- NAME: Saint John Fisher
- OCCUPATION: Cardinal, Saint
- BIRTH DATE: 1469
- DEATH DATE: June 22, 1535
- Did You Know?: Saint John Fisher's sentence of death was communted from hanging and being drawn and quartered to simply beheading.
- EDUCATION: University of Cambridge
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Beverley, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: London, England, United Kingdom
- AKA: John of Rochester
- AKA: St. John Fisher
- AKA: John Fisher
Best Known For
Saint John Fisher was a Roman Catholic bishop and cardinal who was martyred when he resisted King Henry VIII's encroachments on the Church.
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Born in 1469 in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, Saint John Fisher was a Roman Catholic bishop and cardinal who served as Lady Margaret Beaufort's confessor and convinced her to found St. John's College at the University of Cambridge. Fisher's resistance to royal supremacy over the English Church incurred the wrath of King Henry VIII and, subsequently, Fisher was tried, condemned and executed in 1535.
"A good man is not a perfect man; a good man is an honest man, faithful and unhesitatingly responsive to the voice of God in his life."
"Had you but tasted one drop of the sweetness which inebriates the souls of those religious from their worship of this Sacrament, you would never have written as you have, nor have apostatized from the faith that you formerly professed."
"David wasn't thinking of being king when he was tending sheep; he was just doing what God sat before him."
Saint John Fisher was born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, in 1469, the son of a modestly prosperous merchant, Robert Fisher, and his wife, Agnes. John attended a church school in Beverly and then enrolled at the University of Cambridge, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1487 and an Master of Arts degree in 1491. That same year, he became an ordained priest.
In 1494, John Fisher became a proctor at Cambridge, where he held a number of positions before becoming chancellor in 1504—a post that he would hold for the rest of his life. In 1497, he became chaplain and confessor to Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII. Under his guidance, Lady Margaret founded St. John's and Christ's colleges at Cambridge. As chancellor, Fisher assembled leading scholars from Europe to teach at Cambridge including the renowned scholar Erasmus.
By 1504, John Fisher was gaining a reputation as a scholar and a pious, humble man. He was appointed bishop of Rochester—a post that he would hold for 31 years—and served as tutor to Prince Henry (later Henry VIII). When Henry VII and Margaret died in 1509, he gave the orations at both funerals. Despite his reputation, he soon encountered conflict with the new king, his former pupil, Henry VIII.
In November 1529, the "Long Parliament" of King Henry VIII began a series of encroachments on the church in the name of reform. John Fisher, warned Parliament that such acts would harm the Church in England. His defiance was reported to the king, who summoned him for an explanation. After hearing Fisher, Henry declared he was satisfied but left it to the Commons to declare the explanation unsatisfactory, thus absolving him of being seen as Fisher's enemy.
The encroachments on the Church continued in 1530, forcing John Fisher and two other bishops to appeal to Rome for help. King Henry VIII issued an edict forbidding such appeals, however, and had Fisher and the other two bishops arrested temporarily. The king and the bishop were set on a collision course.
By May 1532, matters had deteriorated rapidly. Henry VIII, increasingly dissatisfied with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon for not producing a surviving male heir, sought an annulment. John Fisher became the queen's supporter and most trusted counselor and spoke on her behalf, strongly arguing against the divorce. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage, Henry defied him by assuming supremacy of the Church and declared his marriage to Catherine null and void. In quick order, Parliament passed the Succession Act, separating England from the Catholic Church and acknowledging Henry and his new wife, Anne Boleyn, as legitimate heirs to the throne.
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Whether by sword, axe or guillotine, death by beheading was historically considered the most humane form of death sentence—as long as the executioner was swift, strong and good at hitting his mark. While the practice was never legally supported in the United States, we do give the method a nod in this country whenever we use the term "capital punishment"; the word "capital" is derived from the Latin "capitalis," which translates to "of the head." Here are some of the most famous victims of this gruesome form of execution.
Beheaded 14 people in this group
Famous Saints 36 people in this group
Famous People Named John 228 people in this group