Tag Archives: Bishop Fisher

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 1533 – John Frith was burned at the stake for heresy

John Frith was born in 1503 in Westerham, Kent to Richard Frith, innkeeper of the White Horse Inn. Frith was educated at Sevenoaks Grammar School before transferring to Eton College and later Queen’s College, Cambridge, although Frith received his BA from King’s College.

Whilst at Cambridge he studied under Stephen Gardiner and read Latin, Greek and Mathematics. It was also here that he met Thomas Bilney and they began discussing the Reformation, it was during these meetings that Frith met William Tyndale for the first time. Upon graduation Frith became a junior canon at Thomas Wolsey’s Cardinal College, Oxford however, this did not last long Frith along with nine others were accused by the University of possessing heretical books and were imprisoned in a cellar for six months. Upon his release Frith left England to travel to Antwerp to join up with William Tyndale.

Frith spent many years in Europe and during this time he translated a number of works including, ‘A Pistle to the Christian Reader: The Revelation of the Anti-Christ’; ‘An Antithesis between Christ and Pope’. He also published his own works in response to Thomas More, Bishop Fisher and John Rastell entitled ‘A Disputacion of Purgatorye’. Unpon reading Frith’s work Rastell converted to the Protestant ways.

In ‘A Disputacion of Purgatorye’ Frith put forward the argument that there were two purgatories. He wrote “God hath left us two purgatories; one to purge the heart and cleanse it from the filth which we have partly received of Adam…and partly added thereto by consenting unto our natural infirmity. This purgatory is the word of God, as Christ saith.” Frith continued to say that the second purgatory was Christ’s cross and said; “I mean not his material cross that he himself died on, but a spiritual cross, which is adversity, tribulation, worldly depression etc.”

In 1532, Frith returned to England and was quickly arrested in Reading where he was mistaken for a vagabond with the help of Leonard Coxe, a local schoolmaster, he was released. Sir Thomas More, when he learnt that Frith had returned to England issued arrest warrants for Frith’s capture on the charges of heresy. Frith was eventually arrested when trying to board a ship back to Antwerp.

Frith was sent to the Tower of London where he continued to preach and write about the Lutheran ways and in particular the ritual of Communion, knowing that his work would be used against him as evidence. Whilst Frith was imprisoned Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor after disagreeing with the King’s views on religion and a short time later following the death of William Warham, Thomas Cranmer was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

Also Cranmer himself leaned towards the Lutheran way he met with Frith at both Lambeth and Croydon for discussion in which Cranmer attempted to persuade Frith to change his stance regarding the Eucharist to be more in line with that of the King. Cranmer was trying to save Frith’s life but Frith was unwilling to change his belief.

Frith was eventually moved to Newgate Prison where he continued writing; he received letters from William Tyndale who attempted to keep Frith’s spirits up. However, Thomas Audley was given the office of Lord Chancellor and he sentenced Frith to stand trial.

Frith was placed before a jury of examiners and bishops and here he submitted his own writings as evidence of his personal views that were considered to be heresy. Frith was offered a pardon if he answered positively to two questions the first was ‘Do you believe in purgatory?’ the second was ‘Do you believe in transubstantiation?’ Frith replied that neither could be proven and with that he was condemned as a heretic and sentenced to death by burning on 4th July 1533.

Frith’s views would continue to live on and after the death of King Henry VIII, Cranmer subscribed to the same views as Frith regarding purgatory and the Eucharist and these were implemented into the Protestant reforms during King Edward VI’s reign.

John FrithJohn Frith being led to his death.

On this day in 1534 – Elizabeth Barton was executed

On 20th April 1534 Elizabeth Barton was executed on charges of treason for prophesising about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Elizabeth’s life before 1525 is unknown in 1506 she was born in Aldington and it is assumed that she grew up in a poor family. In 1525 at the aged around 18 Elizabeth was working as a servant for Thomas Cobb when she fell ill and believed that she believed she was given the power of visions and could predict the future.

Elizabeth’s predictions started with the death of a child within the house and led to urging people to stay within the Catholic faith as more and more predictions came true the greater Elizabeth’s reputation grew. A local priest, Richard Masters, referred Elizabeth to Archbishop Warham who after ensuring that her prophecies did no damage to the Catholic ways arranged for her to be received into the Benedictine St Sepulchre’s Priory in Canterbury.

Elizabeth’s popularity began to grow and she soon became known as the ‘Nun of Kent’. People would flock to see her in the belief that she could directly communicate with the Virgin Mary. Courtiers such as Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher also began communicating with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth began gaining more and more followers and in 1528 she had a private meeting with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and went on to have two meetings with King Henry VIII. Henry did not oppose Elizabeth and her visions as he was still loyal to Rome and Elizabeth was warning against heresy. However, with Henry pushing Katherine of Aragon for an annulment of their marriage and turning his back on Rome he began to turn on Elizabeth as well. Elizabeth strongly opposed the Reformation and in 1532 with rumours of Henry planning to marry Anne Boleyn she predicted that if the King remarried he would die soon after and he would go to hell.

It took a year for Henry to take action against Elizabeth due to her popularity, but in 1533 Elizabeth was examined by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. With rumours being spread of alleged relationships with priests and that she was suffering from mental illness Elizabeth apparently confessed to spreading false prophecies. Upon her confession Elizabeth was taken to the Tower of London where she was imprisoned.

In January 1534 a bill of attainder was passed against Elizabeth and her supporters. Thirteen supporters were attained in total including Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher however, Thomas More escaped imprisonment as he was able to produce a letter written by him to Elizabeth informing her to not get involved in court business. Bishop Fisher and five others were imprisoned but Elizabeth and the rest of her supporters including Richard Risby and Edward Bocking were all hanged at Tyburn on 20th April 1534. Elizabeth was buried at the Greyfriars Church in Newgate Street with the exception of her head which was put on a spike on London Bridge. She was the only woman in history to have had that happen.

Elizabeth Barton