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RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

What Religions are there in the Britain?


There are three countries in Britain, England , Wales and Scotland .

The official religion of England is Christianity, as practised by the Church of England


(Anglican).

The Church in Wales is also Anglican.

In Scotland the official Church is the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Other Christians in each country also include the Roman Catholics and the Methodists.

Multi Faith Society

Britain is a multi faith society in which everyone has the right to religious freedom. Although
Britain is historically a Christian society, people are usually very tolerant towards the faiths
of others and those who have no religious beliefs.

See History of Religion in Britain

Religion in Britain today


The main religion in Britain is Christianity. Most Christians belong to the Church of England
or the Church of Scotland. These are Protestant Churches. There are also many Roman
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

Catholics.

Who is the head of the Church of England?


The Queen (the British Monarch) is 'Supreme Governor of the Church of England'.

Although religious faith in Britain is predominantly Christian, most of the world’s religions
are also practiced. There are large Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities, and also
smaller communities of Bahá’í, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians, as well as followers of
new religious movements.

In 2001 the Census collected information about


religious identity of people living in Britain
The UK population: by religion, April 2001
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

Source: Census, Office for National Statistics

Religions in London

What is the main Religion in Britain?


Britain is traditionally a Christian state and most people living in Britain are Christian.

Britain has one of the most religiously diverse populations in the European Union. British
people are free to choose and follow their own religious beliefs. Although Christianity is the
main religion, there are also large communities of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Jews, and
smaller communities of Baha'is, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians.
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

Click here for important dates for each of the main religions

The most recent (2007) survey by Tearfund discovered that 53% of the population
identified themselves as Christian, compared with almost three-quarters who had in the last
census in 2001.

The Census

Since 1801, every 10 years the nation has set aside one day for the Census - a count of all
people and households. It is the most complete source of information about the population
that we have. The latest Census was held on Sunday 29 April 2001.

The following results are from the religions section in the 2001 census:

 Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%,


 Muslim 2.7%,
 Hindu 1%,
 other 1.6%,
 unspecified or none 23.1%

History of Religion in England.


Britain used to be a Roman Catholic country.
In 1533, during the reign of Henry VIII, England broke from the Roman Catholic Church to
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

form the Anglican Church.

Why did England become a Protestant country?


Henry VIII, the king, wanted a divorce. He wanted a son and his wife only gave birth to
daughters. He asked the Pope for permission to divorce, but was refused. Henry VIII
became very angry and decided to make his own church.

Henry VIII became leader of the Church of England (Anglican Church). He had the Bible
translated to English and the people who believed in this new religion were called
Protestants .

Back to being a Catholic Country

In 1553, Mary became Queen. She changed the country back to Catholicism and burned
Protestants who wouldn't change at the stake (similar to a bonfire).

All change again

In 1558, Elizabeth became Queen. She changed the church back to Anglican and it has
been the official religion of England since.

Visit our Tudor page for more details


RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

Tu d or K i n g s an d Qu een s

There were five crowned Tudor kings and queens and they are among the most well-known
figures in Royal history. Henry VII, his son Henry VIII and his three children Edward
VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I ruled for 118 eventful years.

( Lady Jane Grey reigned as Queen for just 9 days.)

Henry Vll

Henry Vlll
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

Edward l Mary l Elizabeth l

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Rel ig ion / Refo r m at ion


Th e Bre ak fr om Rom e

Introduction
In the 16th century, there was a big change in the way some Christians worshipped God. Up
until the 16th century most people were Roman Catholic and the Pope in Rome was the head
of all the Christian Church.

In 1517, a German monk called Martin Luther led a breakaway from the Roman Catholic
church. The new Christians called themselves ‘Protestants’ because they were protesting
against the Roman 'Catholic' (meaning 'universal') Church, its teachings and its customs.
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

The word Protestant is made from two Latin words:

pro = "publicly" and testari = "to bear witness" (protest).

