An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The term is applied to an intellectual and cultural development which flourished in western Europe and North America in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was largely a reaction against the Enlightenment and the neo-classicism which accompanied the Enlightenment. In place of the earlier emphasis on reason, order, and mechanism there came to be an emphasis on feeling, mystery, the transcendent, vitality, the individual, and the brooding power of nature. Romantic religion upheld the continuity of tradition and community.

The movement takes its name from a new appreciation of medieval romances, a literary genre involving tales of chivalric adventure. This turn to the culture of the middle ages can be seen in the beginnings of the liturgical movement. A revival of plainsong took place under Prosper Guéranger at the monastery of Solesmes. Romanticism influenced the theologians of the Oxford Movement and the Cambridge ecclesiologists. Its influence was also felt in the Episcopal Church. It lay behind the Ritual Controversy and the eventual recovery of certain aspects of catholic worship in the BCP.

James DeKoven, a priest and warden of Racine College, has been identified as a representative of romantic religion in the Episcopal Church. DeKoven’s religion was a faith of the heart which was not limited to rationality. His romantic religion led him to seek fullness of beauty and mystery in worship. He was dedicated to liturgy, sacraments, and ceremonial. DeKoven was a forceful advocate for comprehensiveness and tolerance in worship at the 1871 and 1874 General Conventions. DeKoven urged a personal conversion of heart and devotion to God that pointed beyond the reasonable and enlightened self-interest that he found in the world around him. See DeKoven, James.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.