Laudian Ceremonial  

Posted by Joe Rawls

One aspect of the turbulent history of Anglicanism in 17th-century England was the so-called "Laudian" movement.  Essentially it was an attempt to reform the Church of England along sacramental, patristic and catholic (emphasis on the small c) lines.  It was the project of men such as Andrewes, Cosin, and Laud; the latter became Archbishop of Canterbury under Charles I and used his authority to promote this agenda.

Laudians strove to recover the spirituality of the ancient and medieval church and to express it liturgically in conformity to canon law and the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.  These norms were widely ignored, especially by those of the Puritan persuasion.  With regard to public worship, Laudianism translated into ornately decorated churches with railed altars against the east wall, use of the Prayer Book for all services, trained choirs of men and boys, and clergy in copes or at least surplices.  These liturgies were actually carried out in a few places, mostly chapels royal and private chapels of sympathetic bishops.  However, they seldom trickled down to ordinary parishes.  The elitism inherent in the movement was exacerbated by the unpopularity of Laud and his king, and things came to a crashing halt when the archbishop was arrested, and later beheaded, by the Puritan-dominated parliamentary faction.  It is interesting to speculate that if Laudianism had become more widely entrenched at the parochial level, it would have preempted the rise of Tractarianism, at least in the form it actually took in the 19th century.

The Hackney Hub, a site advocating a non-Anglo-Catholic type of high churchmanship, has some interesting and comprehensive posts on Laudian ritual which are linked to here and here .  I reproduce below an eyewitness report from a hostile Puritan which nonetheless captures the flavor of Laud's worship.


He does not say the mass indeed in Latin:  but his hood, his cope, his surplice, his rochet, his altar railed in, his candles, and cushion and book therein, his bowing to it, his bowing, or rather nodding at the name of JESUS, his organs, his violins, his singing-men, his singing-boys, with their alternate jabbering and mouthings (as unintelligible as Latin service), so very like popery.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 19, 2012 at Sunday, February 19, 2012 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I had not realized until recently that among the things the Puritans objected to was instrumental music.

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