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Religion Religion, Politics & State

The Paul's Cross Sermons 1534-1642

by (author) Millar MacLure

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2019
Religion, Politics & State, Apologetics, Medieval, History, Ecclesiology
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    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
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The public outdoor sermon was a mediaeval institution of great historical importance. At the preaching cross in St. Paul's Churchyard in London. The leading prelates of the day expounded theology and politics, and were listened to by kings and commoners. In that day the persuaders of public opinion wore the prophet's robe, not the grey flannel suit, and had to depend on their own powerful lungs without mechanical aids to reach the loungers at the limits of the church-yard. They exercised their powers of persuasion according to the traditional rules of rhetoric, and with such skill that they have thundered their way into history. Cranmer, Latimer, Gardiner, Jewel, Donne, Laud, King, and many other famous churchmen spoke from the Cross of St. Paul's.


During and after the Reformation, however, the outdoor public sermon was transformed by political devices and theological conflict. Serious issues affecting the destiny of England as a world power were proclaimed and argued from Paul's Cross. The sermons are a fascinating and reliable mirror of the great changes going on in the religious, intellectual, and social life of England.


The great names of the age are here: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Leicester, Essex, Jonson, Bacon, but an attempt is made to see them from the vantage point of contemporary local knowledge, rumour and prejudice, not as they appear in the usual perspective of history. The Register of Sermons gives an intimate glimpse of the times, of the cranks, criminals, spies, and martyrs of the age, as well as rescuing from oblivion the painful efforts of the preachers.


This study provides the only general introduction available to an important ecclesiastical institution of the Reformation and post-Reformation period; it serves as a series of footnotes to the careers of certain prominent persons, and as a partial bibliography of the sermon-literature of the period. For the ecclesiastical historian the book provides a convenient index to the sources and methods of and the changes in Anglican popular apologetics during a critical period in the history of the Church of England.


Professor MacLure's admirable prose style echoes attractively in its colour and rhythms the period he is describing.

About the author

MILLAR MACLURE, Professor of English in Victoria College, University of Toronto, in the author of The Paul's Cross Sermons, 1534-1642and editor, with F.W. Watt, of Essays in English Literature from the Renaissance to the Victorian Age, Presented to A.S.P. Woodhouse. from 1960 to 1965 he was the editor of the University of Toronto Quarterly.

Millar MacLure's profile page

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