Why have some medieval churches changed their dedications?

23 February 2018

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Why have some medieval churches changed their dedications, and when did this happen, if it did occur at a particular time? . . .


Church dedications rarely changed before the Reformation. Then, when the veneration of saints was for­­bid­den, they were usually forgotten except in towns with more than one church. In the 18th century, when antiquarians tried to rediscover them but usually had no documentary evidence, they often conjectured them from parish feast days, although these were frequently irrelevant.

The conjectures got into directories and were adopted by churches when devotion to saints revived in the 19th century, although later research sometimes restored the medieval dedications. Today, there is a mixture of dedications, true and false to those of the Middle Ages. I have written about all this in English Church Dedications (University of Exeter Press, 1996).

(Professor) Nicholas Orme, Oxford


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