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John Hooper (bishop)

John Hooper.

John Hooper, Johan Hoper, (ca. 1495-1500 – 9 February 1555) was an English churchman, Anglican Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester. A proponent of the English Reformation, he was martyred during the Marian Persecutions.


  • Biography 1
  • Vestments controversy 2
  • Works 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


In 1538, a John Hooper appears among the names of the Black Friars at Gloucester, and also among the White Friars at Bristol, who surrendered their houses to the king. A John Hooper was likewise canon of Wormesley Priory in Herefordshire; but identification of any of these with the future bishop is doubtful. Rather, he appears to have been in 1538 rector of Liddington, Wiltshire, a benefice in Sir Thomas Arundell's gift, though he must have been a non-resident incumbent. The Greyfriars' Chronicle says that Hooper was "sometime a white monk"; and in the sentence pronounced against him by Stephen Gardiner he is described as "olim monachus de Cliva Ordinis Cisterciensis," i.e. of the Cistercian house of Cleeve Abbey in Somerset. On the other hand, he was not accused, like other married bishops who had been monks or friars, of infidelity to the vow of chastity; and his own letters to Heinrich Bullinger are curiously reticent on this part of his history. He speaks of himself as being the only son and heir of his father and fearing to be deprived of his inheritance, if he adopted the reformed religion.

Prior to 1546, Hooper had secured employment as steward in Arundell's household. Hooper speaks of himself during this period as being "a courtier and living too much of a court life in the palace of our king." But, he chanced upon some of Zwingli's works and Bullinger's commentaries on St Paul's epistles, which elicited an evangelical conversion. After some correspondence with Bullinger on the lawfulness of complying, against his conscience, with the established religion, and following some trouble in England ca. 1539–40, with Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester to whom Arundell had referred him out of concern for his new views, Hooper determined to secure what property he could and take refuge on the continent. In Paris for an unknown period of time, Hooper returned to England to serve Sir John St Loe, constable of Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire, Arundell's nephew.

Hooper found it necessary to leave for the continent again, probably in 1544, and he reached Strasbourg by 1546, in the midst of the Schmalkaldic war. He decided to permanently move to Zürich. But first, he returned to England to receive his inheritance, and he claims to have been twice imprisoned. In Strasbourg again, in early 1547, he married Anne de Tserclaes (or Tscerlas), a Belgian in the household of Jacques de Bourgogne, seigneur de Falais. He proceeded by way of Basel to Zürich, where his Zwinglian convictions were confirmed by constant intercourse with Zwingli's successor, Heinrich Bullinger. He also made connections with Martin Bucer, Theodore Bibliander, Simon Grinaeus, and Konrad Pellikan. During this time Hooper published An Answer to my Lord of Wynchesters Booke Intytlyd a Detection of the Devyls Sophistry (1547), A Declaration of Christ and his Office (1547), and A Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments (1548).

Monument to Bishop Hooper at St. Mary's Square, Gloucester

It was not until May 1549, that Hooper returned to England. There, he became the principal champion of Swiss Calvinism, against the Lutherans as well as the Roman Catholics, and was appointed chaplain to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, the Lord Protector. Hooper then had a hand in the formation of the Zwinglian-inspired Dutch and French Stranger churches in Glastonbury and London. Hooper enjoyed at this time a friendship with Jan Łaski, and served as a witness for the prosecution in Bishop Bonner's trial in 1549.

Somerset's fall from power endangered Hooper's position, especially as he had taken a prominent part against Gardiner and Bonner, whose restoration to their sees was now anticipated. John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (subsequently Duke of Northumberland), however, overcame the reactionaries in the Council, and early in 1550 the English Reformation resumed its course.

Vestments controversy

Hooper became Warwick's chaplain and, after a course of Lenten sermons before the king, he was offered the bishopric of Gloucester. This led to a prolonged controversy (see vestments controversy); in his sermons before the king and elsewhere Hooper had denounced the "Aaronic vestments" and the oath by the saints, prescribed in the new Ordinal; and he refused to be consecrated according to its rites. Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Martin Bucer and others urged him to submit. Confinement to his house by order of the Council proved equally ineffectual; and it was not until he had spent some weeks in the Fleet prison that the "father of nonconformity" consented to conform, and Hooper submitted to consecration with the legal ceremonies (8 March 1551).

