Thursday, 13 August 2015
A little further along the Riverside Walk from Cow Tower, near Bishop Bridge, is a commemoration stone set into the grassy bank. Close by is a pub called The Lollards' Pit. Until I encountered the pub and the stone I knew nothing about Lollards or their troubles.
The stone reads:
To the glory of god and in grateful memory of Thomas Bilney MA LLB (Fellow of Trinity Hall Cambridge) burnt to death in the Lollards' pit Norwich August 19th 1531 for spreading the gospel of free salvation by faith in the atoning blood of Christ once offered on the cross. Blessed martyr of god - spiritual father of the Reformation in England.
Also of William White a follower of John Wicliffe a Lollard, September 1428 and the following who were burnt in the reign of Queen Mary I (Tudor)
Cicely Ormes 1557
Simon Miller 1557
Elizabeth Cooper 1557
Richard Crasfield 1557
William Seaman 1558
Thomas Carman 1558
Thomas Hudson 1558
Richard Yeoman 1558
They loved not their lives unto the death Rev. 12 v11
These all died in the cause of biblical evangelical Christianity and in denial of the unscriptural doctrines of the Church of Rome.
Provided by the council and supporters of the Protestant Alliance.
So who were the Lollards?
Lollardy was a political and religious movement begun by John Wycliffe in the mid 14th century. He was a theologian who was thrown out of Oxford University in 1381 because of his criticism of the church.
He and others accused the Roman Catholic church of becoming corrupted by earthly matters and of drifting away from biblical texts. They said that church officials should not hold positions of power within the State because it was a conflict of interest. Lollards also preached iconoclasm and said money spent on expensive artworks and rich artefacts should properly be spent on helping the poor.
One belief that was particularly offensive to the establishment was the claim that the cross, nails, spear and crown of thorns from the crucifixion should not be honoured unless Judas's kiss was also seen as holy.
Although the movement had some support in political high places it was inevitably condemned as heretical and its followers were deemed criminals. They were imprisoned and later put to death by fire.
I don't want to turn this into a political or religious rant, but regular readers of my old blog will know that I have strong views in this area. Given what's going on in the world right now, and the feelings some acts are generating in the supposedly 'civilised' West, it's worth remembering that there are very few religions which were not, at some point in their history, over-zealous in their treatment of anyone who disagreed with their doctrines.