A famous cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the oldest church in England that is still in use

It has attracted flocks of pilgrims since Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170

It is a Unesco World Heritage Site and attracts over one million visitors per year

Source: BBC Religion and Ethics

Sacred Wonders of Britain is broadcast on BBC Two at 20:30 BST on Monday 30 December, or catch up with iPlayer

Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 29th, 2013 at 10:37 AM..
I liked his series on the history of Scotland.
Number ten looks so much like the Cathedral they stole from the Catholics
Quote: Originally Posted by damngrumpy View Post

Number ten looks so much like the Cathedral they stole from the Catholics

Not suprising that, really, considering the current building is almost 1000 years' old.

Go inside it, though, and you will see that, as a Protestant place of worship, it is a lot barer than any Catholic cathedral, devoid of all idolatrous objects like crucifixes and pictures of the Virgin Mary that the sinful Catholic Church and its followers are fans of.
Watch episode 1 of Neil Oliver's new series Sacred Wonders of Britain .

Just click on the link and press play: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03npt4m/Sacred_Wonders _Of_Britain_Episode_1/

Episode 1

Neil Oliver goes in search of the very first stirrings of religion in Britain. In Nottinghamshire he discovers clues to a world of magic and ritual etched into the rock of Creswell Crags by Ice Age hunters. In the south of England and on the Scottish borders great tombs are evidence of ancestor worship among the first farmers of the Neolithic era and an extraordinary discovery in Herefordshire reveals what really lies beneath their burial mounds.

In the flint mines of Grimes Graves in Norfolk he discovers how stone age miners carried their religion deep underground. Finally, in the great stone circle and henge of Avebury and the extraordinary monuments of Orkney he discovers how a new age of belief swept away the old religions and changed Britain forever.

Neil visits Grimes Graves in Norfolk. Spread over 96 acres, there are 433 shafts dug into the natural chalk to reach the seams of flint. They were dug by Neolithic peoples over centuries between 3000BC and 1900BC. At the time, flint was a very useful material. Unlike miners of today, the Neolithic miners who worked Grimes Graves deliberately left behind some of their mining tools inside the shafts, including antler picks. It is thought the Neolithic Britons did this as an offering to their god or gods to ensure the mines remain productive.

One of the Neolithic pits is open to the public. In Episode 1, Neil descends into the pit and is shown a Neolithic antler pick axe that remains in the exact spot where it was left by a Neolithic miner 4000-5000 years ago
Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 31st, 2013 at 10:00 AM..
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

Not suprising that, really, considering the current building is almost 1000 years' old.

Go inside it, though, and you will see that, as a Protestant place of worship, it is a lot barer than any Catholic cathedral, devoid of all idolatrous objects like crucifixes and pictures of the Virgin Mary that the sinful Catholic Church and its followers are fans of.

Nothing like murdering each other over minor doctrinal differences. All in the name of a god of love.
Quote: Originally Posted by Tecumsehsbones View Post

Nothing like murdering each other over minor doctrinal differences. All in the name of a god of love.

Most Christians don't murder each other over minor doctrinal differences. That's just the Irish and Old Firm supporters.
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

Most Christians don't murder each other over minor doctrinal differences. That's just the Irish.

Cromwell? Mary Tudor? William of Orange?

Your ignorance of the history you're so proud of is staggering.
Quote: Originally Posted by Tecumsehsbones View Post

Cromwell? Mary Tudor? William of Orange?

Your ignorance of the history you're so proud of is staggering.

We're talking about centuries ago in those cases.

And Cromwell and William III were two great men in our history.
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

We're talking about centuries ago in those cases.

And Cromwell and William III were two great men in our history.

And the "Irish" you claim do all the murdering in the name of differing doctrines are British subjects. The passion over that is the reason for the murders. They're as British as you are. There's no religious violence in the Republic of Ireland.
Quote: Originally Posted by Tecumsehsbones View Post

And the "Irish" you claim do all the murdering in the name of differing doctrines are British subjects.

All of them?

