Pre-Reformers


Jan Hus (1374-1415) was ordained priest in 1401 and spent much of his teaching career at Charles University in Prague. Strongly influenced by Wyclif, he stressed the role of Scripture as an authority in the church. Although he defended the traditional authority of ordained clergy, he taught that only God was able to forgive sin. His views were not popular with the Church and in 1415 he attended the Council of Constance to defend his beliefs. He was tried and burnt at the stake without an opportunity to explain his beliefs.

Girolamo Savonarola (1452 – 1498), was a dominican monk who lived in Florence, Italy. He was a “fire and brimstone” preacher and prophet who spoke out forcefully against the church, with the same message of repentance as John the Baptist. He was puritanical and during the Florentine carnival in 1497, he organized the “bonfire of the vanities”. Pope Alexander VI excommunicated him and together with his fellow friars, Domenico da Pescia and Silvestro Maruffi, he was hanged and burnt in Piazza Signoria in Florence on 23 May 1498.

Peter Waldo (1140 – 1217) was a once-wealthy merchant who lived in Lyon, France. After hearing a song about God, he asked a clergyman the best way to God. After the clergyman recited Matthew 19:21 about selling all you have etc, he did just that and lived a life of poverty and service. His followers became known as Waldensians. They held that the Bible was the only source of authority and rejected the organization and much of the Catholic Church’s teaching. They were persecuted for centuries for their radical beliefs.

John Wycliffe (1329-84) was a prominent English Reformer of the later Middle Ages. He was a leading philosopher at Oxford University and was then invited to serve at court by John of Gaunt. He fell into conflict with the church and was condemned by the Pope in 1377, because he agreed that the government should seize the property of corrupt clergymen. In 1382 he was sent from Oxford and went to live in Lutterworth. One of his major achievements was the launching of a new translation of the Late Vulgate Bible into English. His followers became known as “Lollards.”