Once installed as bishop, Hooper set about his episcopal duties with enthusiasm. His visitation of his diocese (printed in English Hist. Rev. Jan. 1904, pp. 98–121) revealed a condition of almost incredible ignorance among his clergy. As reported by Nevinson, (p.151) "of three hundred and eleven of the clergy, one hundred and sixty-eight of whom were unable to repeat the Ten Commandments, thirty-one of that number being further unable to state in what part of the Scriptures they were to be found. There were forty who could not tell where the Lord's prayer was written, and thirty-one of this number ignorant who was its author." James Gairdner (p.99) warned in his introductory remarks of his English translation of the 18th century abstract of the visitation that in some cases the meaning of the record is open to interpretation. Bishop Hooper's Injunction state in Article 9 that the "clergy were to teach the Parishioners the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer...word for word as they be written there...." and again, in Article X,"that every parson...teach the Ten Commandments out of the twentieth chapter of Exodus,as they stand there,and no otherwise, not taking one word,letter or syllable from them..." (Frere and Kennedy,pp.282-283. and Nevinson,pp. 132-133) Apparently this standard was enforced through much of the visitation. Notations were made for each clergy, many saying "not as there contained," "not by rote," "not from memory." "not as there written." In Stowe Deanery, 19 could not repeat and each one was recorded as "mediocriter". AS Mr. Gairdner Suggests, the meaning of "not repeat" is open to interpretation. Hooper did his best; but in less than a year the bishopric of Gloucester was reduced to an archdeaconry and added to Worcester, of which Hooper was made bishop in succession to Nicholas Heath. He was opposed to Northumberland's plot for the exclusion of Mary Tudor from the throne, but this did not save him from speedy imprisonment when she became queen.[1]

The punishing of John Hooper as depicted in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

He was said to have been given sanctuary at Sutton Court, before being sent to the Fleet Prison on 1 September on a doubtful charge of debt. The real cause was his steadiness to a religion, which was still by law established. Edward VI's legislation was repealed in the following month, and in March 1554 Hooper was deprived of his bishopric as a married man. There was still no statute by which he could be condemned to the stake, but he was kept in prison. The revival of the heresy acts in December 1554, was swiftly followed by execution. On 29 January 1555, Hooper, John Rogers, Rowland Taylor and others were condemned by Gardiner and degraded by Bonner. Hooper was sent down to suffer at Gloucester, where he was burnt on 9 February, meeting his fate with steadfast courage and unshaken conviction.

Hooper was the first of the bishops to suffer, because he represented the extreme reforming party in England. While he expressed dissatisfaction with some of Calvin's earlier writings, he approved of the Consensus Tigurinus negotiated in 1549 between the Zwinglians and Calvinists of Switzerland. It was this form of religion that he laboured to spread in England, against the wishes of Cranmer, Ridley, Bucer, Pietro Martire and other more conservative theologians. He would have reduced episcopacy to narrow limits; his views had considerable influence on the Puritans of Elizabeth's reign, when many editions of Hooper's works were published. He was notable for his belief that a bishop should observe a vow of poverty and resigned the profits of the See of Gloucester to the Crown.[2] He was also notable for his sense of social justice, and spoke eloquently of the distress caused by the economic crisis of the early 1550s. He wrote to William Cecil pleading for the Council to take action on the price of essential goods, for "all things here be so dear that the most part of the people lack ... their little livings and poor cottages decay daily."[3]


Two volumes of Hooper's writings are included in the Parker Society's publications and another edition appeared at Oxford in 1855. In 1550 he translated book 2 of Tertullian's "Ad Uxorem" (To his wife), which is the first English translation of any of Tertullian's works.


  1. ^ Morris, Christopher, The Tudors B.T. Batsford Ltd. London 1955
  2. ^ Prescott, H.F.M., Mary Tudor- the Spanish Tudor Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1952
  3. ^ Prescott, Mary Tudor

Further reading

  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  • Walter H. Frere and William M. Kennedy (eds). Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, Vols.I-III, Alcuin Club Collections (London,1910), Longmans, Green and Co. vol. II, pp. 282-83
  • Gairdner, J. "Bishop Hooper's Examination of the Clergy, 1551, English Historical Review, XIX (1904), p. 99
  • Nevinson, Charles (ed.) The Later Writings of Bishop Hooper.The Parker Society, London (1852), pp 132-133, 151
  • Gough's General Index to Parker Soc. Pub I.
  • Strype's Works (General Index)
  • Foxe's Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend; Acts of the Privy Council
  • Cal. State Papers, "Domestic" Series; Nichols's Lit. Remains of Edward VI.
  • Burnet, Collier, Dixon, Froude and Gairdner's histories; Pollard's Cranmer

External links

  • Hooper Works by John Hooper at Post-Reformation Digital Library
  • Hooper's translation of Tertullian, Ad Uxorem, book 2. This rare little volume (no other copy is known) is held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and was transcribed for this site.
  • Tudor woodcut of John Hooper's martyrdom
Church of England titles
Preceded by
John Wakeman
Bishop of Gloucester
Succeeded by
James Brooks
Preceded by
Nicholas Heath
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by
Nicholas Heath
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