Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

John Wyclif

Today is the 630th anniversary of the death of the English heresiarch John Wyclif at Lutterworth in Leicestershire. He had been living in the parish in his last years, effectively exiled from Oxford on account of the increasing hostility of the authorities in the Church and realm to his increasingly radical ideas. He suffered a stroke whist attending or assisting at the Mass in his church at Lutterworth on December 28th. He was buried in the church and had a tombstone - fragments of it were taken as relics by two Bohemian students in the years that followed.

John Wyclif


St Mary's Church.

Lutterworth Church.
East view of the church where John Wyclif was rector from 1374 until his death in 1384.
The church formerly had a spire

Image: leicestershirevillages.com

Following the formal condemnation of his teachings as heretical by the Council of Constance in 1415 the Council orderd that his remains be exhumed and burned. At the tim eteh Bishop of Lincoln, in which diocese the parish lay, was Philip Repingdon, once a fervent admirer of Wyclif at the beginning of the 1380s, but who renounced his Wycliffite ideas in the summer of 1382.


The exhumation and burning of Wyclif's bones in 1428
From the 1563 edition of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments 1563


It was under his successor, Richard Fleming, that the remains of the founder of English dissent were exhumed and burned, the ashes being poured into the River Swift. Sympathisers ahve seen this as symbolic of the transmission of his ideas world wide.

One does not have to agree with Wyclif to recognise that in his own time, in the century and a half down to the reformation and then, held up as its great precursor, during the English Reformation, he was and is a figure of importance and with a legacy.


No comments: