Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Protestant Renovation

I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to the UK several times in my adult life, and each time I see something different about how they choose to interpret their religious history.

Many years ago I saw an astonishingly frank exhibition at the V & A which showcased their collection of pre-Reformation artefacts and actually explained that Catholicism was for 1000 years the traditional religion in England. Usually, though, the English don't go quite that far.

This time, I see more acknowledgement at Westminster Abbey that it was once a Catholic church with very outre decorations, including wall paintings on a lavish scale. In the Chapter House, the matter of the strange disappearance of these is touched on tactfully as the 'alterations' of the 16th to 18th centuries.

Ah yes. That would be during the period known as the Renovation, when churches across Europe were seized with the desire to 'antique' their existing dull and dated interiors by stripping the wall paintings and beheading the statues. Now, of course, we look back and sigh a little at the loss of so much fine art, much as we do when we hear of the Victorians putting matchboard and flocked wallpaper over linenfold oak panel carvings.

This is, I suppose, a start, but to me it says more about our Ikea generation's limited range of understanding, and also how unfashionable and intolerant it is to talk about dying for actual ideals and principles. No one dies for linenfold panelling.

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