Horton Marlais Davies

Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion

Memorial Resolution


Horton Marlais Davies


Horton Marlais Davies, the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion Emeritus, died on May 11 in Princeton at the age of 89.  Born in South Wales, Davies studied for bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Edinburgh and subsequently earned a D. Phil. degree from Oxford University.  During the course of the Second World War he was minister to the Wallington Congregational Church in South London.  Subsequently he became director of education for the British YMCA and was attached to the occupying forces in Germany.  In 1947 he relocated to South Africa as a member of the faculty of Rhodes University, becoming dean of its faculty of divinity in 1951.   Returning to Oxford in 1953, he headed the Department of Church History at Mansfield College.

Horton Davies was appointed to the Princeton faculty in 1956 and became the Putnam Professor soon thereafter.  In the year before his appointment the University had initiated an innovative graduate program in the study of religion located in the arts and sciences as distinct from the more typical location for scholars in the field in a separate--and frequently denominational--divinity school.   Davies, who was appointed to help orchestrate that program’s development, played a pivotal role in its growth and success.  While much of his teaching kept close to his major research concerns with the theological and liturgical history of post-Reformation England, Davies also ranged widely in the classroom, especially exploring religious elements in literature and art.  Graduate students valued the breadth of his learning, always generously shared with them, while undergraduates, especially his own advisees, treasured the warm interest he expressed in supporting their work.  From time to time he taught at the Princeton Theological Seminary as a visitor and also collaborated with other scholars in an ecumenical liturgical studies program centered at Drew University.  After his retirement in 1984 he was affiliated with the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton Seminary and pursued further research at Oxford.  His energies also flowed into painting and drawing, and he produced vivid explorations of the religious motifs that had so long absorbed him in his teaching and writing.  His art was exhibited widely in regional galleries.

Horton Davies’s consummate work as a scholar was his Worship and Theology in England, published in five volumes by Princeton University Press between 1961 and 1975.   That history, a monumental achievement in scholarship concerned with the history of Christianity, ranged from the internecine struggles of the sixteenth-century Reformation through the ecumenical efforts of the middle decades of the twentieth century.  In retirement he returned to the subject and published a capstone sixth volume in 1996, bringing his account well past the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council.  The recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, as well as numerous other honors in the course of his career, Davies was always at work on a writing project and ultimately he published more than thirty books.  Among them was a major work on the English metaphysical preachers, Like Angels from a Cloud, issued under the auspices of the Huntington Library in 1986.  He also turned his hand to autobiography with a 1993 memoir on his intellectual odyssey across universities on three continents.  Blessed with intellectual interlocutors in his own family, Davies coauthored a noteworthy study on pilgrimage with his wife Marie-Hélène Davies, Holy Days and Holidays: The Medieval Pilgrimage to Compostela.  With his son, Hugh Davies, he wrote Sacred Art in a Secular Century, a work that suggests his abiding engagement with the arts.

Madame President:  For the Committee I move that this Resolution be spread on the records of the Faculty, that copies be sent to his wife Marie-Helene Davies, to his daughter Christine Pisani, to his sons Hugh Davies and Philip Davies, to his first wife Brenda Davies, to his sister-in-law Joan Davies, to his step-sister Gloria Scott, to his step-brother Michael Davies and to the Archivist of the University.


John G.  Gager

Leigh E. Schmidt

John F. Wilson