Category Archives: Religion

On this day in 1555 – Bishop Ridley and Bishop Latimer were burned at the stake

When Queen Mary I ascended the throne she instantly took to bringing England back in line with the Roman Catholic Church. One of the first acts she performed as she began to reconnect with Rome was to order the arrests of Bishop Hugh Latimer, Bishop Nicholas Ridley and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. These three men were influential during the reign of her brother, King Edward VI, and were figureheads for the Protestant religion.

After spending time in the Tower of London the three were moved to the Oxford Bocardo Prison on charges of heresy in September 1555 where they would be examined by the Lord’s Commissioner in Oxford’s Divinity School. Ridley was questioned in particularly regarding his opinion on whether he believed the Pope was the heir to the authority of Peter as the foundation of the Church. Ridley replied that the Church was not built on one man and therefore Ridley could not honour the Pope as he was seeking glory for Rome and not God.

Ridley and Latimer also both confessed that they could not accept mass as a sacrifice of Christ with Latimer stating; “Christ made one oblation and sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and that a perfect sacrifice; neither needeth there to be, nor can there be, any other propitiatory sacrifice.”

Ridley and Latimer were both sentenced to be burned at the stake outside Balliol College, Oxford on 16th October 1555. Ridley openly prayed as he was being tied to the stake saying “Oh, heavenly Father, I give unto thee most hearty thanks that thou hast called me to be a professor of thee, even unto death. I beseech thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm of England, and deliver it from all her enemies.”

In order to speed up their deaths Ridley’s brother gave the men gunpowder to wear around their necks, however the flames failed to come up higher than Ridley’s waist, it was reported that Ridley repeatedly said, “Lord have mercy upon me! I cannot burn…Let the fire come unto me, I cannot burn.”

Latimer would die a lot quicker than Ridley and tried to comfort Ridley as he approached his own death by saying, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”

Ridley and Latimer were decreed martyrs and are commemorated by a Martyr’s statue in Oxford alongside Cranmer.

Martyr statueThe Martyr’s statue in Oxford

John Foxe described Ridley and Latimer’s burning in his Book of Martyrs, he wrote;

Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper’s wife) weep, ‘though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.’

The place of death was on the north side of the town opposite Baliol College:- Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Dr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him be of good heart. He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal, the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood venerable and erect, fearless of death.

Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer. Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say, ‘Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as, I trust, will never be put out.’ When Dr. Ridley saw the flame approaching him, he exclaimed, ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!’ and repeated often, ‘Lord receive my spirit!’ Mr. Latimer, too, ceased not to say, ‘O Father of heaven receive my soul!’ Embracing the flame, he bathed his hands in it, and soon died, apparently with little pain; but Dr. Ridley, by the ill-adjustment of the fagots, which were green, and placed too high above the furze was burnt much downwards. At this time, piteously entreating for more fire to come to him, his brother-in-law imprudently heaped the fagots up over him, which caused the fire more fiercely to burn his limbs, whence he literally leaped up and down under the fagots, exclaiming that he could not burn; indeed, his dreadful extremity was but too plain, for after his legs were quite consumed, he showed his body and shirt unsinged by the flame. Crying upon God for mercy, a man with a bill pulled the fagots down, and when the flames arose, he bent himself towards that side; at length the gunpowder was ignited, and then he ceased to move, burning on the other side, and falling down at Mr. Latimer’s feet over the chain that had hitherto supported him.

Every eye shed tears at the afflicting sight of these sufferers, who were among the most the most distinguished persons of their time in dignity, piety, and public estimation. They suffered October 16, 1555.”

ridley-latimer-stakeBishop Ridley and Bishop Latimer at the stake

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On this day in 1536 – William Tyndale was executed

William Tyndale was born in Melksham Court, Stinchcombe between 1484 and 1496, his family also went by the name of Hychyns at times and Tyndale was enrolled at Magdalen College, Oxford as William Hychyns. Tyndale studied a Bachelor of Arts degree at Mgadelen Hall in 1506 receiving his degree in 1512, in the same year he became a subdeacon. In July 1515 he was made Master of Arts and this allowed him to begin studying theology although his official studies did not include the systematic study of Scripture. Tyndale later said on this

They have ordained that no man shall look on the Scripture, until he be noselled in heathen learning eight or nine years and armed with false principles, with which he is clean shut out of the understanding of the Scripture”.

