Religion in Medieval London: archaeology and belief
B Barber, C Thomas, and B Watson
Modern London is a diverse city, yet for all its variety, traditional religious practice is on the wane, with congregations dwindling. Conversely, in the Medieval period, religion was central to daily life, but London’s religious landscape was much more monochrome, with Christian worship limited to a single denomination (Roman Catholic) and Judaism the only other faith for which archaeological evidence survives.
Thanks to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Great Fire, and the Blitz, many of London’s early religious buildings survive only as street names, but this beautifully illustrated book explores how archaeology can resurrect their secrets. Drawing on MOLA excavations, the authors unpick the patchy history of parish churches and Westminster Abbey’s surprisingly obscure origins, as well as guiding us through London’s monasteries, private chapels, and cemeteries. Objects from Medieval homes — such as cake moulds shaped like saints — provide more personal insights, while discussions of plague pits, burial rites, and memorials, are a poignant reminder of how religion can console, and divide, communities.
Review by Carly Hilts