And the British aren't subjects. They are citizens.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 1st, 2014 at 12:13 PM..
Here's another brilliant series which is very similar to Neil Oliver's Sacred Wonders of Britain .

In Channel 4's Walking Through History , Sir Tony "Baldrick in Blackadder" Robinson - who, as well as being an actor famous for playing Blackadder's disgusting servant and sidekick is also an amateur historian who is the presenter of long-running archaeology show Time Team, a Labour Party activist and a writer of children's books - dons his rucksack, puts on his walking boots and embarks on spectacular walks through some of Britain's most historic landscapes in search of the richest stories from our past.

These walks have taken him around the Lake District, to look at the area's Roman legacy; along the Cornish coast, to encounter all sorts of reminders of the county's smuggling past; through the Peak District in Derbyshire to look at where the world's industrial revolution was born; around Dorset, to look at the places which were frontlines in the war against Hitler; along the 45-mile Tudor Way, through the beautiful countryside of the Weald in Kent and the Downs of East Sussex, to discover the area's rich and surprising Tudor heritage; and on a tough four-day trek through the Kintail region of the west Scottish Highlands to discover the story of the Jacobite uprisings of the early 1700s.

Here's an episode from 2013's series 2 in which Sir Tony walks through Wiltshire, a county famous for its plethora of Neolithic monuments, taking in monuments such as Avebury, (a massive, Neolithic henge monument - 16 times bigger than Stonehenge, so big the village of Avebury lies partially within it - which contains three stone circles, one of which is the biggest in Europe) and, of course, Stonehenge. He also takes a look at Silbury Hill, the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe, which is similar in size to some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids.

Walking Through History Season 2 Episode 1 - YouTube

Tony heads off for a 45-mile walk across Wiltshire to tell the story of life and death in the last centuries of the Stone Age. His route over chalk downlands and Salisbury Plain takes him through the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe.

From Avebury to Stonehenge and from spirituality to engineering, this is a journey through our ancestors' remarkable development in the latter days of the Neolithic Age.

Windmill Hill near Avebury is the start of his route; with earthworks dating to 4500BC, it's one of the most ancient sites in Wiltshire. From here, Tony moves on through 2000 years of the 'New Stone Age', encountering increasingly complex burial sites and processional routes that have helped make this area both captivating and intriguing.

Avebury, a Neolithic henge monument, is 16 times bigger than its more famous neighbour Stonhenge. It contains the biggest stone circle in Europe, and is so big that the village of Avebury lies partially within it

Silbury Hill, the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe, and one of the tallest in the world. According to one legend, the hill is supposedly the last resting place of a King Sil, represented in a lifesize gold statue of him sitting on a golden horse. However, this statue has yet to be found within it. Local legend states that, long ago, the Devil was carrying a giant bag of soil to drop on the citizens of the nearby market town of Marlborough, but he was stopped by the priests of nearby Avebury. The Devil dumped the huge mound of soil, forming SIlbury Hill

As he heads south Tony can't escape the eccentric characters and weird phenomena that have accompanied Wiltshire's ancient history. Mysterious crop circles and unexplained underground energy sources enliven his visit, but his mind is firmly fixed on the extraordinary array of monuments in his path.

That means listening to the fanciful notions of 18th-century antiquarians, which have a grain of truth at their heart, and grasping the cutting edge of scientific archaeology around Stonehenge, which is finally offering up some astounding answers.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 5th, 2014 at 09:04 AM..

Watch it here: BBC iPlayer - Sacred Wonders Of Britain: Episode 2

Neil Oliver goes in search of Bronze and Iron Age sites that were sacred to ancient Britons, with water seen not just as a source of life, but also of reverence.

At Flag Fen in the Fens (a huge marshy region) near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire he discovers a vast ancient causeway built across the fens, with sacred objects placed among its timbers. At Maiden Castle's hill fort in Dorset he unearths evidence of macabre human sacrifices to ward off evil spirits.

