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The agnus dei, Catholic devotion, and confessional politics in early modern England

  • Aislinn Muller (a1)
Abstract

After 1571 Catholic sacred objects were outlawed in England, and the possession of such objects could be prosecuted under the statute of praemunire. Despite this prohibition sacred objects including rosaries, blessed beads, and the agnus dei (wax pendants blessed by the pope) remained a critical part of Catholic devotion. This article examines the role of the agnus dei in English Catholic communities and the unique political connotations it acquired during the reign of Elizabeth I. It assesses the uses of these sacramentals in Catholic missions to England, their reception amongst Catholics, and the political significance of the agnus dei in light of the papal excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570.

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The author is grateful to the Catholic Record Society for the award of a grant and studentship which helped to fund part of the research for this article.

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1 13 Eliz. I c.2. See Statutes of the Realm, 4 vols (London: HM Stationery Office, 1819), 4.1: 530-1. The statute of praemunire, as enacted during the reign of Richard II, forbade the recognition of any foreign power as having jurisdiction in England. See 16 Ric. II c.5, in Statutes of the Realm (London: HM Stationery Office, 1816), 2: 85-6.

2 Ibid.

3 Walsham, Alexandra, ‘Beads, Books, and Bare Ruined Choirs: Transmutations of Catholic Ritual Life in Protestant England,’ in Ben Kaplan, Bob Moore, Henk Van Neerop, and Judith Pollmann, eds., Catholic Communities in Protestant States: Britain and the Netherlands 1570-1720 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006), 105-110 .

4 See for instance Brown, Nancy Pollard, ‘Paperchase: The Dissemination of Catholic Texts in Elizabethan England’, in English Manuscript Studies, 1 (1989): 120-143 ; Havens, Earle and Patton, Elizabeth, ‘Underground Networks, Prisons, and the Circulation of Counter-Reformation Books in Elizabethan England’, in James Kelly and Susan Royal, eds., Early Modern English Catholicism: Identity, Memory, and Counter-Reformation (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 165-188 ; Shell, Alison, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). On relics see for instance Myers, Anne, ‘Father John Gerard’s Object Lessons: Relics and Devotional Objects in the Autobiography of a Hunted Priest’, in Ronald Corthell, Frances Dolan, Christopher Highley, and Arthur Marotti, eds., Catholic Culture in Early Modern England (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), 216-235 ; Malo, Robyn, ‘Intimate Devotion: Recusant Martyrs and the Making of Relics in Post-Reformation England’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 44, no. 3 (2014), 531-548 . James Kelly, ‘Creating an English Catholic Identity: Relics, Martyrs, and English Women Religious in Counter-Reformation Europe’, in Kelly and Royal, Early Modern English Catholicism, 41-59.

5 Walsham, ‘Beads, Books, and Bare Ruined Choirs’, 105-6.

6 Dillon, Anne, ‘“To Seek Out Comforts and Companions of His Own Kind and Condition”: The Benedictine Rosary Confraternity and the Chapel of Cardigan House, London’, in Lowell Gallagher, ed., Redrawing the Map of Early Modern English Catholicism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012), 272-308 .

7 See Thomas McCoog’s three volumes on the Society of Jesus in the British Isles: The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541-1588: ‘Our Way of Proceeding?’ (Leiden: Brill, 1996), The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1589-1597: Building the Faith of Saint Peter Upon the King of Spain’s Monarchy (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), and The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1598-1606: ‘Lest Our Lamp Be Entirely Extinguished’ (Leiden: Brill, 2017). See also Gerard Kilroy, Edmund Campion: A Scholarly Life (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), Houliston, Victor, Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons’s Jesuit Polemic, 1580-1610 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), and James Kelly, ed., ‘The English Jesuit Mission’, special issue of the Journal of Jesuit Studies (Hereafter, JJS) 1, 4 (2014): 511-636.

8 See, however, Thomas, Hannah, ‘The Society of Jesus in Wales, c. 1600-1679: Rediscovering the Cwm Jesuit Library at Hereford Cathedral’, JJS 1, 4 (2014): 572-588 . An exhibition of the collections of Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, which took place in Liverpool in 2008, featured some materials from the English missions and post-Reformation period, but here too the focus was primarily on relics, texts, and the Mass. See Whitehead, Maurice, ed., Held in Trust: 2008 Years of Sacred Culture (Stonyhurst: St Omers Press, 2008), 35-88 and 196-8.

