450th Anniversary of the Marian Martyrs


450th Anniversary of the Marian Martyrs

John Rogers (c. 1500-1555)
by Barbara Cross

The year 2005 marks the 450th anniversary of the beginning of that time which is a blot on the pages of English history. – Mary Tudor (often referred to as ‘Bloody Mary’) came to the throne in 1553 with a determination to undo all the progress in the Protestant Reformation that was made under the brief reign of her half-brother, Edward VI. Within two years the martyrdoms commenced and nearly 300 protestant believers were killed.

John Rogers was educated at Cambridge. For a time he served as a rector in a church in London. Later he became chaplain to merchants living in Antwerp, (in modern day Belgium). While there he met William Tyndale, a man who was busy translating the Old Testament into English. Through Tyndale, Rogers became convinced of the Reformed faith. Another scholar, Miles Coverdale, was helping Tyndale with the translation and John Rogers joined them in the work by providing marginal notes and prefaces for the translation, and in the smuggling of the forbidden Bibles back into England.

After serving for many years as a pastor in Wittenberg, Germany, John Rogers returned to England during the reign of the godly King Edward and served as a divinity lecturer at St Paul’s.

When Mary took the throne and forbade gospel preaching, Rogers preached against Mary’s proclamation. For a time he was put under house arrest. Though he had a wife and 11 children he would not abandon the work of proclaiming the gospel.

Eventually Bishop Bonner of London had Rogers locked up in the infamous Newgate Prison and condemned to death.

On the morning of February 4th 1555 he was awakened and told that he would be burnt at the stake that day. He met his wife and children on his way to Smithfield (the site of execution), but refused to recant his biblical beliefs. On his way to the stake he said, ‘That which I have preached I will seal with my blood’. Thus it was that John Rogers became the first of the ‘Marian Martyrs’.