The Martyred Bishop of Gloucester

Posted on 09th February 2021 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.


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