9 Evangelisti, Sylvia, ‘Material Culture,’ in Alexandra Bamji, Geert Janssen, and Mary Laven, eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter Reformation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), 399-413 .

10 Musacchio, Jacqueline Marie, ‘Lambs, Coral, Teeth, and the Intimate Intersection of Religion and Magic in Renaissance Tuscany,’ in Sally Cornelison and Scott Montgomery, eds., Images, Relics, and Devotional Practices in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (Tempe: Arizona State University Press, 2005), 143-151 .

11 Scribner, R.W., Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (London: Hambledon, 1987), 39-47 .

12 Scribner, Popular Culture and Popular Movements, 5-7; ‘The Reformation, Popular Magic, and the “Disenchantment of the World”,’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23 (1993): 479-80. Eamon Duffy has highlighted how consecrated salt, wax, and water could be used by the laity as spiritual weapons against the distresses of life in pre-Reformation England. See Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 281-282 .

13 Corry, Maya, Howard, Deborah, and Laven, Mary, eds., Madonnas and Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum, 2017), 124-125 .

14 Ibid., see also Snoek, GJC, Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 296 .

15 Musacchio, ‘Lambs, Coral, Teeth’, 144-7.

16 Corry et al., Madonnas and Miracles, 85, 123-5.

17 Kilroy, Edmund Campion, 395; see also Corry et al., Madonnas and Miracles, 124.

19 In parts of Europe where the Reformation met with less success, this practice remained common throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The agnus dei appears frequently, for instance, in sixteenth-century Italian inventories. See Corry et al., Madonnas and Miracles, 125.

20 Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Henry IV, 4 vols (London: HM Stationery Office, 1903), 1: 224. Constance Despenser was the daughter of Edmund of Langley, first duke of York. Her husband, Thomas Depsenser, was executed for rebelling against Henry IV, but his possessions were distributed in accordance with his will. She was briefly imprisoned and her lands and goods were seized in 1405 for conspiring against the crown, but these were later restored to her. See Rosemary Horrox, ‘Despenser, Constance, Lady Despenser (c.1375–1416)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/57622 (accessed 30 Sept 2017).

21 Rymer, Thomas, ed., Foedera, Conventiones, Literae, et Cuiuscunque Acta Publica Inter Reges Angliae, 17 vols (London: A. Churchill, 1709), 9 : 277. Henry Scrope served as treasurer for Henry V, but was executed for treason in 1415 because of connections with a plot to overthrow the king. See Vale, Brigette, ‘Scrope, Henry, third Baron Scrope of Masham (c.1376–1415)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) available from: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/24959 (accessed 30 Sept 2017).

22 Foster, C. W., ed., Lincoln Wills, 2 vols (London: Lincoln Record Society, 1914 and 1918), 1:144.

23 Musacchio, ‘Lambs, Coral, Teeth’, 144-8.

24 See for instance Kew, The National Archives, State Papers (Hereafter, TNA SP) 69/8 f. 154; Rigg, JM, ed., Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs Preserved Principally at Rome in the Vatican Archives and Library, 2 vols (London: HM Stationery Office, 1916), 1 : 197.

25 Raine, James, Greenwell, William, and Hodgson, John, eds., Wills and Inventories Illustrative of the History, Manners, Language, and Statistics of the Northern Counties of England, 4 vols (London: Nichols and Son, 1835), 1 : 56.

26 Salzman, L.F., ed., A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, 10 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948-2002), 2: 312-314 .

27 TNA SP 1/102 f. 84-8.

28 Corry et al., Madonnas and Miracles, 85, 123-5.

29 Walsham, Alexandra, ‘The Pope’s Merchandise and the Jesuits’ Trumpery: Catholic Relics and Protestant Polemic in Post-Reformation England’, in Jennifer Spinks and Dagmar Eichberger, eds., Religion, the Supernatural, and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe: An Album Amicorum for Charles Zika (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 370-409 .

30 Collins, Francis, ed., Wills and Administrations from the Knaresborough Court Rolls, 2 vols (Durham: Andrews and Co., 1902), 1 : 81.

31 TNA SP 69/8 f. 164.

32 Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, 565-93.

