On this day in 1555, passionate Puritan and English Reformer John Hooper was burned at the stake for heresy. He faced his death with courage, refusing to recant his views.
Born around 1495 in Somerset, England, Hooper (or 'Johan Hoper') was educated at Oxford University and later attended a Cistercian monastery in Gloucester. It was later in his life, after some time in Europe, that he returned to England, now married, in the mid-16th century to lead the charge of Protestantism (inspired by Reformer Ulrich Zwingli) in England. Here he soon became the Bishop of Gloucester. In this role he was a fervent and popular preacher, committed to educating his congregation in the faith and serving the poor.
However, the political winds were against Hooper: when staunchly Catholic Queen Mary I came to the throne in 1553, the radical, Puritan Protestantism of Hooper made him an obvious target. He was one of the first arrested in the famous attempt of 'Bloody Mary' to reverse the spread of the English Reformation.
Here he faced not just imprisonment, but execution for heresy – he had been a severe, outspoken voice not only against Catholicism but many Reformers as well. As Dan Graves writes at Christianity.com, Hooper nonetheless faced his demise with a serene, devout spirit, demanding that he be left alone to pray on the morning of his death.
When armed men came to have him burned, Hooper looked at their weapons and said: 'Master Sheriffs, I am no traitor, and you have no need to make such a work to take me to the place where I must suffer. If you had told me, I would have gone to the stake, and have troubled none of you.'
Such was his popularity that his captors were keen to stop him preaching to the crowds at his execution. He knelt to pray at the stake where he would be martyred, and when offered a royal pardon on condition of recanting his Protestant views, he vigorously refused, saying: 'If you love my soul, away with it!'
Excruciatingly for Hooper, a cold, wet morning meant the fire took a long time to properly burn and consume him, extending his suffering. He pleaded for his ordeal to end and cried out among other words: 'O Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me and receive my soul.' Hooper's writings and dramatic demise went on to inspire many long after his death.