Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

As far as I know, the church at the time strictly forbade all heretical manifestations and was very strong. So I could not think sects existed at that time. But reading the book by Victor Hugo, "The Man Who Laughs", I found mention of at least three sects with its own buildings (not just secret meeting in someone's home). How was this possible?

share|improve this question
    
The word "sect" has no generally accepted definition that is useful. You might want to consider using another one. –  Lennart Regebro Oct 30 '13 at 17:24
    
Which church? Church of England? Roman Catholic Church? Are you referring to nonconformists? What does "heretical manifestations" have to do with sects? –  Mark C. Wallace Oct 30 '13 at 18:10
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The Church of England permitted nonconforming or dissident sects. They were not members of the CoE, but only the Roman Catholics were officially prohibited.

@T.E.D. questions whether it was illegal to be Roman Catholic. The situation is not entirely black and white, but

After a brief experiment with Protestantism under his son Edward VI (1547-53) and a brief return to Catholicism under his elder daughter Mary I (1555-58), England officially became Protestant in 1559 under his younger daughter Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Except under the Catholic James II (1685-88), Catholicism remained illegal for the next 232 years. Papal Visit

Not precisely an unbiased source, so....

Another Act of Supremacy was passed in 1559 under Elizabeth I, along with an Act of Uniformity which made worship in Church of England compulsory. Wikipedia

@T.E.D provides the following links

(I've marked this community wiki to permit others to contribute to the full picture of religious predjudice at the time. I believe that although the OP asked a focused question, a real answer requires a broader understanding).

share|improve this answer
    
I didn't think it was illegal just to be Catholic. It was however not legal for a Catholic to have most (if not any) part in the government, including in the Royal Family. This situation is where the US Constitution got its "no religious test" clause. However, Catholics were looked at with extreme suspicion. –  T.E.D. Oct 31 '13 at 12:40
    
Actually, surfing around, this wiki link may be more enlightening, by showing what situations were repealed. The page on Recusancy also has some good info, including a map of Catholicism in England in the 18th century. It was indeed worse than I thought. –  T.E.D. Nov 1 '13 at 12:29
add comment

"The Man Who Laughs" is set in England during the 17th century (not 18th). It was a time of religious conflict, with for example James II being Roman Catholic and taking steps towards religious freedom. The church did not have a strong grip on peoples religions at this time.

Heresy was indeed illegal, but it is not automatically heretical to have your own religious group and meetings. Heresy was more strict than that. So there was definitely several religious groups in England at this time. Some of them were persecuted, and this in fact was a strong incentive for some people to move to the American colonies. But not all groups were persecuted, because not all non-conformism was heretical.

share|improve this answer
    
At least a half of novel is set during 18th century. Thank you for a good answer. –  Oleg9 Nov 14 '13 at 5:57
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.