The Martyred Bishop of Gloucester

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Church History

On February 9th 1555 John Hooper, went through the streets of Gloucester. It was early - eight in the morning - but already crowds had gathered to see him. They knew him of course, he had been bishop of that city, but now he was being led as a prisoner towards to the stake in what would be his final journey. No doubt the locals were curious to see this great reversal of fortune, the bishop who had prospered under Edward VI now coming to his end under Mary I.

This bishop was made of stern stuff. An ex-monk, he had devoured the teaching of the Reformers and had been exiled for his views eight years before. A year after his return, he was promoted to post of Bishop of Gloucester but would only take the job if all references to angels and saints were removed from the Oath of Supremacy. In fact he was imprisoned for a short while when he showed his reluctance to wear vestments.

That was all under Edward VIII, but the Roman Catholic Mary I was now on the throne and Hooper was too hot a protestant for her to bear. So to the stake he went. Even there, through, he showed his courage. As the fire licked up his legs he called out “let me have more fire”. As he came close to death he was heard to say “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. And an eye witness records “he died as quietly as a child in bed”.

Should you find yourself in Gloucester with some time to spare, you might like to make your way to the Folk Museum in Westgate Street. Climb the winding stairs and you’ll come across a glass cabinet containing the stump of the stake against which Hooper was burnt. A memorial not only to the brutality of the time, but also the Bishop who stood firm.


“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2) - All these facts converge on Jesus in a remarkable way. He is the “bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41) and the “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He is the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14), one from the line of David. Bethlehem, then, is the perfect place for Jesus’ birth. A small village with a rich legacy.

I am with you

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land” (Genesis 28:15) - The path may be tough at times, we may even go through “the valley of the shadow of death”, but the Shepherd will ensure we get to our destination.

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