“But I will quiz you with a great deal of pleasure, if you will tell me what about.”–Miss Crawford in Mansfield Park. (Here “quiz” means to make fun of or tease.)
How much do you know about the church in Jane Austen’s England? The correct answer(s) will turn green. Clicking on wrong answers will give you more information.
This is not a test, and you won’t get a score. It’s a way to learn, so have fun clicking on all the possible answers!
(Note that if you subscribe to the blog and are receiving this by email, you will probably have to go to the website for this one.)
Several of Austen’s heroes are clergymen who minister in rural parish churches. Which of these Austen novels does NOT have a clergyman hero?
Mr. Elton is a clergyman, but not a hero, as it turns out!
Sense and Sensibility
Edward Ferrars prefers the church as his profession, despite its being “not smart enough” (not fashionable enough) for his family.
Edmund Bertram is ordained as a clergyman, despite his attraction to Mary Crawford who thinks “a clergyman is nothing.”
Henry Tilney is already a clergyman when Catherine Morland meets him, and he occasionally is away from the Abbey to attend to church duties.
Austen’s books mention both churches and chapels. What was the difference between a church and a chapel?
There was only one church in a parish; the rest were chapels.
The main parish church was a “church,” all other places of worship were chapels.
A church was bigger.
Sometimes, not always.
Chapels were in private homes.
This is sometimes true, but is only one type of chapel.
A chapel was prettier.
Sometimes, not always.
Catherine Morland probably visited this lovely church which towers over central Bath. It is a(n):
Yes; Bath Abbey has long been the main church for the parish of Bath.
Partly true: While it is still called Bath Abbey, it is no longer the church of an abbey (a community of monks and nuns). After the monasteries were dissolved in 1539, Bath Abbey lay in ruins for 70 years before it was rebuilt as a parish church.
A Cathedral is the main seat of the bishop, who leads a diocese. Bath is part of the diocese of Bath and Wells, and the Cathedral is at Wells, not at Bath. However, the building was used as a Cathedral in the Middle Ages.
As Bath Abbey is a parish church, it is not a chapel.
Which two characters in Northanger Abbey expect to “say their prayers in the same chapel” in Bath?
Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe
When parting, Catherine and Isabella are relieved to find they will “say their prayers in the same chapel the next morning.”
Mrs. Allen and General Tilney
Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland
James Morland and Henry Tilney
When they were “saying their prayers” together, what did that mean?
They were following the liturgy in The Book of Common Prayer.
The liturgy includes prayers read aloud together as a congregation, such as the Lord’s Prayer, as well as Bible reading and prayers read by the clergyman; this was usually followed by a sermon.
They were each saying their own silent prayers, made up as they went along.
In worship services, extempore prayers, prayers not prepared beforehand, were frowned on by the Church of England.
They were participating in an informal service with prayers, singing hymns, and preaching.
Congregational hymn singing was not yet common in the Anglican Church, and prayers were formal and prescribed. The congregation might have sung or listened to a Psalm.
They were attending a prayer meeting.
They were attending a regular worship service.
They were probably praying in one of the fashionable proprietary chapels of Bath, like the Octagon Chapel pictured above. Proprietary chapels were started:
To give the upper class beautiful, impressive places to worship
True, but not the main purpose. Such chapels were generally highly decorated to attract patrons.
To make money
Proprietary chapels, owned by proprietors, were built primarily as an investment. Those who attended paid fees, sometimes quite high. A chapel like the Octagon even had private box pews with fireplaces for an extra charge.
To provide more churches where there weren’t enough.
They were chapels-of-ease, to ease the burden on the mother churches, as there were not enough churches in Bath. However, this was not their specific purpose.
To be exclusive and keep out the lower classes.
This was one result, as they charged high fees to those who attended. However, almost all churches charged pew rents, and the poor had to sit or stand in the back or in the balconies.
What was a “Free Church”?
A church where the best seats were for the poor.
In most churches, richer people rented pews in the main section (thus paying church expenses) and the poor sat or stood in the back. William Wilberforce and others started the first “free church,” Christ Church in Bath, where the pews on the main floor were free to the poor. The rich rented pews in the balcony, and made donations, to support the church.
