Catholic, Anglican, and Puritan Representations of the Scholar as a Model of Martyrdom

By Nick Klemens Crown.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 21, 2016 $US5.00

In this article, a martyr is defined as one who personally witnessed persecution during the Tudor Reformation, especially under Henry VIII, Mary, and Elizabeth, and who ultimately died for his or her beliefs rather than abjure. The main themes discussed were issues of continuity and change: To what extent did Protestant depictions of martyrs draw upon pre-Reformation ideas? Did they signify a break from the past, as proposed by Dickens, or did they represent gradual transition concurrent with Walsham’s theory, where some older beliefs were perpetuated, some were reinterpreted allegorically, and others were abandoned as obsolete? Although firmly grounded in history, the methodology of this article also incorporates elements from other disciplines, especially gender studies, death studies, religion, philosophy, and some aspects of art history. Of particular importance was the language of inversion, where exceptionally courageous female martyrs were portrayed with the masculine virtues of courage, analytical rationality, or self-control. Allegedly negative feminine traits such as cowardice, deceit, treachery, or promiscuity were used to shame and discredit clergymen from rival religious groups. The following article will focus upon a specific model of masculinity used by Catholic, Anglican, and Puritan martyrologists: the representation of martyrs, especially clergymen, as scholars whose rationality, leadership, and willingness to die for their beliefs rendered them superior men to their rivals. Such portrayals of martyred scholars might be age-based, for example, the exaltation of the mature teacher or humble youth, or may feed into the discourse over whether the celibate priest devoted to his books, or the married Protestant patriarch, was more self-disciplined and, thus, better qualified to instruct their congregation.

Keywords: Reformation, Renaissance, Martyrdom, Humanism, Church History, Jesuits, Puritans

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2017, pp.75-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 21, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 668.955KB)).

Dr. Nick Klemens Crown

Alumnus, School of History, University of East Anglia Norwich, Norwich, Norfolk, UK