Bishop John Hooper
(c. 1495/1500 - 1555)
The early history of John Hooper is shrouded in mystery but it is thought he may have been born in Somerset. It is possible that he entered a Cistercian monastery in Cleeve, Somerset before gaining his BA at Oxford in 1519.
John Hooper’s life spanned that turbulent time in history when King Henry VIII chose to leave the Church of Rome and embraced Protestantism and formed the Anglican Church. John Hooper was caught up in this treacherous mix of politics and religion.
While in London he was greatly influenced by the writings of the Protestant reformers Zwingli and Bullinger. Coming under suspicion for his opinions, he fled abroad in 1539 and spent nine years in France and Switzerland.
When King Henry VIII died, he was succeeded by his son, Edward VI. The boy king was an even more fervent Protestant reformer than his father and John Hooper returned to England. King Edward VI consecrated him Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester in 1551.
Bishop of Gloucester & Worcester
On arriving in the diocese of Gloucester, Bishop Hooper was horrified to find that 168 of the local clergy could not repeat the Ten Commandments and 41 could not find the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible. He set about righting these failings. He was also critical of many church practices including the veneration of saints and the hierarchy.
In 1552 he was instrumental in the creation of a new Prayer Book to replace the one written in 1549 by the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Bishop Hooper did not mince his words when he described the previous Prayer Book as being “very defective and of doubtful construction, and, in some respects, indeed manifestly impious."
When the young King Edward VI died, his half-sister, Mary Tudor (Queen Mary I) came to the throne. She and her husband, Phillip set about returning England to the Catholic faith and doing it in a very forceful manner earning Mary the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’.
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Anyone who did not return to the Old Faith was persecuted and clergy such as Bishop John Hooper, who would not renounce the Protestant reforms, were branded as heretics and burned at the stake. Because of his strongly held views he was the first Bishop to be martyred in this way.
Bishop Hooper was arrested in March 1554 and deprived of his bishopric. He was imprisoned in London until the reintroduction of the Heresy Acts in December 1554. He was quickly tried, condemned to death and brought back to Gloucester.
He spent the night before his martyrdom in his old Tudor lodgings in Westgate Street. The Lodgings are now the Gloucester Folk Museum and are only 25 yards (23 metres) from where he was burned at the stake, and within sight of his own cathedral. The spot is marked by the Bishop Hooper's Memorial.
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