Tyndale whilst studying theology also became fluent in Spanish, Italian, French, Greek, Hebrew, German and Latin. In 1517 until 1521 he was at the University of Cambridge before becoming chaplain at the home of Sir John Walsh at Little Sodbury in 1521, he also became a tutor to Walsh’s children. His opinions caused Tyndale to be summoned before the Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester, John Bell, in 1522 but no formal charges were laid against Tyndale.

In 1523 Tyndale left Little Sodbury and travelled to London to ask permission to translate the Bible into English, he sought the help of Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall, a classicalist who worked with Erasmus on a Greek New Testament. However, Tunstall denied Tyndale his patronage saying he had no room for him within his household. Instead Tyndale preached and studied in London and took help from Humphrey Monmouth, a cloth merchant, also during this time he lectured across the city including at St Dunstan-in-the-West.

Tyndale left England and landed in Europe in 1524 where it is believed he travelled to Wittenberg, an entry in the registers of the University of Wittenberg has been translated to William Tyndale of England. During his time here he began his translation of the New Testament and it was completed in 1525 with the help of William Roy, an Observant friar.

In 1525 publication of the work by Peter Quentell, in Cologne, was interrupted following the impact of anti-Lutheranism. A full edition was however printed in 1526 by Peter Schoeffer in Worms, Germany, a city that was adopting Lutheranism. More copies were printed in Antwerp and were smuggled into England and Scotland before Bishop Tunstall condemned it in October 1526. Tunstall issued severe warnings to booksellers and burned many copies in the streets.

Tyndale remained in Worms for a year before moving to Antwerp and then Hamburg in 1529 when he continued revising his New Testament and began work on translating the Old Testament and writing treatises. Cardinal Wolsey declared Tyndale as a heretic in open court in January 1529.

In 1530 Tyndale wrote The Practyse of Prelates, which opposed King Henry VIII divorce from Katherine of Aragon on the grounds that it was unscriptual and a plot by Cardinal Wolsey to get Henry entangled in the papal courts. Henry demanded that the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V captured Tyndale and sent him to England under the terms of the Treaty of Cambrai. However, Charles demanded formal evidence before he would do anything.

Tyndale was betrayed by Henry Phillips who alerted the Imperial authorities as to his position and he was captured in Antwerp in 1535 and held in the castle of Vilvoorde near Brussels. He was charged with heresy in 1535 and stood trial where he was condemned to be burnt at the stake. Tyndale’s date of death is typical marked as 6th October 1536 and it was reported that his final words before death were ‘Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.’

Just four years after Tyndale’s death English translations of the Bible were published at the King’s request.

William_TyndaleWilliam Tyndale

On this day in 1521 – Pope Leo X received a copy of Henry VIII’s The Defence of the Seven Sacraments

The Defence of the Seven Sacraments also known as Assertio Septem Sacramentorum was a theological treatise written in 1521 and was officially attributed to King Henry VIII. Henry began writing it in 1519 whilst he was reading Martin Luther’s attack on indulgences and denounced the Papal system. By June 1519 Henry had shown his work to Cardinal Wolsey, Wolsey would be the only to read it for the next three years.

The original manuscript would become the first two chapters of Assertio Septem Sacramentorum with the rest of the treatise being made up of new material that related to Luther’s De Captivitate Babylonica, many believe that Sir Thomas More was involved in the working of this piece.

Henry ended his treatise by saying to readers that they should not be influenced by the likes of Luther and other heretics. He wrote;

Do not listen to the Insults and Detractions against the Vicar of Christ which the Fury of the little Monk spews up against the Pope; nor contaminate Breasts sacred to Christ with impious Heresies, for if one sews these he has no Charity, swells with vain Glory, loses his Reason, and burns with Envy. Finally with what Feelings they would stand together against the Turks, against the Saracens, against anything Infidel anywhere, with the same Feelings they should stand together against this one little Monk weak in Strength, but in Temper more harmful than all Turks, all Saracens, all Infidels anywhere.”

Henry dedicated the treatise to Pope Leo X who received a copy on 2nd October 1521 who upon reading it rewarded Henry with the title of Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith on 11th October. Although the title was officially revoked following Henry’s break with Rome and the Catholic Church.

