The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Fisher, John

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FISHER, John, English prelate: b. Beverley, Yorkshire, 1459; d. London, 22 June 1535. He was educated at Michaelmas College, Cambridge, graduating in 1487. In 1501 he was made vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge (chancellor 1504), and in 1503 became the first Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge and in the same year president of Queen's College. In 1504 he was promoted to the see of Rochester. Deeply prepossessed in favor of the ancient faith he opposed with zeal and perseverance the principles of Luther and his followers. But the same conscientious motives which induced Fisher to become the champion of Henry VIII impelled him to offer resolute opposition to the king's measures for procuring a divorce from his wife, and declaring himself head of the Church. In 1527 he was the only prelate who had the courage to refuse to sign a declaration that the marriage of the king was unlawful. He was subsequently sent to the Tower for refusing to submit to the provisions of an act of Parliament which annulled the king's marriage with Catharine of Aragon and confirmed his subsequent union with Anne Boleyn. Pope Paul III thought proper to reward his zealous adherent by giving him a cardinal's hat (May 1535). The king exclaimed in a passion, “Mother of God! he shall wear it on his shoulders, for I will leave him never a head to set it on.” As no evidence against him existed sufficiently strong to affect his life, Henry employed crafty emissaries to entrap Fisher into a positive denial of the king's supremacy in the Church. The plot succeeded, the bishop was tried and convicted, and was beheaded on Tower Hill. Bishop Fisher was an able theologian, genuinely attached to learning, and the author of a commentary on the Seven Penitential Psalms; of sermons, controversial and devotional treatises, etc.; his writings being partly in Latin, partly in English. Consult his ‘Life’ by Lewis, ed. by Turner (1855); and by Bridgett (1890); Mason, ‘Lectures on Colet, Fisher and More’ (1888).