The historic and once august hierarchy of Rome some generations ago lost its chance of being the religion of the future by … throwing over the little band of New Catholics who were making a struggle for continuity by applying the principle of evolution to their own faith, joining hands with modern science, and outflanking the hesitating English instinct towards liturgical restatement.Thomas Hardy, Late Lyrics and Earlier (London, 1922)
Pugin’s interpretation of the history of the medieval world shaped progressive architectural taste in the later nineteenth century. It touched on every aspect of the styles of the era, first through his application of its lessons to his own work, and then through the affirmation or the rejection of its precepts by others. Significantly the most fundamental opposition to Pugin’s historical interpretations was that expressed by his adopted Roman Catholic Church. In a coherent body of informed criticism his aspiration to a romantic recreation of a lost medieval culture was undermined by representatives of that church and, ultimately, dismissed. Two complementary articles published in the Roman Catholic periodical, The Rambler, at either end of the 1850s, constituted a firm theoretical counterblast to Pugin’s dogma, and form the main subject of this essay.