Their demand for reform led to this period of history being called the Reformation.

Tudor Britain
People in Tudor times were very religious and were prepared to die for their beliefs. It must
have been very hard for them during the 118 years the Tudor kings and Queens ruled because
they were often forced to change their religion depending on the religion of the reigning
monarch.

There were major changes in the church during the reign of the Tudor king and
queens. England started as a Catholic country and ended up being a Protestant one under the
Tudors.

Why did Religion change a lot during the Tudor


Times?
Religion in England changed depending on the views of the monarch and people often felt
confused. They were told to change what they believed, how they worshipped God and how
they decorated churches.

Many laws were passed about religion. These were passed by Kings and queens who wanted to
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

make people follow the same religion that they did.

When the first Tudor Kings came to the throne, England was a Roman Catholic country and the
head of the church was the Pope in Rome, Clement VII.

England is a Catholic country

England was a Catholic nation under the rule of Henry VII (1485-1509) and
during much of Henry VIII's (1509-1547) reign.

Church services were held in Latin.

When Henry VIII came to the throne, he was a devout Catholic and defended
the Church against Protestants. Henry VIII did not agree with their views.

In 1521, Pope Leo X honoured Henry VIII with the title "Defender of Faith',
because of his support for the Roman Church.

The English Church is split from Rome

When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII a divorce* from Catherine of
Aragon, Henry split off the English Church from the Roman church. Rather than
the pope, the king would be the spiritual head of the English church.
(Reformation)
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

*The Roman Catholic faith believed in marriage for life. It did not recognise, let alone support, divorce.

King Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of a new Church of England. (The Act of
Supremacy and reformation)This marked the start of centuries or religious conflict in
Britain.

Despite being cut off from Rome, England, retained much of the doctrine and the practices of
Catholicism.

Why did Henry VIII break with Rome?

Henry VIII broke with Rome because the pope in Rome would not grant him a
divorce with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, because divorce was against church
policy.

The year 1535 saw Henry order the closing down of Roman Catholic Abbeys, monasteries and
convents across England, Wales and Ireland. This act became known as the 'Dissolution of
the Monasteries'. Click here to find out more

Until Henry's death in 1547, although split off from Rome, the English Church
remained Catholic country. It wasn't until Henry's son, Edward VI, and his advisors, that
England became a Protestant country.

England becomes a Protestant Country

Henry's son Edward was given Protestant teachers and brought up as a strict
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

protestant.

Under King Edward VI (1547-1553), England became a Protestant nation. King Edward VI
was a devout Protestant and introduced a new prayer book.

All church services were held in English.

Catholics were treated very badly and catholic bishops were locked up.

England returns to being a Catholic country

Under Queen Mary I (1553-1558), England was again a Catholic nation. Mary was
a devout Catholic. The pope became the head of the church again.

Church services changed back to Latin.

During the last three years of her reign, 300 leading Protestants who would not
accepted Catholic beliefs were burned to death at the stake. Third earned her the nickname of
'Bloody Mary'.

Protestant again

Elizabeth was raised as a Protestant.

Under Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), England was again a Protestant nation. It was under
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

Elizabeth that the Anglican church (Church of England) became firmly established and
dominant. However, Elizabeth did her best to sort out the problem of religion.

Elizabeth wanted England to have peace and not be divided over religion. She tried to find
ways which both the Catholic and Protestant sides would accept and be happy. She did not call
herself the Head of the Church of England, instead she was know as the 'Supreme Governor
of the English Church'.

Although Elizabeth insisted on protestant beliefs, she still allowed many things from the
Catholic religion such as bishops, ordained priests, church decorations and priests' vestments.
She also produced a prayer book in English, but allowed a Latin edition to be printed.

Elizabeth disliked and punished extreme Protestants and extreme Catholics who tried to
convert people to their faiths.

Church services were changed back to English.

