Christian Prisoners in the Renaissance (1201–1500)

John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, suspended in flame for supporting the Bible-preaching Lollards, from John Foxe, et al., Foxe’s book of Martyrs of the world. Moody Press, c. 1880.

The Renaissance was what it was because of unique and determined individuals. In those days, when the church had become notoriously lax, several notable Christians embarrassed their contemporaries, who became eager to do away with them.

The most astonishing Renaissance prisoner was Joan of Arc. There is no way to describe her life except as miraculous. The only question for contemporaries was to whom to attribute the miracles—God or Satan. The churchmen who examined her tried to trap her into words which would justify them in claiming Satan. In the end, they had to trick her in another way.

Savonarola and John Hus were more traditional martyrs, who proved their bona fides as Christians by dying cruelly for the beliefs they championed. The end of William Thorpe is unknown; like Hus, he was inspired by the teachings of John Wycliffe.