33 See for instance Peter Davidson, ‘Recusant Catholic Spaces in Early Modern England’, in Corthell et al., Catholic Culture in Early Modern England, 19-51; Eamon Duffy, ‘Praying the Counter-Reformation’, in Kelly and Royal, Early Modern English Catholicism, 206-25; McClain, Lisa, Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience Among Catholics in Protestant England, 1559-1642 (New York: Routledge, 2004).

34 Walsham, Alexandra, ‘Skeletons in the Cupboard: Relics After the English Reformation’, Past & Present 206, no. 5 (2010), 121-143 ; Kelly, ‘Relics, Martyrs, and English Women Religious’, 41-59; see also Walsham, ‘Beads, Books, and Bare-Ruined Choirs’, 103-22.

35 Ditchfield, Simon, ‘Martyrs on the Move: Relics as Vindicators of Local Diversity in the Tridentine Church’, in Diana Wood, ed., Martyrs and Martyrologies (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 283-294 .

36 An English translation of the bull is available in Crosignani, Ginevra, McCoog, Thomas, and Questier, Michael, eds., Recusancy and Conformity in Early Modern England: Manuscript and Printed Sources in Translation (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2010), 86-89 . The language of the bull issued by Pius V does not specify that the queen’s subjects could continue to obey her in civil matters. In translation, it states ‘And we command and forbid all and sundry among the lords, subjects, peoples, and others aforesaid that they have not to obey her or her admonitions, orders, or laws. We shall bind those who do the contrary with a similar sentence of excommunication’. For more on the implications of this language see Aislinn Muller, ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Excommunication and its Afterlife, ca. 1570-1603’ (PhD Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2016), 15-26.

37 Kesselring, Krista, The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics, and Protest in Elizabethan England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 45-90 .

38 Marshall, Peter, Reformation England, 1480-1642 (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 193 .

39 See Underwood, Lucy, ‘Persuading the Queen’s Majesty’s Subjects from Their Allegiance: Treason, Reconciliation and Confessional Identity in Elizabethan England’, Historical Research 89, 244 (2016): 246-267 .

40 Underwood, Lucy, Childhood, Youth, and Religious Dissent in Post-Reformation England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), chapter 2.

41 Statutes of the Realm, 4 vols (London: HM Stationery Office, 1819), 4.1: 657-58.

42 See for instance TNA SP 12/238 f. 188b, a government memorandum entitled ‘A Certain and infallible rule to know a reconciled papist’, ca. 1591: ‘Whosoever refuseth to go to church, weareth crucifixes and Agnus dei or grana benedicta is a reconciled papist for he is not admitted to have any of these until he be so reconciled’.

43 Edmund Campion argued that this association was legally unsound during his trial in 1581, asserting that the reconciliation facilitated by priests was ‘only due to god’, and not to the pope. See Kilroy, Edmund Campion, 307-8.

44 Snoek, Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist, 296; see also Scribner, ‘The Reformation, Popular Magic, and the “Disenchantment of the World”’, 479-80.

45 TNA SP 15/21 f. 24.

46 TNA SP 15/21 f. 133. Anne Percy, the countess of Northumberland, and her husband Thomas Percy fled to Scotland in 1569 after helping to lead the Northern Rebellion. Thomas Percy was later imprisoned by the Scottish and sent back to England to be tried and executed for treason in 1572. Anne Percy escaped to the Low Countries and spent the rest of her life in exile. See Scott, Jade, ‘Percy, Anne, countess of Northumberland (1536–1591)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/107539 (accessed 6 October 2017).

47 London, British Library (Hereafter, BL), Lansdowne MS 25/30 f. 63.

48 Ibid., TNA Acts of the Privy Council (Hereafter, PC) PC 2/11 f. 225. Mayne attended St John’s College, Oxford with Edmund Campion and Gregory Martin, and was persuaded by them to convert to Catholicism. See Raymond Francis Trudgian, ‘Mayne, Cuthbert [St Cuthbert Mayne] (bap. 1544, d. 1577)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/18440 (accessed 1 Oct 2017); Dillon, Anne, The Construction of Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), 1-17 .

49 TNA PC 2/12 f. 141.

50 TNA PC 2/12 f. 341.

51 Peter Holmes, Elizabethan Casuistry (London: Catholic Record Society, 1981), 66-7.

52 Ibid., 91-2.

53 Louthan, Howard, Converting Bohemia: Force and Persuasion in the Catholic Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), chapter 6.

