« When I am emperor... | Main | 52 Movies: Week 51 - Four Movies: Two Horses, a Queen, and an Artist »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Yes, this whole business was really appalling.

A few years ago I picked up an old book called The Ruined Abbeys of Great Britain by the architect/writer Ralph Adams Cram. He tells the stories of a lot of these sites and it's illustrated with many b&W photos.

It seems to have been a rather popular book, as copies are not too hard to come by at reasonable prices (i.e., < $20).

On a related note, I read a review somewhere of this recent book, Jane Austen and the Reformation by Roger Moore, which deals with the historical memory of pre-Dissolution England in the works of Austen. The book's one of those ridiculously expensive academic works, but might be worth getting through the library.


Both look fascinating. The Ruined Abbeys one would be melancholy. I'd want to read more Austen before reading the second one. I'm trying to remember whether I've read anything besides P&P...don't think so...

"The Ruined Abbeys one would be melancholy."

It is. The pics date from the late 18-/early 1900's, and have that haunted look common to photos of that era.

Oops! Period, period! Did I say "era"? I meant "period!" I did, really!

Thank you. :-). "Era" would have been considerably more acceptable there than in many contexts.

From the Guardian article:

"The statue, described by the director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, as 'beautiful and moving' and 'a poignant acquisition for the British Museum to make as we approach the festive season', was obtained from specialist dealers Sam Fogg with the help of the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund."

Don't know whether to laugh or cry that the director couldn't bring himself to say "Christmas" rather than "festive season" there.

Ha. Didn't even notice that.

The dissolution of the monasteries occurred under Henry VIII, but the Calvinist turn in the Church of England was after his death.

True. That's why I included "et.al." I don't know what typically happened to the monastery buildings immediately after the institutions were dissolved. Abandoned? Put to other use? Razed? Different fates I suppose.

Tintern Abbey was apparently looted, including lead from the roof, and left to fall apart on its own.


Some were put to other uses (including country houses like Prittlewell Priory, or Woburn Abbey), some effectively became quarries, dismantled bit by bit as there was call for the stone (until there just the rubble cores left in Reading and one wall of the church of what had been a major complex in York, for example). The more inaccessible ones (like Tintern, or Fountains, or Rievaulx), the roofing was stripped and the building left to decay.

Thanks. I note with interest that Woburn is described as having been "given" to the family by Edward VI, with no mention of how it came to be his to give. I don't think that was ever mentioned in relation to Downton Abbey, either. Funny how contemporary British culture is very guilty about imperialism, but not about this.

Offline until Monday. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Merry Christmas to you too!

Rob G, I watched 'Show me a hero' following on your recommendation. It was very enjoyable. I'm surprised it slipped under the radar.

Glad you liked it, Grumpy. I'd say that it probably escaped attention due to its subject matter, which is not your average TV fare. But it did get some notice because of the fact that it was made by the same folks who'd done The Wire -- that's basically how I came to it.

That's right. I just thought there would be more fanfare because it's written by David Simon and produced by the guy who produced The Wire. It feels like an outtake from the Wire, with some stylistic influence from Breaking Bad. The clip at the start of most of the episodes which is only explained at the end of the last episode feels very 'BB'.

~~The clip at the start of most of the episodes which is only explained at the end of the last episode feels very 'BB'.~~

Yes, true. Paul Haggis, the director, made the 2005 film Crash, which has that kind of feel as well.

My guess is that the whole thing simply wasn't "sexy" enough for the average viewer, and thus was largely ignored except by critics. Oscar Isaac did receive a Golden Globe for his performance, however.

I seem to have missed some earlier discussion of this. Sounds good. (Or more likely I've just forgotten.)

I'm assuming you have a movie post for tomorrow.


Yes, I do, thanks.

Mac, a few weeks ago, in some general discussion about what good miniseries are out there, Rob G recommended 'Show me a Hero'. It might have been when you were talking about detective series, but I don't remember for sure. Anyhow, I bought it and saved it for the Christmas holidays to watch.

Totally escaped my mind. But it's on my Netflix queue now. Thanks.

Just checked whether Show me a hero is on Netflix here. It isn't, but the machine suggests that "related titles" might be Sword of Destiny, Weiner, Men in Black II or Police Academy. I suspect that the decisive factor is how prominent the words "show" and "hero" are in some hidden tags, rather than any recognisably human thought about theme or genre.

I have been wondering if any of you have seen Sword of Desting and if so, what your opinion of it was.


Weiner would make sense because it, like SMaH, is about a New York politician. The others, not so much!

Destiny. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to make my living by typing.


