500th anniversary of the Reformation is marked at Bedford’s Garden of Eden


On 31 of October, 1517 Martin Luther famously sent his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz.  This action began a seismic shift that challenged the establishment, set off a chain of events and profoundly altered the course of history. This included the founding of the Protestant church and the Church of England.

Reformers made use of inexpensive pamphlets using the relatively new printing press to provide movement of radical new ideas–without the printing press the Reformation could not have taken place. 400 years later in England it was another group who existed outside the (this time Protestant) male dominated church and used the same technology to produce thousands of leaflets imploring the Bishops of England to gather in Bedford to open Joanna Southcott’s box of prophecies.

They were almost exclusively women who called themselves the Panacea Society and they were led by Mabel Barltrop whom they believed to be the eighth prophet of the very English phenomenon known as “the visitation”. They also believed that their gardens (between Albany Road and Newnham Road) were the original site of the Garden of Eden.

These same gardens, now part of the Panacea Museum, will play host to “500 years: The Reformation and its Resonations” an international conference which seeks to investigate the events of 1517, what led to them, their immediate and later aftermath, and how they still resonate today.

It is the final conference in the 2017 season for CenSAMM (Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements). Project Director, Simon Robinson, explained, “It is fitting that our final conference of the year marks the anniversary of the Reformation, an apocalyptic event that changed history, and especially so for it to be held in gardens so steeped in English millenarian and apocalyptic history.”

Attendance to the conference on September 15th is free to the general public and will include presentations by scholars from across Britain and including Germany and Nigeria.

To find out more about this conference and to reserve free seats visit www.censamm.org or email simonrobinson@panaceatrust.org



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