Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Marking the Reformation:
500 years on – an Irish Anglican perspective

Canon Patrick Comerford contributes the third article in our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

As other Christian communities mark this year as the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, the commemorations raise a number of questions for Anglicans:

●When did the Reformation begin?

●When did the Reformation end?

●To what degree did the Lutheran Reformation influence the Anglican Reformation?

● To what extent are Anglicans open to Lutheranism today?

Anglicanism has no one single founding figure, so that there is no single Reforming authority for Anglicans, in the way that Martin Luther has a defining role for Lutherans, or John Calvin for Calvinists and Presbyterians.

Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer are seen as the founding martyrs of Anglicanism; Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker are the key figures in drafting the foundational documents of Anglicanism, the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles; and the Elizabethan and Jacobean theologians Richard Hooker, John Jewel and Lancelot Andrewes, and the Caroline Divines, including Bishop Jeremy Taylor, presented Anglican theology in its first articulate and systematic ways in the 16th and 17th centuries.

But Anglicans are neither Lutherans nor Calvinists, despite continuing efforts by some theologians to place us in either camp; nor, for that matter, are we Cranmerites, still less Hookerites.

The Anglican theological position has always been explained in terms of the middle way or via media. Richard Hooker’s Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity is regarded as the classic depiction of this Anglican via media, based on scripture, reason and tradition, although he does not use the actual term via media in his works, which stand alongside John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae.

Thomas Cranmer's memorial in the chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When did the Anglican Reformation begin?

If we accept that the Church is always reforming itself and in need of reform, then we must accept the great reforms of pre-Reformation days too. One of the early reformers is Pope Gregory the Great, one of the Doctors of the Church, who reformed the liturgy and sent Saint Augustine on his mission to England. It is no accident that his image appears in many Anglican churches and cathedral, including a statue on the south porch of Lichfield Cathedral and a window in the nave in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

From the mid-14th century, the Lollards were demanding Reform under the leadership of John Wycliffe who was dismissed from in Oxford in 1381. Wycliffe was a contemporary of Julian of Norwich, as an early champion of women’s voices in the Church. Although she lived and wrote a century before Luther and Calvin, she is seen as an early forerunner of the Anglican Reformation.

A plaque at King’s College, Cambridge, marking the site of the White House Tavern or ‘Little Germany’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Did the Lutheran Reformation influence the Anglican Reformation?

William Tyndale, who worked on an early translation of the Bible, was executed before the Anglican Reformation began. His prominence in Protestant folklore sometimes eclipses the influence of Desiderius Erasmus. Erasmus remained a Roman Catholic priest, but through his work on the Greek New Testament in Cambridge while he was Professor of Divinity, he made the Bible accessible to the Anglican Reformers and he helped to stimulate an interest in Luther’s work.

Cambridge became the nursery of the English Reformation, and the White Horse Inn, on a site that is now part of King’s College, became the meeting place of critical scholars, including Thomas Cranmer, Stephen Gardiner, William Tyndale, John Bale (later Bishop of Ossory) and Hugh Latimer.

The Anglican Reformation found another springboard in the thinking of Henry VIII, not because of his demands for a divorce but in his theological intellect, first expressed in a critique of Luther that earned him Papal recognition as ‘Defender of the Faith.’ Indeed, the royal request for a divorce was strongly criticised by Luther, and Cranmer found favour with the king by offering an alternative course of action.

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation depicted in a window in Trinity College, Cambridge; (top L-R), Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley and Elizabeth I; (bottom): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When did the Reformation end?

Of course, the Church must always be in a state of being reformed, and the principle of ecclesia semper reformanda is an accepted part of Anglican theology. But this principle, which has been attributed not to the Reformers but to Saint Augustine, is used only for the first time by Karl Barth in 1947, and then adapted by Hans Küng in the 1960s.

For Anglicans, the classical Reformation did not end with the deaths of the martyrs in Oxford in 1555 during the reign of Mary I. By the time the 39 Articles received their final form in 1571., the Puritans were a critical wing on the margins of Anglicanism, so that Calvinism had become a force opposing the via media that would define Anglicanism from the 1570s on.

