Prince Albert bestowed legitimacy on the Exhibition by proclaiming it to be a display of divine providence whilst others interpreted it as a sign of the coming Apocalypse. With anti-Catholic feeling running high following the recent 'papal aggression', many Protestants roundly condemned those exhibits associated with Catholicism and some even denounced the Exhibition as a Papist plot. Catholics, for their part, criticized the Exhibition as a further example of religious repression. Several evangelical religious organisations energetically rose to the occasion, considering the Exhibition to be a divinely ordained opportunity to make converts, especially among 'heathens' and foreigners. Jews generally welcomed the Exhibition, as did Unitarians, Quakers, Congregationalists, and a wide spectrum of Anglicans - but all for different reasons.
Cantor explores this diversity of perception through contemporary sermons, and, most importantly, the highly differentiated religious press. Taken all together these religious responses to the Exhibition shed fresh light on a crucial mid-century event.
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