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Th e Di ss olu t ion of th e M on aster i es

Introduction
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

In the reign of Henry VIII the Pope was the head of all the Christian Church.

When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon,
he set up the Church of England. (The Roman Catholic faith believed in marriage
for life. It did not recognise, let alone support, divorce.)

What is the Reformation?

The Reformation is the process by which the English Church is split off from the Roman church.
Rather than the pope, the king would be the spiritual head of the English church.

The word reformation is made from two Latin words:

re = "again" and formare = "to form or make"

It means that the people who left the Roman Church again formed or made the Church.

The English Reformation started in the reign of Henry VIII when he wanted to annul his
marriage to Catherine of Aragon. However, the idea of reformation was started earlier by
Martin Luther (1483-1546), a german monk.

Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, which lead to the birth of the Protestant faith.

Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who didn't believe that you could just buy your way into
heaven. In 1517 he protested against the Catholic practice of granting indulgences. An
indulgence was a pardon instead of punishment for a sin. To gain an indulgence, a person had
to perform a good deed. This was often giving money to the church, so it looked like the
Church was selling pardons. Luther protested that this was wrong. He believed that a man
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

could only be saved by the grace of God.

1534 Act of Supremacy

The Act of Supremacy (1534) confirmed the break from Rome, declaring Henry to be
the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries


The conflict between Henry VIII and the Roman Catholic Church eventually led to the seizure
of Church properties by the state. Over 800 monasteries were dissolved, demolished for
building materials, sold off or reclaimed as Anglican Churches.

Why?

After his divorce (on 23 May, 1533), Henry VIII needed to reduce the power of the Church's
power in England, as well as find money to fund his fruitless and expensive wars against
France and Scotland.

When?

The year 1536 saw Henry order the closing down of the wealthy Roman Catholic Abbeys,
monasteries and convents across England, Wales and Ireland. This act became known as the
'Dissolution of the Monasteries'.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries lasted four years to 1540. The last monastery to be
dissolved was Waltham Abbey in March 1540.
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

What happened?

Henry put Thomas Cromwell in charge of getting rid of the monasteries. Cromwell started by
sending royal commissioners to all the monasteries in 1535 - 1536 to find out what they own,
how much money they have coming in, and to report on what is happening inside the
monasteries. The royal commissioners report stated that the monks and nuns are seriously
breaking the rules they should be living by.

Titchfield Abbey was given to Thomas Wriothesley,


one of Henry's closest friends in 1537.

The Act of Suppression (1536)


Small monasteries, those with an income of less than £200 a year, are closed.

Henry Vlll took ownership of all the buildings, land, money and everything else. Some of the
small monasteries stay open because they paid some money to the king.
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

The Act of Suppression (1539)


Another Act of Suppression sanctioned the transfer of further monastic possessions to the
state.

Dissolution of the monasteries timeline


1509 Henry VIII becomes king.

September 1527
Henry VIII asks the Pope if he can divorce Catherine of Aragon. The Pope will not let him.

25th January 1533


Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn while he is still married to Catherine of Aragon.

July 1533
The Pope says Henry cannot carry on being a Catholic and excommunicates him.

November 1534 Act of Supremacy


Henry VIII puts himself charge of all the churches and monasteries in England.

February 1536
Thomas Cromwell starts the Dissolution of most of the small monasteries in England.

October 1536
The Pilgrimage of Grace - a rebellion against the dissolution of the monasteries led by lawyer
Robert Aske.
RELIGION IN BRITAIN: An Introduction

November 1537
Thomas Cromwell starts the Dissolution of all the monasteries left in England.

March 1540
The end of the Dissolution. All the monasteries in England have been closed.

28th July 1540


Only a few months after the last monastery had been closed down, Thomas Cromwell was
beheaded without trial for high treason. He arranged the unsuccessful marriage between Henry
VIII and Anne of Cleves.

28th January 1547


Henry VIII dies. Edward VI becomes king.