I am spending a lot of my time this summer reading.  Without doubt, the best book I have read so far is Wolf Hall.  It was recommended to me by a friend and the critical acclaim it has received is astonishing.  It was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2009.

Wolf Hall is the story of Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son who rose to become the second most powerful man in the kingdom of Henry VIII.

It’s a period of history that I know very little about and which wouldn’t, in the normal course of events, interest me very much.  As is quite often the way though, having been gripped by the story I have found it popping up in surprising places.  A visit to The Dungeons on holiday provided a couple of graphic illustrations of torture described rather matter of factly in the book.

And even though I have never read very much about the Tudors, many of the names are familiar.  That’s because behind the story of the rise of Cromwell is the story of the move away from Rome and the Roman Catholic church.

The story of Luther and Tyndale, of Wolsey and More, of ordinary people dying in extraordinary ways for a faith they held to be true.  On both sides.

As a young boy Cromwell witnessed an old lady being burned at the stake for denying that the bread and wine really were the body and blood of Jesus.  Being burned for the kind of religious freedom that we take for granted.

But it seems to me that the tide has turned again.  Not just against any particular denomination or religion but against all religion.  The punishments may have changed, but has the state once again hardened towards people of faith?  And if it has, does the story of Thomas Cromwell give us some clues as to what the future holds for us?