Elizabeth I often defended her Church’s catholicity to foreigners and emphasised what it held in common with the rest of the western Catholic Church. When she was invited to send bishops to the Council of Trent, she said ‘we only differ from other Catholics in things of small importance.’

A canon of 1571 demands that clergy in their preaching ‘see that they never teach ought in a sermon, to be religiously held and believed by the people, except what is agreeable to the Old and New Testaments, and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient bishops have collected from the same doctrine.’

Elizabeth’s successor, James I, declared in the early 17th century: ‘I will never refuse to embrace any opinion in divinity necessary to salvation which the whole Catholic Church with a unanime [i.e. unanimous] consent have constantly taught and believed ...’

The Cromwellian era (1649-60) threatened but failed to mark the triumph of Puritanism and the end of the Anglican Reformation, if not Anglicanism itself.

Perhaps the classical Anglican Reformation ends not with the translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible, but in the reign of Charles II, with the Act of Uniformity and Great Ejection of Puritans in 1662. This gives a Catholic hue to Anglicanism, and so Anglicanism was defined not by Luther, Calvin or Cranmer, but the Caroline settlement, the Caroline Divines and the rejection of Puritanism. In Ireland, the Caroline Divines included Bishop Jeremy Taylor and Archbishop Bramhall of Armagh.

The Preface to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer rejects any suggested revisions that were seen as ‘secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice … of the whole Catholic Church of Christ.’

Little changed with the William revolution (1688-91), and, indeed, the reign of Queen Anne marked a period of consolidation for the achievements of the Caroline Divines, and the Caroline Divine and Nonjurors, such as William Law, shaped the early sacramental life and spirituality of John Wesley.

The Martyrs’ Memorial at the south end of Saint Giles’ near Baliol College, Oxford … Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake near this spot on 16 October 1555 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

To what extent are Anglicans open to Lutheranism today?

Today, the Anglican covenants with Methodists, including the new discovery of a family kinship in Ireland, runs parallel with similar engagements with Lutheran Churches in Northern Europe and North America.

For example, the Porvoo Communion embraces the six main Anglican churches in Europe (Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Scotland, Spain and Portugal) and those Lutheran churches in northern Europe that have maintained the historic episcopate, but it does not yet include Lutheran churches without the historic episcopate, such as those in Germany and France.

For Anglican identity and ecclesiology, Catholic order remains more important that the historic role of Luther or the importance of the events 500 years ago in 1517.

The Rev Canon Professor Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes in Co Limerick and Co Kerry. He is a former lecturer in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, an adjunct assistant professor in Trinity College Dublin, and a former journalist with The Irish Times. He co-chaired the international conference ‘Martin Luther and Catholic Theology, remembering the Reformation,’ in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in 2015.


This feature was first published in June 2017 in the Methodist Newsletter, Vol 45, No 487 (Senior Editor, Lynda Neilands; Editor, Peter Mercer), pp 24-25.

The remains of a planned town
that was never built in Foynes

The Post Office and Health Centre in Foynes, designed by William Clifford House, are all that remain of Inigo Jones’s plans for a Market Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Adare owes much of it beauty and its attractive streetscape to the benign interest and foresight of the local landlords, the Earls of Dunraven, who lived at Adare Manor.

In a similar way, the Spring Rice family of Mount Trencard, who held the title of Lord Monteagle, tried to develop the estates they owned at the small port town of Foynes and, to a lesser degree, Foynes.

It is as though Monteagle was not to be outdone by Dunraven. Although their tenanted lands were being sold off by the beginning of the 20th century, both families had a keen interest in developing their estate town, and it was a healthy competition that enhanced the lifestyle of their tenants.

Around 1900, Lord Monteagle commissioned an ambitious plan for Foynes, which he thought would eventually replace Limerick City as a port and harbour. He had a vision of transforming Foynes into an urban centre that would be at the centre of the social and economic life of the port and the surrounding agricultural hinterland.