Remains of a vast, Bronze Age causeway at Flag Fen, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. This wide wooden causeway led to a huge wooden island built across a swampy lake. Mysterious holes scattered around the wooden island are thought to be where the people made offerings to the water

The huge Iron Age hillfort of Maiden Castle in Dorset. The people of the area built the massive fort to protect themselves against a mysterious enemy, and hundreds of their houses were constructed on its summit. Remains of human sacrifice have been found, too

Neil travels to Anglesey, where swords, precious artifacts and even a slave chain were ritually deposited. It was home of the druids.

A Bronze Age slave chain and around 150 other precious artefacts, dating from 300BC to 100BC, were found in Llyn Cerrig Bach, a lake on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales in 1942

Neil learns about their bizarre rituals and dark reputation and how the Romans viewed them as dangerous religious extremists.

Moving on to Bath and its sacred spring, Neil discovers an early version of the habit of throwing coins into water. Once here the Romans recognized the old gods but also brought their own too, making Bath one of the most sacred sites in Roman Britain.

The Romans built a stone bathhouse around the natural hot spring in what is now the ancient and beautiful city of Bath in Somerset. Before them, the Britons saw the natural hot spring - which still fills the 2000 year old bathhouse's pools today - as sacred.

Hotels and B&Bs in Bath still offer some of Bath's tasty mineral water to drink. Neil tries some

Coins are still thrown into the water for good luck in one of the Roman pools at Bath

Finally Neil goes to Lullingstone's Roman villa in Kent. Deep in the cellar he finds wall paintings of pagan water deities, while upstairs there are covert messages hidden in the mosaic floor, finally leading to the arrival of Christianity that swept away the old religions, changing Britain forever.

A wealthy Roman built a huge villa for himself in what is now Lullingstone, Kent, the remains of which can be seen by the public to this day

One of the beautiful mosaics found at the villa. Clues in some of the mosaics point to the villa's owner being a secret Christian

Another Lullingstone villa mosaic

It seems that the villa's owner was secretly a Christian at a time before Christianity was legalised throughout the Roman Empire
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 7th, 2014 at 11:06 AM..
The Old Medic
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

Not suprising that, really, considering the current building is almost 1000 years' old.

Go inside it, though, and you will see that, as a Protestant place of worship, it is a lot barer than any Catholic cathedral, devoid of all idolatrous objects like crucifixes and pictures of the Virgin Mary that the sinful Catholic Church and its followers are fans of.

What gives YOU the "authority" to judge what is "idolatrous"? No Catholic worships any false Gods, and that includes the Saints.

In actuality, the removal of all of those things was mandated by Oliver Cromwell, and NOT by the Anglican Church. The Anglicans held on to all of the beliefs, and practices of the Catholic Church, except they had the liturgy in English, and they allowed their Priests and Bishops to marry.

Of course, over the past 50 years, the Anglicans have deviated so far from their roots, that most of the other Anglican churches in the world no longer hold it in any degree of respect.
Quote: Originally Posted by The Old Medic View Post

What gives YOU the "authority" to judge what is "idolatrous"?

The Protestant Church. You know, the same Protestant Church which protested against the idolatry of Catholicism? That's why it's called the Protestant Church - its followers are protesting against the teaching of Catholicism. And as a Protestant, I believe the Catholic Church is idolatrous.


No Catholic worships any false Gods, and that includes the Saints.

Catholics worship images of the Virgin Mary and Christ upon the cross. Protestantism teaches that that's idolatrous. You'll not see many Protestants worshipping images of the Virgin Mary or Christ upon the cross (Protestants don't mind having the cross in their churches, but not a cross with Jesus upon it), just as you don't see many Muslims worshipping images of Mohammed.

The Catholic Church is an IDOLATROUS and HERETICAL church.


In actuality, the removal of all of those things was mandated by Oliver Cromwell, and NOT by the Anglican Church.

No, it wasn't. Protestant beliefs - stemming from the teachings of Luther and Calvin - removed images of the Virgin Mary and Christ from English churches before Cromwell was even born.

The reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) saw a bout of iconoclasm - the destroying of idolatrous images in churches.