There has been some debate whether Henry did indeed write the book himself or whether it was written by someone such as Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More or Bishop Fisher and it was published under the King’s name in order to give it more substance.

Rare books  collection, photos for a book about the collection. Assertio Septem Sacramentorum Aduerfus Mart. Lutherum Henrico VIII Angliae Rege auctore 1562 In latin but featuring inserted hebrew on some pages.

On this day in 1534 – Pope Clement VII died

Pope Clement VII was born on 26th May 1478 as Giulio di Giuliano de’Medici. He was born in Florence one month after his father had been assassinated after the Pazzi Conspiracy. Giulio’s parents were not formally married, however, a loophole in canon law allowed for his parents to be betrothed which allowed Giulio to be considered legitimate. Giulio’s mother, Fioretta Gorini, died when he was a young age and was educated by his uncle, Lorenzo de’Medici, ruler of Florence.

In 1513 Giulio’s cousin Giovanni de’Medici was made Pope Leo X and made Giulio a Knight of Rhodes and Grand Prior of Capua and as a result he became one of the most powerful figures in Rome. He became one of Pope Leo X’s principal ministers and confidant.

On 23rd September 1513 Guilio was made Cardinal. Giulio was credited with being the main director of papal policy during his cousin’s reign. Between 1521 and 1522 he was Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Worcester.

Pope Leo X died in 1521 and Guilio was considered to be papabile in conclave however, he was not elected despite being one of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, preferred candidates. Guilio was a leading Cardinal during the papacy of Pope Adrian VI, who reigned less than a year before his unexpected death on 14th September 1523.

With Pope Adrian VI’s death a new conclave convened and Guilio was elected as Pope Clement VII. Upon his election one of Pope Clement’s first tasks was to send the Archbishop of Capua to the Kings of France, Spain and England in the hope of ending the Italian Wars, his attempt at peace failed. Following King Francis I of France’s invasion of Milan in 1524 Clement quit the Imperial-Spanish side of the Italian Wars and allied himself with the Italian princes which included the Republic of Venice and France in January 1525. The treaty was considered patriotic at the time, however, the unstable economy led to attacks from the Roman barons and the intervention of the Holy Roman Emperor. A month later Francis I was defeated and captured following the Battle of Pavia and Clement returned to his previous alliance with Charles V after signing an alliance with the viceroy of Naples.

Clement, however, once again switched his allegiance following the release of Francis I after the Treaty of Madrid in 1526. The Pope entered into the League of Cognac alongside France, Venice and Francesco Sforza of Milan.

Pope Clement’s change in politics caused the rise of the Imperial party inside the Curia; Cardinal Pompeo Colonna’s troops pillaged Vatican Hill and took control of Rome. Clement was forced to return the Papal States to an alliance with the Imperial side; however, Cardinal Colonna left the siege in Rome and headed to Naples leaving Clement to not follow through on his promise and remaining in alliance with the French. Clement also dismissed the Cardinal from his charge. Clement found himself alone in his alliance with France after the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d’Este, sided with the Imperial troops therefore leaving the road to Rome open for the German Landsknechts led by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon.

The Duke of Bourbon died during the siege and had left his army unpaid, starving and with no clear leader. On the 6th May 1527 the desolate army worked their way through Rome with many reports of vandalism, murder and rape. Pope Clement had no choice but to surrender on 6th June from Castel Sant’Angelo where he had taken refuge. In exchange for his life he agreed to pay 400,000 ducati in exchange for his life with the conditions that Parma, Piacenza, Civitavecchia and Modena were handed over to the Holy Roman Empire, whilst Venice also took advantage of the situation by capturing Cervia and Ravenna. For the six months following his surrender Clement was kept prisoner in Castel Sant’Angelo before he escaped after paying some Imperial officers. Clement disguised himself as a peddler and went first to Orvieto before heading to Viterbo he eventually returned to Rome in October 1528 to find is destroyed and depopulated.