Monteagle commissioned the Francis Inigo Jones (1866-1950), a fashionable architect, artist and garden designer, to bring his vision to daylight. Inigo Thomas was a nephew of Broderick Thomas (1811-1898), one of the principal landscape garden designers in the latter half of the 19th century.

Broderick Thomas was employed by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace and Sandringham. In Ireland, he designed a large parterre at Baronscourt, Co Tyrone, for the Duke of Abercorn, drew up plans for the gardens at Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, for Lord Powerscourt, and was asked by Charles Powell Leslie in the 1860s to decide which trees at Glaslough, Co Monaghan, should be felled to make room for Castle Leslie, which was being rebuilt.

In 1893, Inigo Thomas paid an extended visit to Italy that had a profound influence on his work. He designed outstanding gardens at Athelhampton, Barrow Court (near Bristol), Chantmarle (Dorset), Rotherfield Hall (East Sussex), and, possibly, Parnham (Dorset). As well as designing numerous formal gardens, he illustrated Sir Reginald Blomfield’s book The Formal Garden in England (1892).

Although for many garden lovers his masterpieces at Athelhampton and Chantmarle are among the most exquisite English gardens of their time, Inigo Thomas remains a somewhat shadowy figure.

Thomas trained in the office of the architects George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) and Thomas Garner (1839-1906). Bodley was a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott and he worked closely with William Morris for much of his career. He was one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement, and designed or restored over 100 cathedrals and churches in the Gothic Revival style, favoured by AWN Pugin and of whom Scott was among the great exponents.

Bodley’s biographer Michael Hall argues he ‘fundamentally shaped the architecture, art, and design of the Anglican Church throughout England and the world.’ In Cambridge, he is associated with at All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, and redesigned Saint Botolph’s Church on Trumpington Street. His churches in Staffordshire include the Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross (1871-1872), the Mission Church, Hadley End (1901), and Saint Chad’s Church, Burton-on-Trent (1903-1910).

Around 1900, working on his commission from Lord Monteagle, Inigo Thomas designed a Market Square for Foynes, with 20 shops and cottages arranged into a symmetrical layout centred on a traditional arcaded market house. This would face a bank and post office, with two pools at the rear.

The buildings were to have the generous, wide-eaved roofs and comfortable horizontal detailing associated with the Arts and Crafts style, with classical formality and detailing for the market house and bridges.

In addition, Inigo Thomas drew up designs for his terraces of cottages to the east of his proposed Market Square.

The Post Office and Health Centre in Foynes, designed by William Clifford House … an attractive example of early 20th century Arts and Crafts style architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Sadly, the scheme was never realised, apart from the building now houses the Post Office and Health Centre in Foynes. This building, which was designed by William Clifford Smith, is an attractive example of early 20th century Arts and Crafts style architecture, and its form, size and scale mark it out in the streetscape.

William Clifford Smith (1881-1954) was an inventive young English architect who came to Limerick in 1902 when he won an international competition to design a new clubhouse for Shannon Rowing Club. This is the oldest rowing club in Limerick City, and was founded in 1866 by the Limerick entrepreneur Sir Peter Tait.

The highly elaborate new clubhouse, which was completed in 1905, was designed by Clifford Smith in the Edwardian Arts and Crafts idiom. This is such a fine example of Edwardian architecture that, as far as I know, it is the only listed sports building in Ireland.

On winning the competition, Clifford Smith decided to stay to Ireland and he settled in Limerick. In 1906, he designed a terrace of small dormered cottages at Fair Green in Adare, Co Limerick, for the 4th Earl of Dunraven. In 1907, Dunraven also invited Clifford Smith to design the Village Hall and Clubhouse in Adare in the Arts and Crafts style.

Around 1910, Clifford Smith designed the former Bank and Post Office in Foynes, Co Limerick, the only building to be completed as part of the vision of Inigo Thomas for a Market Square in Foynes, and Creeven Cottages, a row of cottages at the east end of Foynes.

