Bishop John Fisher

© National Portrait Gallery, London
John Fisher
Francesco Bartolozzi, after Hans Holbein the Younger |1793
Stipple engraving printed in colours | 13 7/8 in. x 10 5/8 in.
NPG D20275

Bishop John Fisher was born in Beverley in c.1469, and was in all likelihood baptised in St Mary’s.

Fisher was educated in Beverley and then Cambridge University. After he finished his studies, Fisher was consecrated a priest in York.

Returning to Cambridge, Fisher advanced rapidly to become the Chancellor, and also helped to found St John’s College. In 1504, Fisher was appointed Bishop of Rochester.

St Mary’s 16th century font

In the late 1520s, Fisher was consulted on the theological grounds for King Henry’s proposed divorce from Katherine of Aragon.

Fisher then made what might be seen as a political misstep. He firmly came down on Katherine’s side,
and resolutely affirmed the Pope’s authority in England.

Fisher refused to swear oaths recognising the legitimacy of Henry’s new marriage to Anne or the king’s status as Head of the English Church. Under the new laws, Fisher was charged and convicted of treason.

On 22 June 1535, the elderly Bishop John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill in London.

Fisher’s execution horrified Catholic Europe, which immediately regarded his death as a martyrdom. He was canonised in 1935.

Even after his death, Beverley retained links to Fisher. Over the next 300 years, a series of endowments provided scholarships for students of Beverley Grammar School to attend St John’s College, Cambridge.

The eighteenth-century
portrait displayed in this
exhibition follows a painting of
John Fisher made in c.1527 by
Hans Holbein the Younger.

This influential artist painted
many of the most important
people in Tudor England.

Explore the Tudor history we tell through this portrait:

The 1530s: divorce, reform, martyrs


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