This information was last updated in 2004. The Tudors have not changed, but our understanding of them might!
Before the Reformation, most people in Europe were Roman Catholic. In London there were over a hundred churches and religious houses such as monasteries and convents. The largest of these was the old St Paul's Cathedral. It was made of stone with a magnificent rose-shaped stained glass window and a tall wooden spire.
Religion played a very important part in the daily lives of Londoners. You attended services at your local church and everyone helped, either with money or labour, if repairs or rebuilding needed to be done. The parishes formed societies, or fraternities, which would help their members in times of need. Many monks and nuns ran hospitals, caring for the sick and homeless.
The head of the Roman Catholic religion is the Pope in Rome. In Henry VIII's reign, some people in Europe protested against the Pope's authority and criticised the behaviour of priests and monks. These people were called Protestants. Henry did not agree with their views. However, when the Pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry set up the Protestant Church of England with himself as the head rather than the Pope.
Some of the religious houses in London were destroyed completely. Others were converted and used for various businesses, from glassmaking to baking bread. The hospitals were kept for the sick, or became orphanages and workhouses, but these now had to be paid for by the citizens of London. There was a big rise in the number of beggars and homeless people, as many monks and nuns had nowhere else to go.
Londoners were divided in their religious views. Some still supported the old religion, but others wanted the changes to go further. Under King Edward VI, Henry's son and successor, the country became officially Protestant. Queen Mary later tried to reinstate the Roman Catholic religion. While some Londoners welcomed this, others were burned at the stake at Smithfield for refusing to give up their Protestant beliefs. It was not really until Queen Elizabeth's reign that the Church of England was firmly established.