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‘The Catholic Florist’: flowers and deviance in the mid-nineteenth century Church of England

By Dominic Janes


The middle decades of the nineteenth century saw a dramatic change in the appearance of many ecclesiastical interiors due to the growing popularity of Catholic revivalism in the Church of England. One aspect of this process was the increasing abundance of flowers in churches in defiance of opinions which regarded such practices as incompatible with Protestantism. Such opposition also drew strength from cultural associations between flowers and dangerously alluring femininity and sexuality. It was popularly feared that priests were using flowers to lure women into their clutches. The medievalising work of Pugin and the members of the Ecclesiological Society played a major role in the moral legitimisation of both flowers and floral motifs in the decoration of churches. At the same time, rising living standards were bringing cut-flowers, including those forced in hot houses, within the budgets of middle-class households. The enhanced respectability of flowers as suitable for sacred contexts fuelled the development of an emergent craze for floral decoration in the home. Practices of the use of flowers as ornaments increasingly crossed back and forth between domestic and ecclesiastical contexts. The continued association of blossoms with the realm of the feminine did not, however, lead to sustained moral panic because flower-arranging Anglo-Catholic priests were increasingly seen as effeminates rather than as sexual predators. This analysis of developments in the early to mid-Victorian periods is seen as forming the basis for further work into the subsequent floral interconnections between sacred contexts, aestheticism and the Arts and Crafts Movement

Topics: hafvm
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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