'The Right Ordering of Souls'

April 2018
1 black and white, 3 line illustrations
491 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in the History of Medieval Religion
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, REL015000, HIS037020

'The Right Ordering of Souls'

The Parish of All Saints' Bristol on the Eve of the Reformation

Clive Burgess

The relationship between people and parish in the late medieval ages illuminated by this study of a remarkable survival from the period.
In the two centuries preceding the Reformation in England, economic, political and spiritual conditions combined with constructive effect. Endemic plague prompted a demonstrative piety and, in a world enjoying rising disposable incomes, this linked with current teachings - especially the doctrine of Purgatory - to sustain a remarkable devotional generosity. Moreover, political conditions, and particularly war with France, persuaded the government to summon its subjects' assistance, including responses encouraged in England's many parishes. As a result, the wealthier classes invested in and worked for their neighbourhood churches with a degree of largesse - witnessed in parish buildings in many localities - hardly equalled since.
Buildings apart, the scarcity of pre-Reformation parish records means, however, that the resonances of this response, and the manner in which parishioners organised their worship, are ordinarily lost to us. This book, using the remarkable survival of records for one parish - All Saints', Bristol, in the later fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries - scrutinises the investment that the faithful made. If not necessarily typical, it is undeniably revealing, going further than any previous study to expose and explain parishioners' priorities, practices and achievements in the late Middle Ages. In so doing, it also charts a world that would soon vanish.

Dr Clive Burgess holds a Senior Lectureship in late medieval history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Table of Contents

'God is in none land so well served': Placing the late medieval English parish
'To be showed and declared': Circumstances and sources
'According to the usage there': Reading testamentary evidence
'Since his decease': The widows' might
'God amend them': The parish wronged
'In possession for the profit of the church': Securing commemoration in the parish
'For all future time': The Halleways' Chantry
'He procured, moved and stirred': Clergy as mentors
'Well willed men': Leaders, managers and parishioners
'Was but single and no thing of beauty': Enhancing the parish church
'To the laud and the loving of Almighty God': Increasing divine service in All Saints'
Conclusion: 'What else, I ask you, is a city than a great monastery?'


An excellent study of an important subject and can be thoroughly recommended to all who are interested in the history of Bristol. BRISTOL & GLOUCESTERSHIRE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Author Bio

Senior Lecturer in History, Royal Holloway, University of London. He obtained his undergraduate and doctorate from Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Also by Author

Also in Series

Related Titles