Search This Blog

Monday, April 20, 2015

So you say you hate the Puritans

Jeremy at Letters to Hannah: So you say you hate the Puritans --
Despite the fact that Oliver Cromwell was vastly superior to Charles I, I have yet to hear anyone praise Cromwell for deposing and killing him. There have been many reasonable objections to his killing of Charles, chief among them being that Charles's death immediately led to the instant popularity and eventual kingship of Charles II -- historically one of the most profligate and useless kings that England ever saw. But people are more likely to complain about Cromwell and the Puritans and unfairly loathe them, despite the fact that Cromwell ruled more honestly and rightly than both his predecessor and his successor; King Charles I is almost forgotten in America, despite his unhappy tendency to mangle and murder his subjects. And the reason we hate the better man and forget the worse is simple. Charles I offended the constitutional liberties of Englishmen; the Puritans tried to get rid of dancing on Sundays. ...


B. Prokop said...

We sometimes don't realize how unbelievably destructive to English culture their Civil War was. On a visit to Ely Cathedral, I was fascinated (and appalled) by the never-repaired destruction to the heartbreakingly beautiful Lady Chapel. Looking around the walls, one could see that the face (and sometimes the entire head) of each and every statue adorning the walls had been crudely hacked off by Cromwell's Puritans. I don't see a lot of difference between that vandalism and the sort of thing that ISIS is doing today in Mosul, smashing every pre-Mohammedan relic in the museums there, or even the Taliban's dynamiting of the giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

B. Prokop said...

Interesting. I just read the Wikipedia article on Ely Cathedral, and it claims the destruction inside the building was carried out under the orders of Henry VIII, long before Cromwell. But when I was in the cathedral itself, the sign in the chapel said it was the Puritans who had decapitated the 147 statues.

I wonder which version is true?

Ilíon said...

Do you see any difference between St. Boniface chopping down the Donar Oak and the Taliban blowing up the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas?

Do you see any difference between Josiah overthrowing "the high places" and ISIS destroying the artifacts of ancient Nineveh?

I see a difference. Namely, that when Josiah overthrew "the high places", or when Boniface chopped down the Donar Oak, or when [someone] defaced the statues at Ely Cathedral, people were engaging in idolatry with respect to those objects. This is not the case with the Bamiyan Buddhas or the Ninevan artifacts.

Sure, I quite agree, that from *our* perspective, the defacing of Ely Cathedral was reprehensible. But I also know that were I living in that time, I may well have considered it a regrettable, yet necessary, act.

Ilíon said...

"I wonder which version is true?"

Hmmm ... if the Puritans did it, why weren't other cathedrals similarly defaced?

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Ely today is known as "Cromwell Country". The local tourist industry actually makes a Big Deal of this. Cromwell lived in Huntingdon, which is just a stone's throw to the west of Ely, and much of his activities were based in this region of England.

To me the most fascinating episode of non-destruction of that era is the survival of the parish church at Kilpeck, which is absolutely festooned with out-and-out pagan carvings, inside and out. The church has a fascinating history. It's built over the site of a prehistoric stone circle. The Romans later had a pagan shrine on that same spot. Then a Christian church was built, again in the exact same location. The earliest buildings have not survived, and the present structure dates to the 1100s. Its survival at the hands of the Puritans is even more remarkable, considering the Parliamentary army was encamped on its doorstep for weeks during the Civil War, and many surrounding structures were demolished by them.

Just take a look at the images on the above link, and imagine how they must have seemed to the Roundheads. I've visited the church twice, and let me tell you, the place is downright spooky!