The Other Church Closure - A Comment

I did enjoy reading your article in ‘In-touch’. I was taken back to my ‘A’ level Medieval History course. Both English and European history (986-1485) seemed to revolve around disputes with the Papacy, which invariably was the winner. Whether it was Henry II doing public penance in sackcloth for his alleged part in the murder of Thomas Becket or King John suffering the humiliation of one of his many climb-downs in his ongoing war of attrition with the Pope, the relationship with the church was fundamental part of our history. The only time it went seriously wrong was during the papal schism, when there were two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon. That must have been an interesting time to live through!

I think that the closure during the Stephen Langton episode would have had a profound effect on the population. The Church controlled so much of people’s everyday lives, from the cradle to the grave, literally. Local priests were central to people’s lives in most towns and villages. Their trump card was that it was the priests who were the gatekeepers to heaven and hell. They were the only means for the majority to hear the stories in the Bible and the Word of God, that is, if they were lucky and had a literate priest because at that time many weren’t. There was a prayer structure to the day and to everyday life that it is difficult for us to understand now. Also particular services required church attendance, especially during times such as Lent for example. But the greatest outrage I always thought was the selling of ‘indulgences’. Paying the priest for forgiveness! And of course the church grew rich on the wealthier members of society who could afford the cost of masses being said for their souls. And so on!

So, I never knew how people coped when the churches were closed. Incomprehensible to us now, but terrifying to those living through such times.

Juliet Edwards, Kingsdown


First published on: 1st October 2020