The Shannon Rowing Club gave impetus to an Edwardian freestyle that marked out the building on Limerick’s riverscape. It is a style that can be seen too throughout the city in suburban houses in Ennis Road, O’Connell Avenue and Shelbourne Road.

The characteristic features of Clifford Smith’s main building in Foynes, now housing the Post Office and Health Centre, include the rusticated arch, projecting bays, the overhanging eaves and the quadripartite windows, which serve to emphasise the long rectangular H-plan form and to underscore the horizontal detailing.

The rusticated limestone walls to the ground floor contrast with the rendered upper floor and give the building an interesting façade.

This detached, H-plan, seven-bay two-storey building, which was built as a post office and bank, was built around 1910. There are recent extensions to the rear or north elevation.

The building has a hipped slate roof with rendered chimney-stacks, over-hanging eaves and timber brackets. The rough-cast rendered walls at first-floor level have rusticated limestone quoins. On the ground floor, the rusticated coursed limestone walls have a rusticated plinth course.

There are bipartite square-headed openings to the projecting end-bays, where the first floor has rusticated limestone block-and-start surrounds, mullions, sills and four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows.

There are tripartite, square-headed openings to the centre bay, the first floor and the projecting end bays, at the ground floor level they have rusticated limestone block-and-start surrounds, mullions, sills and four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows. The quadripartite square-headed openings at the centre-bay on the ground floor have rusticated limestone block-and-start surrounds, mullions, sills and four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows.

The round-headed opening to the centre-bay has a rusticated limestone surround and an inset square-headed multiple-pane fixed window and a square-headed opening that has a multi-pane over-light above the timber-panelled door. The square-headed openings to the projecting end-bays have multiple-pane over-lights over the timber panelled doors.

Creveen Cottages, Foynes … also designed by William Clifford Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

At the east end of Foynes, Creveen Cottages form a symmetrical and picturesque terrace of six handsome houses also designed around 1910 by William Clifford Smith. This terrace is distinguished by its distinctive roofline and rendered walls, with well-crafted limestone dressings. The long, low form of the terrace and the broken massing give it a domestic scale.

No 1, which forms a handsome terminus of this terrace, is an end-of-terrace, two-bay, two-storey with a dormer attic house. The hipped slate roof has terracotta ridge tiles, over-hanging eaves, timber brackets and rendered chimney-stacks. The rough-cast rendered walls have a rock-faced limestone stringcourse. The square-headed openings have replacement uPVC windows and rock-faced limestone sills, and there is a replacement uPVC door.

The roughly dressed limestone boundary walls have roughly-dressed cappings and single-leaf cast-iron gates.

No 2 is a three-bay house that retains its original form and some distinctive features, such as the rock-faced limestone dressings and the boundary walls. There is a round-headed slightly recessed niche with rusticated limestone voussoirs and an inset square-headed opening with a replacement uPVC window. There is a limestone lintel over the square-headed opening with timber panelled door and a rock-faced limestone lintel.

Details of Creveen Cottages in Foynes designed by William Clifford Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There are many interesting shop fronts throughout Foynes. For example, E O’Connor, which was built a decade earlier, around 1900, is a notable example of the tradition of combined dwelling and shop, complete with a finely crafted tripartite shopfront. The various window types and brick dressings make this end-of-terrace three-bay two-storey house and former shop stand out on the streetscape of Foynes.

Meanwhile, by 1911, Clifford Smith was boarding in the home of Elizabeth McCarthy on Ennis Road. He may have served in the Royal Engineers during World War I. But he returned to Limerick after the war, and in 1919 he designed what is now the Belltable Arts Centre at 69 O’Connell Street. He worked from 75 O'Connell Street for much of his career. In 1928, he formed a partnership with Edward Newenham, known as Clifford Smith & Newenham.


E O’Connor’s shop in Foynes … built a decade before the cottages designed by William Clifford Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)