A church not under the authority of the Anglican bishops.
A denomination other than the Church of England.
These were called Dissenters or Nonconformists.
A church where people could believe whatever they wanted to.
Each denomination spelled out its own doctrines.
Other chapels were attached to institutions such as hospitals or garrisons. Which two characters worship together in such a chapel in Portsmouth?
Henry Crawford and Fanny Price
They worship together when Henry is visiting Fanny and her family, to try to persuade her to marry him.
Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth
Anne does expect to “frequent the same church” as Captain Wentworth when they are in the same parish.
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy
They probably attended the same church when Darcy was at Netherfield.
Emma and Mr. Knightley
Emma and Mr. Knightley lived in adjoining parishes, so they went to different churches until they were married.
Some wealthy families had their own private chapels. While all of these families might have had chapels, only one family chapel is described. Which family did it belong to?
The Rushworths of Sotherton (Mansfield Park)
The Bertrams tour the chapel when they visit Sotherton. It is no longer used, which the irreligious Mary Crawford thinks is an improvement.
The Darcys of Pemberley (Pride and Prejudice)
The Elliots of Kellynch Hall (Persuasion)
The Knightleys of Donwell Abbey (Emma)
Dissenter places of worship were also called chapels, or sometimes meeting-houses. Jane Austen was Anglican, part of the national Church of England, and her characters also appear to be Anglican. Dissenters were non-Anglicans who were permitted to worship but had restricted rights in society. Which Dissenter group is mentioned in one of Austen’s novels?
The Methodists began as part of the Anglican Church, but separated in the 1790s. Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park says Edmund may end up “a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists.” They were a growing and vibrant group in Austen’s England, but mainstream Anglicans considered them overly emotional. Bath had a thriving Wesleyan Methodist chapel as well as a chapel for Lady Huntingdon’s Calvinistic Methodists.
In 1816, the Baptists in Bath were considered “one of the most increasing sects in the city,” and held three Sunday services and two weekday evening services in their chapel. But they are not mentioned by Austen.
Jane Austen knew several Quakers in Alton, not far from her home in Chawton, including a businessman, a shopkeeper, and the apothecary who treated her in her final illness. Bath had a Quaker meeting-house (chapel). But Quakers are not mentioned in Austen’s novels.
Presbyterians were prominent in the Civil War that overthrew the monarchy in the mid-1600s. After the king was reinstated, many Presbyterian ministers left England for the New World. By Austen’s time, most Presbyterian churches had either become Congregational or Unitarian.
[Sources: The Improved Bath Guide, Wood, 1816, and The Original Bath Guide, Meyler, 1816.]
Which monarch dissolved the monasteries, giving their lands and buildings to the nobility and others? This made places like Northanger Abbey and Donwell Abbey into country estates rather than religious communities.
Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church (so he could marry Anne Boleyn) and dissolved the monasteries, providing rich revenue and lands for the English government and nobles.
Which Austen novel refers, at least indirectly, to a church, a chapel, an abbey, and a cathedral?
Catherine Morland’s father holds two church livings, and Walcot Church of Bath is mentioned. Catherine and Isabella worship in a chapel, and the chapel of the abbey is mentioned. Obviously the Tilney estate is built around a medieval abbey, the church of a monastery or convent. And Catherine watches for the spire of Salisbury Cathedral as she heads home.
Pride and Prejudice
Church is mentioned 11 times, but not the others.
Mr. Knightley lives in Donwell Abbey and Harriet mentions a romance, The Children of the Abbey. The novel also mentions church, but not a chapel or cathedral.
This novel has the most to say about the church in general. It describes the Rushworth chapel and mentions chapels at Portsmouth and Oxford. A transparency of Tintern Abbey is in the old schoolroom. The church is mentioned multiple times, but not a cathedral.
I hope now you know a little more about churches and chapels in Austen’s England! The church is important in Austen’s novels, as it was important in her life. Sometimes the church is barely noticeable in the background of her stories. Other times it is more prominent. How do you see Austen’s characters affected by their faith (or lack of it)?