John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe was born in Ipreswell in Yorkshire in about 1330. In 1356 he became a teacher at Oxford University and he came under the influence of Roger Bacon. He studied theology, ecclesiastical law, and philosophy.

In around 1359 he was appointed head of Balliol College. In 1361, he took over the parish of Fylingham in Lincolnshire. In 1368, he gave up his living at Fylingham and took over the rectory of Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire.

In 1374, Wycliffe received the crown living of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. Wycliffe argued that there was a great contrast between what the Church was and what it ought to be, and saw the necessity for reform.

Wycliffe was extremely critical of some aspects of the Christian church. He argued that the wealth and land of the church should be given to the king for redistribution. The people who supported Wycliffe's ideas became known as Lollards.

In 1382 Wycliffe was condemned as a heretic and was forced into retirement. Wycliffe spent the last years of his life translating the Bible into English. Wycliffe died in 1384. Afraid that Wycliffe's grave would become a religious shrine, the bishop of Lincoln gave orders that his body should be dug up and thrown into the river.

Primary Sources

(1) John Wycliffe, sermon (1381)

Lords do wrong to poor men by unreasonable taxes... the poor perish from hunger and thirst and cold... In this manner, the lords eat and drink poor men's flesh and blood.