Monday 6 November 2017

Reflecting on a seasonal change ...

Last week I was pootling around in the sunshine, feeling as though summer hadn't really gone anywhere, and could safely be relied upon to hang around for the indefinite future.

And on 31st October, with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 point thesis appearing on the doors of the All Saints Church in his native Wittenberg, I was reading Alec Ryrie's book, Protestants: the Radicals who made the Modern World. 

To be honest it was the title that reeled me in. Despite having grown up in Northern Ireland I'd never really thought of main-stream Protestantism as being especially radical. It also seemed to resonate with the declaration of an independent state in Catalonia, and the almost immediate arrest of most of its would-be government. There seemed to be more than a touch of revolutionary radicalism in the air, and my reading material felt oddly appropriate.

And then: all change! This week I'm scraping ice of car windows, enjoying misty early-morning dog walks in the park, dragging the big coats out of the wardrobe and nesting in the warmth of home. The central heating is on full blast, and we're feasting on an autumnal mix of stews and soups and cottage pies.

And, in the meantime, what did I make of the book? Well, it's engagingly written, well put together and an interesting overview. But I take issue with the central premise that there was nothing before Martin Luther. I've got a feeling that Protestantism has much older roots, and that it didn't just start with the 95 thesis in 1517. In this context I'm thinking of people like the Renaissance preacher, Savonarola, protesting against the decadence and corruption of the Borgia Papacy, and the Medici Court closer to home. In Savonarola's case, he'd already set about a reforming clean-up and was zealously building a New (Medici-free) Jerusalem in Florence by the time they executed him in 1498. Earlier still, back in the 12th century, there were the Poor Men of Lyon, the Waldensians, who stood for religious reform, embraced poverty and shied away from purchased indulgences. The most persecuted bunch of religious non-conformists, the Cathars, would probably have warranted a mention too.  And if the author could ever have grappled with those mind-altering paintings by Hieronymus Bosch ... well, I'd have loved to hear his views on whether or not they were inspired by some crypto-Protestant sect. I've got a feeling that there's a whole other beginning somewhere long before the beginning.

Anyway, happy autumn (and don't anyone mention how many shopping days are left until Christmas),

Bonny x


  1. Wrap up warm and enjoy those stews and soups! Interesting reading - I haven’t come across this book.

  2. I don't even want to think about shopping, though I have been quizzing Lorelei on what she wants.

  3. Michelle B. CampbellTuesday, November 07, 2017


  4. Well I've never really read much about the 95 Thesis, I just can't seem to get into stuff like that. - Yes your weather did change. I really liked the shot of the boats in the water and the misty morning. Enjoy your fall.