This book represents the current high-water mark of the revisionist view of the English Reformation, which opposes the view that this Reformation was both inevitable and necessary, given the supposed loss of appeal of Catholicism. Duffy contends that pre-Reformation Catholicism fully involved the laity in liturgy, doctrine and devotion. The first part of the book details this involvement of the laity, rich and poor, literate and illiterate, in the daily life of the parish church: mass, processions, the sacraments, catechesis, saints, personal devotions and preparation for death. The contention that superstition overwhelmed authentic devotion is also re-examined. Duffy's major premise -- that traditional Catholicism was not in decline before the English Reformation -- requires a new view of how that Reformation dismantled existing Catholic structures, ''stripping the altars'' of the churches of England in the face of popular sensibilities strongly supporting traditional religion. Winner of the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award, The Stripping of the Altars is a massive book, with massive revisionist purpose. Reviewers call it ''a landmark book''; ''a magnificent scholarly achievement''; ''an astonishing and magnificent piece of work''; the encomiums are as expansive as the book is ambitious. 700 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
This prize-winning account of the pre-Reformation church recreates lay people's experience of religion in fifteenth-century England. Eamon Duffy shows that late medieval Catholicism was neither decadent nor decayed, but was a strong and vigorous tradition, and that the Reformation represented a violent rupture from a popular and theologically respectable religious system. For this edition, Duffy has written a new Preface reflecting on recent developments in our understanding of the period.
From reviews of the first edition:
"A magnificent scholarly achievement and] a compelling read."--Patricia Morrison, "Financial Times
""Deeply imaginative, movingly written, and splendidly illustrated. . . . Duffy's analysis . . . carries conviction."--Maurice Keen, "New York Review of Books
""This book will afford enjoyment and enlightenment to layman and specialist alike."--Peter Heath, "Times Literary Supplement
"" An] astonishing and magnificent piece of work."--Edward T. Oakes, "Commonweal"