The conflict over idolatry, which began on the Continent with Luther and Calvin's polemics against Rome, eventually crossed the Channel into England with Henry VIII's break with Rome. Protestant sympathizers translated and published iconoclastic works such as John Ryckes' Image of Love (1525) and John Calvin's sermons. Opponents published their own counterarguments; Thomas More, for example, refuted Ryckes' Image of Love in his Dialogue Concerning Tyndale (1529). The main argument of the defenders was that images were "laymen's books" enabling the illiterate peasantry to acquire knowledge of the Christian faith and grow spiritually. Images of Christ and the saints, the argument went, were not objects of worship, but didactic aids. As Protestant ideas spread and took hold, however, the tensions over the use of images, and whether such use constituted idolatry, became more intense. Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer preached against them. Nicholas Ridley attacked idolatry in A Treatise on the Worship of Images.

Following the accession of Edward VI, royal injunctions ordered the removal of all images from English churches in 1548. Iconoclasm reached a fevered pitch during Edward's reign, resulting in the defacement of baptismal fonts, the destruction of stained glass windows, the whitewashing of pictorial depictions on walls, the painting over, or actual removal of, mounted crosses depicting the crucifixion of Jesus known as roods.

During the reign of Catholic Mary I, many images were restored and the Edwardian injunctions repealed. However, in subsequent reigns, iconoclastic activity returned, although it was more sporadic, and the re-established and moderated injunctions for the removal of images were not always uniformly enforced, revealing the ambivalence of the populace. Nevertheless, the destruction of images, as a subject of theological debate as well as an activity, remained an on-and-off issue from Edward's reign to the Glorious Revolution as the English sought to construct a Protestant identity.

The impact of iconoclastic sentiment (and royal policies) on the religious life of the English people may be illustrated with the case of Holy Trinity Church at Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. In medieval times, the church's chief glory was its rood loft (a "rood loft" is a central gallery or loft in which the crucifix known as a rood is erected).

Carved images, painted in red and gold, were destroyed by iconoclasts along with ceiling paintings of St. George and the Dragon, the Last Judgment, and the history of the Holy Cross. Sometime around 1566, when the chapel was being made to conform to the royal injunctions, the rood loft was removed, and the frescoes (including the one pictured here located on the west wall dividing the chancel and the nave of the church) were whitewashed by order of the acting chamberlain John Shakespeare, William's father. Ironically, Mr. Shakespeare's action preserved the frescoes from defacement by radical iconoclasts.

Folger Institute Stress Site

Protestant, unlike Catholics, don't pray to saints either.


Of course, over the past 50 years, the Anglicans have deviated so far from their roots, that most of the other Anglican churches in the world no longer hold it in any degree of respect.


It is the Catholic Church which has deviated from the True Church.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 8th, 2014 at 08:53 AM..
Really so why is the Anglican church dying out?
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Really so why is the Anglican church dying out?

It isn't. There are almost 90 million Anglicans in the world now, more than ever before. There are now 36.7 million Anglicans in Africa, more than there are in England, and a lot more than what there were in Africa twenty years ago.
Last night's final episode of Sacred Wonders of Britain.

BBC iPlayer - Sacred Wonders Of Britain: Episode 3

Neil Oliver examines how the creation of saints by the early church led to a new generation of Sacred Wonders across Britain. On Iona, in the Inner Hebrides, Neil discovers the traditional resting place of Macbeth as well as delving back through time to discover how St Columba sanctified the island with a tough brand of monasticism, all the way from the Egyptian desert.

On Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, Neil sees how the epic journey of St Cuthbert led to the writing of the extraordinary Lindisfarne Gospels and the building of Durham Cathedral.

At Canterbury Cathedral, the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, Neil learns how St Thomas Becket's grizzly murder was harnessed to build its Nave, one of the great glories of medieval architecture, and on Glastonbury Tor in Somerset he investigates layer after layer of powerful legend in the story of the Holy Grail, the sacred cup of everlasting life, which some believe is located there.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 14th, 2014 at 09:28 AM..

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