From Icons to Idols: Documents on the Image Debate in Reformation England

By David J. Davis

A selection of key historical texts from the debate over religious imagery during the English Reformation, with a commentary by a leading scholar in the field.

ISBN: 9780227176290


In 1547, the young King Edward VI issued a series of religious injunctions intending to reform the Churches in England. Religious imagery was a tangible and permanent aspect of the landscape, both inside and outside the Churches. For many people, it was one of the first aspects of the Church to be reformed, and the degree to which it was reformed often was indicative of an individual’s or community’s theological leanings. Behind this destruction lay a longstanding debate over the nature, purpose, and appropriate uses of images, particularly in relation to worship and devotion. The Reformation lines between icon and idol, however, are much more difficult to identify than any single debate, event, or royal injunction would suggest.

From Icons to Idols tracks the image debate from the perspectives of both Protestants and Catholics across the period of religious change in England from 1525 to 1625. For scholars of the English Reformation, iconoclasm has played a major role in the historiographical disputes over the nature, length, and efficacy of Protestant reform. The fresh perspective of David J. Davis incorporates geography, historical use and abuse, popular appeal, size, dimensions and what was represented.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 222
Illustrations b&w

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

David J. Davis is Director of the Master of Liberal Arts and Assistant Professor in History at Houston Baptist University. He is author of Seeing Faith, Printing Pictures: Religious Identity during the English Reformation.


List of Illustrations

General Introduction

Part 1: The Early Reformation
Part 2: The Elizabethan Reformation
Part 3: The Post-Reformation

General Index


Endorsements and Reviews

David J. Davis’s admirable collection of documents illuminates the complexities of the debate about images provoked by the Reformation in sixteenth-century England. Bringing together Protestant and Catholic voices and combining critical texts with compelling pictures, it challenges the tired paradigms that have inhibited our understanding of the nexus between religion and the visual arts in the early modern period. It will be an excellent resource for scholars and students alike.
Alexandra Walsham, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge

The volume is wide-ranging and fascinating. The historical background that Davis provides for each document and summary of arguments from both Protestants and Catholics are considerably helpful to understand the texts. … [O]verall this book is highly recommended for any scholars and lay readers who are eager to have a more comprehensive understanding about the issues of icons and idols in the Reformation period.
Okky Karmawan, in The Expository Times, Vol 129, No 2

Davis’ anthology is well-crafted and informative. … By including material from a variety of viewpoints, Davis ensures that readers from a variety of viewpoints and denominational background will find selections that resonate with their own understanding of the topic. The breadth and depth of the included material make Davis’ anthology a helpful tool that offers the promise of continued use as a collection of authoritative documents on an important subject.
Derek R. Davenport, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 25, Issue 1