54 Johnson, Trevor, Magistrates, Madonnas, and Miracles: The Counter-Reformation in the Upper Palatinate (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), chapter 8.

55 McCoog, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1541-1588, 133-40.

56 Ibid., 221.

57 I am grateful to Victor Houliston for allowing me to read his annotated transcript of the faculties for Campion and Persons, which appears in his new volume of Robert Persons’s correspondence. Victor Houliston, Ginevra Crosignani, and Thomas McCoog, eds., The Correspondence and Unpublished Papers of Robert Persons, SJ (1546-1610), vol. 1 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2017), 62-8.

58 Pollen, John, Unpublished Documents Relating to the English Martyrs (London: Catholic Record Society, 1908), 319 .

59 TNA SP 52/48 f. 70.

60 Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Most Honourable Marquis of Salisbury, Preserved at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, 19 vols (London: HM Stationery Office, 1899), 7: 484.

61 Gerard, John, The Autobiography of an Elizabethan, translated by Philip Caraman (London: Longmans, 1956), 177-178 .

62 Ibid.

63 See Figure 6, which is also suggestive of these connections.

64 Thomas McCoog’s two studies of the Society of Jesus in the British Isles, for instance, do not consider in detail the role of sacramentals in the missions. See McCoog, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1541-1588 and The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1589-1597.

65 Johnson, Trevor, ‘Blood, Tears, and Xavier Water: Missionaries and Popular Religion in the Eighteenth-Century Upper Palatinate’, in Robert Scribner and Trevor Johnson, eds., Popular Religion in Germany and Central Europe (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996),183-202 .

66 Tingle, Liz, Indulgences After Luther: Pardons in Counter-Reformation France, 1520-1720 (London: Routledge, 2015), chapter 4.

67 Walsham, Alexandra, ‘Miracles and the Counter-Reformation Mission to England’, Historical Journal 46 (2003): 798 .

68 Martin, Gregory, Roma Sancta, edited by George Parks (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1969), 236-238 . Martin also studied with Edmund Campion at the English College in Douai. Campion tried to persuade Martin to join the Society of Jesus when he arrived in Rome for the establishment of the new English College there in 1576, but he returned to France at William Allen’s request, possibly to begin work on the translation of the New Testament. See McCoog, Thomas, ‘Martin, Gregory (1542?–1582)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/18183 (accessed 1 Oct 2017).

69 Underwood, Childhood, Youth, and Religious Dissent, chapter 2.

70 Laurence Lux-Sterritt has discussed some of these concepts with respect to the relationships between English Catholic laywomen and the missions. See Lux-Sterritt, ‘“Virgo Becomes Virago”: Women in the Accounts of Seventeenth-Century English Catholic Missionaries’, Recusant History 30 (2011): 537-553 .

71 The accounts discussed in this article show the circulation of the agnus dei in Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Northumbria.

72 Houliston, Crosignani, and McCoog, eds., Correspondence and Unpublished Papers of Robert Persons, 1, 59: ‘Then, in the case of Catholics, let it be with the reconciled rather than with schismatics; with heretics they should have no direct dealings; but they will urge the Catholics each and all to strive for the conversion of the members of his family … and when those … are ready to hear the truth with equanimity, then will our Fathers themselves be able, with due regard for safety … to confirm their purpose and give them fuller instruction’.

73 See Molly Murray, ‘“Now I ame a Catholique”: William Alabaster and the Early Modern Catholic Conversion Narrative’, in Corthell et al., Catholic Culture, 189-215, for similar stories of reconciliation and conversion; see also Oates, Rosamund, ‘“For the lacke of true history”: Polemic, Conversion and Church History in Elizabethan England’, in Nadine Lewycky and Adam Morton, eds., Getting Along? Religious Identities and Confessional Relations in Early Modern England (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), 133-152 .

74 Hume, Martin, ed., Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs, Preserved Principally in the Archives of Simancas, 4 vols (London: HM Stationery Office, 1894), 2 : 541-2. Accounts of the ‘Black Assizes’ of 1577, described here by Sander, appear in several sources. See for instance Holinshed, Raphael, Chronicles of England, Ireland, and Scotland (London: Henry Denham, 1587), 1270 . For a summary of Protestant and Catholic accounts of the Black Assizes see Walsham, Alexandra, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 234-236 .

