11th April 1612. Dangerous Heresy.

Today in 1612 the Anabaptist Minister, Edward Wightman was burnt at the stake in Lichfield Market Square, for rejecting the Trinity.

A resident of the Author’s home town of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, he was the last person to suffer that penalty.(1).

Rejecting the Trinity was regarded as Heresy, as contradicting the Nicene Creed (325) and the Athanasius Creed (381), formalised to counter the serious threat from Arianism, which denied the Trinity.

However the Apostles’ Creed, first mentioned in 390, says nothing about the divinity of Jesus or Holy Spirit, so acceptable to Arians and no doubt Wightman.

Then came James I (VI), the eldest son of Mary Queen of Scots, a devout follower of the Creeds who considered himself a ‘scholar’ of theology,  the ‘Wisest Fool in Christendom’.

In context the 16thc was a superstitious time, belief in demons, and witches many of which were burned, prevalent.

Wightman’s problems seem to stem after witnessing the ‘possession’ of a demon in a ‘local’, one Thomas Darling, when after being exorcised in the name of the Holy Trinity, still remained ‘possessed’.

From that time Wightman openly dismissed the Trinity and wrote copious works on the subject sending them to the King. Thus was his fate settled for he came to the attention of the ‘Powers that Be’.

He was arrested by Richard Neile, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and placed under orders of the King who had him charged with Heresy and ordered to be burned. The charges written by the ‘Scholar of Theology’, which speak to me as an oxymoron can be read, for the strong stomached, below.(2)


Plaque in Lichfield Market Place

The terrible fact is that Wightman was first burned on March 8th, but those present thought his shouts showed he was recanting. After this being shown not to be true he was subjected to the second ordeal on April 11th, when he was burned to ashes.

Burning at the stake was on the English Statute Book until 1790. 

(1) Wightman 1566-1612.

(2) In the language of the time:

[Wightman was cursed along with] … ‘the wicked heresies of Ebiob, Cirinthis, Valintian, Arries, Macedonius, Simon Magnus of Manes, Manichees, Plotinus and Anabaptists and other arch-heriticks…and moreover of other cursed opinions, belched by the instance of Satan’.

Then came the King’s attempt at an Apologia, a rationale for punishment, by invoking Divine authority for those who had adjudged Wightman guilty, citing: ‘definite sentence of Divine for with consent of Divines learned in the law aforesaid, justly, lawfully and canonically [Church Law] against Wightman…adjudged a heretick.

In short: Wightman [my narrative] was a diseased sheep and lest he infects other subjects by his contagion he was to be cast out and cut off.

Ref: pryors.wordpress.com/edward-wightman/Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/apostles_creed.

Ref: wikipedia.org/edward_wightman.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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