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157 [1439]

The Burning of Wickleffes bones.

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The first of five large illustrations, which cover the period from Wyclif to Luther. The chance survival of 'proof sheets' from the 1563 edition indicate problems that arose with the printing of a picture of Wyclif's body being posthumously burned. The sheets were identified as 'proof sheets' (even though they are only printed on one side) in the revised STC (no.11222a). Wyclif, who died in his bed, exiled from Oxford where he had recruited a following that proved so challenging, did not make an easy martyr. His views were condemned but he was but by no means persecuted by the Church (though it was long believed by Foxe and others that he had gone into exile abroad for a time). It was the Council of Constance that made it possible to elevate the English heresiarch to new heights, by the judgement that condemned him as a notorious heretic and ordered his body and bones to tbe exhumed and -- providing they could be distinguished from those of others -- cast out of consecrated ground. That was in 1415, when the bishop of Lincoln, who would have had to act, was Philip Repingdon, who might well have found this a repugnant duty. Twelve years later, by which time English heresy seemed to be assuming new dimensions, Pope Martin V took up the case and ordered Bishop Fleming (Repingdon's successor and a man of different mettle) not only to exhume Wyclif's body and bones, but to have them publicly burned. It amounted to an accolade for some of his followers. In order to celebrate the English heresiarch in this posthumous martyrdom Foxe had to anticipate a later part of his narrative on the Council of Constance. The image of the event had no hesitation in portraying each stage of this gruesome process, labelling the church, coffin, and various episcopal officials, who unpacked the bones piece by piece to go into the fire which is already consuming the skull, while the bishop's commissary pours the ashes into the river to prevent any posthumous veneration of the heresiarch's remains. This vivid image might have informed Fuller's commemorative words about how 'this brook hath convey'd his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; they, into the main Ocean. And thus the ashes of Wickliff are the emblem of his doctrine, which now, is dispersed the world over'. CUL copy: Note that the faces of those depicted are particularly well detailed, e.g., figure detailed 'Com[m]issari' has a flush of colour in his lips, cheeks and ear lobes, which are depicted in a pinkish red. There is also well defined shading of the hands, provided by a pale brown wash. WREN: same stock of colours but not so well executed.

dies of other faithfull people, to be taken out of the grounde, and throwne awaye farre from the buriall of any church, accordinge vnto the Cannon lawes and decrees, whiche determination, and sentence definitiue, being red and pronounced, MarginaliaThe byshoppe of Hostia.the Lorde president, and the forsaide presidents of the iiii. nations, beyng demaunded and asked whether it did please them or no, they all answered, and first Hostiensis the president, and after him thother presidents of the nations, þt it pleased them very wel, and so they allowed and confirmed all the premisses.

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This wicked 

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This long denunciation of the Council of Constance's decrees against Wiclif first appeared in the Rerum (p. 23) and was translated and expanded in the 1563 edition. It was subsequently dropped.

and malitious sentence of the bishop would require here a diligent Apologie: but that it is so folish and vain, and no lesse barbarous, that it semeth more worthye of derision and disdaine, then by any argument to be cōfuted. For what wil it preuaile to talk wyth reasons and arguments against him, which foloweth neither reason, nor argument: Except parauenture thou wouldest seme to play Parmenos part in the comedy, that is to ioyne perfect reason and mad follye together. Fyrst vnder many glorious and bragginge woordes, they pretend here a great colour of the catholike faith: and yet bring no reson at al, to declare þe catholike faith. If the Catholike faith consist in mennes seates, and not in the men, in wordes and not in dedes: then would I graūt that the sea of Rome might seme catholike. Nextly they pretend here the au-thority of the holy Sinode, and that in the name of our Lord. When as they bring forth no scripture of our Lord, Lawfully (say they) congregated and gathered together. I heare it very well. And to the intent that this autoritye may be of greater force and effect, the consent also of the sinode of Rome is annexed and ioyned vnto thys councell, for these be their wordes: as it was decreed (say they) in the Sinode of Rome. &c. MarginaliaThe councel of Rome began, by the good signe or token of an Owle.Which sinode of Rome how lawfully it was gathered together, the owle did sufficiētly declare, which oftētimes (as Clemagis dothe witnes) flying into the coūcel of Rome, wheras Pope Ihon did sit, she could soner put him out frō his Catholike seat, & so did, then she could be driuen away frō him, by any kind of weapon. Wherof (Christ so willing) more shall be declared, whē we come to the place to speke of the councel of Constance seueralli. In this Sinode being thus gathered together, the works and xlv. Articles of Wickleffe wer condēned, and he him self xl. yeres after hys death, was taken oute of his graue and burned. And what was the cause, for that onlye he wyth most firme and strong reasons, enterprysed and went about to controll and rebuke their life, erroures, filthinesse and pride, whyche was nowe growen vnto that poynt, that it was not anye longer to be suffered. But howe muche rather ought they in this behalf to haue rēdred thanks vnto Wyckleffe, for his most godly & holsom ad

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