During the Sack of Rome, in 1527, Clement received a request from King Henry VIII asking for his marriage to Katherine of Aragon to be annulled on the basis that it was unlawful in the eyes of God due to her previous marriage to his brother, Arthur. A dispensation had been issued from Pope Julius II before the marriage took place and Clement ruled that the dispensation was lawful and the marriage could not be annulled. The English clergy and lawyers advised Henry’s Privy Council that they could not forced the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, to go against the Pope’s rulings. Warham died soon after and Henry persuaded the Pope to appoint Thomas Cranmer as the next Archbishop. Cranmer was a friend to Anne Boleyn and a reformer. Pope Clement issued the Papal Bulls that would allow Cranmer to take the position on the condition that he took an oath of allegiance to the Pope. Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop but declared that he did not agree with the oath he was being asked to take. Cranmer granted Henry the annulment that he required and Henry swiftly married Anne Boleyn. Both Henry and Cranmer were excommunicated from the Catholic Church as a result of their actions. Henry would eventually lead Parliament in passing the Act of Supremacy that declared that Henry was the head of the Church of England and the papacy had no authority within the country.

On 25th September 1534 Pope Clement VII died, it was believed that he died after eating a poisonous mushroom; his body was interred in Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Just days prior to his death Clement had ordered Michelangelo to paint The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

Pope Clement VIIPope Clement VII

On this day in 1571 – Bishop John Jewel died

John Jewel was born in Buden, Devon and was educated originally by his uncle John Bellamy, rector of Hampton along with other private tutors until he matriculated at Merton College, Oxford in July 1535 where he was taught by John Pankhurst.

On 19th August 1539 Jewel was elected scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford where he graduated with a BA in 1540 and an MA in 1545 and was elected fellow of the college in 1542. After 1547 Jewel became of the chief disciples of Pietro Martire Vermigli, also known as Peter Martyr in England.

In 1552 Jewel graduated BD and was made vicar of Sunningwell as well as public orator of the university during which time he was required to write a congratulatory message to Queen Mary I upon her accession to the throne.

Despite signing a series of Catholic articles he was still suspecting of supporting Protestantism and he fled first to London before reaching Frankfurt in March 1555. He soon joined Martire Vermigli at Strasbourg before accompanying him to Zurich and Padua.

John JewelBishop John Jewel

With the accession of Queen Elizabeth I Jewel returned to England and began to secure a Low Church settlement and made it known that he was committed to Elizabeth’s reforms. Jewel was selected as one of nine Protestant disputants that were called upon to attend the Westminster Conference in 1559 where they would face nine Catholic representatives where they would dispute three articles that would help shape the future of Elizabethan England.

Jewel was also a select preacher at St. Paul’s Cross on 15th June and in the on 27th July his congé d’élire as Bishop of Salisbury had been made out although he was not consecrated until 21st January 1560.

Whilst preaching at St. Paul’s Cross on 26th November 1559 Jewel issued a challenge for anyone to prove the Catholics case out of the Scriptures or the councils or Fathers for the first 600 years after Christ. He issued the challenge again in 1560 when Dr Henry Cole took on the challenge. The outcome of this challenge was Jewel’s ‘Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae’ published in 1562. According to Bishop Creighton, Jewel’s work was the first methodical statement of the position of the Church of England against the Church of Rome.

Jewel’s work received criticism from Thomas Harding, an Oxford contemporary and Catholic that entered a battle of words and thoughts with Jewel. Harding and Jewel would debate over the Anglo-Roman controversy; Jewel’s theology was eventually enjoined upon the Church of England by Archbishop Bancroft during the reign of King James I.

Jewel was consulted by the government on questions such as the English attitude towards the Council of Trent, a highly important ecumenical council of the Catholic Church.

Jewel was giving a sermon at Lacock, Wiltshire when he collapsed, he was taken to Monkton Farleigh, a manor house built on the site of a Cluniac priory, where he died on 23rd September 1571. He was buried in Salisbury Catherdral.

Monkton FarleighMonkton Farleigh Manor

On this day in 1557 – Sir John Cheke died

Sir John Cheke was born on 16th June 1514 to Peter Cheke and he was educated at St John’s College, Cambridge where he became a fellow in 1529, whilst at Cambridge Cheke adopted the principal beliefs of the Reformation. His learning and reputation earned him the chair of Greek in 1540. Amongst his pupils were William Cecil, who later married Cheke’s sister, and Roger Ascham, who later in The Scholemaster praised Cheke.

On 10th July 1544 Cheke was appointed as tutor to the future King, Edward. He was appointed to teach him ‘of toungues, of the scripture, of philosophie and all liberal sciences.’ Cheke continued in this position after Edward’s ascension to the throne.

