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Iconoclasm, ecclesiology and 'the beauty of holiness' : concepts of sacrilege and the 'perial of idolatry' in early modern England, circa 1590-1642

Yorke, Peter David (1997) Iconoclasm, ecclesiology and 'the beauty of holiness' : concepts of sacrilege and the 'perial of idolatry' in early modern England, circa 1590-1642. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86097) (KAR id:86097)

Language: English

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This thesis is a study of the principles and character of church decoration in early seventeenth century England. The first chapter considers the relevance of Reformation concepts of idolatry to contemporary ecclesiological issues - especially the the place and function of images in churches. It argues that developing theological ideas and changing political circumstances influenced a spectrum of ecclesiological positions - from Arminian Christocentrism to Calvinist iconophobia. Chapter two offers a practical overview of the internal decoration of English churches, chapels and cathedrals. This chapter also focuses on developing lay and ecclesiastical concerns regarding the allegdly 'sacrilegious' neglect of church buildings (following the Reformation) and assesses the contribution of James I and the Chapel Royal to ecclesiological debate. The final chapters are case studies of the college chapel restoration programmes at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the 1620s and 1630s, and the ecclesiastical career and patronage of Bishop John Bridgeman of Chester (1618-1646). These chapters serve to illustrate the range of ecclesiological patronage in early Stuart England. Chapter three represents the first attempt to synthesise and collate primary evidence of an intense phase of chapel construction and refurbishment at both universities, and to link architectural, art, historical, theological and biographical sources together in order to explain why and when this activity took place, how it was inspired, and what it meant to contemporaries. Chapter four seeks to explain Bridgeman's interest in decorating churches and why he denounced iconoclasm. Such positions seem to contradict his toleration of puritans and failure to meet the ecclesiological requirements of the Caroline Church. However from the perspective of the thesis, Bridgeman's patronage is shown to exemplify a new way of looking at ecclesiological issues, demonstrating how churchmen were coming to rid themselves of that fear of idolatry, which a generation early represeneted a sign of Protestant orthodoxy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86097
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Church decoration; Early modern history; Ecclesiastical history
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D203 Modern History, 1453-
N Visual Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:28 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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