In my experience Netflix's auto-recommendations are at least in the ballpark maybe 20% of the time at most. Some of them just leave you shaking your head. I doubt any human thought is involved, other than the initial tagging. They're better than eMusic's music recommendations, though, which sometimes seem to have in common only "sounds made by people with musical instruments."

Whenever I check on Mac's blog I see this post title and have a mental image of cartoon puritans prowling around with hammers while the statue surreptitiously sneaks away (possibly wearing a fake moustache or a mask).

I do, too. I didn't extract that sentence to use as a title with that in mind, but once I had done it I thought it was funny.

I keep wanting someone to make a movie with this title.


I thought of this post last night and your mention that "contemporary British culture is very guilty about imperialism, but not about this" as I watched an episode of Midsomer Murders that was on TV. The storyline revolved around an archeological dig that unearthed the bones of one St. Cicely Milson, a Protestant martyr executed for heresy. Just found a Wikipedia entry on Protestant martyrs of the English Reformation, based on Foxe's Book of Martyrs, published in 1563. Another Wikipedia entry says the book was highly influential in England and Scotland, and "helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism there". Maybe that explains the lack of guilt about the destruction of Catholic churches, monasteries, and works of art you noted?

I tried to whip up a quick illustration - hard to get across a statue in disguise, alas.

That's excellent--the hat is great. Reminds me of the old Spy vs. Spy cartoon. Good choice of music, too.

I'm sure that's true, Marianne. Reportedly Foxe's Book was up there with the Bible and the BCP in general influence in England. The sense of wrong is focused exclusively on what Catholics did. If Mary deserved to be called Bloody, so did Elizabeth, not to mention Henry. If I'm not mistaken the foiling of "the Popish Plot" (Guy Fawkes Day) is a holy day in at least some versions of the BCP!


The sense of wrong is partly due to a lot of propaganda down the centuries, but also due to the fact that there was a mentality of "us vs. them", because the Pope and the Church was, actually, an enemy of the state. Pius V had the brilliant idea of excommunicating anyone who obeyed Elizabeth I in anything (there were prominent Recusants among the nobility, so I assume the resulting excommunications were just quietly ignored, but I don't really know.) (Is Craig around?) Then, Gregory VIII said that you could pretend to be obedient to the Queen if you were just biding your time till you could overthrow her, and then the Spanish Armada attacked to try to make England Catholic again, neither of which really helped. Thus there are English people (in older generations; the newer don't care) who think that Catholicism was horrible because Catholics murdered Protestants for their religious beliefs, which (English) Protestants never did to Catholics (and granted there were Catholic priests executed for treason, which I'm not saying was justified but we were under threat so it's hardly the same, now, is it?)

Anyway, by the help of God, and against formidable odds, the Plucky Island Nation fought off the popes and their pet tyrants and evil hordes and remained a Free People, and it was a bit of a pity about those statues and some Catholics getting brutalised but it wasn't an easy time back then and it's not like Catholic countries didn't do worse things is it? All water under the bridge now anyway.

(This is my impression of the matter, anyway.)

Yes, that's my impression of the English impression of the matter, too. The fact that Catholics, particularly clergy, were at least in principle enemies of the state is important. Still, in a time when many in both Britain and America seem to be in search of crimes to hang on their forebears, that some notice hasn't been taken of these.

I haven't read Wolf Hall or seen the BBC dramatization of it, but according to this article, it actually goes the other way and doubles down on anti-Catholicism:

Writing in The Tablet, Professor Eamon Duffy said [St. Thomas] More in Hilary Mantel’s character in the novel is “More as he was perceived by his enemies – a joyless puritan, a man whose social charm but cruel humour masked a steely religious bigotry”.

According to the Cambridge don he is presented as “a sneering misogynist who enjoys humiliating the women in his household. Above all, he is a religious fanatic, flogging himself in a fear-driven piety, obsessively writing vitriolic and obscene polemical books, implacably hunting down defenceless Protestants, imprisoning and torturing them in his own cellars.”

Thomas Cromwell, who helped to send St Thomas More to his death is in contrast portrayed as “a deeply human, enlightened and modern man who cuddles kittens”.

When the novel came out Christopher Hitchens reviewed it in much the same terms, but as praise, not blame. That caused me to write it off. Mantel is probably a capable novelist, but given the number of good books I haven't read, why bother with her?

To me, its quite sad about Hilary Mantel. I've quite enjoyed some of her novels over the years. She was evidently a lapsed catholic, but not in this nutty fanatical way that is on show in Wolf Hall.

I read some comments by her somewhere in which she sounded like the very stereotypical embittered ex-Catholic.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)