Book Notes: "The Characters of the Reformation"



In one of his most fascinating books, Characters of the Reformation, Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc presents in bold colors the twenty-three principal characters of the Protestant Reformation. This new edition, now available from Ignatius Press, features a Foreword from Catholic convert and EWTN TV host of The Journey Home, Marcus Grodi. In the Foreword, Grodi explains the importance of this intriguing book, just in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

With brief and vivid chapters, Belloc focuses primarily on those figures who changed the course of English history, analyzing their strengths, mistakes, motives and deeds. He paints the portraits of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Thomas More, Mary Tudor, Thomas Cromwell, Mary Stuart and many others. He illustrates how the motives of Protestant leaders were rarely religious in nature, but usually political or economic.


Belloc, who served in Parliament from 1906 to 1910, underscores his study of these powerful personalities with the fact that Christendom was once a single entity under the authority of the Catholic Church. Until the Reformation, he argues, each country viewed itself as a part of the whole.

Many European princes, however, resented the power of the Pope. The Reformation, aided by the rise of nationalism, was a means for them to shake off Papal authority and to rule their territories independently. It also gave European monarchs control over the Church and its property in their realms, including the taxes that would normally be sent to Rome.

Marcus Grodi writes in the Foreword, “Hearing the stories of those who played instrumental roles in the divisions caused by the Reformation can open us up to a better understanding of why these divisions occurred and how the unity that our Lord prayed for can be reestablished.”

 “You can’t understand where we are now without understanding the dramatic events that took place during the Reformation. That’s why you should let Hilaire Belloc be your guide to the fascinating stories of the men and the women—both saints and sinners—who played such crucial roles in shaping our world today,” says Jimmy Akin, author of A Daily Defense: 365 Days to Becoming a Better Apologist.

Mark P. Shea, author of By What Authority: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition, explains, “Anybody seeking a sane perspective on the Reformation—particularly as the tragedy (and the redemptive work of God) in the lives of men and women on both sides of the conflict —simply must have a copy of Belloc’s great classic.”

 “This is more than a chronicle of events. This is the story of hearts and minds intertwined and divided, set against one another by things sometimes within the characters’ control and sometimes not. It is vintage Belloc,” says Karl Keating, author of Catholicism and Fundamentalism.

 “One of the keys to understanding the dizzying landscape of Protestantism today is to go back to its founders. Belloc does just that in this classic book,” says Devin Rose, author of The Protestant’s Dilemma.

About the Author:

Hilaire Belloc was one of the most important and versatile authors of the 20th century. A social commentator and a master of finely crafted prose, he wrote numerous books on social, historical and theological topics. His books include The Path to Rome; The Battleground: Syria and Palestine, the Seed Plot of Religion; and many more.

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Copyright 2017 Ignatius Press


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