Coming across the mass during a public procession

Coming across the mass during a public procession

From John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Chapter 6, An Account of the Persecutions in Italy, Under the Papacy

A young Englishman, who happened to be at Rome, was one day passing by a church, when the procession of the host was just coming out. A bishop carried the host, which the young man [Englishman] perceiving, snatched it from him [the bishop], threw it upon the ground, and trampled it under his feet, crying out, “Ye wretched idolaters, who neglect the true God, to adore a morsel of bread!” This action so provoked the people that they would have torn him to pieces on the spot; but the priests persuaded them to let him abide by the sentence of the pope.

When the affair was represented to the pope, he was so greatly exasperated that he ordered the prisoner to be burnt immediately; but a cardinal dissuaded him from this hasty sentence, saying that it was better to punish him by slow degrees, and to torture him, that they might find out if he had been instigated by any particular person to commit so atrocious an act.

This being approved, he was tortured with the most exemplary severity, notwithstanding which they could only get these words from him, “It was the will of God that I should do as I did.”

The pope then passed this sentence upon him.

  1. That he should be led by the executioner, naked to the middle, through the streets of Rome.
  2. That he should wear the image of the devil upon his head.
  3. That his breeches should be painted with the representation of flames.
  4. That he should have his right hand cut off.
  5. That after having been carried about thus in procession, he should be burnt.

When he heard this sentence pronounced, he implored God to give him strength and fortitude to go through it. As he passed through the streets he was greatly derided by the people, to whom he said some severe things respecting the Romish superstition. But a cardinal, who attended the procession, overhearing him, ordered him to be gagged.

When he came to the church door, where he [had] trampled on the host, the hangman cut off his right hand, and fixed it on a pole. Then two tormentors, with flaming torches, scorched and burnt his flesh all the rest of the way. At the place of execution, he kissed the chains that were to bind him to the stake. [When] a monk presented the figure of a saint to him, he struck it aside; and then, being chained to the stake, fire was put to the fagots [a bundle of sticks or twigs bound together as fuel], and he was soon burnt to ashes.