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Church Desecration

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001

Driven by the strictures of Puritanism, Roundheads set about removing the signs of popery - acts of church desecration

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While Charles enjoyed his winter in Oxford, the Roundheads also kept themselves busy. Across the country, Parliamentary forces were being inspired by Puritan clerics to carry out acts of iconoclasm.

Stained-glass windows, altar rails, statues, even communion tables were being destroyed as symbols of popery and idolatry. Everything had to go. Worcester was described by one Roundhead soldier as 'so vile, papisticall and abonimable…that it resembles Sodom and is the very emblem of Gomorrah, and doubtless worse.'

Worcester Cathedral Creative commons image Icon James-Hetherington under CC-BY-NC licence under Creative-Commons license
Worcester Cathedral

The Cathedral suffered terribly - the organ was torn apart, windows and statues smashed, campfires were lit inside, and the aisles and choir stalls were used as latrines. Rochester Cathedral and even Canterbury Cathedral were subject to equally terrible acts of vandalism; it was an orgy of destruction. One zealous vandal, an otherwise respectable Suffolk yeoman called William Dowsing, kept a diary of his exploits:

Swaffham Bulbeck in Cambridgeshire 1643. 4 crucifixes and Christ nailed to them and God the Father over one of them, and we brake down a 100 superstitious pictures, and 2 crosses we took off the steeple, and 2 on the church and chancel…We digged down the steps, 20 cherubins…. At Babraham in Cambridgeshire, January 5, 1644. We brake down 3 crucifixes and 60 superstitious pictures, and brake in pieces the rails.

The Roundheads were driven by the desire to rid the kingdom of popery - only Charles stood in their way.

 

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