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Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England$
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Peter Marshall

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207733

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207733.001.0001

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Debates Over the Dead: Purgatory and Polemic in Henrician England

Debates Over the Dead: Purgatory and Polemic in Henrician England

(p.47) 2 Debates Over the Dead: Purgatory and Polemic in Henrician England
Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England


Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the early Protestant or evangelical critique of purgatory by figures such as Simon Fish, John Frith, and William Tyndale in the reign of Henry VIII, and traditionalist Catholic responses to it by Thomas More and others. It goes on to explore the official status of purgatory, indulgences, and post-mortem prayer after Henry's break with the papacy, concluding that, while conservative in many other respects, the Henrician Church's position in these matters represented a striking break with the past. This was due to both to purgatory's uncertain foundation in scripture and to its particular association with papal authority. Wills are used to trace a declining pattern of intercessory provision in a climate of uncertainty about official intentions, and a hitherto neglected theme — the significance for the cultural status of the dead of the dissolution of the monasteries — is investigated.

Keywords:   Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, William Tyndale, Thomas More, purgatory, indulgences, Henry VIII, scripture, papacy

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