Cheke was active in his public life; he was the Member of Parliament for Bletchingley in 1547 and 1552-53. In 1548 he was made provost of King’s College, Cambridge and was a commissioner that visited that the college along with the University of Oxford and Eton College and he was appointed alongside seven divines to draw a body of laws for the governance of the church.

On 11th October 1551 Cheke was knighted and in June 1553 he was appointed as one of the secretaries of state and joined the Privy Council.

Following the death of King Edward VI, Cheke followed the Duke of Norfolk in backing Lady Jane Grey and was appointed to the office of Secretary of State during her nine days as Queen. When Queen Mary I took the throne she placed Cheke in the Tower of London and confiscated all his property. He was released on 3rd September 1554 and was given permission to travel abroad where he first visited Basel before moving onto Italy and then finally settled in Strasbourg where he taught Greek.

In 1556 Cheke travelled to Brussels to visit his wife but on the return journey between Brussels and Antwerp he was arrested with Sir Peter Carew on the orders of King Philip II and taken back to England where he was sent to the Tower of London. Whilst imprisoned in the Tower he was visited by two priests and Dr John Feckenham, dean of St Paul’s, Cheke had attempted to convert them to Protestantism and now in prison he feared being burned at the stake and so in an attempt to be saved he converted to Catholicism. On 15th July Cheke wrote a letter from the Tower regarding his belief in Catholicism in the hope that he would be spared making a public recantation. Cheke also wrote to the Queen in which he declared that he was willing to obey the law regarding religion.

Cheke was forced to make a public recantation on 4th October after a further two months in the Tower. He was made to read the longer form of recantation in front of the court and agreed to perform whatever penances the legate wished to pass. With all the humiliating recantations out of the way he was finally released from the Tower and was allowed to regain his lands that he was earlier forced to give up.

Ashamed of abandoning his faith Cheke died on 13th September 1557 in London at the home of Peter Osborne, friend and remembrancer of the exchequer. He was buried in the north chapel of St Alban’s where a momument was built in his memory.

Sir John ChekeSir John Cheke

On this day in 1555 – Robert Samuel was burned at the stake

Robert Samuel was an English priest with the parish church of East Bergholt in the Stour Valley during King Edward VI’s reign. Edward had allowed priests to marry and so Samuel lived peacefully with his wife within his parish.

When Queen Mary I took the throne she issued a law forbidding priests to be married and that any priest that was already married had to put aside their wives and return to a life of celibacy, Samuel’s wife went to live in Ipswich.

Samuel’s was a Protestant and believed in the reformed faith and therefore gained the attention of William Foster, an anti-reformist from Copdock, Foster was a Justice of the Peace. Foster was known to go after priests when he first found John Averth, celebrating mass in the home of Dr Rowland Taylor. Foster had Taylor arrested and deemed a traitor and after interrogation was burnt at the stake. Foster then set his sight on Samuel.

Samuel was removed from his parish but continued to secretly visit the homes of his congregation who still adhered to the reformed faith. Spies were sent to investigate these claims and a trap was laid out to catch him whilst visiting his wife, he was captured and dragged away from his wife’s home. Samuel’s was first imprisoned in the Ipswich town gaol.

Samuel wrote two letters to the Christian Congregation and his fellow sufferers saying;

Be constant in obeying God, rather than men. For, although they slay our sinful bodies for God’s verity, yet they cannot do it but by God’s sufferance and goodwill, to His praise and honour, and to our eternal joy and felicity. For our blood shed for the Gospel shall preach it with more fruit, and greater furtherance, than did our mouths, lives and writings, as did the blood of Abel, Stephen, with many others more.”

Samuels was moved to Norwich and then a prison within Norwich Castle to await the inquisition by Bishop Dr Hopton, it was here Samuel was subjected to torture where he was chained upright in a position where only the tips of his toes could touch the floor whilst only being fed a couple of mouthfuls of bread and water daily. After a few days of this Samuel claims that he was visited by Christ and he did not eat or drink again until he was sent to his death.

Samuel was sentenced to death by burning at the stake with the date set for 31st August 1555 on Corn Hill, Ipswich.

woodcut of Robert Samuel burningA woodcut depicting the burning of Robert Samuel