St. John Fisher, Cardinal-Martyr of England, by Stephanie Mann

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Gerard Valck, after Adriaen van der Werff, “Portrait of John Fisher,” 1697

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, pray for us!

By Stephanie Mann, EWTN News, 6/22/20

John Cardinal Fisher, the former Bishop of Rochester—Henry VIII had stripped him of that title—was sentenced to death on June 17, 1535. The sentence pronounced against him brought a flush of color to his sunken cheeks, eyewitnesses remarked. As a traitor, he would be drawn to the place of execution on a hurdle, hanged, cut down still alive and then endure vivisection. Finally his head would be cut off and his body would be divided into four parts: Henry VIII would decide where his head and his quarters would be displayed. In other words, he would be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Like Sir Thomas More, with whom he shares a feast day today in both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, Fisher had been held in the Tower of London for more than a year, since April 26, 1534. He had been interviewed several times to induce him to take the Oath of Succession; authorities had told him that Thomas More had taken the Oath (when he hadn’t) just as they told More that Fisher had, trying to break their resolve. Thomas More had seen the Carthusian Priors and companions taken from the Tower to Tyburn on May 4, 1535 to be executed; Fisher had been told a few days after. Also in May that year, Pope Paul III had honored Fisher with a Cardinalate, hoping to influence Henry VIII to show leniency and release him, especially since he was so ill. That gesture did not work, however, as Henry stated that Fisher would soon have no head on which to wear his Cardinal’s hat. It had been feared that he might die in the Tower before ever coming to trial, so Henry VIII sent his physicians to strengthen the prisoner. …

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