REVIEW: Religion in Medieval London: archaeology and belief

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Medieval-LondonReligion in Medieval  London: archaeology  and belief
B Barber, C Thomas,  and B Watson
MOLA, £10.00
ISBN 978-1907586071

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

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