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1212 [1212]

K. Henry. 8. III. Martyrs by Douercourt. Iohn Fryth, Martyr.

MarginaliaExperience of false idolatrie.Which happened wel for theyr purpose, for they found the Idoll, whiche had as much power to kepe the dore shut, as to kepe it opē. And for proufe therof, they toke the Idoll from his shrine, and caried him a quarter of a mile from the place where he stode, without any resistance of the said idoll. MarginaliaThe Idoll set on a light fyer.Wherupon they strake fire with a flint stone, and sodenly set him on fire, who burned out so brymme, that he lighted them homewarde one good mile of the x.

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This doone, there went a great talke abroade that they shoulde haue greate richesse in that place: MarginaliaFalse surmise alwayes readye. but it was verye vntrue, for it was not theyr thought or enterprise, as they themselues afterwarde confessed, for there was nothing taken away, but his coate, his shoes and tapers. MarginaliaThe right handling of an Idoll.The tapers did helpe to burne him, þe shoes they had againe, and the coat one Syr Thomas Rose did burne, but they had neyther peny, halfepeny, gold, grote nor iewell.

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MarginaliaThree Martyrs hanged for takyng downe the Roode of Douercourt.
An. 1532.

woodcut [View a larger version]

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Foxe is our main source for this daring deed of iconoclastic destruction, which took place at a time when Henry VIII's sanction of reform had not yet started official bonfires of holy images. The image destroyed by the three men of Suffolk was a rood in the church of Dovercourt, near Harwich (some miles from where they lived), which they regarded as an idol, partly because of the miraculous powers reportedly attributed to it -- power that they disproved by removing it from the church and setting fire to it. Foxe's illustration -- eliding offence and punishment -- shows it as a lifesize (or larger) wooden figure, readily reduced to ashes. The authorities (both clerical and secular) presiding over the execution are portrayed as calmly in control. But there were were some disturbing features of this incident, including the activities of Thomas Rose, the rector of Hadleigh, himself ardent for image reform, and the recipient of the coat of the Dovercourt rood, which he had the pleasure of burning. A later report of the image being destroyed at Edward's accession seems to indicate that a replacement was installed after this destruction. The woodcut compresses the several parts on this story and presents one image of events that took place at different times and places. As the narrative explains, the three men who were caught were given exemplary executions at different places (Dovercourt itself, Cattawade and Dedham -- both en route to Hadleigh). The fourth man, Robert Gardiner, escaped and lived to tell the tale to Foxe, who only recorded this in 1570 (p. 1173 marginal note: 'Ex testimonio ipsius Gardner'). CUL copy: additional detail is added to the belts in this image, which is visually distracting, since it is in a very bright black. WREN copy: this is a very vibrant illustration, with the use of bright orange for the flames. The burning crucifix is most dramatic: the flesh of Christ is depicted as looking very lifelike, although the additional detail of blood dripping from his wounds is rather clumsily added.

MarginaliaRobert King, Robart Debnam, Nicolas March, Martyrs.Notwithstanding three of them were afterward indited of felonye and hanged in chaines within halfe a yere after, or therabout. Robert King was hanged in Dedham at Burchet: Robert Debnam was hanged at Cattawaye causye: Nicolas Marshe was hanged at Douercourt. Which. iij. persons through þe spirit of God at theyr death, did more edify the people in godly learning, then al the Sermons that had bene preached there a long time before. 

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This one of a number of indications scattered throughout the Acts and Monuments of Foxe's whole-hearted approval of iconoclasm. It is perhaps worth remembering that he destroyed an image of the Virgin Mary at Ouldsworth, Surrey, during Edward VI's reign [ODNB].

MarginaliaRobart Gardiner escaped.The. iiij. man of this company named Robert Gardner, eskaped theyr hands and fledde. Albeit he was cruellye sought for, to haue had the like death, but the liuing Lorde preserued him, to whome be al honor and glory world without ende. MarginaliaEx testimonio ipsius Gardner.

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MarginaliaImages destroyed.The same yere 

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It is clear from Foxe's note that his source for the following incidents was Robert Gardner. But it is not apparent whether these details came from the original letter Gardner sent to Chapman or from subsequent communications between Foxe and Gardner.

and the yere before, there were many Images cast downe and destroyed in many places: as the Image of the Crucifix in the highe way by Cogshall, the Image of S. Petronill in the church of great Horksleigh, the Image of S. Christopher by Sudburye, and another Image of S. Petronill in a chapel by Ipswich.

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Also Ihon Seward of Dedham ouerthrewe a crosse in Stoke Parke, and tooke. ij. Images out of a chapell in the same Parke, and cast them into the water.

¶ The Storie, examination, death, and Mardome of Ihon Fryth. 
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John Frith

Foxe's treatment of the John Frith martyrdom provided him with the material (Frith's own writings, and those of his critics) to provide an exposition of protestant doctrines on purgatory and transubstantiation, supported by relevant patristic material, within the overall context of a narrative that emphasised his valiant steadfastness, intellectually and physically. The story was somewhat elaborated in the 1570 editions and subsequently, with Frith's beliefs examined in greater detail and the letter 'to his friends' printed in extenso. The story of the martyrdom of Andrew Huet ('Hewet'), who accompanied Frith to the scaffold, provided much less possibility for doctrinal elaboration, but he served to make the point that Frith's doctrines and steadfastness had been persuasive.

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Andrew ChibiUniversity of Leicester

Ioh. Frith, Martyr.
AMongest all other chaunces lamentable, there hath bene none a great tyme which seemed vnto me more greuous, then þe lamentable death & cruell handlyng of Ihon Fryth, so learned & excellent a yong mā: who had so profited in all kinde of learning and knowledge, that skarsly there was his equal amongest al his companions, & besides withall had suche a godlines of life ioyned with his doctrine, that it was hard to iudge, in whether of them hee was more cōmendable, being greatly prayse worthy in thē both. But as touching his doctrine, by the grace of Christe, we will speake hereafter. Of the great godlines whiche was in hym, thys may serue for experiment sufficient, for that notwithstanding his other manifold and singular giftes and ornamentes of the minde in him most pregnant, wherwithall he might haue opened an easie waye vnto honour and dignitie, notwithstanding he chose rather wholie to consecrate him selfe vnto the church of Christe, excellently shewyng fourth and practisyng in hym selfe the precept so highlye commended of the Philosophers, touching the lyfe of man, which life they say is giuen vnto vs in such sort, þt how much better þe mā is, so much the lesse he should liue vnto him self, but vnto other, seruinge for the common vtilitie, and that we should thinke a great part of our birth to bee due vnto our parentes, a greater part vnto our countrey, & the greatest part of all, to be bestowed vpon the churche, if we will be counted good men. MarginaliaIohn Frith first student in Cambrige.First of all, he began his study at Cambryge. 

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Foxe omits the 1563 reference to Mary Hall.

In whō nature had planted beyng but a chylde, maruailous instinctions and loue vnto learning, wherunto he was addict. He had also a wonderfull promptnes of witte, and a ready capacity to receaue and vnderstande any thyng, in so muche that he semed not to be sent vnto learning, but also borne for the same purpose: MarginaliaCommendation of Frythes learning.neyther was there anye diligence wanting in him equal vnto that towardnes, or worthy of his dispositiō. Wherby it came to passe, that he was not onely a louer of learning, but also became an exquisite learned man. In þe which exercise, when he had diligently laboured certayne yeres, not without great profit both of Latin and Greke, at the last he fel into know

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