75 Cordy Jeaffreson, John, ed. Middlesex County Records, 1550-1603, 4 vols (London: Middlesex County Record Society, 1886), 1 : 111-16. Eleanor Brome (née Windsor) was married to Sir Christopher Brome, from the prominent recusant family based at Holton Hall in Oxfordshire. In the court record Eleanor Brome’s mother, Catherine Brome (née Windsor), is referred to as Lady Paulet, which was the surname of her first husband. Elizabeth Barram was a servant in the Brome household. See Fox, John, ‘The Bromes of Holton Hall: A Forgotten Recusant Family’, Oxoniensa 68 (2003): 70-74 .

76 Dillon, ‘The Benedictine Rosary Confraternity’, 272-308.

77 TNA SP 12/151 f. 7. The agent in question is Maliverny Catlyn. See Cooper, John, The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 180-182 .

78 TNA SP 12/164 f. 24.

79 Ibid.

80 TNA SP 12/163 f. 141.

81 TNA SP 94/2 f. 71.

82 TNA SP 53/17 f. 46, SP 53/19 f. 102. On Mary’s political schemes and Nau’s involvement see Alford, Stephen, The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I (London: Allen Lane, 2012), chapter 16.

83 BL Lansdowne MS 50/76 f. 164. Bridget, Elizabeth, and George Brome were the children of Eleanor and Christopher Brome, mentioned above. See Fox, ‘The Bromes of Holton Hall’, 70-4.

84 Ibid.

85 London, Lambeth Palace Library, Carew MS 607 f. 35.

86 Kilroy, Edmund Campion, 145-6, 179-84.

87 Hume, Calendar of Letters and State Papers in the Archives of Simancas, 3: 85-6.

88 TNA SP 63/88 f. 32.

89 BL Lansdowne MS 39/34 f. 158.

90 TNA SP 12/238 f. 188b.

91 Calendar of the Manuscripts Preserved at Hatfield House, 5: 98.

92 TNA SP 59/40 f. 24. John Ogilvy worked in espionage from the late 1580s before the Scottish privy council declared him a traitor. He fled abroad and worked as an agent for Catholic exiles on the continent, becoming embroiled in a conspiracy for the possible conversion of James VI. He returned to Scotland briefly in 1600, when the incident above took place. See A.J. Loomie, ‘Ogilvy, John (fl. 1587–1601)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/20600 (accessed 1 Oct 2017).

93 TNA SP 12/274 f. 181.

94 See for instance Captain William Turner’s letter to Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, in 1605: ‘For the more proof, I have delivered to Sir Thomas Parry a book of all the gentlemen’s names of the countries in England that have sent many to the Jesuits, under colour of sending men to serve for soldiers. They come with great sums of money, and many are made priests, and carry agnus deis, and relics, and indulgences from Rome’. Calendar of the Manuscripts Preserved at Hatfield House, 17: 544.

95 Accounts of these events appear in the annual letters of the Society. See Foley, Henry, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, 7 vols (London: Burns and Oates, 1875), 7.2 : 1100.

96 Ibid., 1131.

97 Ibid., 1142.

98 See Clossey, Luke, Salvation and Globalization in the Early Jesuit Missions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 216-237 .

99 For an overview of Catholic missions in Southeast Asia and their uses of relics and sacred objects see Alberts, Tara, Conflict and Conversion: Catholicism in Southeast Asia, 1500-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), chapter 7. The work of Howard Louthan and Trevor Johnson on this phenomenon in Europe has been discussed earlier in this article. See also Carolina Hosne, Ana, ‘The “Art of Memory” in the Jesuit Missions in Peru and China in the Late 16th Century’, Material Culture Review 76 (2012): 30-40 ; Zupanov, Ines, ‘Passage to India: Jesuit Spiritual Economy Between Martyrdom and Profit in the Seventeenth Century’, Journal of Early Modern History 16 (2012): 121-159 .

100 See for instance Walsham, Alexandra, ‘Translating Trent? English Catholicism and the Counter Reformation’, Historical Research 78 (2005): 288-310 . This theme was also the topic of a conference sponsored by the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University and the University of Notre Dame in 2015.

* The author is grateful to the Catholic Record Society for the award of a grant and studentship which helped to fund part of the research for this article.

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