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Life of Blessed John Fisher: Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church and Martyr under Henry VIII

Life of Blessed John Fisher: Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church and Martyr under Henry VIII

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  • ISBN-13: 9781484809006
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Release Date: Apr 25, 2013
  • Pages: 478 pages
  • Dimensions: 1.08 x 9.00 x 6.00 inches


THE name of JOHN FISHER, the learned theologian, the saintly prelate, the heroic martyr, is familiar to everyone who has acquired the mere outlines of history; yet many deep students of the period in which he lived will be ready to confess that their knowledge is restricted to a few facts of his life, and perhaps the details of his death. The days in which his lot was cast were evil, and a man of his noble character could occupy no very conspicuous place in them, except by contrast, protestation, and martyrdom. He could not fill the foreground like Luther, Calvin, and Cranmer, or even like Cardinal Wolsey or Bishop Stephen Gardiner. And though the same remark applies to his friend and fellow-martyr Sir Thomas More, yet there were many circumstances that made the character of the latter more generally attractive to the biographer and to the reader. It was a new thing at that period for a layman to rival the best ecclesiastics in learning, eloquence, and theology, as well as in law and in statesmanship. The chancellor's charming family life, where virtue and letters, religion and wit, united with patriarchal simplicity, was, if not a new development of the social system, yet a return, after ages of ignorance and barbarism, to the best Christian traditions of the days of St. Basil and St. Paulinus. In his own family, too, the Blessed Thomas More found those who were capable of recording, as well as appreciating, his virtues, and of telling the incidents of his life and death throughout Europe. Thus multitudes are acquainted with the words and acts, the public and private life of More, whose knowledge of Fisher is merely that he was a learned and virtuous bishop, tyranically put to death by Henry VIII. The memories of the two martyrs are typified in the fate of their pictures. The picture of Sir Thomas and his household, by Holbein, still fresh, and often reproduced by the engraver, has made us all familiar with his gracious and noble aspect; while more than one old canvas or panel, without a history, and showing only a pale, ascetic face on a faded background, left the beholder uncertain whether he had been gazing on a Warham, a Tunstal, or a Fisher. But it is not yet too late. After lying long forgotten, an authentic portrait of the martyr bishop was found by Queen Caroline in a secret drawer in the royal palace, and we now know how he looked in 1527; for the sketch is by Holbein's faithful pencil. And so, too, by the opening of the national and of foreign archives, and the diligence of their guardians, documents unknown for centuries have once more been brought to light, and enable the student to fill in many details of Fisher's life and character. The Decree of Beatification begins: “ENGLAND, once called the Island of Saints and the Dowry of the Virgin Mother of God, as even from the first ages of the Church it had been renowned for the sufferings of many Martyrs, so also, when it was torn by the fearful schism of the sixteenth century from the obedience and communion of the Roman See, was not without the testimony of those who, for the dignity of this See, and for the truth of the orthodox Faith, did not hesitate to lay down their lives by the shedding of their blood. “In this most noble band of Martyrs nothing whatever is wanting to its completeness or its honour: neither the grandeur of the Roman purple, nor the venerable dignity of Bishops, nor the fortitude of the Clergy both secular and regular, nor the invincible firmness of the weaker sex. Eminent amongst them is JOHN FISHER, Bishop of Rochester and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, whom Paul III. speaks of in his Letters as conspicuous for sanctity, celebrated for learning, venerable by age, an honour and an ornament to the kingdom, and to the Clergy of the whole world. With him must be named the layman THOMAS MORE, Chancellor of England, whom the same Pontiff deservedly extols, as excelling in sacred learning, and courageous in the defence of truth.”

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