English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469-1535): Sermons and Other Writings, 1520-1535

By John Fisher; Cecilia A. Hatt | Go to book overview

4 Preaching Against Luther

Introduction to John Fisher's Controversial Sermons

The xij. daye of Maye in the yeare of our Lorde 1521, and in the thirteenth yeare of the Reigne of our Soueraigne Lord Kinge Henry the eighte of that Name, the Lord Thomas Wolsey, by the grace of God Legate de Latere, Cardinall of Sainct Cecily and Archbishop of Yorke, came vnto Saint Paules Churche of London, with the most parte of the Byshops of the Realme, where he was receiued with procession, and sensid by Mr. Richard Pace, then being Deane of the said Church. After which ceremonies done, there were four Doctors that bare a canope of cloth of gold ouer him goinge to the Highe Alter, where he made his oblacion; which done, hee proceeded forth as abouesaid to the Crosse in Paules Church Yeard, where was ordeined a scaffold for the same cause, and he, sittinge vnder his cloth of estate which was ordeined for him, his two crosses on euerie side of him; on his right hand sittinge on the place where hee set his feete, the Pope's embassador, and nexte him the Archbishop of Canterbury: on his left hand the Emperor's Embassador, and next him the Byshop of Duresme, and all the other Byshops with other noble prelates sate on two formes outeright forthe, and ther the Byshop of Rochester made a sermon, by the consentinge of the whole clergie of England, by the commandement of the Pope, against one Martinus Eleutherius, and all his workes, because hee erred sore, and spake against the hollie faithe; and denounced them accursed which kept anie of his said bookes, and there were manie burned in the said chyrch yeard of his said bookes during the sermon, which ended, my Lord Cardinall went home to dinner with all the other prelates.1

Although it took place more than three and a half years after Luther's dramatic entrance into religious controversy, the sermon preached by the bishop of Rochester on 12 May 1521 was England's first public assertion of orthodoxy. On 31 October 1517, Dr Martin Luther had nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. The subject at issue was the efficacy and power of indulgences, and for about a year Luther's main discussion was with Rome. By 1519, however, the controversy was being conducted in Germany, with John Eck an opponent almost as prolific as Luther who had now begun seriously to question the primacy of the Pope. Henry VIII and the

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