Religion has played, and continues to play, a role in the life of many of Leicestershire’s inhabitants.
The county has many fine medieval churches. As the oldest building within a town or village, if their walls could talk they could certainly tell a few tales. And to some extent they can – as it is possible to learn to interpret what they are saying. Our parish churches have been community as well as religious buildings since they were first built, and their external fabric and interior fittings will have been altered by virtually every generation, reflecting changes in religious beliefs and the liturgy, as well as the changing secular needs of the communities they serve. Unravelling these layers can reveal long-forgotten aspects of community history.
A few families retained their Catholic beliefs through and beyond the Reformation, despite facing heavy financial penalties in the 16th century, and in some cases risking their lives, for following their faith.
From the 17th century, others began to turn away from the teachings of the established church and the many different branches of Protestant nonconformity offered alternative routes to salvation, and their churches grew after most forms of nonconformist worship were recognised at law from 1689.
Roman Catholicism also began to be more acceptable from the late 18th century, with the first of a series of acts relaxing the penal laws passed in 1778.
In 21st-century Leicestershire people are free to follow any faith, or none, and the mix of faiths in the county has greatly enriched Leicestershire’s culture.
In time, we intend to present an overview of all Leicestershire’s faiths, from a historical perspective. The following sections are currently available: