St Paul’s Cathedral, the Altar. From the Visual Model, rendered by Austin Corriher.

What We’ve Recognized, to Date

  • The post-Reformation Church of England represents a unique combination of continuity and discontinuity with the Medieval Church. The basic medieval pattern of Daily Offices plus Holy Communion on Sundays and Holy Days was continued, albeit in simplified form. The Sacrament of Holy Communion, however, ceased being an action by the priest for an observing congregation and became a corporate action of the congregation, coordinated and guided by the priest.
  • Medieval anxiety about unworthy reception of the elements of the Communion service persisted, albeit to a a lesser degree. Medieval anxiety led to elaborate rites of private penance as a prerequisite for reception, resulting in a single annual reception as a norm and the substitution of adoration of the consecrated elements for active participation in the rite. The post-Reformation Church of England continued rites of preparation for reception but made them public, as part of the Rite of Holy Communion itself.
  • While the post-Reformation Church of England encouraged reception (manifest concretely in the legal requirement that everyone receive the bread and wine of Communion at least three times a year and in the Prayer Book’s Exhortation to Come to the Holy Communion, for use “when the curate shall see the people negligent to come”), the hold-over of anxiety about unworthy reception (manifest in the presence of not one but two Exhortations against Unworthy Reception in the Prayer Book) inevitably limited participation.
St Paul’s Cathedral, the Bishop’s Throne. From the Visual Model, rendered by Austin Corriher.
  • The medieval tradition that only a duly-ordained priest or bishop could celebrate the Holy Communion persisted, but, post-Reformation, priests and bishops could not celebrate alone, but needed to have at least two or three others join them.
  • Nevertheless, the requirement that cathedrals and collegiate and parish churches perform the rite of Holy Communion every Sunday and Holy Day preserved the possibility of reception of Holy Communion on all those occasions. When none presented themselves to receive communion on a particular Sunday or Holy Day, parish churches began the Rite of Holy Communion, but brought it to a close after the sermon and the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church (what William Harrison calls a “dry communion”). All clergy at “cathedrals and collegiate churches” were required by the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer to “receive the communion with the minister every Sunday at the least, except they have a reasonable cause to the contrary.”
  • St Paul’s Cathedral in London was one of four religious establishments that led the way in the reimagining of worship in post-Reformation England. The other three were the Chapel Royal at Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Palace. Choirmasters at these four religious establishments had the right to recruit skilled musicians from other cathedrals and collegiate churches for work in their choral music programs.
  • The post-Reformation Church of England was corporate, liturgical, and sacramental, emphasizing public participation in its rites and services.
  • Once the autonomy of the Church of England was restored in 1559, the most significant opposition to the Church of England in the early modern period was from the evolving Reformed tradition.
  • This tradition increasingly promoted the devolution of authority from the institutional church, whose clergy believed that they had been given “power and commandment [from God] to “declare and pronounce to his people . . . the absolution and remission of their sins,” to the solitary individual seeking internal signs of divine favor, passing, in the process, from Presbyterianism to Congregationalism to the increasing fragmentation of the faithful. In this view, the idea of the priesthood of all believers led beyond the idea of a shared priesthood between ordained and lay menbers of the Church to the abolition of the priesthood altogether.
St Paul’s Cathedral, the Deanery. From the Visual Model, rendered by Austin Corriher.

What We’ve Learned, to Date

Developing — Watch this Space!

Recognition We’ve Earned, to Date


Digital Humanities Collaborative of North Carolina — Newsletter — “The Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project

St Paul’s Cathedral, London — Tweet — “Have We Found a Time Machine?”

NC State University — News Service Release — ” Recreating the Sights and Sounds of 17th Century London